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Family Contact Service evidence assists father gaining more time with children

FAMILY CONTACT SERVICE EVIDENCE ASSISTS FATHER IN GAINING MORE TIME WITH CHILDREN

REASONS FOR JUDGMENT

(delivered ex tempore)

  1. Orders were made by consent on 21 September 2017, which include, by order 6, that the father spend each Wednesday from 4:00pm to 6:00pm and each Saturday from 8:00am to 10:00am in supervised time with the children at a Family Contact Service for the first six occasions that he spends that time with them.
  2. Order 7(c) of those orders provided that the father obtain and meet the costs of a report from the professional supervisor at the Family Contact Service at the conclusion of the six supervised occasions of contact and that provided that the report does not raise any significant concerns about the time spent, the requirement for supervision cease.
  3. The Court has been provided with a report from the Family Contact Service, Ms J, and that gives a detailed account of the interaction between the father and the children on Saturday 30 September, Saturday 7 October, Saturday 13 October, Wednesday 18 October and Saturday 21 October 2017.
  4. Without quoting from it, on my reading of that account from the Family Contact Service, the time that has been spent between the father and the children has gone extremely well. There is a sense of joyousness about the interaction, the children seeming relaxed and comfortable with the father and the father is behaving appropriately with the children. There is nothing in that report indicating that there has been any behaviour which would suggest the children have not enjoyed their time with their father.
  5. This is contrary to what is said by the mother in paragraph [21] of her affidavit affirmed 1 November 2017, wherein she states:
    The children have been upset and difficult to settle after their time with the applicant. They are having real difficulty with the time with their father at present.
  6. Having regard to the fact that Ms J is an experienced supervisor, she has provided a detailed and comprehensive account of the time that the children have spent with the father and that she is non-partisan, I accept her account of how the children spend time with the father. There is no evidence that the children are having real difficulty with their time with the father at present. Notwithstanding this, the mother has not allowed the father to have time on, I understand, two occasions since the supervised time finished.
  7. The issue is what occurs between now and the time for obtaining a family report. Orders have been made for the parties to attend an appointment for that purpose on 31 January 2018.
  8. In my view, there should be some variation of the orders that were made on 21 September 2017. There have been competing proposals in relation to the time that the father spends with the children:
    1. the father proposed that the Saturday time for the next four weeks be extended from 10:00am to 6:00pm and the Wednesday arrangement remain in place. After four weeks, he proposed that the time be extended from Friday evening to Sunday evening each alternative weekend and the Wednesday arrangements remain in place.
    2. the mother proposed increasing the Saturday time by two hours so instead of time being from 8:00am to 10:00am it run from 8:00am to 12:00pm and the Wednesday remain the same.
  9. The orders that I have made are in effect a compromise between the competing positions and provide an opportunity for the father to spend meaningful time with his children but on a more limited basis than that which he proposed. Given that there are clearly ongoing tensions between the parents regarding arrangements for the children, in my view the graduated approach which is reflected in the orders is one that is likely to lead to less tension. In view of the extremely positive account of the time that the father spent with the children in a supervised setting, in my view the children will benefit from spending a longer period of time with their father.
  10. The mother filed an affidavit sworn 1 November 2017 which detailed what she regarded as breaches of an intervention order which occurred in the period up to 9 September 2017. These include allegations of telephone calls made by the father to the mother and instances where the mother saw the father drive past and then pause and look into the window of the business operated by the mother in (omitted) Street.
  11. The affidavit also sets out a translated Facebook message from the father’s new partner to the mother which was highly derogatory of the mother (particularly her appearance). That text message was sent in May 2017. The message was plainly inappropriate and was accepted as such by counsel for the father and I expect that no further similar communications will be made by the father’s new partner. Text messages between the mother and the father which were tendered to the court indicate that they both have a poor approach to communicating with one another.
  12. The allegations made by the mother in her most recent affidavit relate to events which are alleged to have occurred prior to the orders made on 21 September 2017. There is no evidence of any allegation of further incidents since those orders were made. I do not believe the allegations of family violence are such to affect the father’s capacity to parent or to put the children at risk whilst in his care.
  13. The mother made allegations of drug use in her affidavit, in particular marijuana use. The allegations are vague and I note that the mother has not sought orders that the father submit to drug tests. The evidence does not establish on an interim basis that the children are at risk because of the father’s alleged drug use.
  14. In my view, these orders are appropriate and are in the best interests of the children. They were formulated by the Court following discussion with the party’s representatives in open Court. I have made these orders having regard to the principles stated in Goode v Goode [2006] FamCAFC 1346(2006) 36 Fam LR 422 at [82].

 

 

 

 

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