By Janet Fife-Yeomans
March 16, 2009 12:00am
Reference source: The Daily Telegraph ArticleA JUDGE has slammed two sisters for "holding a gun" to the head of the court - and the heads of their parents - in a bizarre custody case.
The outburst highlights the plight of many divorced parents, who guide their children through the drudgery and stress of Monday to Friday - only to see them vanish for weekend good times with the other parent.
Justice Peter Murphy spoke after the teenagers took their case to the Family Court, in a bid to leave their mother to live with their wealthy father on the Gold Coast. The girls, aged 14 and 15, have been brought up almost solely by their mum since their parents split up 10 years ago.
But their dad, a successful businessman, has recently remarried, settled with his new wife on a Gold Coast property and the sisters want to join him, the court has been told.
It is an unusual case that is being closely watched by family law experts as the court has to weigh up the wishes of the children with what is in their best interests.
The sisters said it's hard living with their mum who swears, is depressed, yells, treats them like children and doesn't allow them the independence they would get with their dad. They even said they feel easier talking about personal issues including their periods with their father's new wife than with their mother.
But Justice Murphy accused them of "holding a gun" to the head of the court and the heads of their parents after he heard that they had refused to go home - and proceeded to give them a good dose of common sense.
"It is very different, it seems to me, parenting children during holiday or weekend time than it is parenting children during week-to-week time when they are involved in their week-to-week activities including school," he said.
"It seems clear that the father has spent very little, if any, day-to-day, week-to-week time with his young children and later adolescent children, attending to the sorts of duties and responsibilities that are highly likely to cause stress within any family household."
However he acknowledged that the girls loved their dad whose business activities had been "clearly extensive and time consuming" for the past 10 years.
"I find it hardly surprising that they would want to spend time at his home with him and his new wife," Justice Murphy said. "It offers a number of enticing and exciting possibilities for them and if there is tension in the mother's household, it is hardly surprising that they would express the view that they have."
While the case has yet to be heard in full, the judge said that in the interim the sisters had to go home to their mother while still being able to see their father.
Family law expert Michael Taussig QC said it was an unusual case and the judge had handled a complex decision very fairly.
"If a 14-year-old and a 15-year-old have strong and mature views then they are usually listened to by the court but as this is an interim hearing pending a full trial then the status quo has been maintained," he said.