Maternal grandmother’s application
WITH WHOM SHOULD THE CHILD LIVE
- This is the nub of the maternal grandmother’s application. She says that since 2014, the father has demonstrated that he remains abusing alcohol and other drugs, and his behaviour on 14 and 15 May 2016 means that if the child continues to live with him, she is likely to continue to be exposed to the risk of physical or psychological harm from his abuse or family violence. Moreover, she points to the fact that the important protective influence of the paternal grandmother was unable to deflect the father’s alcohol and/or drug fuelled anger on 14 and 15 May 2016, and in any event, the father now lives separately from her, albeit I accept in the same street.
- The following factors weight in favour of the regime that presently exists continuing:
- It would maximise the opportunity of the child having a meaningful relationship with her sole remaining parent;
- It would likely maximise the chance of the child maintaining a good relationship with the paternal grandmother;
- It would maintain the living arrangements for the child which have persisted since her mother and sister’s deaths;
- The distance between N Town and F Town makes it difficult for the child to spend time with the father and paternal grandmother if she is living in N Town.
- On the other hand the following points favour the maternal grandmother’s proposal or are against the status quo:
- If the child continues to live with the father, I adjudge it as almost certain that she will continue to be exposed to his alcohol and/or drug fuelled behaviours, which on occasion are plainly abusive and constitute family violence. I am satisfied that there is a real risk of physical or psychological harm being suffered by the child in consequence of that exposure;
- The protective feature of the paternal grandmother also living in the same house as the child no longer continues, and in any event it was unable to protect the child on 14 and 15 May 2016;
- The child has expressed a wish to live with the maternal grandmother;
- The paternal grandmother has, on the evidence before me, indicated that she is no longer able to care for the child, which is not surprising given her poor health as at 2014;
- The child has an excellent relationship with the maternal grandmother as discussed above;
- The child has now been living with the maternal grandmother since the end of the mid-year school holidays, and to that extent the change in arrangements has been now in existence for about three months, and the child has presumably settled. To require her to return now to F Town would likely be disruptive for her;
- I assess the maternal grandmother as having an excellent capacity to provide for the child’s needs in all respects;
- The maternal grandmother, although not of aboriginal descent herself, is likely the child’s best gateway to maintaining connection with that heritage;
- Plainly the father has demonstrated poor attitude to his responsibilities of parenthood, given his continued abuse of alcohol and other drugs.
- Weighing those factors in the balance tells strongly in favour of the maternal grandmother’s proposal. There will therefore be an order that the child live with the maternal grandmother.
TIME AND COMMUNICATION WITH FATHER
- The maternal grandmother proposes that the father should be able to spend time during consecutive days with the child in the N Town area. She also proposes, that the child have liberty to communicate with the father by telephone and text message as she may see fit, but that otherwise the father be at liberty to call the child twice a week. Given that the child appears to have her own mobile phone, the reality is that it would be difficult to structure orders in any other form.
- The real question then is whether the child should be able to travel to F Town to spend time with the father. Unfortunately his continued abuse of alcohol and other drugs, and his violence of 14 and 15 May 2016, mean that having the child spend time with the father in that environment will likely expose her to a repetition of such conduct. That cannot be countenanced. Even though it may be for only a few weeks a year, nonetheless the child needs to be protected from the risk of harm which the father poses to her by virtue of his behaviours.
- True it is that there is no guarantee, if the child were to spend day time with her father in N Town, that he may not again demonstrate such behaviours, but I assess it as much less likely than in his home environment.
- There will therefore be an order permitting the father to spend time during the day for 5 day blocks with the child in N Town, provided he gives appropriate notice to the maternal grandmother of his intentions so to do.