Violence and parenting

In Stott & Holger and Anor [2017] FamFC 152 a maternal grandmother successfully appealed an order of the Family Court of Australia that permitted a 10-year-old child who lived with her to spend time with his father who had a history of serious violence.

In reaching its decision, the Full Court of the Family Court of Australia noted the test of unacceptable risk and the fact that when an unacceptable risk is alleged it is incumbent upon the Court to give a real and substantial consideration to the facts of the case and whether those facts could be said to give rise to an unacceptable risk.

On the facts before the primary judge it was evident that the father had a propensity towards violence and aggression, which propensity was, in part, established by his lengthy criminal history. The Full Court held that the primary judge did not undertake appropriate consideration of this propensity in arriving at its conclusion that it was appropriate for the young boy to spend time with his father.

In reaching its conclusion that the primary judge did not give real and substantial consideration to the facts of the case and whether those facts could be said to give rise to an unacceptable risk, the Full Court of the Family Court of Australia said:

[39] We find merit in the argument that this did not occur here …

[40] All the more is this so in the face of findings by the primary judge that the father seemed incapable of accepting his history and was dismissive of his propensity to violence … the father’s trenchant denials accompanied by “barely restrained anger when giving evidence” and being “aggressive” and at times raising his voice “to a frightening level” … and findings that the father was not a truthful witness about either his criminal history or the nature of his engagement historically with the child’s mother …