Alignment of child with Mother

Alignment of child with Mother

Beardsley & Shelford

The Parents

  1. It is accepted by both parents that there is enormous conflict between them concerning arrangements for the child.
  2. The parents have very limited communication, a complete lack of trust of each other, and both vehemently believe that the other is responsible for the child’s current presentation.
  3. At times both parents have behaved badly.
  4. The father does not accept that he has been responsible for involving X in the conflict.
  5. The father blames the mother entirely for the child’s current presentation and says that he has done everything he can to reduce and avoid conflict in the presence of the child.
  6. The father is firmly of the view that he has had to battle for nine years with the mother in order to develop a relationship with his son.
  7. The father believes the mother has been deliberately attempting to destroy his relationship with his son.
  8. The father says that his concern that the mother is continually undermining his relationship with his son is supported by the evidence contained within all of the reports and memorandums that have been written about this family.
  9. The mother firmly believes the child is at risk of physical harm in the father’s care however Counsel on her behalf conceded that the mother does not believe the child has been abused. The mother simply cannot get the child to go to his father. She denies that she is engaging in behaviours that cause the child to be aligned with her.
  10. The mother has refused to engage with counsellors from time to time for the benefit of the child. Her evidence as to why she did not do this was very unconvincing in my view.
  11. The mother says that X does not like doing things the father has organised, for example (hobby omitted) was “too hot” and with regards to the (hobby omitted) lessons organised by the father X, according to the mother, “didn’t like it.”
  12. The mother has taken the child to the police from as young as four years of age. The mother conceded that she was warned at the time that it was dangerous to do that to the child.
  13. The mother made a complaint to a politician about Family Court proceedings, made a complaint to the Attorney General, and threatened to report the father’s former solicitor to the Law Society for “harassment” over the past five years.
  14. Exhibit 3 in these proceedings is a letter written to the Prime Minister Mr Tony Abbott under the hand of X. In that letter X tells Mr Abbott that he doesn’t want to live with his father because he is “very cranky and hits me with his stick and I get very scared.” Furthermore X tells Mr Abbott that his father told him that he would never see his mother again and that he doesn’t “want to be his carer.” The letter goes on to allege that “the other night he made me sleep with him. He didn’t have any clothes on and he peed and pood all over me.” The child ends the letter by pleading with Mr Abbott to “please help.”
  15. The father alleges that the mother must have assisted X in the preparation of that letter. The mother says she knew nothing about the letter and that the child “did it off his own bat.”
  16. The mother enrolled the child at his school using her surname only. The mother refers to the father as Mr Beardsley and the child calls the father Mr Beardsley whilst in the presence of the mother and only dad when alone with his father. The mother says that the father told the child to call him that however the father denies that.
  17. There are many incidences throughout the years where the mother has simply withheld the child from the father and in particular I note the mother agreed that she did not make the child available for four to five occasions when supervision had been lifted because she “didn’t agree with the judgment. I was going to appeal it but I didn’t get a copy of the judgment in time.”[3]
  18. In relation to the most recent withholding of the child the mother denies that she is withholding the child and says “no, X says he didn’t want to go to school.”
  19. The mother acknowledged that the child has accessed files containing affidavits and evidence in these proceedings on her computer.
  20. The mother could not answer the question as to whether she had ever told her son that it was good for him to have his father in his life.
  21. Whilst the mother didn’t resile from any allegations and believes that the child is at risk with the father she also gives evidence that the child should have a relationship with his father.
  22. The mother gave evidence that she could hide her fears and dislike for the father from the child. I formed the view watching her give that evidence that that was highly unlikely.
  23. The mother conceded that she told the child that he would have to live with his father but gave the explanation “because Ms D told her to.”
  24. Both the mother and father were cross-examined as to what steps they had taken to reduce conflict for the child when the child was in their care. Both parents gave evidence that they changed their behaviours within their homes.
  25. It is noted however that in the joint interview between the child and the mother on 13 October 2015 in the presence of Ms D the child looked “genuinely surprised and a little shocked when the mother told him she wanted him to have a relationship with the father. X was asked if her comments had surprised him and he said it did.”
  26. The child inclusive memorandum dated 30 April 2015 notes that the child believed the father was “nice” with regards to his mother.
  27. The child was asked why he experiences that change as a negative thing rather than a positive thing and he said “it’s just weird.”
  28. The father told the Family Consultant during that child inclusive conference that he had been trying really hard to speak positively about the mother rather than his previous behaviour of not mentioning her at all.
  29. When considering the independent evidence contained within the various memorandums and reports, I am satisfied that the father has tried to amend his behaviours over time however I am not satisfied that the mother has done anything to amend her behaviours and that the child is left with a very clear view that the only reason why the mother makes him spend time with the father is so that “she does not get into trouble from the Court.”

