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Where can I go? What can I do?

I am the mother of a 2 year old little girl. I have big problem with the outcome after a recent interim family law hearing over parenting orders.

It was ordered that my daughter see her father at his parent's house every Saturday (all day) for 8 weeks, then from 10am Saturday until 10am Sunday (every weekend) for 8 weeks and then from 10am Saturday until 5pm Sunday (every week!!) for eight weeks until the final hearing.

I also work 40+ hours during the week (I could not run the car, afford reasonable food, pay the rent, afford presents, pay bills etc,. if I didn't). All of my concerns, including inappropriate sexual remarks made by her father and worrying observations made by myself and others were either ignored or watered down by both my Solicitor (in my affidavit) and in court and then by the Judge.

My Solicitor did not include important support documents saying they were irrelevant, wrote my affidavit in a rather poor manner and left the compiling of my application until the very last minute allowing no time for correction or editing to perfect it. My daughter's father's issues with me were on the other hand, blown out to look a lot worse than they actually were in his affidavit and by the Judge. Has anyone ever heard of such an outcome whereby the mother gets no weekends, i.e. no leisure time with her baby girl?

From what I have read and heard, even in alcohol or drug related cases, both parents usually still get alternate weekends with the child/ren. My little princess is only 2 for goodness sake and I still breast feed her). This was not taken into consideration either, in fact, I was asked in court by the Judge via my solicitor 'Can the mother express?'. I answered 'yes' since I had 2 years ago and thought I still could. As it turns out I can't because the pump doesn't match the strength of my daughter's jaws in extracting milk.

My upset, grief and shock aside, what about my daughter's right to have quality time with her Mum?

Isn't the status quo important anymore?

We have a very strong bond and I am a wonderful mother (my Doctor wrote a glowing reference about my daughter's development and my mother skills (not included in my application).

I have never obstructed a relationship between my daughter and her father, although it did take 6 months from the time we first approached the Family Relationship Centre to when actual mediation started when he didn't see this daughter but that was because I couldn't see any other way forward other than mediation. I could not communicate with him anymore, it was too painful because he offered only unhelpful. sexist and inflammatory remarks and comments. This 6 months gap was used against me in court.

The entire judgment was incredibly one-sided. I've been waking up in the middle of the night either rocking or shaking in shock and can't go back to sleep. My daughter screams and cries when I take her to her father on Saturdays and I have to pry her from me. Worst of all, once I peel her fingers from my shoulders and successfully pass her to her Grandmother, as she is wailing, screaming and pleading with me to take her back, I have to then turn my back on her, of all things. I promised her that I will always be there for her. She is distraught, traumatized and confused by all this and clearly does not want to go.

I have made all efforts to encourage and facilitate the visit, telling her that she'll have fun and can do this and that. I've provided toys and games and books and offered food ideas to help get her to eat at lunch time to no avail. Her grandmother (her father's mother (mine parents are both deceased)) has been visiting our house once/seek for a few months and the bond between them is growing but still is not strong. What can I do? I hope someone can give me some advice.

Di
Di said
I am the mother of a 2 year old little girl. I have big problem with the outcome after a recent interim family law hearing over parenting orders.

It was ordered that my daughter see her father at his parent's house every Saturday (all day) for 8 weeks, then from 10am Saturday until 10am Sunday (every weekend) for 8 weeks and then from 10am Saturday until 5pm Sunday (every week!!) for eight weeks until the final hearing.

I also work 40+ hours during the week (I could not run the car, afford reasonable food, pay the rent, afford presents, pay bills etc,. if I didn't). All of my concerns, including inappropriate sexual remarks made by her father and worrying observations made by myself and others were either ignored or watered down by both my Solicitor (in my affidavit) and in court and then by the Judge.
Di, it would appear that you are upset because you did not get the orders you wanted and you may have some misunderstandings of the way the Courts work and the Act is interpreted.

