Freedom Law

Family Lawyer Sunshine Coast

Family Law Sunshine Coast

Master plan of alienation not made out

Master plan of alienation not made out

Bell & Bell

Conclusion as to Issue A

  1. Regrettably and reluctantly, I concur with Mr B’s observation that no matter which party is to blame, “the damage has been done” to X’s relationship with his father. As it stands at the moment, that relationship appears irretrievable, a situation which will have emotional and psychological consequences for both X and Mr Bell and his family.
  2. While both parties are to blame for the situation in which X currently finds himself, the father’s palpable hatred and contempt for the mother as seen in both his written and oral evidence, and his focus on holding her to account in some way for what he perceives as breaches of his rights as a father, permeated these proceedings.
  3. He cannot expect to have a relationship with X that is positive, close and nurturing while he holds and expresses those views about X’s mother.
  4. It was Ms R’s evidence that she thought that Mr Bell’s motivation in bringing the litigation was “two pronged” in that he genuinely wanted to have a relationship with X, but that in the absence of that relationship, it was important to him that his voice be heard in relation to the reason for X’s resistance to seeing him.
  5. That is not an unreasonable motivation, but on the basis of all the evidence before the court I find that at least part of his motivation has been to punish Ms Bell and cause her to spend money on these proceedings.
  6. His lack of insight about that issue is regrettable, as, indeed, is the lack of insight in his responses to any questioning of his motives or behaviour.
  7. It is to be hoped that Mr Bell will consider attending counselling or therapy himself in order to deal with those feelings towards Ms Bell, and any issues arising from his childhood, as they clearly stand in the way of X’s capacity to even consider a relationship with his father at this time in his life.
  8. There is a pattern in Mr Bell’s evidence of downplaying his own role in the dispute between him and his former wife in relation to X, and of attributing all of X’s behaviour in not wanting to see him as part of a “master plan” concocted by Ms Bell and X to remove him from X’s life.
  9. I cannot be satisfied, on the basis of the evidence before me, that Ms Bell has engaged in such a “master plan”, and I note that even Ms L does not support her husband in that view.
  10. There is no doubt that Mr Bell loves X, but his attempts at resolving the conflict between him and Ms Bell display an inability to empathise with her or X, or indeed anyone else unless they agree with his view of the world. There is a rigidity in his thinking patterns which simply does not allow for other people’s views or any suggestion that his own views may be wrong or at least that they may be less than completely correct.
  11. Ms Bell presented overall as a reasonable, though frustrated parent. Her evidence was nonetheless non-responsive and evasive at times, and it was very clear that she had no positive feelings at all about Mr Bell.
  12. The evidence of both her and Mr Bell indicates a reluctance on her part to positively intervene to foster the relationship between Mr Bell and X for many years, and it clear that she sees no benefit to X in pursuing that relationship.
  13. Ms Bell’s evidence about her experience of Mr Bell both during and after the marriage was cogent and consistent, and I accept her evidence that she feels some wariness, if not fear, about interacting with him.
  14. She did not show any obvious fear of Mr Bell when being cross-examined by him, but the tenor of her answers did indicate that wariness.
  15. The evidence of Mr B and Mr N, which I note was not challenged at trial although it was referenced repeatedly, is that there should be no orders for X to spend time with his father.
  16. Ms R, however, who was a most impressive witness in my view, was more willing to consider X’s views in the context of his maturational development, and it was her view that X requires therapy in order to fully realise his emotional potential.
  17. While Ms R was very clear that any ordered therapy should include issues X has with his father, it should not be solely directed towards X spending time with him.
  18. However, Ms R also agreed with counsel for the mother that there was a “calculated risk” in sending X to therapy, that he might rebel against that order, and that his views about his father may become even more entrenched.
  19. She was also clear that X should not spend time with his father in the current situation in which the parties find themselves, and indeed said that even indirect contact with his father at this time would be detrimental to X.
  20. On the basis of the expert evidence, I find that it would be enormously beneficial to X to engage in long term psychotherapy in order to help him understand and integrate his feelings towards his father. It is to be hoped that his mother will organise such therapy for X, and that his father will contribute to half of the cost of that therapy in order simply to help his son and to let him know that he loves and supports him.
  21. However, taking into account all of the above evidence, and keeping closely in mind the issues set out in s.60CC of the Act, I cannot be satisfied that it is in X’s best interests to force him to attend counselling with his father in order to repair their relationship.
  22. Given the complexities surrounding this litigation, X’s views the and his statements of non-compliance, the extreme animosity between the parents and the potential for future litigation because of that animosity, I find, on balance, that it is positively not in his best interests in all the circumstances to make such an order, and I therefore decline to do so.

Conclusion

  1. It has occurred to me many times throughout these proceedings that it might be said these parties, with their two very different and particular personalities, have created a “perfect storm” in their relationship.
  2. By that I mean it is not perhaps the fault of one or the other that X has found himself in the quite tragic position of having no relationship with his father, but that it is a combination of two strong and incompatible personalities that has led us to this point.
  3. The evidence before the court is that Mr Bell’s personality vulnerabilities as described by Dr P and Mr N, have combined with Ms Bell’s somewhat over protective parenting style to create a situation where each is quick to find fault with anything the other says or does.
  4. That has led to a complete lack of trust between these parties, the result of which is a level of animosity between them which is caustic and toxic, and which has landed X squarely in the middle of the dispute.
  5. X simply deserves better. At the age of 13½ he deserves to be exploring his world as an adolescent, with all the change, confusion and excitement that that brings, rather than being concerned about how his parents feel about each other.
  6. In some cases that come before this court, it is not possible to make orders which are actually in the “best” interests of the subject child or children. It is only possible to make orders which are in their “least worst” interests. This has been such a case.
  7. It is to be hoped that the orders I will make will provide some respite for X, although it is also to be hoped that his mother will seek for him, and for his sake, the therapy which Ms R sees as his only hope of a psychologically healthy future.

