Farrar & Ramsden
Week about – Conclusion
- There is abundant evidence that it would not be in X’s best interests to live in week about shared care arrangement.
- It would be contrary to her wishes and it would separate her from her sister for extended periods of time. The father despises the mother and there is a considerable risk that X would be exposed to an unacceptable degree to the father’s views of the mother, views his parents’ share, if she spent a week about with him and this would cause her distress.
- There was no evidence that the mother had parenting capacity issues at present. She is a warm and empathic parent who does not denigrate the father to the child and who complies with orders about the child spending time with the father.
- I have considerable concerns about the father’s capacity to provide for the child’s emotional needs. I am concerned about his lack of empathy for her and his inability to keep her at the forefront of his decision making even if it means disappointment for him.
- The parents have no capacity to communicate effectively or to implement an equal time arrangement without it impacting adversely on X. The emails between them around issues such as changeover location and who can be present at changeover give rise to considerable concern that if the parents had to negotiate small issues such as clothing or shoes left behind or arrangements for the child to attend an excursion they would be unable to do so without one or both feeling hurt and resentful and without the father lashing out.
- The father said that he was on the road to change but the fact that he declined to cross-examine the mother to any great extent on the second day of the hearing or to accuse her during cross-examination of the things which are replete throughout his affidavit is simply evidence that he belatedly realised that his case for equal time and his case that the mother was a manipulative pathological liar with mental health issues and an impaired capacity to parent a child did not fit comfortably together and strongly undermined his argument that the parents could co-parent their daughter in an equal time arrangement. They are not evidence that the father has changed his beliefs about the mother.
- The father tacitly admitted that his change of position was tactical in closing submissions when he did not resile from his claims about the mother and said that he had not cross-examine her about the allegations because:
If I show Ms Ramsden to be a bad parent how will I co-parent with her?
- The father’s anger at being accused as he perceives it of being a paedophile was palpable throughout the hearing indeed it was still palpable during the first half hour of his cross-examination at the resumption of the hearing after he had done the counselling sessions.
- The father may have taken some embryonic steps to learn to communicate better with the mother, time will tell and I hope that he succeeds, but the fact that his underlying beliefs about her have not changed does not inspire confidence.
- Ms L’s notes suggest that the father’s perception of himself as the victim has not changed as does his assertion during closing submissions that “What I have faced is someone who did not want me to co-parent.” This also does not inspire confidence that the communication between the parties in the future will be civil and productive as opposed to unpleasant and unproductive which would cause stress for the mother and potentially result in X witnessing or becoming aware of unpleasant conflict between her parents.
- The fact that during final submissions the father repeated the claim that he was not an angry person gives rise to concern about the prospect of real change in the father because for real change to occur the father needs to see himself as he is.
- The risk in this case, as Counsel for the Independent Children’s Lawyer observed, is that the more the parents have to communicate the more conflict there will be. At present I share the view of the Independent Children’s Lawyer that alternate weekends with a pick up and drop off from and to school is the arrangement which is in X’s best interests.
- In this scenario the father will be less involved with the child in terms of homework and extra-curricular activities and performing day to day caring tasks but he can still have a meaningful relationship with her and if there is a real change in his attitude and behaviour, perhaps in years to come as the family consultant observed there can be an increase in his time with his daughter.
- The father asked me to consider making an order that he spend five nights a fortnight with X if I did not order week about time. This would involve X spending two days of the school fortnight with him and I am concerned that the parents may not be able to manage the communication this would require. I am also not minded to make an order for the father to spend extensive time with X at present given concerns about him talking to the child about the matter and concerns about his attitude to the mother.
- The father sought an order that each parent have telephone communication with the child every second night before bed for up to 30 minutes to say goodnight. In my view this is more about his needs than X’s and could easily become burdensome for the child. I prefer the Independent Children’s Lawyer proposal for a phone call once a week.
- I have considered the other orders proposed by the father and insofar as they are not reflected in the orders I make it is because I do not consider it in X’s best interests to make them. For example it is not appropriate to make an order requiring the child to attend (omitted) classes but no other religious activities.