Christos & Christos 2014 FamCA 535

Both parents sought orders that a child aged 9 years live with them.

The assessor found that the parents had different parenting styles. The mother disciplined the child strictly as the mother found the child to be uncontrollable.  The mother complained that the father adopted an indulgent or laissez faire approach as he did not set boundaries; and that he applied no structure, routines or discipline (parenting style permissive).  The mother complained that the father did not provide routines for homework, made excuses for the child’s behaviour and undermined the mother’s discipline (parenting style undermining).  The mother complained that the paternal grandparents spoiled the child.  The father considered the mother was too rigid about rules (parenting style rigid).

The assessor noted that routines in the two houses differed markedly and that the parents did not communicate directly, allowing the child to play the parents off against each other (parallel parenting).

The mother reported daily arguments with the child and described the child as being wilful and feisty.  The mother used a reward chart and time out.  The mother reported that the naughty corner did not work.  The mother reported conflict on topics such as what the child ate for breakfast, Weet-Bix or toast.  The child reported that the mother disciplined her using methods including pulling her hair, bending her fingers for not finishing vegetables, smacking her, screaming at her and calling her names.  The assessor considered that once the mother became enraged the mother lost a sense of judgment, and that her methods of discipline represented harsh discipline.  The mother acknowledged that she became angry towards the child who was uncontrollable.

The father said that he ensured the child ate meals, that there were no electronic gadgets at the dinner table, that the child did homework, had showers, went to bed at a reasonable time and attended school.  The father allowed the child to make choices within limits, such as whether to do homework before or after dinner.  When the child became angry the father spoke to the child calmly.

The mother was concerned about germs and made the child undress and have a shower on returning home from school each day.

The judge described the child’s relationship with the mother as ambivalent (attachment ambivalent).  The judge expressed no confidence that the mother was able to meet the child’s need for consistent, calm and safe parenting.  The judge ordered that it was in the best interests of the child to end the arrangement of equal shared care and for the child to live with the father and to spend substantial time with the mother.

The judge noted that the parents agreed on major issues but disagreed on day to day matters.  The judge supported each parent being responsible for routines in their own household (parallel parenting).  The judge ordered equal shared parental responsibility.