The recent family law case of Batkin & Batkin  FamCA 44 involved a separated couple and three children that had been born of the relationship.
The trial initially came before Justice Murphy in November 2011. At the time, Murphy J adjourned the parenting trial until February 2013, and made interim parenting orders by consent of the parties (referred to as the 2011 Orders).
The aim of the 2011 Orders was to reintroduce the father into the lives of the children; they’d had no direct time with him for over four years, due to a “longstanding dysfunctional relationship” between the parents.
The 2011 Orders included orders to engage with a therapist, and follow directions given by the therapist, with a view to re-establishing the relationship between the children and the father.
However, at the commencement of the final trial of parenting proceedings in February 2013, affidavit evidence submitted by the therapist disclosed that:
- the mother had opted out of the counselling process following the 2011 Orders, and that she had indicated to the therapist by way of SMS message that this was “because the boys do not wish to see their father”; and
- the boys did not express any concern about spending time with their father, they appeared more to be echoing the views of their mother rather than expressing their own independently-formed opinions.
In reviewing the evidence, the Court observed that the mother “appears to have a complete block so far as recognising the needs of [the] children to be able to form their own views of their father”.
As a result, Justice Kent was concerned that the boys had no opportunity to form their own views of the father; they had simply “regurgitate[d] the views expressed by the mother…and…her negative views of [the father].”
As a consequence, Justice Kent was concerned not to make final parenting orders in the matter until the father had a proper opportunity to re-engage with the lives of his sons, and to demonstrate to the Court that spending unsupervised time with them was in their best interests.
The Court therefore adjourned the final hearing and made interim parenting orders, which included:
- the father would spend four hours per month supervised time with the boys at a nominated contact centre; and
- at the end of six months, a report would be produced about the outcome of the father’s time with the boys to assess the father’s wish to graduate ultimately to unsupervised time with the boys each alternate weekend.
To ensure that the mother did not continue to obstruct the process, Kent J also included orders which provided that a warrant be issued for the mother’s arrest should she not deliver the boys to the contact centre at the times required.