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Father absent for four years now wants access?

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Father been absent for four years and now wants access to children.

Im just after some experienced thoughts on this situation.
I have two girls aged 5 and 7 years. I left their father nearly five years ago when my eldest child was almost three and my youngest was just 8 months. From that day the father had very little to do with the children. Occasionally speaking on the phone to my eldest daughter promising to come and see her but never turning up.
Finally almost two years after separating, and one year into my new relationship the biological father instigated mediation and we agreed that he would visit the children every fortnight for two hours and call them three times a week on the phone. Biological father showed up for one half hour visit and made no phone calls.

Becoming fed up with his inconsistency i finally decided i didn't want him to have any contact with the children as it was emotionally disturbing to my eldest daughter (who was in therapy trying to understand the situation after he told her she was not allowed to see him because she had been naughty and she blamed her self) and he was just too immature and unreliable.

For the last two and a half years the kids and I have been living happily with my new partner of almost four years who has gradually taken over the father figure role in our home. He is loving, caring, protective and wonderful toward my children, they call him their daddy and are incredibly fond of him. My youngest, who is now five doesn't know any better as to who her 'real' father is anyway and my eldest doesn't speak much of her biological father.

At the end of 2011 biological father made an attempt to sign eldest daughter out from her primary school but was cut off by the school principal, knowing he was not her "usual" father you could say. He claimed he didn't know what he would have done with her had he gotten a hold of her, but possibly driven her back to his home town over 600km away.

Anyway i will cut to the chase. Biological father has had little to no interest in children for almost five years. Failed mediation, pays very little CS and can not hold down a job for more than a couple of months. Now i receive a letter in the mail from the family relationship centre asking them to call them as biological father would like to make arrangements for the children's care.

What happens from here? we already did mediation a few years ago and he screwed it up. Is he entitled to have another go at it?
I really don't feel he deserves to have  the children in his life as he is so unstable and hurt them emotionally before. I asked him to stay away from the children until the were old enough to decide for them self f they wanted him in their lives to save them from the heartache of being rejected by him again as small children.
Is he likely to receive visitation/kustody rights after such a long absence?

Sorry this is long, but i am very worried and confused and starved of information.
Thanks in advance :)
This is typically one of the complex scenario cases and rates up there with relocation matters. The Family Law Act is very clear and the pre amble in s60B Objects section of the Act sets out the basic principles to be applied.

60B Objects of Part and principles underlying it

(1) The objects of this Part are to ensure that the best interests of children are met by:
a) ensuring that children have the benefit of both of their parents having a meaningful involvement in their lives, to the maximum extent consistent with the best interests of the child; and
b) protecting children from physical or psychological harm from being subjected to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect or family violence; and
c) ensuring that children receive adequate and proper parenting to help them achieve their full potential; and
d) ensuring that parents fulfil their duties, and meet their responsibilities, concerning the care, welfare and development of their children.

(2) The principles underlying these objects are that (except when it is or would be contrary to a child‟s best interests):
a) children have the right to know and be cared for by both their parents, regardless of whether their parents are married, separated, have never married or have never lived together; and
b) children have a right to spend time on a regular basis with, and communicate on a regular basis with, both their parents and other people significant to their care, welfare and development (such as grandparents and other relatives); and
c) parents jointly share duties and responsibilities concerning the care, welfare and development of their children; and
d) parents should agree about the future parenting of their children; and
e) children have a right to enjoy their culture (including the right to enjoy that culture with other people who share that culture).

(3) For the purposes of subparagraph (2)(e), an Aboriginal child‟s or Torres Strait Islander child‟s right to enjoy his or her Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander culture includes the right:
a) to maintain a connection with that culture; and
b) to have the support, opportunity and encouragement necessary:
 (i) to explore the full extent of that culture, consistent with the child‟s age and developmental level and the child‟s views; and
 (ii) to develop a positive appreciation of that culture.

Now that is the starting preamble.

It is not where, based on the very limited information you  provided on this public forum, might end up.

In Australia there is a Presumption of equal shared parental responsibility when making parenting orders (s61DA) This is not the same as Substantial and Significant time but involves parents making a decision about a major long-term issues in relation to a child, both parents are required to discuss any proposed decision with each other and reach agreement about the decision. However, where a child is spending time with a person pursuant to the terms of a parenting order, that person is not required to consult on decisions about issues that arise during that time that are not major long-term issues.

Of course, parents may choose to consult on these issues. The clarification of what issues are major long-term issues is intended to reduce disputes about what falls into this category and to make it clear that day to day decisions can be made by the parties when the children are with them.

Major long-term issues (section 4 of Family Law Act), in relation to a child, means issues about the care, welfare and development of the child of a long-term nature and includes (but is not limited to) issues of that nature about:
(a) the childs education (both current and future); and
(b) the childs religious and cultural upbringing; and
© the childs health; and
(d) the childs name; and
(e) changes to the childs living arrangements that make it significantly more difficult for the child to spend time with a parent.

The rebuttable presumption of Shared Parental Responsibility based on what you have said would ordinarily be rebutted and may not apply. If the presumption is rebutted and does not apply then s65DAA substantial and significant time is not going to be considered BUT some time based on best interest factors s60CC will probably be considered.

So what does all this mean for you?

I would suggest there might be some minimal contact here and subject to a number of other issues arising from the new legislation around 60CC(3)c the time would depend on a whole range of factors. The problem you have is a great deal of distance apart and the fact he has not been involved but we do not know all the situation. What is "reasonably practicable" will figure heavily.

