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FATHER WITHHOLDS HIS CHILDREN FROM THE MOTHER AFTER ALLEGATION OF THE MOTHER’S DRUG ABUSE PROBLEMS

Perin & Perin [2020] FCCA 2877 (22 October 2020)

This case involves the mother seeking time with her children after recent separation with her husband who has been withholding their children from the mother due to the allegations that the mother’s drug abuse problems.

Facts:

The parties in the case are Mr Perin (the father) and Ms Perin (the mother).  They are the parents of X born 2016 and Y born 2017. The parties married 2015 and finally separated on 24 July 2020.

The children have been in the predominant care of the father since and the mother has had extremely limited time with them, subject to the father’s rigorous supervision and, at other times, through electronic means.

It is her case that although she was in paid employment prior to separation and the father was not, she was X and Y’s primary carer.  In these circumstances, she asserts that the father withholding the children from her is typical of the type of coercive and controlling behaviour, to which she has been subjected to, by the father, during their relationship.

This behaviour includes being abused and denigrated by the father and being stalked, by him, through tracking devices installed in her car and on her phone.  The mother seeks an urgent recovery order in respect of the children and thereafter that they be cared for, in a split week regime, built around her employment commitments, as a professional.

Father alleges that the mother abused drugs, both illicit ones and those provided by prescription, during the parties’ relationship, which is potentially very dangerous for the children.

The father has provided no supporting evidence to support his allegations of drug abuse, which the mother denies.  She is willing to undergo a random drug screen test and abide by an injunction restraining her from bringing the children into contact with her mother, whom the father asserts has abused illicit drugs and allows drug users to share her accommodation.

It is the mother’s case that the father is a perpetrator of quite serious family violence and is utilising the children as a means of control against her, whilst the father asserts that the mother is out of control, for a variety of emotional and drug related reasons.

Issue: Should the children spend time with their mother?

Law:

Analysis:

It appears clear that the children must have a significant level of relationship with their mother, which the father has disturbed. In these circumstances, the court is concerned that the father’s unilateral actions have deprived the children of these benefits and brought about a significant change in long standing arrangements for their care unilaterally.

Abuse can constitute not only physical harm but also the harm which follows from the care arrangements for a child being abruptly changed.  It is also noteworthy, that the father concedes that Y, in particular, has been exhibiting distress at being isolated from her mother. This is particularly noteworthy given the issue of the child’s breast feeding, which Mr Perin’s conduct has disrupted.

The evidence indicates clearly that he has withheld the children from their mother, notwithstanding their emotional discomfort at such an outcome.  This cannot be in the children’s best interests.

Conclusion: For all these reasons, in the short to medium term, the court propose to make the orders sought by the mother, which are designed to fit around her work commitments and will see the children each spending meaningful amounts of time with each of their parents.

 

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