 

Sunshine Coast/Maroochydore/Noosa

Family law Sunshine Coast

Family lawyer Sunshine Coast

Public interest – referral of litigant to A-G and ATO

Public interest – referral of litigant to A-G and ATO

ASHJAIM & GASPAR [2019] FCCA 2703
Catchwords:
FAMILY LAW –Unusual property dispute– Applicant’s business venture which created cash flow failed – Applicant sending monies overseas – Respondent on folly of her own post-separation – Respondent files affidavit admitting to lying to the court –Respondent’s lack of disclosure , transparency and honesty with the court – Referral of papers to Australian Taxation Office and Attorney-General.

 

Just and equitable conclusion

  1. On the 29 August, 2016 there was an interim hearing in this matter. Counsel for the Applicant complained that amongst other matters, the Respondent was not providing full and proper disclosure of all documents under her control or in her possession. In response to this claim, the then Counsel for the Respondent said as follows… “I concede the issue of discovery is not perfect. My client and I spoke and I have set her straight, but what she understands what they have provided in compliance with Your Honour’s orders for discovery would not be sufficient. That I can indicate to Your Honour, my client has a comprehensive understanding now as to her obligations.”
  2. An example of her lack of disclosure and frankness was when she was cross-examined during the trial about her BAS statement for the quarter ended 30 March, 2016, when she said that was with the liquidator, but when the documents produced by the liquidator were inspected, they were not present. She said that she did not keep copies of any of these documents. She said she did not know she had to produce documents and she was not asked to produce any particular documents.
  3. Her reply was she did not know she had to produce those documents, flew in the face of the assurance from her Counsel made to this court on 29 August 2016, over 2 years before the trial.
  4. In her confessional affidavit filed 22 May, 2019 at paragraph 26 the Respondent says the following,…“I would like to tell The Honourable Court that I am really sorry for not disclosing the right documents for my final court hearing and placing false information into an affidavit.” There is no doubt in my mind that the Respondent has not been complying with the duty to provide a full and frank disclosure of all financial records and documents.
  5. In my view, the cases of Oriolo (1985) FLC 91653 and Briese (1986) FLC 91-713 apply to this situation. The Respondent intentionally told lies and created such an opaque image of her financial circumstances that it led to the court not being fully and properly informed about the financial history and current circumstances of the Respondent. Further, when one reads the cases of Weir (1993) FLC 92-338, Mezzacappa (1987) FLC 91-853 and Chang v Su (2002) FLC 93-117 they establish that I should have no sympathy for the Respondent or her behaviour, noting however I must follow the criteria in the Family Law Act 1975 particularly section 90SM and section 90SF(3).
  6. In Chang v Su (2002) FLC 93-117 their Honours Justice Kay and Justice Dawe said the following:

    “67.  The law to be applied and the approach that may be adopted in cases where, through the lack of a full and frank disclosure, the Court is unable to fully ascertain the extent of a party’s wealth, is well settled (see Stein v Stein [1986] FamCA 27(1986) FLC 91-77911 Fam LR 353; Mezzacappa v Mezzacappa [1987] FamCA 20(1987) FLC 91-85311 Fam LR 957; Black and Kellner (1992) FLC 92-28715 Fam LR 343 and Weir v Weir (1993) FLC 92-33816 Fam LR 154).

    68.    In Black and Kellner (supra) the appellant had submitted that, absent findings as to the extent of his wealth, the order made by the trial Judge was plainly unjust. The key finding of the trial Judge was:

    “…the failure on the part of the [husband] to disclose his financial position to the court and his attempts to conceal this matter from the court, which has left the court in the position of not knowing what the [husband’s] financial position is, except that he deliberately underestimated it.”

    69.    Chief Justice Nicholson (with whom Ellis and Cohen JJ agreed), said in dismissing the appeal:

    “As senior counsel for the wife pointed out, the first step in proceedings for a property settlement is for the court to ascertain the wealth of the parties and in this regard it is of interest to note the remarks of the Full Court in the case of Giunti and Giunti [1986] FamCA 15(1986) FLC 91-759, particularly at 75,555 where the court commented:

    ‘It is obviously desirable as a general principle that the court should first of all identify the pool of assets available and evaluate it. If each party complies with his or her obligation to make a full and substantive disclosure of their financial affairs- see Briese and Briese; (1986) FLC 91-713, affirmed by the Full Court in Oriolo v Oriolo (1985) FLC 91-653, there is no problem, although there may be disputes as to valuation.

    However if, as here, one party fails to fulfil that obligation, is it open to that party then to rely on the absence of satisfactory evidence to prevent the making of an order against him or her which otherwise justice and equity would require? It would be simple, if that were the case, to evade the jurisdiction of this court, not by outright refusal which would attract sanctions but by obfuscation and evasion.’

