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Contempt sentences for Mother and Grandmother

Contempt sentences for Mother and Grandmother

Contempt: A recent case published in mainstream press:

  1. The matter came before the court for final hearing on 9 October, 2014 and, as is sometimes the case, the parties reached an agreement about how the proceedings should be resolved.  Their agreement resolved, relevantly, the dispute between them about their children and I have already recounted the effect of those orders insofar as they are relevant.
  2. Soon afterwards, in November, 2014 Ms Aldenberg provided a comprehensive and lengthy submission to a local parliamentarian that dealt extensively with what she alleged was family and domestic violence levelled at her and the children by Mr Senna and a whole range of other things.  Soon after and before the time the children were to move to a week-about arrangement between their parents, Ms Aldenberg absconded with the children.  She left in the circumstances described in Mr Senna’s affidavit, and from that point, some time in the first week of December, 2014 until the children were ultimately found and recovered late in 2017, they spent no time with him.  They did not communicate with him.  He was unaware of where they were and they knew that he did not know where they were.  There was no contact at all.
  3. So, all of the orders that were made by consent between these parties were frustrated and intentionally so by Ms Aldenberg.  It is that conduct and the holding of the children away from their father until they were recovered that constitutes the contempt in these proceedings.  There are specifics in the contempt application filed on 31 January, 2018.  The particulars are all admitted and it must be the case that, by her admission, Ms Aldenberg accepts that her contraventions of those orders are a flagrant challenge to the authority of the court.  That must be so, having regard to the provisions of s.112AP(1)(b) of the Family Law Act.
  4. On 8 December, 2014 – so at about the time the children went missing – the respondent to the other contempt application, Ms Abraham, found a letter from Ms Aldenberg.  It is necessary to set it out in full, I think.  She said:

    Mum, I can’t stand by and continue to watch [X] and [Y] be emotionally and psychologically abused any longer.  All of us already so traumatised that none of us can take it any more.  It is only going to get even more horribly worse next week when the children have to go week-about with dickhead.  I’m tired of the placitudes –

    but I think she meant “platitudes”:

    Don’t worry.  Children are resilient.  What a cop out.  We both know emotional and psychological scars run deep and forever.  We know children of abusers either grow up to be abusers themselves or get into relationships where they are abused because that is what they have grown up with.  I can’t stand by and just allow that to happen.  You know I have tried all the legal and social support avenues for help.  Whilst it is obvious to family and friends that the children are abused, the “system” fails to do so.  I have to protect the children if the system won’t.  Every person deserves the right to be safe and protected.  I have never thought I would break the law deliberately, but when the system doesn’t believe in your domestic violence or the child abuse your children face each week, then the laws and the court orders I have are not worth the paper they are written on.  I prayed Ms K can help to change the domestic violence/child abuse laws so we can return, otherwise we will be in hiding forever.  How many times do I have to run away from this man for someone to believe me and help us get the safety, peace and protection we need?  Surely three times is enough.  I pray that things improve and the powers that be realise abusers have a public face and a private face, and the private face of my ex makes me fear for the lives of the children and I.  Please look after my affairs whilst I am gone.  Do whatever you think needs to be done.  The children and I love you forever.  Ms Aldenberg, [X] and [Y].

  5. The irony of what is written there is palpable.  The evidence reveals that when the mother absconded with the children they led a nomadic lifestyle.  On her own evidence, they stayed in one place no longer than three or four months at a time.  The children were not taken to school.  They were “homeschooled”, and when they moved from one place to another they were moved at night time, often under blankets.  Their identities were changed.  They were permitted no time or contact with their father or anyone else with whom they might have been familiar.
  6. Upon discovering that the children had been taken away by their mother, the father commenced some further proceedings.  Those proceedings were commenced early in 2015 and have continued ever since.  Throughout 2015, 2016 and 2017 there were orders made, warrants of arrest issued, location orders made and recovery orders made in an attempt to locate the whereabouts of these children.

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