Mediation and coming to some arrangement with limited contacts, which are extremely problematic anyway due to the distance etc., the age of the children, the lack of bonding and the list goes on… is the best way to resolve what seems to be a father wanting to be involved or have an on going involvement. Only you and the father can work out what that involvement might be. The children are too young to have any real memory of the father with the amount of time that he has been gone. You can do a lot of things like send school reports, letters, pictures and school art works.

Not an easy task for you and the mediation centre. Certainly, if I had to weigh up things (based on a shred of what evidence is available) I would suggest he might get a better result at mediation than at court. Two years between mediations seems a reasonable amount of time to have another attempt at it… If the first round has broken down then a second go is surely going to clarify the detailed issues and resolve how they may be worked through. I don't think it will be resolved in a few days and I doubt it will be about the children's care more so some contact arrangements.

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
 Was my post helpful? If so, please let others know about the FamilyLawWebGuide whenever you see the opportunity
Wow, thank you. That has put a lot in perspective. I know my post was scattered and uninformative. Not the best idea to have a freak out rant at 2am i guess. It is difficult to accept the hard fact about these situations when there is so much emotion involved. In my eyes, the father… doesn't deserve to ever see his children again after the emotional abuse and rejection he put them through, but i guess the system sees things very differently and is all for giving them another chance. I just have to wonder, is having him involved in the children's lives really the 'best thing for them'.
The question is not about whether he "deserves" to see them, which is a perspective you have formed through actions that have not been entirely satisfactory, … but do they deserve the right to stay in touch and to contact him. The law will allow them that right. What you have are two choices. The first choice is, with help from the mediation centre, work through your own destiny and make some arrangements that you both agree on OR

You end up not making any arrangements at mediation and face someone else (a Judicial Officer) making decisions that you will have no say in and may not be what either of you would desire. He runs the added risk of having no contact ordered and is hardly likely to get past first base on Parental Responsibility, so it is not in his interests either to take the matter to a judicial hearing. Some sort of gradual program will be essential anyway and it will be graduated over some significant time period as one of these children doesn't even know him it seems.

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
 Was my post helpful? If so, please let others know about the FamilyLawWebGuide whenever you see the opportunity
So im wondering now, if i don't respond to the mediation request, how is that going to affect me if my ex partner does actually take this matter to court? I understand it may have some sort of negative response, but will it have much say on the outcome of the visitation/care of the children?
You should do the gradual introduction of the father over the next 6 months or so. I was abent father for 2 years and my ex did this with me. All is fine now.

If you dont let him see the kids then the kids may resent you for it in the future- esp if he shows them evidence that he attempted to reinstate contact with them.  

Its the kids right to see thier dad-it doesnt matter if you think he screwed it up in the past or that he doesnt "deserve" to see them. That is irrelevant.

i understand him and the children have their 'rights', its just very hard to let it happen after what he has already put them through before. Me eldest daughter is apprehensive of meeting him again because all she remembers is constantly being let down by him.
 Risking that again seems almost idiotic to me. They children have such a wonderful relationship with their step-father (who has done all the hard work raising them so far) i also worry about how that may be effected. I know soon it will come down to the courts decision and i know what that will be, i just feel i have to protect my children from the emotional stress of the whole situation. I must say, there seems to be very little concern for the children's emotional well-being in the system. The fact that these children have already been rejected by this man many times before and yet i feel as if the system is pushing them into a situation where the same thing will most likely happen again.
You better handle this carefully- he will get the moral high ground here and tell your kids in the future that you refused to allow a relationship with his kids- rather than him just walking away from them. If he takes it to court it will cost you thousands and the courts will be likely to slowly reintroduce him into your child's lives (they are still young). You are best to go to mediation with him and re-introce him to the kids on YOUR terms and conditions otherwise it will be on the courts terms (leaving you poorer) and you may not like the result. Its all upside to him.
I wish you luck as I know it would be a difficult situation.

miss_bink said
… I just have to wonder, is having him involved in the children's lives really the 'best thing for them'.
Where there is no Family Violence and Abuse you won't have a lot of options as to some contact so it is probably a lot better to sort it out at Mediation. You will not get anywhere without participating in mediation and it may auger poorly for you if the matter proceeds to court especially now under the new s60CC (3) (c ).

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
 Was my post helpful? If so, please let others know about the FamilyLawWebGuide whenever you see the opportunity
With society becoming more accepting of mental illesses/disorders, it makes it easier to accept each situation without being so judgemental.

It is important that the children learn who/what their other parent or father/mother is like by themselves and have your unbiased and negative opinions kept to your self.

Importantly be available for the emotional response when the reality in accepting the other parents position.

I went through a contact centre for 6mths with my kids dad and tried to be as supportive as I could. Now they are adults, they are able to make their own judgement.

I am pleased they still have contact with their dad now they are adults, and realise they are not like their dad but apprectiates their does the best he is able.
I met a bloke whom never phones or visits his child but sends the occasional letter. He said his life is a bit of a mess and he doesn't want his child to see that. But, he did sound confident that if his circumstances changed, he would visit. He said the mother was always understanding and co-operative. He had a bad drug habit.

Another father let time pass so that the conflict dwindled, another to let the new mum establish her independence. Another chose to get a second job so that money would be available for the child if needed, planning to have more visits later. There are many reasons why time passes.

I grew up to hate one parent because they would not let me see the other.
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