    The Full Court in Oriolo and Oriolo, supra, referred with approval to the remarks of Smithers J in Briese and Briese, and it is perhaps worth reiterating a portion of his Honour’s statement at 75,181 where he said, after referring to the decision of the House of Lords in Livesey v Jenkins [1984] UKHL 3(1985) All ER 106:

    ‘… I believe that the conclusion of the House of Lords in the case of Livesey v Jenkins… is apposite, namely that in financial proceedings between spouses each party must make a full and frank disclosure of all material facts. In that case it was made clear that full and frank disclosure was required as a matter of principle in the light of the fact that it was the duty of the court, taking into account a number of designated criteria, to make a decision which basically involved the exercise of discretion. This is quite different from common law litigation between strangers, in which such a general duty does not exist, and obligations would only exist in so far as statute or court rules required.

    In my view it is fundamental to the whole operation of the Family Law Act in financial cases that there is an obligation of the nature to which I have referred’.”

  7. What I can discover from the evidence is that on commencing cohabitation it appears that the Respondent made a greater financial contribution and subsequently a greater contribution as primary carer and home-maker but these were eroded by her subsequent negative contributions. Both the Applicant and Respondent worked hard in their respective businesses. The Applicant initially as a customer service representative and then subsequently in the business in Suburb F. The Respondent brought into the relationship a humble business that operated from her residence. This grew into a significant shop front business known as “Business H.”
  8. It appears that by 2016, the year the parties separated, both businesses were financially successful. The Respondent in her affidavit filed 10 October, 2017 alleges that the Suburb F business generated cash receipts from 29 January, 2016 to June, 2016 of around $51,000 and Eftpos receipts from 29 January, 2016 to 29 August, 2016 of $128,649. The evidence from the experts is that the turnover for the C Street, Suburb D and Suburb F business branches was around $749,000 in 2016/2017.
  9. Ironically and sadly, the Respondent post-separation appears to have made every effort to undermine those businesses including;

    a)           Without notice liquidating the company operating the C Street, Suburb D business;

    b)           Pretending to sell the C Street, Suburb D business to her then friend Ms P;

    c)           Clearly wasting significant monies of around $100,000 by leasing premises at J Street, Suburb F, and setting up separate competitive structure with the intent, (I infer from all the evidence), to undermine the husbands operation at E Street, Suburb F; and

    d)           Without notice selling the realty she brought into the relationship at Suburb M leaving a net balance $60,590 after sale costs and discharge of mortgage. Given her poor credibility, misleading the court and lack of complete discovery I am not satisfied these monies were used as she suggested. In any event, on any view she retained those funds and used them for her benefit either directly or indirectly. I will treat this as an addback, (see Kowaliw (1981) FLC 91-092 above).

  10. In all the circumstances of this opaque fog that this lady has created, it is my assessment of the best evidence available, that the divisible pool of assets is made up as follows;

    a)           Net proceeds from the sale of C Street, Suburb D – $60,590;

    b)           A Street, Suburb B – $785,000;

    c)           Business H, C Street, Suburb D – $94,000E;

    d)           Business H Pty Ltd, Suburb F – $94,297; and

    e)           Monies that the Applicant sent to his parents overseas – $90,000E.

    which totals $1,123,887 less the mortgage over the parties’ home of $529,000, which then leaves $594,887 net.

  11. I have excluded the other liabilities personal to them that they will continue to be solely responsible for, given this approach in the Applicant’s and the Respondent’s Outlines of Case, and the evidence at the trial.
  12. When considering all the facts peculiar to this most unusual case, I have formed the view that the contributions both positive and negative in all forms by both parties are ultimately very similar during cohabitation and post-separation. Initially I was considering that perhaps the Respondent made greater contributions than the Applicant, particularly as homemaker or parent and with the assets she brought into the relationship, but on further reflection I believe she offset those contributions by her negative post-separation waste of funds on trying to establish a business to compete with the Applicant at J Street, Suburb F. She also made it more difficult to assess the section 90SM(4) factors with her lying to the court and not providing full disclosure, which caused me to doubt the reliability of her evidence.
  13. When I then turn to section 90SF(3), I find these factors are also of similar weight or importance save for the serious responsibility of the primary carer, (in this case the Respondent), to provide care and accommodation for the two children of the relationship. Therefore, in all the circumstances there should be an adjustment in the primary carer’s favour of 10% providing a 55/45 division. In my assessment, the payment of $280,000 sought by the Applicant did not satisfy sub-sections 90SM(3) and (4) of the Act.
  14. Given the net pool of $594,887 the Applicant’s share of 45% is $267,700. He will retain the E Street, Suburb F business valued at $94,297 and be responsible for the $90,000 addback, he is to be paid a further $83,400 in rounded figures. The Respondent will retain $256,000 equity in the Suburb B home and business of $94,000(c) with the $60,590 Suburb M addback, totalling $410,590 less the $83,400 payment, leaving a net of $327,190 in rounded figures.
  15. Finally, I cannot ignore page 5 of the indicative valuation report by the Respondent’s agent Mr EE where he referred to …“possible taxation and accounting compliance breaches. These breaches suggest that there are undisclosed income amounts and over claimed expense amounts…The observed possible compliance breaches are as follows:

    ·    BAS’s not reconciling with financial information provided (mainly Financial Statements)

    ·    Alleged undisclosed sales/cash income (as noted by Forensic Report of Mr U dated 22 September 2017)

    ·    Possible avoidance of GST & Income Tax Obligations by using Trustee company of Trust for invoicing and banking of business income, along with possible “double dipping” expenses (claiming expenses in both entities when only one is conducting business activity)

    ·    Owners Drawings/Loan account has not been examined but shows there is activity which could suggest further cash being drawn from out of the business…”

    Therefore, given it is in the public interest to investigate this and a possible breach or breaches of the laws of Australia, I am requesting that a copy of my judgment be forwarded to the relevant officials at the Attorney-General’s Office and the Australian Taxation Office for further investigation and an officer of those bodies may have access to the parties material filed in this court for that purpose, if so required.

