Salvati & Donato 2010 FamCAFC 263

A trial judge ordered that a father have sole parental responsibility for a child aged 3 years, and that the child live with the father and spend time with the mother.  The mother was ordered to receive treatment from a psychiatrist (therapy for parent).  The maternal grandmother whom the mother lived with was permitted only supervised access until the grandmother obtained a report about her mental health following concern that she held delusional beliefs that the child had been exposed to sexual abuse.  It was reported that both parents consumed alcohol and that both parents denigrated the other parent and their families.  The mother had sought repeated medical assessments over concerns of sexual abuse, and assessors had expressed concern that the child may have been coached to make allegations (assessments repeated).  The mother and father both appealed orders.

The trial judge found that the mother lacked capacity to protect her child from the delusional beliefs of the grandmother.

The trial judge had referred to research literature that was not presented or admitted in evidence.

The appeal court noted that expert evidence is not required about matters that are common knowledge.  The appeal court considered that it was not appropriate for a trial judge to read academic writings without providing these to the parties, and that expert evidence should be allowed on the applicability of matters that are covered in academic writings.

The appeal was dismissed.