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FATHER SEEKS INCREASED TIME WITH HIS CHILD

Bulla & Hayles [2020] FCCA 2878 (21 October 2020) 

This is a parenting case where the father seeks for increased time with the child who alleges that the parties were in regular disagreement over the child’s parenting. 

Facts

The Mother effectively seeks a continuation of the present time-with orders between the child and the Father; that the Father spend time with the child each alternate weekend from 9am on Saturday to 6pm on Sunday. She does not seek any further interim parenting orders relating to the child spending additional time with the Father, such as holiday time or on special occasions. 

Whereas the Father proposes initially, for a period of three months, three nights per fortnight with the child, and thereafter, during school terms four nights per fortnight with the child. He seeks in addition, an equal sharing of holiday time in the mid-term school holidays, and in Christmas school holidays time with the child on a week about basis.  

The Father alleges that the parties were unable to agree to the child spending more time with the Father and this created arguments and conflict between them. He alleges in this context that the parties were in regular disagreement by text message over the child’s parenting. 

The Mother alleges that she commenced to see a therapist in April 2020 in relation to anxiety that she was feeling about the Father constantly contacting her and attending her home and in relation to all her alleged concerns during the child’s time with the Father.  The Mother continues to see this therapist every fortnight. The Mother refers to the alleged content of her therapy sessions in relation to dealing with her alleged stress and anxiety in relation to dealing with the Father. 

Issue: Should the father be entitled to an increased time with his child? 

Law: 

Analysis: 

The Court is of the view that should the child spend increased time with the Father, the child’s meaningful relationship with the Father can be maintained and enhanced, the risk of significant conflict between the parties can be minimised, the risk of the Mother experiencing increased stress and anxiety can be minimised, and the risk of any harm to the child can be minimised. 

However, at this interim stage, the Court is of the view that it will not be in the best interests of the child to spend block time with the Father during the Christmas school holidays (the father proposes week about) because such additional proposed increased time between the child and the Father may increase the risks to the child and Mother.  The Court has concerns that the parties’ present ability to communicate and co-parent the child is insufficient to cope with a week about arrangement during the Christmas school holidays.  The Court is of the view that the parties can probably cope, in terms of communication and co-parenting the child, in relation to an equal sharing of the shorter school holidays commencing in the school holidays at the end of Term 1 next year. 

Conclusion: The father is entitled to an increased time with his child. 

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