Maroochydore/Nambour/Noosa/Caloundra

Family law Sunshine Coast

Family lawyer Sunshine Coast

Review family law – is it needed?

Review family law – We don’t need another family law review — we need to act on what we already know

So far today police in Australia would have dealt with on average 284 domestic violence matters.

Question: How many inquiries and reports does it take to change Australia’s family law system?

Answer: As many as possible, as long as you procrastinate and do not implement any recommendations.

The announcement this week of yet another inquiry into our family law system is the third such report in the past three years.

It is undeniably a waste of time, money and resources and reflects the Coalition-led federal government’s desperate attempt to curry favour with those who hold the balance of power in a tight Senate.

Children have rights, not parents

It is necessary to address the ill-informed claims about family violence made by those supporting an inquiry.

As the House of Representatives report noted, more than half of parenting cases that proceed to family law courts involve family violence. Some studies suggest this could be as high as 85 per cent. The data clearly shows that false allegations are made in a small minority of cases and mostly comprise perpetrators denying family violence. Those who claim otherwise are distorting the data and are often aggrieved by personal experiences and seek to drive their own agendas.

Children have rights. Parents do not have rights.

Parents have duties, responsibilities and obligations. Children have the right to be protected from physical, sexual and emotional harm and from exposure to family violence. The primary carers of those children are mostly mothers. This is often the result of private agreements between the parents and not because of any judicial determination. The caregivers too have the right to be protected.

These fundamental principles have been enshrined in the Family Law Act 1975 for years.

Read the reviews we already have

Many of the terms of reference for this latest inquiry have already been covered in previous reports. This includes alternative dispute resolution to reduce ‘acrimony, cost and delays’; children’s matters; property division; integrated court responses; closing the gap between State and federal child protection and family violence jurisdictions; support service for courts and simplifying legislation.

In December 2017, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs published “A better family law system to support and protect those affected by family violence”.

It comprises 374 pages and 33 recommendations. Few if any of those recommendations have been implemented.

In April this year, the Australian Law Reform Commission tabled its long-awaited Family Law for the Future — An Inquiry into the Family Law System: Final Report comprising 574 pages and 60 recommendations. This was hailed by the former Attorney General George Brandis in 2017 as the most comprehensive review ever of the family law system. The Final Report was the product of a detailed Issues Paper, a comprehensive Discussion Paper, numerous consultations and over 426 submissions.

Most of those submissions were not from lawyers “having their say” as Prime Minister Morrison claimed but from community groups, support services, organisations representing diverse groups, academics and individuals.

The federal government has not even responded to those recommendations.

Confused and misguided

Some of the issues raised by the terms of reference are already in the legislation. For example, grandparents are already specifically mentioned in provisions in the Family Law Act 1975 pursuant to provisions introduced back in 2000.

In addition, many of the terms of reference are confused and misguided.

For example, apprehended violence orders are state protection orders and only available in NSW. These are not part of our federal family law system.

Indeed, we have a fragmented family violence system where we have eight different legislative schemes and each and every one has different provisions.

The Council of Attorneys-General has not looked at national family violence laws since 1999.

Resources would be better spent on introducing a unified national legislative framework and providing realistic funding for support services rather than duplicating the work of earlier inquiries.

We also need to see more judicial appointments, simplifying court processes, empowering family violence victims/survivors and community education rather than pandering to a vocal few who have vested interests and disproportionate levels of power.

The report for this latest inquiry is due in October 2020, but we already have the information we need to improve the system.

Dr Renata Alexander is a Victorian barrister and a senior lecturer in the faculty of law at Monash University.

Family law Sunshine Coast

Family lawyer Sunshine Coast

Family Court report writer charged with child sex offences

Family Court report writer charged with sexually abusing three children

Scales of Justice statue of a woman holding a set of scales and a sword while wearing a crown outside Brisbane's Supreme Court.

An accused paedophile has been used as an expert by the Family Court in custody disputes that involve allegations of child sexual abuse.

Family Court Key points:

  • The Family Court psychologist remains on bail and the matter has been adjourned to October
  • It is alleged the offending occurred many decades ago
  • One parent said during a meeting with the psychologist he made her feel extremely uncomfortable

The Family Court psychologist, who has since been charged with sexually abusing three children, was appointed by the Family Court to make custody recommendations in cases where one parent had accused the other of sexual abuse.

One of Australia’s foremost family law experts said it could open the way for custody rulings involving the expert to be overturned.

One mother, who was sent to the psychologist in 2013 after alleging her three-year-old daughter was abused by her father, told the ABC the psychologist had made her feel extremely uncomfortable.

Greta* said he implied she may not be satisfying her husband sexually and even if he had abused their daughter it did not mean he couldn’t have a relationship with the child.

