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Family Court case studies - A Western Australian Disgrace

Article from: AAP July 21, 2007 04:00pm

Reference source: Perth Now - WA

Reporter John Flint recounts some recent, controversial Family Court cases.

August 2006: Two WA children, aged 10 and eight, were flown to Switzerland to be reunited with their mother following a decision in the WA Family Court.

The European-born mother had abducted them on false passports in 2001. Their father launched an action under the Hague Convention to secure their return.

The mother defied an order to bring them back to Perth. Eventually the High Court in Zurich placed them in a children's home until January 2005 when they were flown back to WA. They were then put into foster care by the Department of Community Development - the father was only allowed four hours of supervised contact a week.
The Shared Parenting Council of Australia, which supported the father, was scathing and said
The DCD withheld the children to preserve the parental rights of the absent mother long enough that they could trash the rights of the father. By the end of the lengthy court process they could claim that the father had no real bond with the kids. Further it was extremly convienient that the Judge rushed through her ruling on the day before the new "father friendly legislation" passed into law in WA.

DCD the Department of Community Services in WA let this father down. They acted in a despicable and inhumane way and they hindered this father from contact with his two children at every juncture. The Council demanded a full judicial enquiry into the matter and the resignation and or disiplining of some DCD officers.

The Federal Minister of Justice did not escape unscathed either with calls for the mother and her associates arrest and for her to be returned to Australia to answer charges of passport fraud and kidnapping left unanswered.

This matter was a debacle for all the agencies that were involved. A complete disgrace.
Liberal MP Dan Sullivan told Parliament that the decision to send the kids back to their mother in Switzerland was made just days before crucial law changes came into effect.
Liberal MP Dan Sullivan, who lobbied the WA Parliament said
It seems that decision was made on that date quite deliberately to ensure that (the father) could not benefit from the new shared parenting, or father-friendly, components of the amended Family Law Act.
The father now communicates with his daughter via web-cam, but has zero contact with his son.
October 2006: A WA father was knocked back in his decade-long quest to meet his daughter, aged 10. He had been trying to locate and establish contact with the girl since her mother took her to a secret location interstate when she was a baby.

The Family Court ruled that a meeting was not practicable because it would upset the girl's mother so much that the daughter would be destabilised. Instead the father, who had taken the girl's mother to the Family Court 40 times, was given permission to write to his 10-year old daughter and for her to be told of his existence.

The daughter told a psychologist that she wished she could learn who her father was and get to know him. The psychologist deemed the father's intentions to be positive and the mother's fear of him as ``somewhat delusional.''

The father said the mother used him as a sperm donor and dumped him before his daughter was born. He twice had to obtain court orders to locate the mother.
November 2006: An intellectually disabled man was told he was not allowed any contact with his son. The court agreed that the boy, also intellectually disabled, had nothing to gain from knowing his father, who had tried for 10 years to get access.

The devastated dad, who thought about his son every day, had applied for just two hours supervised contact a month. The case was complicated by the mother having dishonestly told the boy another man was his father. The judge said the boy could suffer adverse effects from discovering who his real father is. The court's controversial decision was attacked by experts on intellectual disability.
However in a possible change of approach, there are examples of WA's Family Court taking tough action against mothers who attempt to destroy father-child relationships. In May, two WA mothers lost custody of their sons after going to extreme lengths to stop them seeing their fathers. The children were placed with their dads.
Editors comment:
Is it any wonder the AG's in Canberra have not responded positively to requests from the WA Attorney for more judges. The court should be put on notice to lift it's game in it's entirety. Perhaps the Judges could read the "Explanatory Memorandum" that accompanied the new Family Law Act.

Note all names and details of parties have been excluded from these reported case files to ensure compliance with anti publication orders which have been made in at least one case


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