Asperger’s Syndrome and Emotional Harm

A man with Asperger’s Syndrome appealed the court’s decision for his time with his children to be supervised indefinitely. The mother in the matter claimed that the children were at risk of emotional harm by the father.

The court has also heard two differing views from two psychologists – one court appointed and the other the man’s own personal psychologist – about the risk of emotional harm towards the children.

At the aappeal it was found that the court had not made any error in giving the man supervised time, however an error was found in the actual making of the orders. The court did not justify their resons for giving the man indefinite supervised time, nor did they provide any opportunity for the man to apply to change the orders in the future.

The matter is expected to return to court and the current orders to be set aside to amend the errors found.

This gives the man a chance to have the orders changed in the future if he can assure the court and the mother of his children that he poses no risk to the children.

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Pole Dancer Case creates a Legal Storm

If you have ever been into our office or spoken with one of our solicitors, you will know that we have concerns regarding binding financial agreements. They don’t provide the certainty that they should, and can come tumbling down when you need them the most.

A recent article on the Sydney Morning Herald Website (24/02/2013), with the help of a current family law matter, shows the fragility of the documents and why we as a law firm and why many other law firms advise that binding financial agreements are risky.

The matter I mentioned above goes like this:

 A man, known by his “court pseudonym”, Mr Wallace, had separated from his wife when he met a pole dance at a Sydney club. He became infatuated with the dancer and seven years later they were married.

The couple drew up a binding financial agreement (pre-nup) which stated that if the relationship broke down within four years Mr Wallace would have to pay the pole dancer (Ms Stelzer) an amount of $3.25 million. Their relationship lasted just two years.

Mr Wallace challenged the agreement saying that when it was created Ms Stelzer had acted fraudulently by saying that she loved him, wanted to marry him, have kids with him and spend the rest of their lives together. He also says that his solicitor at the time did not give him the appropriate advice regarding the benefits, advantages and disadvantages of entering into a binding financial agreement. Mr Wallace believes that these two factors show that the agreement cannot be enforced.

Mr Wallace’ solicitor, Trevor Hall, has made a statement saying that every single binding financial agreement in place at the moment has the potential to fall through if a spouse claims that proper advice wasn’t given. Mr Hall also suggests that the law does not adequately guarantee solicitors are giving their client’s proper advice making it unstable ground for both solicitor and client. This one matter has the potential to knock over hundred, if not thousands, of other binding financial agreements.

Many solicitors feel binding financial agreements are no longer beneficial to their clients as these agreements are being looked at by judges and being overturned by suggestions that the documents are not fair by today’s standards.

We are able to provide you advice on the most appropriate way to handle your property and relationship needs. Call us on 02 9792 1833

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Court Got It Wrong

Imagine taking your child to visit her father for the first time. She’s only little, just a baby, so you’ve agreed for him to take her for a few hours with supervision. You come back to pick your baby up and then something happens and you find yourself arguing and fighting with the father.

That was the situation a young mother recently found herself in. She and the father had been separated for between 12-16 months and that one visit described above was the only visit that the father had ever had with the child. The two went to court and orders were made for the parents to each have unsupervised time; even though the court stated they had some reservations about the parenting ability of the father. The orders also suggested the parents be kept as far away from each other as possible at pickups.

The Mother appealed this order. The matter returned to court under a new Federal Magistrate. The new Magistrate felt that previously the court hadn’t given enough attention to the evidence about the first visit between father and daughter and the argument/fight that had broken out. The court now believed that a more beneficial way of introducing time with the father would be to have supervised time at a contact centre. This would allow the father time with his child; protecting him from any wrongful or exaggerated allegations about his parenting abilities, it would give the mother peace of mind that there is adequate supervision and protection for her daughter. It would also give the father a chance to prove he could parent and show his genuine desire to be a parent.

These orders could be changed in the future once everything had settled down between the parents and when they were both happy for change to occur.

These orders are a great way for the father to see his daughter, especially when he doesn’t have any experience with the child and especially while the mother has great concern over the care of their daughter while he is the supervising adult. This gives them both a way to learn to trust themselves and the other parent where hopefully a better relationship can build and he father’s access to the child could greatly increase.

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We’re Back

So we had a week off posting, but we’re back.

Hope to upload a new post this afternoon!

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A Child’s Anxiety

Anxiety is a terrible thing. People don’t always understand it and some don’t even think it exists, but when a 9 year old child suffers from anxiety and shows symptoms towards her father it does raise some concern.

This young girl had not even seen her father for around two years and the level of anxiety worried the court to such levels that it was suggested a psychiatrist be appointed to analyse the father, the mother and the child to help the court make a more educated decision regarding the care of the child.

The Independent Children’s Lawyer and the father agreed that this would be a smart path to take in this matter, while the mother disagreed saying that the child had undergone so many different sessions and tests that one more would not be in the child’s best interest.

The Court suggested that without getting more insight into the child’s anxiety there would be no way of knowing or treating the reasons behind the anxiety and no long term decisions could be made.

The Court has take a proactive approach to figure out what is in the best interest for the child’s wellbeing. The appointment of a psychologist would determine whether the child’s anxieties are caused by an incident or someone else’s influences. This would also help the child overcome her anxiety and hopefully rebuild the relationhip with her father to a point where she is no longer nervous, worried and/or scared to be with him.

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Staying at Dad’s – is there a “too soon”?

When a young child is the focal point of a legal parenting matter, things can become a little bit more difficult than when dealing with, say, a 13 year old, especially when it comes to over night stays.

This is exactly the situation a father of a 23 month old found himself in. The parents had already agreed that the child should live with the mother, but the mother could not agree to overnight time saying that it wasn’t because she thought the father couldn’t care for the child properly, it was just that the child was very young and the father had never spent an entire night alone with the baby before.

The Court had already been told that breastfeeding wasn’t an issue as the baby was settled before bed with a bottle. The Court had also determined that both parents were closely involved with the care of the child and that the child had been placed in day care regularly since she was 8 months old – therefore no major distress from being apart from the mother for a period of time could be foreseen.

The Family Consultant suggested that the parents try one overnight stay each week for two weeks, followed by a counseling session (Child Dispute Conference) to see how the stay had gone and how each parent felt during the stay before any long term decision was made. The Court agreed with this trial and said that each Monday the child would have an overnight stay with the father, as well as having time throughout the week.

From what has been said throughout this matter, the Court seems to be well aware that a child should have an open and close relationship with each parent and that oftentimes this relationship is built when the child is young. This overnight stay- if continued- will be a great way of ensuring that the father and the child can form a close bond.

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“But I don’t wanna go!”

But I Don't Wanna Go

In 2011 a matter went before the Court when the father accused the mother of disobeying the court orders. The mother claimed she had a “real” and valid reason for not following the court orders in taking the children, aged 11 and 13, to see their father.

The reason why the Mother wasn’t taking the children to see the father was because the children “didn’t want to go”. The Court said it was important that the parents don’t see each other as enemies who are to be sabotaged at every turn. The Court said the parent’s role was to be an active one – encouraging the children to go see each parent positively.

“My child doesn’t want to/won’t go” is not a valid excuse to not follow court orders.

It seems the Court is saying that the parents have to remember that they, and not the children, are the parents. Also keeping in mind that children do not always know what is best for them, and each parent should take the Court orders seriously and follow them regardless of the tantrums thrown.

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