UNACCEPTABLE RISK OF HARM – NO FURTHER CONTACT BETWEEN PARENT AND CHILD
- I do not find it necessary to make a finding as to whether or not the father suffers from a recognisable psychiatric illness. That is because the psychiatrists agree that the father’s psychiatric illness (if he has one) does not, of itself, preclude him from having a relationship with his son. As Mr J identified, the question is whether or not the father can protect L from his views and whether a failure to contain his views is likely to cause emotional or psychological harm to the child.
- The fact is that for many years the father has made accusations against the mother to anyone who will listen. His focus has largely been about how he has been victimised by the mother and how she has sexually abused and mistreated the child. Extraordinarily the father submitted that he had never put the mother down. Unfortunately, the father appears to have surrounded himself with people who support his victim status including his sister who unwisely exposed the child to the ongoing dispute between the parents when she recently gave L a letter which said, among other things – “your mummy has put things in place so your Dad has to stay away”.
- I accept the mother’s evidence that L has asked her why his father hates her so much. The child could not be unaware of the father’s feelings and views. The father’s own evidence persuades me that he has involved L in what I find to be his ‘campaign’ against the mother, e.g. repeated questioning of the child. I am particularly concerned about the father’s leading questions to L as exposed in the video the father gave to police and to his admissions to Dr Z.
- I accept Dr H’s opinion that the father is likely to alienate the child from his mother if he spends time with him. At the very least his behaviour is likely to make the child so uncomfortable that he is conflicted about his relationship with his mother.
- I accept Ms O’s opinion that that the father experiences L as an extension of himself and finds it very difficult to consider that L might need to rely on his mother. I also accept her opinion that spending time with the father is likely to foster dependency in the child and enforce “sameness in attitude, feeling and behaviour as much as possible in the child.”
- I accept Dr Y’s opinion that the father’s “perceptions and beliefs are the product of his basic nature and personality and intellect, which by this age are immutable” and that the father’s belief that the mother has sexually abused the child is an “overvalued idea”.
- I have no confidence that the father can or will change his behaviour. Contrary to the advice to the father provided in Dr Y’s report, the father did not demonstrate any ability to focus his attention on reconnecting with L. The suggestion by Dr Y that the father could spend supervised time with L and that this be monitored until the child is eighteen is completely impracticable in my view and I am not satisfied that it would serve any positive purpose for L. Importantly I do not consider that the father could contain himself and I do not consider it likely that any supervisor could successfully manage the father’s behaviour.
- I reject the submission by the independent children’s lawyer that a further interim order should be made. L needs some finality as do the parties. Making an interim order would not be in L’s best interests given my findings that the father would not be able to contain the expression of his views about the mother. Additionally the evidence as to the availability of an appropriate supervisor and capacity of the parents to meet the costs was unsatisfactory. I consider a final order to be less likely to lead to the institution of further proceedings.
- L is progressing well at school and in his extra-curricular activities and his problematic behaviour, e.g. wetting his pants, nightmares, playing up at school, etc. has ceased.
- While Mr J opines that L misses his father, it is my view that the benefits to L in spending time with the father are overshadowed by the detriment to him in being exposed to the father’s unrelenting perceptions and beliefs about the mother.
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Sunshine Coast / Brisbane / Gold Coast / Townsville