Fargo & Lark 2011 FamCA 238

The case involved a boy aged nearly 12 years who had lived in a shared care arrangement between both parents.  The parents had prolonged arguments before court about the boy since he was aged 6 months when the father left the home (high conflict couple).

The mother provided an ultimatum informing both the court and the boy that unless her wish was granted to reduce the father’s time from substantial and significant time to limited time then she would relocate inter-state with the boy’s two younger siblings and would end the boy’s relationships with herself and the siblings (sibling separation, coerce).

The boy wanted to remain living with his mother and siblings.

The boy had missed periods of schooling and both parents blamed the other for this (school attendance).

Both parents had a long history of alleging that the other parent had harmed the boy, with allegations remaining unresolved despite several court hearings (mutual accusations).   The mother alleged that the boy was neglected while in the father’s care due to the father’s substance abuse.  The father alleged that the mother physically abused the boy by lashing out at the boy.

A family consultant recommended that due to the long history of high conflict involving the child the previous orders for shared parenting were not in the child’s best interests, and that it was preferable for the boy to have stability by living primarily with one parent.  The consultant found that the father focused on the conflict between the parents rather than on the child’s issues (adult disputes, capacity to protect).  The consultant considered that the mother expressed high emotionality (personality emotionally volatile).

The judge interviewed a child before hearing evidence in the presence of the ICL to hear the child’s view and child’s wishes.   The child acknowledged that he had been told some things by other people.

The judge found that the mother’s ultimatum was a form of emotional manipulation of the child.

The judge found that the father was rigid and determined and lacked insight into the effects of his parenting on the boy (parenting style rigid).  The father found that the father showed conjugal jealousy towards the mother and unnecessarily drove past her new residence where she lived with a new partner (re-partnered).

The judge found that the mother lacked insight into the adverse effects of her endeavouring to alienate the boy from his father.  The judge found that the mother had contravened parenting orders in the past.   The judge found that the mother had denigrated the principal of the school the boy attended and had told the boy he did not have to do what the principal said.  The judge found that the mother had discussed court proceedings with the boy, involving the boy in adult topics.

The judge considered that the mother’s home was more engaging for the boy, and that the boy found the father’s home to be boring.  The judge considered the boy’s relationship with his siblings to be important links that needed to be preserved (sibling relationship).

The judge ordered:

  • that the parents share parental responsibility
  • that the boy live predominantly with the mother and siblings, and spend limited time with the father