Ms D Family Consultant

  1. Ms D was firmly of the view that the alignment between the child and his mother was now entrenched and cemented.
  2. She was of the view that if the child remained living with the mother that there was a very real likelihood the child would have no relationship with the father.
  3. She indicated that nothing had changed in the mother since her report of 2010.
  4. Ms D also noted that the child had been under constant pressure as a result of the ongoing dispute between his parents for some nine years and that as a result the child had eventually just cut one parent off, in this case the father.
  5. The Family Consultant agreed that X would have a lot less stress if he spent no time with his father and agreed that X had presented with a lot less stress since spending no time with the father.
  6. It was Ms D’s opinion that the mother was incapable psychologically to facilitate a relationship between the child and his father.

Relevant section 60CC(3) matters

  1. The views of the child have been quite clear for some considerable time now. His views however must be viewed through the prism of his current circumstances and the effect that his circumstances have had on his psychological well-being.
  2. The evidence supports a finding that the child has simply become tired of the conflict and has now decided to resist spending time with his father as a self-protecting measure.
  3. In those circumstances very little weight can be attached to the child’s views.
  4. As previously indicated the child has a very close bond and loving relationship with his mother.
  5. The child has a psychologically difficult relationship with his father that is nonetheless close and loving.
  6. The evidence supports a finding that the child does enjoy his time with the paternal extended family members when he spends time with them on holidays. The evidence also supports a finding that the child has a close relationship with the extended maternal side of the family.
  7. It is very obvious that the father has done all that he can to participate in making decisions about the child, to spend time with the child and to communicate with the child.
  8. The mother has also taken every opportunity to make decisions about the child, to spend time with the child and to communicate with the child.
  9. The mother has interfered with the father’s capacity to have a meaningful relationship with the child as a result of her lack of parenting capacity previously discussed.
  10. It is conceded by all that should the child live with his father as a result of my decision it is likely to have a significant impact upon his psychological well-being such that he will need ongoing counselling.
  11. There is no evidence put before me as to who might be an appropriate psychologist or counsellor or as to the nature of any psychological intervention that might have a positive impact upon the child.
  12. Indeed the evidence establishes that the father has made no enquiries in relation to appropriate psychological care and I agree with the Family Consultant’s opinion that that is a very naive approach.
  13. The mother’s response that the child “probably won’t care” followed by “I don’t know” highlights the distinct lack of insight the mother has in relation to the child’s psychological well-being. This lack of insight has brought about a failure in the mother’s parenting capacity.
  14. Having regard to the mother’s proposal; that is, that the child live with her and that the child choose when he spends time with the father, whilst I acknowledge that this is most likely going to result in the child spending no time with his father it is also supported by the independent evidence that the child’s stress levels will go from ten to zero if he spends no time with his father.
  15. I find it more likely than not that the child’s alignment with the mother is as the Family Consultant opined entrenched and cemented.
  16. Having found that the child is aligned with the mother I am left with a decision to either remove him from his aligned parent or keep him with the aligned parent.
  17. If I order that the child live with the father I will remove the child from his aligned parent but potentially cause him further psychological harm as a result of being removed from the one person who he has a significantly close, loving and secure attachment to.
  18. In other words I am left with the decision as to which of the options provide for the least amount of harm for the child.
  19. Again in circumstances where there is absolutely no evidence as to the type of psychological assistance X would receive in his father’s care and the likely effect of it. I cannot be satisfied that the harm from being removed from his significant primary attachment would be either addressed or alleviated in the father’s care.
  20. It is not only his mother that X would be removed from it would be his half-sister who he has on all accounts a close relationship with. Indeed, if the mother follows through with her incredibly poor choice to relocate to Queensland should X live with his father this would have on any view the potential to have disastrous effects for X.