You are to be commended for working full time. However does this mean the child is in care? Is there an opportunity for both parents to to collect her from care?
Di said
My Solicitor did not include important support documents saying they were irrelevant, wrote my affidavit in a rather poor manner and left the compiling of my application until the very last minute allowing no time for correction or editing to perfect it. My daughter's father's issues with me were on the other hand, blown out to look a lot worse than they actually were in his affidavit and by the Judge. Has anyone ever heard of such an outcome whereby the mother gets no weekends, i.e. no leisure time with her baby girl?
How do you know what support documents were important? Yes this sort of outcome is not unusual when the Court wants the child to establish a relationship with the other parent. From what you say you are being rather emotive "the mother gets no weekends" when it would appear the initial two thirds are shared and then the latter third third is to establish an overnight  relationship between the child and the Father.
Di said
From what I have read and heard, even in alcohol or drug related cases, both parents usually still get alternate weekends with the child/ren. My little princess is only 2 for goodness sake and I still breast feed her). This was not taken into consideration either, in fact, I was asked in court by the Judge via my solicitor 'Can the mother express?'. I answered 'yes' since I had 2 years ago and thought I still could. As it turns out I can't because the pump doesn't match the strength of my daughter's jaws in extracting milk.
Alternate weekends may become part of an established scenario as may mid week contact or even a 50/50 regime. In your case you are still on Interim's which would appear to be giving the Father some time to establish a relationship with the child. Take little notice of what you have heard; unless it comes from an experienced and credible source.
Di said
My upset, grief and shock aside, what about my daughter's right to have quality time with her Mum?
The Act is very definite that your daughter should also be spending time with her Father and that 'time' for both parents is not necessarily expressed as weekends.
Di said
Isn't the status quo important anymore?
You may have misunderstood the use of this term. Certainly if one parent has tried to determine their version of the 'status quo' the Courts will in general ignore it in relation to a very young child.
Di said
We have a very strong bond and I am a wonderful mother (my Doctor wrote a glowing reference about my daughter's development and my mother skills (not included in my application).
It is not surprising this was not used. Vanilla good references are expected by the Courts (no one ever submits a bad one) This would only have been of use if the 'other side' was making some allegations about your parenting skills. If they were not then the inclusion could well have resulted in a response 'The Father cannot give one because the Mother has been obstructing contact'.
Di said
I have never obstructed a relationship between my daughter and her father, although it did take 6 months from the time we first approached the Family Relationship Centre to when actual mediation started when he didn't see this daughter but that was because I couldn't see any other way forward other than mediation. I could not communicate with him anymore, it was too painful because he offered only unhelpful. sexist and inflammatory remarks and comments. This 6 months gap was used against me in court.
Without you defining your definition of a relationship it is difficult to assess your interpretation and that of the Courts. Certainly a 6 month gap would have been interpreted very negatively by the Court.
Di said
The entire judgment was incredibly one-sided. I've been waking up in the middle of the night either rocking or shaking in shock and can't go back to sleep. My daughter screams and cries when I take her to her father on Saturdays and I have to pry her from me. Worst of all, once I peel her fingers from my shoulders and successfully pass her to her Grandmother, as she is wailing, screaming and pleading with me to take her back, I have to then turn my back on her, of all things. I promised her that I will always be there for her. She is distraught, traumatized and confused by all this and clearly does not want to go.
You claim the judgment was one side, is this your personal interpretation or that of a legal professional? Certainly your daughter's reactions are of great concern. Is this initial separation anxiety and how many time has it occurred?
Di said
What can I do? I hope someone can give me some advice.
We believe this question may relate to three issues:

1) Are you asking what you can do legally?

2) How can you help your daughter adjust?

3) How can you be helped to adjust to these orders?

SRL-Resources. the Family Law People on this site (look for the Avatars) www.srl-resources.org  Non gender Professional and peer support for SRLs. Closed site, no public forums, no search engines, no lurkers, guests or the other side and their Lawyer and Friends.
If the father has not seen his daughter for six months 8 1/2 days, 8 full days and and 8 1 & 1/2 days over 3 months is negligible.

As SLR-R suggests it seems a fair plan to re-establish his relationship with his daughter until final hearing, there doesn't seem to be any make up time for that six months but rather simply establishment time.

Breast feeding must be difficult if you have to leave your place of employment everytime your two year old needs a feed, this would be considered an extensive time to breast feed and choice not necessity. You could help your daughter by weaning her off and onto full solids.

By your statements you have indeed obstructed the relationship with her father and with intent to further obstruct otherwise he would not of missed out in that six month period you chose to stop contact when there was no legal necessity and you would not have wanted to include allegations your solicitor refused to include, by the way they may well of refused to include them because it would have been perceived very negatively towards you.

Even at a very young age our children pick up on how we want them to behave, many parent make their children dependant on them for many reasons and much of the time unintentionally so we do have step away from ourselves and find out how we can best help our children by reducing their dependence and letting them know it's OK to be away from us.

You have to accept that your child needs both parents and there needs to be a change of habits to best benefit your child, like it or not many of our childrens fears are put there by us and it's our responsibility as parents to give our children the tools and the right to love other people.

Once you change your tact your daughters problems will be reduced like it or not all parents mums and dads need to at times check themselves to benefit their children.

Things are not going to change unless you assist them to change and when final orders come it may mean your daughters father ends up with more time so it's important that you start accepting some changes.

I have not written this to be hard or unfeeling about what you go through but rather to encourage you that time for changes are now. I know all too well how children change between environments and how their alignment can be manipulated, but with this comes realisation from the child which may push them towards the parent who supports them and encourages them to be diverse. This in later years is proven with their behaviour in each environment and the way they act out.

I hope this helps       
It is refreshing and I even see a little hope knowing that someone really cares about the 'best interest of the child'. Thank you for your post. I can only assume you have children and quite possibly a Mum (or Dad). :)
I'm not quite sure what you are trying to say in your last post Di and I would hate to assume or misinterpret your post. If there is something in the responses that you feel has not been addressed or you feel has not been neutrally addressed please post again to clarify the points.