“He was kind of overly physical with me. He kept touching my arm and my leg. It made me feel creeped out. He said weird things. He kept telling me that he knew about real paedophiles and that they would show up on [psychometric] tests,” she said.

“He was absolutely adamant that he would be able to tell a real paedophile. And I just was like ‘well what do you mean by a real paedophile?’.

“My first impression was ‘this isn’t going to go well’.”

The psychologist’s family report was never provided to the court.

However, in another case the psychologist’s report recommended the child “continue to live with [the father]” after the mother raised allegations of sexual abuse, saying he “found no significant evidence” the abuse had occurred.

At the time of the family report interviews the psychologist had not been charged with any offences. It is alleged the offending occurred many decades ago.

University of Queensland professor Patrick Parkinson, said a child sex abuse conviction could “absolutely” give a parent grounds to seek to quash custody rulings linked to the psychologist.

“In a situation where the judicial decision was based on, or was influenced by, a report which, in the light of subsequent events, one might cast doubt upon the reliability of it, I would have thought that would be grounds to reopen it,” he said.

“The fact that a [an expert] has been convicted would in my view amount to, in itself, sufficient changed circumstances for the court to look at the case again — in the light of the current circumstances of the child.”

Even the charges, coupled with other changes in circumstances could form grounds to challenge a custody ruling, he said.

The psychologist remains on bail and the matter has been adjourned to October.

The psychologist cannot be identified for legal reasons.

When asked what measures it had taken to ensure any expert charged with criminal offences was not used by the court, a spokeswoman said the court could not comment.

Family law Sunshine Coast

Family lawyer Sunshine Coast

Father’s work, family conflicts and children’s mental health

Fathers’ work and family conflicts and the outcomes for children’s mental health

Liana Leach published at www.aifs.gov.au

Research summary— June 2019
Father and toddler typing on keyboard together

Father’s Work – Overview

Fathers’ experiences of competing demands in parenting and work domains suggest that increasing work–family conflicts are an issue for many families. Using data from the Growing Up in Australia longitudinal study, we explored this conflict and any flow-on effects for children’s mental health. We find that parenting and relationship resources deteriorate when fathers’ work–family conflict increases or is sustained; this in turn affects children’s socio-emotional development and wellbeing.

Father’s work – Key messages

When fathers moved into high work–family conflict their mental health, couple relationship quality and parenting capabilities deteriorated. These adversities flowed on to negatively affect their children’s mental health.

When fathers were able to move out of work–family conflict mental health improved for themselves and their children.

Fathers’ work–family conflict is an important (and to date largely unrecognised) social determinant of children’s mental health, pointing at the need for policies and procedures that focus on reducing fathers’ experiences of work–family conflict.

Introduction

In much of the general discourse exploring who is most conflicted when it comes to juggling employment and family demands, and what the implications are, it is implicit that work–family conflict is more pertinent for mothers than it is for fathers (Shockley, Shen, DeNunzio, Arvan, & Knudsen, 2017). This assumption has in part been based on statistics showing drastic changes in how time is distributed for women when they become mothers (i.e. a reduction in work hours and escalation in parenting/household work), compared to the minimal changes that men experience when they become fathers (see also Figure 1, J. Baxter. Fathers and Work: A Statistical Overview, AIFS Fathers at Work symposium, AIFS 2018 Conference; Baxter, Hewitt, & Haynes, 2008). However, a recent meta-analysis of more than 250,000 workers concluded that despite statistics demonstrating an enduring gender division in hours spent working and caring, there are more similarities in mothers’ and fathers’ experiences of work–family conflict than there are differences (Shockley et al., 2017).

We now know from several studies that work–family conflict is not just a problem for mothers, it is also a problem for fathers (Cooklin et al., 2016). This may be in part due to increased expectations that fathers play a significant role in parenting and child care regardless of the hours they spend in paid work. We also know that fathers’ experiences of work–family conflict impact negatively on their mental health – just as these experiences do for mothers (Cooklin et al., 2016).

In tandem with this growing body of evidence describing fathers’ experiences of work–family conflict is research showing that fathers’ mental health and parenting capability affects their children’s socio-emotional development and wellbeing independently of the mothers’ contributions (Elam, Chassin, Eisenberg, & Spinrad, 2017; Ramchandani, Stein, Evans, O’Connor, & ALSPAC study team, 2005). Together, these two streams of research have raised the question of ‘how are fathers’ experiences of work–family conflict impacting on their children’s mental health?’ The importance of this question has been reflected in recent Australian research reporting that children care about and are affected by their fathers’ jobs, with one third saying their fathers work too much (Strazdins, Baxter, & Li, 2017). In the same study, children reported more negative views about their father’s job when he worked weekends, was time pressured, had little flexibility in start and finish times and worked long hours.

Highly relevant to questions around fathers’ work–family conflict and children’s mental health outcomes is our recent program of research (Cooklin et al., 2016; Dinh et al., 2017). In particular, we have explored the questions:

  1. Are changes in fathers’ work–family conflict reflected in their children’s mental health?
  2. If so, to what extent does this association occur due to interim changes in the family environment (i.e. changes in fathers’ mental health, the quality of their couple relationship, and their parenting capabilities).

