FLAST CASE SUMMARY: Michaelson & Michaelson : CHILDREN - Best interests
Michaelson & Michaelson  FamCA 174 (23 March 2017)
This case summary is another example demonstrating one parents conduct post separation that included social media; this was an international relocation case where the children (17 & 13 years) expressed firmly their refusal of seeing the father and their desire to relocate with the mother to the UK.
Post separation the fathers conduct greatly upset the children; this included but is not limited to: posting comments about the family breakup on Facebook to be seen by all. The boys saw the posts and some comments on the father’s posts were derogatory of the mother.He also posted on Facebook a copy of the temporary protection order that was made against him, it identified the children, the mother and their address, a number of comments on the post were made and some were derogatory of the mother. Additionally, the father posted a photo of himself holding a sign criticising the mother for withholding the children from him, many of the posts were on a public Facebook page called ‘the Australian Brotherhood of Fathers.
It was determined the father demonstrated a lack of insight into how his behaviour affects the children. The relationship was so impaired between them, it was established the children were “likely to further resent their father” if they were unable to relocate. The order was granted for the boys to relocate with the mother with hopes it would assist in some way in repairing their broken relationship with the father.
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- The Mother and Father were married in 1995 and separated in 2015. They are now divorced.
- The mother is a dual Australian and UK citizen. The father is an Australian citizen. They met in the UK and moved to Australia in 2001, where they have since resided.
- Child B was born in 2000, and child C was born in 2006.
- Before separation, the children had a good relationship with the father and he was involved in their care.
- The father’s conduct after separation has disturbed the children.
- 1 March 2016, an order was made by consent specifying for a psychologist to evaluate the children and if suitable to support their re-introduction to the father. The psychologist was not able to persuade the children to meet with the father so therapy did not proceed.
- 26 March 2015, the father has spent no time with the children; they refuse to have anything to do with the father.
- 24 August 2016, Ms E prepared a family report. The children refused to meet with the father, so the children were not observed with him. Ms E supports the mother and children relocating.
- The father contends the mother is causing the children to turn against him by providing them with misinformation.
- The mother asserts the children have been negatively impacted by the father’s behaviour since separation and have developed their own view that they do not want to see the father.
- The mother seeks to relocate to the UK where she has family and support; the children express their desire to relocate there as well.
- Is there any possibility of the children partaking in therapy to re-establish their relationship with the father?
- Should a further interim order be made while therapy is attempted involving supervised time between the father and children and an update family report prepared in six months?
- Should the mother relocate with the children to the UK?
Orders were made for the Mother to have sole parental responsibility and the application for international relocation was granted, the children are able to spend time and communicate with the father upon their request.
In determining this matter the Judge looked to the legislative pathways of Part VII of the Family Law Act 1975, s 60B(1) Section 60B(2),Section 60CA ,Section 60CC,Section 60CG, s 4 , s 4AB,Section 61DA,Section 65DAC.
It was established there was no point in making another interim order, the boys refuse to see the father, and pushing the matter will cause the children anxiety and will be counterproductive, the children’s views were given substantial weight due to their maturity.
The judge noted the father contends the children have been alienated by the mother however, the father ignores the boys’ own occurrences with him that may have led the children to form their views of him.
The Judge accepted Mrs E’s evidence that the mother “appeared to be supporting her son’s views rather than imposing her views upon them” the children are “likely to further resent their father” if they are prevented from relocating. Ms E recommended that the mother be able to relocate with the children to the UK, the family have significant support and relation to the UK.
The Judge suggests for the father to obtain therapy in order to gain some understanding into the children’s view of his behaviour and how he might begin to remedy that.