Minute details of parenting palmed off to Family Court
Somewhere in Victoria there’s a dad who faces a fine or possibly even jail should he put his son on the bathroom scales.
The Family Court has issued an order restraining the man from weighing his nine-year-old, or calling him chubby to his face or within earshot.
The extraordinary order stemmed from a bitter 16-day custody hearing where the child’s health was a major flashpoint. The court heard the dad is fixated on the fact his disabled son blew out to more than 40kg, and blames the mum.
At first glance, Justice Nahum Mushin’s ruling preventing the dad from even mentioning the boy’s weight seems highly intrusive.
But close reading of the lengthy judgement reveals the stance was necessary to protect the child from being sucked into his parents’ lengthy, toxic dispute.
Increasingly, judges are forced to use fine print to calm hostilities within broken families.
A quick scan of recent family law decisions across Australia reveals an astonishing array of highly prescriptive, binding conditions imposed on high-conflict couples.
- A Melbourne father banned from taking his autistic daughter to doctors or other medical professionals without the written consent of the mother. The condition was necessary because he was determined to seek alternative remedies to help treat or cure the girl, including extreme detox diets and vitamin supplements
- A Sydney mother ordered to stop referring to the child by his middle name, and to use his full first name at all times
- A paternal grandma granted liberty to send one letter, email or text message every three months to her grandchild, with the child’s mum restrained from interfering with the communication
And so it goes on, and on, and on.
Picking over the bones of the dozens of breakdowns to pass through the courts in the past two months, it is obvious in most cases one or both parents have lost the ability to put their child’s interests first.
Almost universally, the judges are at pains to point out they are only making such prescriptive parenting orders with the best interests of the child in mind.
“I must make orders, where necessary, which restrain the parents from involving the children and using them for purposes which can only lead to stress, anxiety and perhaps long term emotional damage for these children,” one judge noted.
Another judge expressed frustration at repeated breaches by both parents: “(These incidents) illustrate the difficulties with these parents of promoting the children’s best interests through court orders when both parties show no inclination to comply with court orders when it does not suit them.’’
Sometimes, warring spouses seek orders that baffle even the judges.
One bloke wanted to compel his wife to permit his kids to take part in holy communion and be confirmed in the Roman Catholic faith.
The judge refused.
“Leaving aside … my doubts as to whether I even have the power to make such an order given the constitutional right of freedom of religion, the evidence, such as it is, is sparse and does not lead me to conclude that it is in the child’s best interest that their (mother) be compelled to, in effect, compel them to participate in the religious procedures,’’ the judge said.
A Federal magistrate was so bamboozled by a property dispute between a “couple” who’d had a short-lived sham marriage to gain residency visas, he simply shrugged his shoulders and refused to make any orders at all dividing their assets.
Showing common sense worthy of Judge Judy, he ruled neither party would get a share of the $230,000 unless they sorted it out themselves.
“If they are unable to agree, the money will simply sit there accruing interest until one or the other of them dies or gives in,” he ruled.
Of course, many couples DO sort it out themselves.
Every working day, lawyers and family dispute mediators across Australia help parents thrash out the quibbles of shared parenting.
Detailed parenting plans drawn up by couples set in concrete every detail from who gets custody and the timing of access visits to whether Johnny drinks red cordial and how often he bathes.
By negotiating matters such as whether Johnny plays soccer or piano on Thursdays, where he leaves his favorite t-shirt, who cuts his hair, what time he goes to bed and how many text messages dad can send him, most families are able to minimise areas of conflict and keep relations civil.
It should go without saying making things more amicable - without resorting to the scales of justice - can only benefit everyone, especially the kids.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
@mooks83 sophisticated response. Think the kids parents saw it differently
More class from 9's footy show, lampooning a baby that allegedly looks like Sterlo with a pic swiped from Facebook http://t.co/BGoYP6Pn68
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…