Method

In our research (Dinh et al., 2017), these questions have been explored using data collected from 2,496 fathers and their children over 10 years in Growing up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC). At the start of the LSAC study the children in the K cohort were aged 4–5. They are followed-up every two years and had reached age 12–13 years when we accessed the data. At each time point, fathers provided information on their level of work–family conflict (Marshall & Barnett, 1993), their own psychological distress (Kessler, 2002), the quality of their marriage/couple relationship (a single item), the level of irritability in interactions with their children (Zubrick, Lucas, Westrupp, & Nicholson, 2014), as well as their children’s mental health (Goodman et al., 2011). A range of other important factors were included in our statistical modelling to control for their potential influence (i.e. father’s age, work hours, physical health, number and age of children, household income and socio-economic status).

Results

The key findings of our research study were that:

  • Compared to fathers who had consistently low work–family conflict, when fathers moved into high work–family conflict their mental health, couple relationship quality and parenting capabilities deteriorated. These adversities flowed on to negatively affect their children’s mental health.
  • Similarly, fathers who reported persistent high work–family conflict had the worst outcomes for their mental health, couple relationship quality, parenting capabilities and their children’s mental health.
  • Importantly, when fathers were able to escape (or move out of) work–family conflict they recovered better mental health for themselves and their children.

Father’s work – Implications

The dynamic between Australian mothers’ and fathers’ roles in employment and family care is evolving as expectations change around gender equality in employment contexts as well as opportunities to care for and nurture children. As we observe these changes over time, it is critically important to consider how the family environment and children’s wellbeing is affected.

Our research shows that children’s family environment and mental health are affected by their fathers’ struggles to balance demands at work and at home. However, we also importantly show that work–family conflict is transient in some cases and when it can be escaped (or modified), there are improvements for the whole family. We conclude that fathers’ work–family conflict is an important (and to date largely unrecognised) social determinant of children’s mental health. We call for further investigation into policies and procedures that focus on reducing fathers’ (and mothers’) experiences of work–family conflict as the research evidence suggests this will flow on to provide wellbeing benefits to the whole family.

At home alone – what age must children be?

What age can children stay home alone?

By Budget Direct Home Insurance

What age can children stay home alone? Here in Australia, there is no universal law that outlines at what age children can stay at home alone.

Key takeaways:

  • There is no universal age in Australia at which it is illegal to leave a child unsupervised; however, every state and territory has legal expectations regarding a parent’s responsibility for children’s safety
  • In Queensland, children under the age 12 are not allowed to be left unsupervised ‘for an unreasonable time’; other states and territories don’t mention specific ages but have clear laws about child safety and parental responsibilities
  • Leaving children alone in cars is never recommended; dangers include overheating, abduction or accidental disengagement of the parking brake and gear shifter

The law is clear in every state and territory about the responsibility of parents to look after the safety of their children, however. The law says you must make ‘reasonable’ considerations for your child’s safety, and looks at a variety of circumstantial factors to determine if a parent has been negligent.

Queensland is the only state that mentions a specific age limit:‘a person who, having the lawful care of a child under 12 years, leaves the child for an unreasonable time without making reasonable provision for the supervision and care of the child during that time, commits a misdemeanour.’

A maximum penalty of three years in prison applies.

What age can children stay home alone boy studying

In other states and territories, there is no specific mention of a set age at which children must not be left alone, although there’s still an expectation of ‘reasonableness’ in a parent’s responsibilities regarding child safety.

For example, it might be considered reasonable for a parent to leave a mature 14-year old home for an hour while they duck out to buy groceries, whereas doing the same with an unsupervised four-year old would be considered unreasonable.

If you’re letting your child walk to and from school on their own, for example, the law might look at several different factors to determine reasonableness such as the child’s age, the distance they’re travelling, their familiarity with the route, the time of day they’re completing the walk, etc.

Leaving a younger child at home with an older sibling doesn’t necessarily get parents off the hook, either. If that older child is still under 18, the courts will take their overall capacity to care and maturity level into consideration.

If something goes wrong, the parent could be held liable or cited for negligence for both the supervising youngster and the younger child. Every situation is different.

What age can children stay home alone teenager Ironing Laundry

These laws and policies are put in place to protect children, not to make life more convenient for parents. For example, if the idea of ringing up Uber to have a driver drop off your 11-year old son at karate lessons sounds like a handy idea, think again: Uber won’t transport an unsupervised child under the age of 18.

You’ll also find that Qantas, Virgin and other Australian airlines have very strict protocols regarding the transport of unaccompanied minors on aircraft – which is as it should be.

Leaving children unsupervised in cars can be quite dangerous too. They can quickly develop heat exhaustion in warmer weather. If they get bored and start fiddling with the cars buttons and knobs (especially the parking break and gear shifter), they can put themselves in danger.

Someone might try to steal the vehicle with your child still inside, or try to abduct your unsupervised child from the car.

You can find out about individual state and territory laws regarding child safety here.

 

What parents should consider when leaving your children at home alone?

What age can children stay home alone

Children mature at different rates and some show a level-headed sense of responsibility earlier in life than others. If you leave your children in the care of an older sibling or teenage friend, you need to think about how that supervising child would cope if there was a fire, a break-in, an accident or other unexpected calamity while you’re gone.

When you stop and think about all the things a child left home alone has to be able to do (and has to know), it’s a tremendous responsibility. Is it fair and reasonable to ask a child to shoulder that burden?

Any child left home on their own must have a clear understanding of the ground rules – and a record of adhering to them. They should know where you’re going, how long you’ll be gone and how to get in touch with you at all times.

They should be able to use the phone and know where all relevant emergency numbers can be found.

