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.
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.
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.
July 2012 saw a court proceeding worth $32-39 million, accumulated over a 29 year marriage, be fought over in the Family Court of Australia. This particular marriage had produced three children and the mother had been homemaker in their $10 million house.
The father and mother had a successful business of which they had equal shares. The parties had agreed that the mother’s contributions were more homeward focused while the father’s contributions were directed towards the business. Both parties, however, claimed significant contributions in both family and the business side of the relationship. The father claimed a 70/30 split in his favour as he believed his contributions to both the family life and as breadwinner were more valuable to their relationship. The wife disagreed and claimed equal contributions from both parties.
The court stated that the role of homemaker and primary caregiver is often overlooked and undervalued as that parent allows the other parent space and mental clarity to pursue career and income. However, the court noticed that for the past four years of their marriage the parties all of the children had reached adulthood.
The court decided that the contribution towards business was exceedingly greater by the father and awarded him a 60/40 split.
This matter is under appeal.
Smith & Fields  FamCA 510
Property settlements help determine who gets what, who brought what into the relationship and what share of the property does each party get. But what if the “property” being battled over are royalties from a successful entertainment group? This was the case in April 2012.
Pre-marital cohabitation and nine years of marriage between a founding member of a largely successful entertainment group and his wife ended. These parties were trying to determine who had contributed what to the relationship. The husband claimed that he had contributed more and stated his share as being 85%. The wife claimed it was 50%.
At the time of moving in together the wife had one car and $10,000. The husband had $1.9 million (his share of the group’s royalties) and was earning $237,000 a year. The entertainment group had started four years before the couple had moved in together. But the husband had to retire because of health reasons two years after the couple had separated.
Justice Ryan took into account all of the evidence provided by each party of their contributions to the marriage and relationship and agreed with the Father awarding him 85%.
Pope  FamCA 204
April 2012 saw a seven year old boy be moved from Adelaide to Queensland so that his mother could make a new life with an internet lover she had met online the year before. The boy’s father was in Adelaide, unaware of the fact that the Queensland holiday he had agreed to actually mean his son was moving states. The Father found out after the boy had been enrolled in a Queensland school.
The Mother claimed that as she was the primary caregiver then the boy ought to be allowed to move with her. She also stated that the boy had no wish to move back to Adelaide with his father and that the boy was calling the Mother’s fiancé “dad”. The Father rightfully and strongly disapproved of the child’s relocation and applied to the court for an order that would bring his son back.
Federal Magistrate Brown granted the Father’s wish and created an order that sought the Mother’s return to Adelaide with their son within fourteen days of the orders being made. The Federal Magistrate stated that relocation shouldn’t occur in situations where there are recent developments that can modify the relationship between son and parent especially when that development is because of the actions of one parent.
The orders created to return the son to his Father confirm the court’s approach to parenting orders: parents should have some security that their children cannot be relocated without the court’s say so, or without an explicit agreement between Mother and Father.
Talia  FMCfam567
One very uncommon ruling that is made in parenting matters is the one that allows a child to be relocated once their parents have separated. This is generally because it disrupts the child’s life more than the separation has already, and limits the interactions between parent and child. But in August this year that is exactly what happened.
Originally from NSW the mother now lived in Melbourne with her family – consisting of her husband and a 2 year old child. The mother had expressed her desire to return to NSW and with the support of the court appointed Family Consultant (councilor) it was determined that the mother, if forced to stay in Melbourne, would face emotional and psychological stress and this would limit her capacity to act as primary caregiver to her child.
The Federal Magistrate determined that NSW would offer her a support network that she believed was genuine (her family), realistic employment opportunities and ensure that her mothering abilities would not suffer due to psychological and emotional strain.
The orders were made and she could return, with her child, to NSW while the father stayed in Melbourne.
Danner & Kelso  FMCAfam824