Shared Parental Responsibility

The case of Turnbull and Meagher involved two teenagers who cohabited and bore four children. The mother had an intellectual disability while the father had a medical condition that diminished his lung capacity. Both are receiving disability benefits. The family lived with the paternal grandmother until the couple separated five years into the relationship.

After the separation, the four children lived with their mother at their maternal grandmother’s house. The father of the children, accompanied by the paternal grandmother, assaulted the mother and forcibly took the children away. The mother applied for a recovery order, and the children were returned to her care.

The Court had since issued an order preventing the paternal grandmother from contacting the children as she had caused the children to be exposed to family violence when in their presence the paternal grandmother openly denigrated both the parents, assaulted the mother and physically abused one of the children.

An action for parenting orders was initiated by the mother that was initially contested by the father. He demanded that his children spend equal time with him as with their mother. However, during the interim, the father failed to show up to pick up his children so that they can spend time with him. On the date of the hearing for reception of evidence, the father filed a written notice that he will no longer attend the hearings. . The Court inferred from his actions that the father had given up his parental responsibility for his children.

The Family Court relied upon the report of the Family Consultant and ruled that the four children were neglected by both parents who spent the household income on illegal drugs, alcohol and cigarettes instead of food for the children. The Court noted that the children all had developmental delays and the general state of their health and well-being was poor. However, the Court ruled that the only option, in this case, is for the children to live with the mother as the children had a closer attachment to her.

Also, the mother herself has undertaken to learn parenting skills so she can better care for her children and the children have shown much improvement. The Court also ruled that equal shared parental responsibility does not mean equal time spent with each parent as in this case where the father had disengaged himself from his children.

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