What age can children stay home alone parent talking

Do they know where the first aid kit is and how to use it? Are they allowed to go outside, play in the pool, invite friends over, go to the shops or visit a neighbour? What are their responsibilities regarding pets?

Do they know what to do if there’s a strange phone call or a knock on the door? What’s their plan if there’s a fire? Do they know to operate deadbolts and window locks around the house?

Are they capable of determining if another child is sick and know what to do about it? These are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself before thinking about leaving children to fend for themselves.

Homes are meant to be safe places but they contain plenty of dangers for kids too: swimming pools, matches, alcohol, poisonous chemicals, sharp objects and more. Think about the risks around your home and how you might be able to minimise them for unsupervised children.

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Rejection of parental love and care – the family law solution

Rejection of parental love and care – the family law solution

Rejection of parental love and care by children can have unexpected consequences.

In the recent case of Steyn & Garrety, the Family Court of Australia removed 2 young sisters from the care of their father despite final orders 4 years earlier providing for the children to live with the father and placed them with their mother. Prior to these most recent orders, the mother had to cease time and communication with the with the children due to it being chaotic and destructive. The court suspended the children spending any time or communicating with the father for 10 weeks while they settled into the mother’s care, then progressing to supervised and then holiday time. The conflict between the parties had been entrenched and the children were under extreme emotional pressure and emotionally damaged from this conflict. The court formed the view that the only hope the children had of recovering from any long-term effect of this conflict was to change their residence. The court found that the deterioration of the relationship between the mother and the children was not the fault of one party alone but a combination of fraught changeovers, bitterness and resentment between the father, his new wife, the mother and the children. The court found that the father and his new wife demonstrated a complete inability to facilitate a relationship between the mother and the children. The court also found that the father and his new wife both took active steps to cut the mother out of the children’s lives. The court was concerned that the father’s new wife had taken on the role of mother as if the children did not have a mother. The children would be better protected from further psychological harm by living with the mother and the mother would be better placed to facilitate a relationship between the children and the paternal family.

Read more here

“Unaccountable” – an article by the ABC

Unaccountable

In the family law system psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers can give evidence and impact cases, but a review has found no-one is keeping them in check.

Updated 
Published 

A Victorian psychologist who violated a woman’s privacy by giving her ex-husband her confidential assessment and doing therapy in a wine bar is among the powerful Family Court experts who are shielded from the fallout of misconduct complaints.

In another case, a teenage boy was granted a protection order against his father after a Family Court judge — who relied on a report by the same psychologist — gave the father access.

Meanwhile, a state medical watchdog revealed it has no legal power to investigate a Sydney psychiatrist accused of serial failures in his role with the court, even at a judge’s request.

Both of these experts regularly provide reports in family law proceedings.

The cases highlight what court insiders and legal experts say is the lack of proper scrutiny of private psychoanalysts — described by some parents as “Gods of the court” — because their opinion can affect family legal battles and custody rulings.

A long-awaited report into the Family Court by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) urged the Federal Government to tackle concerns about the quality of these court-appointed experts by introducing mandatory accreditation and lifting the veil of secrecy around them.

‘The court doesn’t know anything about it’

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) last month decided to “caution” the Victorian psychologist after a 10-month investigation found she failed to meet professional standards.

In a letter seen by the ABC, AHPRA said the caution was “with regard to maintaining and protecting client privacy and confidentiality”.

But her former client *Kate, a successful businesswoman who could only file the complaint with AHPRA after her Family Court case ended, said the finding was not made public or shared with the court.

This meant the psychologist would not be held accountable for misconduct in her court-related role, Kate said.

“I think AHPRA isn’t really protecting the people who actually need it,” Kate said.

Kate’s AHPRA complaint was supported by her own treating psychologist.

AHPRA found the psychologist breached the woman’s privacy by running counselling sessions in public places including a bar, and with her children in restaurants and a bowling alley.

“Given the sensitive nature of the interactions between family members, the lack of privacy afforded in these public locations presented a scenario which resulted in your privacy was [sic] compromised,” AHPRA stated in a letter to Kate.

Kate said she was reduced to tears during what the psychologist described as a “debriefing” in a wine bar, prompting a stranger to come forward to comfort her.

“[The psychologist] showed no remorse. She wouldn’t believe the person who came up to me wasn’t someone I knew, and she kept on saying, ‘stop the crocodile tears’,” Kate said.

AHPRA told Kate it “did not accept that in circumstances where you were taken into a public bar in a state of distress this was adequate management of your privacy”.

The psychologist gave what AHPRA said was Kate’s “highly sensitive psychological assessment” to her ex-husband after learning she was under investigation.

That was despite the medical body telling the psychologist it was “not appropriate for you to make contact with” the ex-husband, Kate or their children.

“I was in tears, I was angry, I was upset,” Kate said.

“I felt like my whole privacy had been invaded.”

AHPRA’s censure of the psychologist followed her refusal to provide documents to its investigators.

The psychologist showed “little consideration to the obligations of a registered practitioner to the board’s investigation process and the rights of patients to complain,” it said.

But it found a caution was a “proportionate response [and] a deterrent”.

“While the way [the psychologist] practises the health profession is unsatisfactory, this deficiency does not affect her ability to continue to perform her duties as an approved supervisor,” it said.

An AHPRA spokeswoman said it made reprimands public but not cautions, which were “a warning to a practitioner about their conduct or the way they practise”.

