Genuine desire to relocate and impact on children
Findings as to the Facts
- Despite some residual bitterness on the part of the mother (“he walked out when the boy was only 18 months old”), these parties managed to get along fairly well following separation until April 2016. At that time X reported the mother grabbing the steering wheel of the car driven by Mr M, which was travelling at speed and which scared the children. He also reported being hit by his mother, although it is clear that this was an accidental elbow to the head.
- The father acted on this information protectively, following advice from the Department and the police, and withheld the children from the mother until Court orders returned them to her in August 2016. To his credit he now realises that his conduct was excessive. Neither side covers themselves in any glory in this episode. Even now the mother, who remains extremely angry about it, fails to understand the extent of her own shortcomings.
- She scared the children in the dreadful incident in the car, and fails to understand that her arguing with Mr M in X’s presence deeply distressed him. She explains away her own conduct all too readily. There is no reason whatsoever to doubt that the father was genuinely concerned by what X told him, and although his action in going to Mr M – whom he knew was estranged from the mother at the time – bespeaks a lack of judgment, the fact is he acted protectively.
- However, I share Ms J’s reservation that his was not all there was to it. Consciously, or otherwise, he and Ms C turned the situation to their advantage. Thereafter things have gone from bad to worse in the parties’ interpersonal communications, not helped – as I have indicated earlier – by, it would seem, intermeddling from third parties.
- Whoever’s version of past events is correct, I am clear in my mind as to two things: first, the mother’s desire to relocate is genuine. I accept the submission of counsel for the Independent Children’s Lawyer that this move is not done to spite the father. Second, I entirely accept that the father genuinely wants more time with his children and has wished to do so for some time. His desire to do so is child orientated and his pursuit of this case has not – as the mother has asserted – been in any way designed simply to give her difficulty. I will deal with other factual matters in my assessment under the statute, but these overarching findings are significant.
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Brisbane/Sunshine Coast/Gold Coast/North Queensland