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Family Law News

How is your Separation affecting the Children?

In the bitterness that often follows a separation, a parent will lose sight of the importance of facilitating an ongoing meaningful relationship between a child and the other parent and allow the child to become embroiled in the dispute.  Some of the cases can be so severe that a parent can be found to be actively attempting to alienate the child from the other parent in such a way that the Court may determine that the child is at risk of psychological abuse and Order the child to reside with the other parent.

Some examples of such behaviour include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Falsifying claims of past (or risk of future) criminal activity by the other party, including but not limited to kidnapping and/or sexual and physical abuse of the child;
  • Speaking about the other parent to the child in a negative or disrespectful fashion;
  • Interfering with the other parent’s time with the child;
  • Blocking telephone calls from the other parent;
  • Asking the child to make a decision about whether or not to spend time with the other parent;
  • Pretending to be upset or hurt if the child speaks positively about his/her true feelings, activities or wishes regarding the other parent;
  • Encouraging/blackmailing the child to be untruthful about his/her true feelings, activities or wishes to the other parent;
  • Asking the child to send messages to, or give feedback on, the other parent;
  • Discussing the dispute with the child, including the details of any Court proceedings.

In the recent decision of Merrett & Bass [2013] FMCAfam 263 (28 March 2013), Federal Magistrate Willis  (as she was at the time so titled) ordered that on a final basis the 14 year old child live with his father and have no contact with his mother at all.

Willis FM noted that at only 14 and a half years old the child had endured four (4) years of emotional and psychological abuse whereby the mother actively engaged in impressing her negative views of the father upon the child.  The child was “exhausted and severely emotionally affected by his parents’ high level of conflict” but more so the child was significantly affected by spending time with his mother to the point of considering suicide as ”a means to end the conflict and pressure”.

Willis FM noted that the mother was “unrepentant in her quest to defame, degrade and demean the father” and “unstoppable in pressing her distorted views of the father upon the child”.  Subsequently, the Court found the risk of further abuse in the mother’s care to be too high and ordered that the child live with the father and spend no time with the mother on a final basis.

Sadly, this is too often the case in parenting matters. To assist parents understand the affect that their separation has on the children, the Family Court of Western Australia created a video to show the impact of separation on children.

Should you have any queries regarding a family law matter, please do not hesitate to seek guidance from one of our experienced and reputable family lawyers.

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This article should not be considered as either formal or informal legal advice.  This article should only be read as general information relating to the particular subject matter it is written about.  The information may or may not apply to the reader’s particular circumstances. Marino Law only purports to provide legal advice to clients who have provided detailed instructions and who have formally retained our services.

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