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COURT ORDERS INCREASING TIME ARRANGEMENT FOR CHILDREN TO SPEND WITH THEIR FATHER

In this case, the Court is asked to make orders for the parties’ younger children’s time with the father to gradually increase to equal time.

Facts

Ms. Crisp (mother and applicant) and Mr. Crisp (father and respondent) come to Court seeking parenting arrangement, particularly for Y and Z.  Parties have very poor capacity to communicate.  They have negative and adverse view of each other, both as parents and as people, and their children have been caught up in a high conflict matter.  W and X do not spend time with their father.  Y and Z spend time with their father for four nights per fortnight.  The father seeks an order for equal time.

The Court ordered that the parents have equal shared parental responsibility for the four children.  It also made an equal time order for Y and Z that commences at the start of the second school term in 2022.  Prior to 2022, the time the children currently spend with their father will be increased at the commencement of the second term of school in 2020 and 2021 by an additional one night per fortnight.

Issue:

Whether or not it is in the best interests of Y and Z to spend equal time with their parents.

Held:

The Court held that Y and Z would benefit from living in an equal time parenting arrangement with their parents.  The Court explained that a slow but important increase in time will allow the children to adjust to living in both parents’ households, will permit the parents to see how the children adjust, and persuade both W and X to spend some time with their father at his home. 

The Court must turn to the factors under section 60CC of the Act[1] in determining which order is in the children’s best interest.  The primary considerations under section 60CC (2) are:

  1. the benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with both of the child’s parents; and
  2. the need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm from being subjected to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect, or family violence.

Y and Z benefit from a meaningful relationship with each of their parents.  Their closest emotional attachment has been their mother.  However, they have a strong relationship with their father and a desire to spend more time with their father.  On the other hand, neither can promote a positive attitude in the children towards the other parent, and they each have their reasons for this; yet, each of them can provide for the children’s emotional and psychological needs. 

 

Although there are negative aspects which militates against an equal time order, such as poor and conflicted parental communication, lack of respect by each parent of the other as a parent of the children and as a person generally, high conflict, different rules in the parents different households, different household priorities and standards, different attitudes to what is best for the children, and for Y and Z, knowing their elder siblings spend no time in their father’s home, the Court crafted the orders for Y and Z to continue their all-important relationship with their father.  It is hoped that by Y and Z continuing their relationship with their father, and time with their father increasing, their father making some positive changes in his attitude to their mother, that W and X will seek to resume some form of relationship with their father. 

 

[1] FAMILY LAW ACT 1975 - SECT 60CC

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