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Mother jailed for denying access to boy's dad

The Family Court sentenced a mother to six months in prison for refusing to let a father see his 11-year-old son.

A number of cases, like the one below, have been reported over the past few years.

Perhaps it might have been better if the child went to live with the father, rather than gaoling the mother (so as not to "traumatise" the child).  However, other children sometimes have parents sent to gaol for non-family law matters and they have to deal with that fact of life.

In this case Federal Magistrates like Jim Brewster has had to make a very difficult decision, and appears to have chosen the long-term best interests of the child over immediate concerns.  It is the role of the State to enforce its laws.
The judge, federal magistrate Jim Brewster, acknowledged that the boy would be "quite traumatised" by the idea of his mother, with whom he had lived since 2001, being jailed. But, he said, he wanted to deter other parents from acting the same way. Parents would not be permitted to "usurp the court and flout court orders" and decide a child could not have a relationship with the other parent.

Mother jailed for denying access to boy's dad

The Australian
5 May 2009

Mother jailed for denying access to boy's dad
By Caroline Overington

The Family Court sentenced a mother to six months in prison for refusing to let a father see his 11-year-old son.

The mother, who cannot be named because it would identify the boy, spent 16 days behind bars before the sentence was stayed on appeal.

The judge, federal magistrate Jim Brewster, acknowledged that the boy would be "quite traumatised" by the idea of his mother, with whom he had lived since 2001, being jailed. But, he said, he wanted to deter other parents from acting the same way. Parents would not be permitted to "usurp the court and flout court orders" and decide a child could not have a relationship with the other parent.

It is believed to be the first time in two years that a mother has been sent to prison for refusing to provide a father with access to his children.

In 2007, soon after the Howard government's changes to family law were introduced, a judge jailed a pregnant woman for denying a father access to their child on Christmas Day, Father's Day, and the child's birthday, saying her actions had been "deliberate, calculated and malicious".

The Full Court of the Family Court has since ruled that the sentence in the latest dispute was too harsh, releasing the mother from jail, and putting her on a two-year good behaviour bond.

The parents were in a relationship between 1995 and 2001; the child was born in 1997. The boy lived with his mother between 2001 and 2007, when the father was granted access.

But he didn't see the boy at all during 2007 because the mother took him from his home state, NSW, to Queensland and then Western Australia, where she enrolled him in school under the name of her new partner.

It took police in three states, aided by federal officers, a year to find them.

Sending the mother to jail, the judge said it was "clear that it is not in (the child's) best interests that his mother should be sentenced to a term of imprisonment". But it was in the "interests of children in general that a punishment should be imposed which will act as a deterrent to parents acting in the way that the mother has done".

The mother told the court she understood that "not complying with the orders has made a bad situation worse".

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