  21. The evidence establishes that it is more probable than not that should X continue to live with his mother and be able to decide what time he spends with his father his stress levels will be reduced. As I said earlier that order would most likely see a result where X spends no time with his father which seems very unfair to the father, however I must have the child’s best interests as my primary concern.
  22. In circumstances where I have found that the current existing relationship between X and his father whilst full of love and care is psychologically difficult for him and therefore not meaningful it is in that context that greater significance must be given to X’ psychological well-being as against the statutory intent for a child to have a meaningful relationship with both parents.
  23. With regard to the practical difficulty and expense of the child spending time with and communicating with either parent it is my view that it will become difficult for X to spend time with his father due to the knowledge that his mother does not want him to have a relationship with his father.
  24. The Family Consultant’s evidence is consistent in that X needs to be relieved from the conflict involved in these proceedings.
  25. If he were to live with his father there would be ongoing conflict in my view. The conflict will cease, if he lives with his mother.
  26. Both parents have revealed a lack of capacity to provide for the child’s needs on an emotional basis. Both parents have engaged in behaviours that have caused psychological harm to the child as he has grown over the last nine years. Indeed both parents should reflect on each of their respective contribution to the current factual matrix in which I make this decision.
  27. I have found that the mother lacks insight and that this has impacted upon her parenting capacity.
  28. There is no evidence however to suggest that X suffers on a social level or an academic level as a result of that lack of parental capacity.
  29. Whilst it appears that the mother has no ability to manage the child’s refusals to spend time with his father there is no evidence to suggest that the child has behavioural issues in the mother’s home or at school.
  30. The evidence supports a finding that the child is an intelligent, caring and loving child who has unfortunately been exposed to too much conflict in his life.
  31. I am satisfied on the evidence that both parents believe they are doing their utmost to meet their responsibilities of parenthood. As I have said earlier both parents in my view have demonstrated an irresponsible attitude towards parenthood at times and have put their own interests above those of the child.
  32. With respect to family violence I have previously found that the evidence does not support a finding of family violence in the father’s home.
  33. It is obviously preferable to make an order that would be least likely to lead to the institution of further proceedings in relation to this child.
  34. The child has previously refused to go to the father’s home on a number of occasions.
  35. The child has previously taken himself to a friend’s home after school rather than be picked up by his father.
  36. The child has previously run away from the father’s home while spending time with the father.
  37. The child has clearly established in my view a propensity to put himself at risk by taking it upon himself to find a safe haven with others.
  38. The father had no plan as to how he might prevent the child from running away should the child live with him.
  39. I am concerned that if the child lives with the father he will take it upon himself to run away to his mother and by doing so place himself in a situation of real risk whilst at large in the community.
  40. If the child did run away to the mother, proceedings would commence again.
  41. If I make orders consistent with the father’s proposal there is a real chance the child will indeed run away, particularly in circumstances where I cannot be satisfied that there are any plans in place to provide an appropriate psychological framework for this child to work within.
  42. On the other hand if the child did not run away and subsequently commenced spending time with his mother again in three months as proposed by the father and the Independent Children’s Lawyer there is a real risk, having regard to the mothers lack of insight and inability to facilitate a relationship between the child and his father to undermine that relationship again and cause further proceedings to be commenced to have the child live with her.
  43. The mother’s proposal would see the child living with her and being able to choose when he spends time with the father. As previously stated it is unlikely that he will choose to spend time with his father however the conflict will be over, his stress levels will lower and there is less likelihood of further proceedings being commenced.


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