By Gianna Huesch
In a recent case, the Family Court of Australia made interim orders for a 3 y.o. girl to have unsupervised contact with her father, but only supervised contact with her paternal grandmother (the father’s mother, who lived with him), because of allegations of abuse.
Nowadays, parties filing a parenting application have to file a mandatory form called a “Notice of Child Abuse, Family Violence and Risk of Family Violence”. The idea behind this is that certain allegations can immediately be brought to the attention of the judge hearing the matter and the form can be used to involve the Department of Community Services or equivalent in the relevant State.
In this case, the mother had alleged the father had been violent towards her in front of the child, had smacked and otherwise physically harmed the child, used illicit drugs, and had acted sexually inappropriately around the child. In later allegations the mother claimed the paternal grandmother had sexually abused the child.
Whilst the grandmother wasn’t seeking time with the child, because the father lived with the girl’s grandparents, it was necessary for the orders to be made in relation to the paternal grandmother as well. She would likely be around when the child was visiting her dad.
Being an interim application, the court was expected to determine the matter “on the papers”, without anyone being in the witness box. No one could therefore be cross-examined in the witness box. The court noted that the sexual abuse allegations had been investigated by the Department of Family and Community Services and the complaints had not been found to be substantiated. The Department had closed its file and did not propose intervening in the proceedings. However, the judge said the allegations against the father and paternal grandmother were matters that would be tested at the final hearing.
The expert report of the court appointed psychiatrist had noted the relationship between the girl and her father was “close” and found that the father did have the capacity to provide for the child’s needs, and had the child’s best interests at heart. The psychiatrist stated that the father showed “…impressive restraint and understanding for the child’s position in not overreacting to not being called ‘Dad’”.
The judge noted that a meaningful relationship between the girl and her father was unlikely to be achieved from just a few hours in a supervised setting. The judge made orders for the father to have a period of unsupervised contact with his daughter, with an order to not allow the paternal grandmother to be present during his unsupervised time with the child.
The grandmother was, however, allowed to have contact with the child during the father’s supervised time at a contact centre.
Do you need help with a parenting matter? Do you have to see a child in a contact centre, and would like to discuss possible changes so that you can see your child or grandchild unsupervised? If so, please contact Principal Lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our solicitors Sharla Stevens and Angela Li here at Alliance Family Law, on (02) 6224 2300.