Child Wishes: looking at the difference between an interim and final hearing
After a relationship breakdown, your child’s wishes can form important evidence in deciding parenting orders. Usually, the older the child gets, the more weight is placed on their wishes. However, in some cases, this can lead to the child being influenced by their parent, even if that influence takes place unknowingly as a type of subtle coercion.
Picking up on such nuances is often part of the role of the family report writer, but will also usually need to be assessed by the trial judge.
In a recent federal circuit court case, a father sought interim orders for his 13-year-old son to spend more time with him, on the basis that his son had expressed a repeated wish to do so.
This was opposed by the mother who relied on evidence of domestic violence and “coercive and controlling” behaviour by the father towards her.
A family report was prepared and during the report interviews, a seemingly innocuous incident occurred, when the report writer observed the father offering his son an apple.
The son initially refused to eat it, however after the father expressed in a subtle way, unhappiness with the child’s answer, the son changed his mind and ate the apple.
Normally such an incident would have no importance, however in the circumstances of this case, and in light of the allegations of the mother, the report writer related the exchange about the apple to the wider issues of the son’s wishes about spending time with his father.
The report writer suspected there may have been a degree of subtle emotional manipulation of the child by the father. The report writer went on to raise a “deep suspicion” that the child’s expression of wishes was as much intended to please the father as it was an expression of his own wishes.
The judge expressed concern after reading the family report, but determined that the matter required a trial judge to fully weigh up all the evidence and this was not possible at an interim hearing.
The judge decided to adopt the recommendations of the family report writer for the interim hearing.
The judge could see the son had a close relationship with his mother, but there were still questions raised over the genuineness of the son’s wishes regarding time with his father.
If you need advice on parenting orders or any other aspect of family law, please contact Michael Lynch Family Lawyers on: (07) 3221 4300 or email: [email protected]