Mother has no physical contact for 3 years – then what?
The Family Court recently considered a situation where the mother had chosen not to spend any physical time with her children aged 8 and 6 years, for over 3 years. The mother had been having regular Skype calls with the children, and the family report writer gave evidence that the children had a strong relationship with the mother.
The proceedings initially came to the attention of the court in 2014, when the father filed an application after the mother removed the children to another town without the father’s consent.
During the initial court proceedings, the mother alleged the father had attempted to poison her and had assaulted one of the children, although there was no evidence to support the allegations. The maternal grandmother supported the mother’s views.
A psychiatrist was engaged to complete an assessment of the mother and the father in 2014. The assessment of the mother was that the mother was showing overtly psychotic behaviour, paranoia, delusions and the children were at risk in the mother’s care.
Following the assessment, the court made orders for the children to live with the father, and for the children to have supervised time with the mother. During a planned supervised visit in late 2015, the mother and maternal grandmother removed the children, despite orders to the contrary.
Between late 2015 and the matter proceeding to trial in August 2019, the mother had maintained skype contact with the children but did not have any physical visits in that period.
At hearing, the court considered the mother’s behaviour in maintaining the phone contact with the children, the fact she had been able to develop a strong relationship despite the lack of contact and the children’s desire to progress their relationship with the mother.
The mother had also sought ongoing psychological treatment, and the evidence from her psychologist was that she was managing her anxiety and was free of delusional symptoms.
In those circumstances, the court made orders for the children to live with the father and spend a period of supervised time with the mother, following which the mother’s time would gradually increase to unsupervised, until the children were spending time with the mother for 6 nights each fortnight.
Given the history of the relationship between the parents, the court gave the father sole parental responsibility for making long term decisions for the children, after consultation with the mother.
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