In making parenting orders the judge had to balance the risk of abuse to the children if they lived with their mother against the advantage to the children to have a meaningful relationship with both parents. S 60CC of the Family Law Act 1975 considered.
The family consists of 5 children. Two girls were living with their Aboriginal mother when the case started. Two other children live with father B and one lives with father K. During the first part of the trial it came to light that the mother permitted the girls to have contact with a paedophile. The judge ordered that the girls stay with their respective fathers.
However at the end of the trial interim orders were made allowing the girls to return to stay with their mother, provided that she does not allow them to come into contact with certain relatives and the paedophile. Whilst judgment was reserved, father B applied to re-open the trial, claiming that the mother breached the interim orders. Re-opening was allowed and it was ordered that both girls live with their respective fathers and the mother may spend a minimum of three hours every third week with the girls. The mother now appeals this order. The appeal concerns the two girls.
The mother appealed the order on various grounds of error. It was argued that:
The respondents (both fathers) resisted the appeal. They believed that the two girls should live with their respective fathers and that they should have parental responsibility. The mother could spend 3 hours every third week with each of the girls near their homes. The fathers were of the opinion that this would protect the girls against the risk of being exposed to family violence and abuse.
In deciding on parenting orders the court must regard the best interest of the child as paramount. The Act requires that the need to protect a child should be given more weight than the benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with both parents. In this case the trial judge was correct to conclude that although there will be advantages to the children in having a meaningful relationship with mother, there was an unacceptable risk of abuse if they lived with her.
The appeal was dismissed on all grounds. The girls were to remain with the fathers, and the mother had visitation rights as determined in the interim order.
This article provides basic information only and is not a substitute for a professional opinion or legal advice . It is prudent to obtain legal advice from a Family Lawyer when contemplating a separation or soon after a relationship comes to an end. It is noted that publication of this judgment by this Court under the pseudonym Backford & Backford and Anor has been approved by the Chief Justice pursuant to s 121(9)(g) of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth).