Lolley & Lolley 2012 FamCA 380

A child aged 5 years displayed disturbed and defiant behaviours that both parents found difficult to manage (child’s behaviour).  The parents had parenting styles that differed (parenting styles differ) and held different views about the cause of and appropriate management of the behaviour.

The mother showed anxiety.  The mother attributed the boy’s behaviour to autism, a diagnosis that was not confirmed by specialist assessment (autism spectrum disorder).  An observer reported that the mother became highly aroused, disorganised and responded inappropriately to the child’s distressed behaviours (personality emotionally volatile, parenting style emotional).  The mother breastfed the boy until he was aged 4 years 5 months.

Observers reported that the child’s behaviour with his father as more regulated and settled.

An assessor found that the child had a meaningful relationship with the father.  The child’s relationship with the mother was qualitatively inferior.  An expert considered that the child’s disturbed behaviour was attributable to the child’s insecure attachment with the mother.  The expert recommended that the child would derive benefit from retaining a relationship with the mother.

The judge commented that the child’s behaviour was a more reliable indicator of the child’s feelings than his statements.

The judge found that the mother showed impaired parenting capacity.  The judge noted that the mother’s parenting capacity had not been markedly improved by participation in standard parenting courses (therapy for parent).  The judge declined to order that the child spend time with the mother until the mother-child relationship had been repaired under the tutelage and supervision of a skilled therapist (therapy parent-child, access conditional).


Adversarial Expert

One parent tried to introduce evidence from a second doctor under the guise that the doctor was a treating psychiatrist, when in fact the second doctor was an adversarial witness whose purpose may have been to contradict evidence provided by the single expert witness.  The judge noted that introducing evidence from an adversarial expert witness flagrantly infringes the purpose of the appointment of a single expert witness under the Family Law Rules 2004.