I have personally been involved in numerous local court, JIRT, DOCs and Federal Magistrates hearings where sexual abuse, inappropriate sexual activities and a wide range of other despicable acts are alleged and or discussed. Many of these seem to eventuate, for some strange reason, just after mediation breaks down or during court cases both in AVO/DVO Proceedings and in Family Courts proceedings.

Many are simply ridiculous allegations edged on by a system that is paranoid and has legislated itself to an extent that almost every man is seemed / deemed to be a perpetrator where there is an Intervention order raised or a family court matter. That is the cold harsh fact of the world we have legislated ourselves into. Especially in NSW and Victoria. I have seen ICL's in court attempting to change the statements mid way through and put words in parents mouths to try and convince the magistrate that something untoward has gone on.

Take this example a real case, a few months back, where a young boy for example comes home from a contact weekend and plays with himself in the shower, which is interpreted as a sexual abuse issue by the mother and complaints lodged, specialist Dr appointments made, psychologists visits, huge litigation, months of lost contact and anguish where previously contact was good and regular, and finally one very sensible Federal Magistrate who wasted almost a whole day getting to the bottom of a ridiculous situation fuelled by the mother and both her solicitor and child's court appointed solicitor.

One other extraordinary case I had been involved in was a case where the boy, a 3 year old, had been abused and penetrated in the bottom by the father. Police and courts and JIRT were involved, no disclosure was able to be extracted during the interrogation and the father finally got contact back some weeks later after huge litigation costs and awful drama and constenation. Here is the really interesting bit. The father took the child to the Dr who found a cyst/infection just inside and goodness me two days after treatment the boy was as happy as can be. In this case an over imagination by a mother wanting to reduce contact led to tens of thousands of dollars of litigation costs, JIRT involvement and much angst and long term entrenched conflict.

Now on the other side there are absolutely cases where abuse is proven, is happening and has to be dealt with firmly. I absolutely support the notion that we need a body of experts to deal with these complaints. I believe we have that in NSW through the JIRT unit. So if Di has a real and solid view with some substance she should not be delaying but should have JIRT involved immediately. They are experts although in one case in recent weeks I must confess to being quite disillusioned with the performance of the interviewing officer and somewhat disappointed with a local court magistrate who should have ruled differently.

Where there is a family separation it is often a fine line between "imagination" and reality in some of these matters. I am no expert and cannot say one way or another in relation to the inappropriate sexual remarks made by her father and worrying observations made by myself and others that were either ignored or watered down by both your Solicitor (in my affidavit) and in court and then by the Judge. You will need to engage DOCS and JIRT should these be a real concern. Be aware there are penalties for false allegations that need to be considered.

In relation to the contact matters in your interim hearing. The contact is hardly significant when you consider weekday contact as part of the equation. No longer does the court consider 'alternate weekend' contact as the regime in interim or final matters. The laws are significantly changed since July 2006. I refer you to Section 60B Willingness for each parent to facilitate and encourage a close relationship with children ensuring that children have the benefit of both
of their parents having a meaningful involvement in their lives. This is a key section amongst others. Contact is usually awarded on a frequent basis for younger children rather than a Friday night through Monday or Tuesday so in your case more frequent contact has been ordered.

I detect that you would rather have a complete weekend about regime. Have you thought what week nights might be possible or available as that may come up in the final hearing. The law is clear that both parents must/shall/should (my words) have a a close relationship with children ensuring that children have the benefit of both of their parents having a meaningful involvement in their lives.

You probably need to start working out a plan that could work for you both rather than leave it to someone else to decide for you (The court) as the decision may not be what you want. One last comment is that 'status quo' used to be something we would see a lot but life has changed rapidly in the court system (Particularly federal Magistrates) with the new legislation, mediation centers and the emphasis to meditate a settlement and a parenting plan. It sounds like things are not as amiable as they could be. If you do feel a parenting plan is in order let us know and we will send you some of the new really interesting and comprehensive parenting plans that have just been developed for the Council by a team of mediators and professionals.

You will find it is a tough time because you are concerned with money issues, living issues, accommodation, work and of course the best interests of your daughter who is still very young. Time should fix a lot of these things and surrounding yourself with friends and work colleagues for support is a good strategy. You might need to try some different strategies at hand over to make them interesting where your daughter will go with the fathers mother. You know it is very interesting as it is like dropping them at pre school or day care where they cry and make out the world has come to an end…. If you speak to the day care people on the phone a bit later you find the children are having a ball and really enjoying themselves and that tears are all gone and it is fun for all. They have a knack of making it very upsetting for the parents. You will need to work with the Grandmother to try and address that hand over to make it less upsetting for all as it is going to have to happen.

If that was a pain point for you perhaps we can get some suggestions here as to what might make things a lot easier.

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
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