She said it was legally restricted about what it could say publicly about taking this kind of action but had “a discretion to provide information about that action to certain entities”.

Kate said that left parents wanting.

“The court doesn’t know anything about it. I don’t trust the system anymore. I think the system is flawed,” Kate said.

A Family Court spokeswoman said expert witnesses were usually appointed with the consent of both parties.

“As with all evidence, the evidence of experts may or may not be relied upon in the courts’ determinative process,” she said.

“The appropriate means of challenging expert evidence is through the court process, [for example] by cross-examination.”

‘She can say anything in the witness box’

Andrea* said her distressed 13-year-old son would “smash his head on a brick wall” after attending appointments with the same family report writer during a long Family Court battle.

Andrea said her son wanted to stop the appointments because he was being threatened by the psychologist.

But she said the psychologist told her “well you know I’ve pulled kids out of cars … you should be able to get him there”.

“He was complaining to me, ‘she’s threatening me’ and I would say ‘no, you must be misunderstanding her, she means well’,” Andrea said.

“She made it very clear, she’s the one who tells the judge what she thinks should happen with your child.”

“They have absolute immunity. They can say anything and there is no consequence.”

She said she was too frightened to complain about the family report writer.

“She can say anything in the witness box and that becomes evidence,” Andrea said.

“With any complaint process, I do think the practitioner being complained about should not go into cross-examination if there is a live complaint afoot.”

Andrea said the psychologist gave evidence in their trial and the judge ordered her son to spend time alone with his father.

But the teenager then obtained a family violence intervention order against his father in a state magistrates court.

The ALRC recommended the Family Court move to the states and territories — the same jurisdiction as family violence and criminal courts.

The ABC contacted the psychologist for comment.

‘The commission does not have the power’

In the case of the Sydney psychiatrist, up to a dozen parents made complaints to the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC), accusing him of “placing the public at risk” with his Family Court reports.

In August last year HCCC commissioner Sue Dawson wrote to one of the parents stating the psychiatrist “did not have judicial immunity” and an investigation would be conducted.

But in a letter to one of the parents in April, the New South Wales medical watchdog changed its position and said it “did not have the power” to investigate.

“Please be assured that the commission took this matter seriously and undertook several lines of enquiries to assist its investigation, including consultation with court representatives and obtaining further legal advice,” HCCC executive director Tony Kofkin said.

“Whilst I am unable to provide you a copy of this advice, it is clear and definitive in its conclusion that the commission does not have the power … to investigate a complaint about the conduct of an expert witness. This includes even if a complaint were to be referred to the commission by a court.”

A HCCC spokesman said this was “because the delivery of advice to the court is not considered to be within the definition of a health service”.

He said the watchdog had raised the issue of its “jurisdictional constraints” with the ALRC.

The Sydney psychiatrist was a report writer in the matter of *James — a case the ABC has previously reported on — in which the Family Court gave custody to a father accused of sexual abuse.

Alison*, one of the HCCC complainants, claimed the psychiatrist’s reports followed a pattern of “minimising” allegations of family violence and abuse.

“In almost every one of these cases he talks about ‘if the spurious allegations continue or are not recanted the child should be removed’.”

“In some cases the children are just removed even without warning,” she said.

She said he repeatedly interviewed children alongside their alleged abusers, and applied “unscientific theory” to dismiss most abuse allegations as false.

“Sometimes he’s even overt enough to document the child’s disclosures that most normal people would think are incest or other forms of abuse, but then he just trivialises it.

“He mocks the disclosures and he seems to create facts by hypothesis.

“The making of the allegations is the problem, not the actual abuse itself.

“In almost every one of these cases he talks about ‘if the spurious allegations continue or are not recanted, the child should be removed’.

“In some cases the children are just removed even without warning. He insists that the child have unsupervised contact with the abuser, which of course leaves the child under the abuser’s control, and then he insists the child cannot get counselling, so there’s no help for the child.”

The ABC contacted the psychiatrist for comment.

What happens now?

The ALRC report in March found that psychiatrists and psychologists in private practice who provide family reports played a “crucial” role in legal cases.

But it found there was no effective way of holding them to account if they failed to meet professional guidelines set by the court.

“These standards are not binding or enforceable, and there is no formal accreditation or monitoring process for compliance in place,” the ALRC said.

The ALRC recommended the federal Attorney-General Department take charge of the accreditation scheme for private family report writers and publish “a publicly available list indicating the particular expertise of each”.

Attorney-General Christian Porter, through a spokesman, declined an interview request.

He did not answer specific questions about the ALRC call for the expert accreditation scheme.

The spokesman said Mr Porter was still considering the ALRC’s 60 recommendations and would make a full response, but would not say when.

Mr Porter has already proposed embedding state and territory child protection and family safety officials in the Family Court, and merging the court with the Federal Court.

*The ABC has changed the names and hidden the identity of the subjects as the Family Law Act 1975 requires us to do. Section 121 of the Act prohibits identification. According to an ALRC recommendation, “privacy provisions that restrict publication of family law proceedings to the public, currently contained in s 121 of the Family Law Act 1975, should be redrafted.”

Credits:

Reporting: Josh Robertson, the Specialist Reporting Team’s Emily Clarkand Heidi Davoren

Digital production: Heidi Davoren

Artwork: Tim Madden

Topics: courts-and-trialschild-abusecommunity-and-societyfamily-and-childrenfamily-lawaustralia