Ghanem & Hilal 2014 FamCA 137

A mother alleged that the father had sexually abused an older daughter of the mother from another relationship when that child was aged 8 years. The mother also alleged that the father was unable to control his anger without resorting to inappropriate physical conduct and physical discipline of the children.  The father responded that his physical discipline of the children was appropriate.

Allegations of physical discipline involved a boy who had some developmental delays and associated learning and behavioural difficulties.  The father had visited the son aged 4 years 10 months at an early learning centre to find the boy sitting in a chair due to misbehaviour. When the father spoke to the boy about his misbehaviour the boy laughed.  The father then: slapped the boy on his leg, grabbed the boy by one of his ears and squeezed or rubbed the ear; then slapped the boy over the ear and slapped the boy firmly across the face (harsh discipline).  In court the father acknowledged that he might slap or smack the boy on the upper leg or bottom.  The child informed an assessor that the father often hit him.  A daughter aged 10 years confirmed that the father hit the younger boys.  The judge doubted that the father was likely to have shown greater restraint when in private.  The judge found that the physical discipline used by the father amounted to family violence.  The judge ordered that the father’s time with the son be supervised for a period of two years, and that the father then be eligible for ask for a review of supervision.

In another incident the father acknowledged that he had bitten an older daughter on the forearm with sufficient force to break the skin when the daughter intervened to stop pushing between the parents.   The judge rejected the father’s suggestion that biting the daughter was either provoked or was his only means of escaping a situation, and found that the biting amounted to assault.

The father had agreed to participate in a parenting course and attempted to attribute blame to his lawyers for his non-attendance of these courses by consistently asserting that he expected his lawyers to make arrangements for him to undertake the courses (attributions externalising).

An assessor distinguished between the risk of the father engaging in sexually inappropriate behaviour towards a step-daughter and engaging in the same kind of conduct with his biological children.  The assessor expressed an opinion that, even although the father might have acted inappropriately towards the step-daughter, any risk of his so doing the same thing with his biological children would be low as this would be incest (risk assessment).

The judge ordered that the father have supervised contact with the children; that the father refrain from asking the children for hugs and kisses and questioning the children about their affection for him; and required the father to wait for the children to initiate affectionate gestures and comments.  The judge ordered that neither parent physically discipline the children.