Forensic psychology and its role in parenting matters

Forensic psychology and its role in parenting matters

In the recent case of Halloran & Halloran [2018] FCCA 2825 (5 October 2018), an executive summary of relevant matters under the Family Law Act as they applied to this case was prepared by the appointed forensic psychologist:

The Reports of Dr A

  1. Dr A is a consultant forensic Psychologist appointed by the Court to provide a Single Expert Report in this matter. The interviews with the family were conducted on 3 and 4 October 2017, and her Report dated 19 October 2017 was released to the parties on 23 October 2017. At the time of the interviews, Dr A had available to her all of the evidence of the parties, including a substantial volume of documents produced on subpoena.
  2. Dr A’s executive summary, found at pages 6 and 7 of her Report, is a very useful digest of her evaluation and is reproduced below:
  1. The benefit to the children of having a meaningful relationship with either parent or any other persons.
All children will benefit from a lasting sense of family belonging. Meaningful relationships between mother & [V], [W] or [X] seem impossible now
Whether the children are at risk of any physical or psychological harm from abuse, neglect or family violence.
At risk of neglect of medical needs ([W]) & emotional needs in care of father (all); at risk of physical harm in care of mother (older three).
The nature of the parents’ relationship, the impact of this relationship on the children.
Toxic. Source of trauma for all the children. No prospect of co-parenting.
Any views expressed by the children and any factors that may affect the weight to be accorded to those views.
[V] has run away; [W] cannot speak; [X] asks for no contact with mother /residence with father: [Y] & [Z] show some interest in seeing mother. These are traumatised children who cannot evaluate their best interests objectively.
The relationship between the children and with each of their parents and any other relevant person.
[V]: hostile to mother, father cannot control her; [W]: physically dependent, non-verbal; [X] close to g/p/parents & father; [Y] seems closest to p/g/parents; [Z] has affectional ties to both parents.
The willingness & ability of parents to facilitate/ encourage relationships between children & the other parent.
Apparently neither willing nor able during the marriage or since.
The likely effect of any changes in the children’s circumstances, including the likely effect on the children of any separation from either parent/ other person
[Z] (and perhaps [Y]) might draw inferences harmful to their self-esteem if they had no contact with mother.
The capacity of each parent or any other person to provide for the needs of the children, including emotional and intellectual needs.
Suboptimal due to their intrinsic personal characteristics. Abuse of older siblings was previously substantiated for the mother. The father is not authoritative, cannot parent strategically and seems not to be a proactive advocate for [W].
The attitude to children/ responsibilities of parenthood of parents /relevant persons.
Father- marginally adequate for [X], [Y] and [Z]. with support. The p/g/parents seem committed to the children.
The extent to which each parent participates in children’s lives/decisions
Court findings about whether the father has been negligent about the NDIS/wheelchair will cast light
The effect on children of spending equal/significant time with each parent
Deleterious. Out of the question
The mental state of the both parents in so far as it relates to parenting issues.
Neither is sufficiently stress-hardy to effectively parent 5 children, one of whom is seriously disabled
Whether parents have any psychological issues affecting parenting capacity
Both show warped information-processing and evasiveness of responsibility. See previous point.
Whether or not any treatment or therapy is recommended for parents or children. If so, the nature of any treatment or therapy.
1:1 adult counselling has not been helpful for the family situation in the past and is unlikely to be helpful now. The children benefit from supportive counselling
Whether the practical difficulty & expense of the children spending time with other parent will substantially affect the children’s direct contact with both parents
Interim – no, Long-term-probably. Supervision by grandparents on either side is unsuitable. Agency supervised contact will be costly long-term
The maturity, sex, lifestyle, background (including lifestyle, culture and tradition) .
Not a determining issue
Any family violence order that applies or has applied to the children/ family member
Not currently in force
Any other matter the Court Expert considers relevant.
This is a child protection matter better suited to the Children’s Court. [W] needs advocacy to obtain NDIS benefits. She urgently needs a wheelchair.

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