Maternal grandparents application to have a relationship with child fails
- The Family Reporter recorded a number of concerns expressed by the parents about the maternal grandparents. They were of the view that the child has no meaningful relationship with the maternal grandparents, doubted whether the maternal grandparents would prioritise the child’s best interests, considered that the child would be distressed at the prospect of spending time with the maternal grandparents, were concerned that the maternal grandparents would take the child to her birth mother’s grave site and were concerned that the maternal grandparents would involve them in further litigation. They complained to the Family Report writer that the maternal grandparents were not prepared to visit Asia.
- Importantly, the Family Report writer considered that the child had been embroiled in the dispute. When observed with the grandparents she referred to the grandparents as “those people”, and “bad people”. She told the Family Report writer that her parents did not like the maternal grandparents and that the maternal grandparents had got the father into trouble with the judge. When observed with the maternal grandparents she was resistant to verbal interaction with them. The child explained to the Family Reporter that her parents talk about Court all the time and that she never wanted to see the maternal grandparents again.
- According to the Family Report writer the views expressed by the child had been influenced by the conflict between the mother and father with the maternal grandparents. She did not think that those views were necessarily genuine but rather revealed the impact of the conflict upon the child. The fact that the child is caught in the middle of this conflict was thought to be detrimental to her development. Although the relationship between the child and the maternal grandparents was not sufficient for this to cause her “emotional dilemma and loyalty bind” the conflicts meant that “it may not be in her best interest to maintain relationships with her grandparents”.
- The particular concern of the Family Reporter was that the parents “have contributed to the child’s distress”. They have not protected the child from the adult conflict and appear to have directly exposed her to their negative feelings about “the grandparents”. She thought they were unlikely to support the relationship “where they believe there is no benefit, a possible risk”. The problem for the child, she thought, came from the father’s and mother’s “narrative of Ms Leary’s behaviour”.
- The consequence of the nature of the relationship between the parents and the maternal grandparents, where the Family Reporter thought that the father and the maternal grandparents blamed each other in relation to the death of the birth mother, meant that “the child will increasingly be placed in a position where she feels she must actively reject her grandparents… This would not be psychologically healthy for the child”. During the hearing of the matter the maternal grandfather said that he blamed the father for the birth mother’s death.
- However, the consequences of being completely cut off from the biological family could “be quite damaging to her development” as she “could benefit from maintaining relationships with her maternal grandparents”. These connections would give her connections to her family, to her birth mother and to her Chinese and New Zealand heritage that she gained from her birth mother.
- On balance, the Family Consultant thought not only was overnight time not appropriate in the foreseeable future for the child but that due to the conflict and attitude of the parents it was better for there to be no orders in place, rather than orders supporting the time.
- If the parents are not supportive of the child spending time with the grandparents, there is likely to be conflict and the parents are either unwilling or unable to shield the child from that conflict. There is a risk that the parents will not comply unless the visits are on their terms. The child is vulnerable to that conflict and it is likely to lead to stress for her. In turn, the child may then feel forced to spend time with the grandparents. In the circumstances where the child is beginning to reject the grandparents, there is a risk of increased rejection in the absence of support from the parents.
- The presence of orders was thought by her to likely add to further resentment on the part of the parents, undermining the possibility of relationship between the child and the paternal grandparents. Conversely, she thought the absence of orders may facilitate better relations and a better prospect for the child to have a relationship with the maternal grandparents.
- As opposed to this, the risk of no time with the grandparents is a risk of loss of connection to the maternal family, to the child’s cultural background and with her deceased birth mother. Connection with the family may allow the child to ask questions about her birth mother. The significance of those connections is more prominent in teenage years and into adulthood. The loss of such may be connected to acting out, rebellion and mental health issues.
- In consequence she recommended:
- That [the child] live with her parents, [Mr Wilton] and [Ms Niet], and that [Mr Wilton] and [Ms Niet] have the ability to decide where they live, including the option of relocating to [Asia].
- That there be no orders made regarding [the child] spending time or communicating with [Ms Leary] and [Mr Leary].
- That [Mr Wilton] and [Ms Niet] facilitate [the child] communicating with and spending time with her maternal grandparents, in the absence of Court Orders. It is recommended that [the child] communicate with her maternal grandparents once per month and spend time with them twice per year. It is recommended that this time take place once per year in the city in which [the child] lives and once per year in Sydney, Australia.
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Queensland/New South Wales/Victoria