Freedom Law

Criminal lawyer Sunshine Coast

Criminal lawyer Sunshine Coast

Criminal law Sunshine Coast

Criminal law Sunshine Coast

Criminal law Sunshine Coast

Criminal lawyer Sunshine Coast

Evidence of duration of de facto relationship

Evidence of duration of de facto relationship


The evidence relevant to the duration of the de facto relationship

  1. On hearing, the Applicant relied on his affidavit sworn or affirmed on 29 March 2018. He sought leave to rely on his further affidavit affirmed 18 April 2019 and his financial statement affirmed 18 April 2019, the orders made by Judge Henderson on 15 August 2018 having required that the parties each file and serve one trial affidavit on which they intended to rely at hearing and any updated financial statement by 8 March 2019. That leave was granted.
  2. That a de facto relationship between the parties had commenced in sometime between April and June 2009 was agreed between the parties. Relevant to the issue of the date of end of the parties’ de facto relationship, the Applicant asserted that as a matter of evidence:

    a)           During the relationship the parties experienced frequent difficulties mainly because of “money issues” and that sometimes the Respondent spoke to the Applicant “very badly and disrespectfully … And also in a very rude manner”;

    b)           There are occasions when the parties experienced difficulties in the relationship the Applicant would give the Respondent “some space by leaving the Town B unit and staying at either my mothers or fathers place in Sydney.” He recalls doing this on four occasions, on three of which he returned back to their common home at Town B and “continued to live generally happily as a de facto couple”;

    c)           The parties experienced difficulties in their relationship, mainly over money issues, through December 2015 and January 2016 and on the night of 1 February 2016 when they “had a fight (again) about money.” The Applicant had “a very uncomfortable night …. And… Had difficulty sleeping.”;

    d)           On the morning of 2 February 2016, the Applicant got up at about 6:00AM and noticed that the Respondent was still angry with him. There was a confrontation between the parties about some mess that the Applicant had caused accidentally in the bathroom and the Applicant left their home for work upset. The Applicant made a decision during that day while he was at work that he would go home, pack a backpack, and go and stay at his mother’s home at Suburb C for a while to give the Respondent and himself some space to think about the relationship and whether he wanted to continue to be in a relationship with the Respondent. Returning home to Town B from work at about 7:00PM the Applicant packed up “some clothes and other personal belongings” in a backpack and went to stay at his mother’s home, leaving his remaining belongings at the parties’ home in Town B;

    e)           On 4 February 2016 the Applicant sent Respondent a long email, a copy which was the annexure “B” to his affidavit of 18 April 2019. Relevantly, the email includes the following evidence:

    I was not planning on leaving you, or saying many of those things, but you continue to push me away, while I push you away. We are too strong for each other.”…“I know sometimes u hate me and want me to leave. Happens to me to, that’s why I those messages. I tell u exactly how I feel. So that’s why I want to leave you. I feel like this is all lost. How can u change how think of me? I don’t think u can. You have already decided that I don’t deserve the house, or car, and a it’s not really about the physical things. It’s the fact that you refused to include me purely because of money … I feel so sad to lose u, but maybe that is what we need. I will miss u … But maybe we can fix this. I don’t know. I hope so. Let me know what u think.

    It is inherent in the text of the email that there had been an exchange of SMS messages between the parties between the Applicant leaving the Town B home on the evening of 2 February 2016 and creating the email on 4 February 2016.

    f)           Annexure “C” to the Applicant’s affidavit is evidence of a print of an email dated 27 February 2016 at 8:44PM from the Respondent to the Applicant containing a screenshot of an SMS message she had been trying to send to the Applicant, the text of the message being “I really haven’t had mine space to put what I’m thinking in words … Confused and tired! Need more time …” It was put to the Respondent in cross-examination that the message indicated that the Respondent was, as at 27 February 2016, still “confused about the relationship” to which the Respondent answered “No. The relationship was over.

    g)           The Applicant attaches to his affidavit as annexure “D” evidence of 29 pages of print out of SMS messages between himself and the Respondent. He asserts these messages to be from the period between when he moved to his mother’s house (2 February 2016) and at least 2 April 2016 though none of the pages of the SMS messages bears a date, only a notation of the time of day.

    h)           The Applicant deposed that on 1 April 2016 he decided “that the relationship was unsalvageable and over.” He deposes that by an arrangement made with the Respondent in the course of their SMS messages he borrowed his mother’s car on 2 April 2016, drove to the Town B home, packed up all his belongings, locked the front door and put his front door key in the letterbox. He then drove to a local park for a prearranged meeting with the Respondent and told her that the relationship was over and completely finished. He then drove the Respondent from the meeting place and dropped her at the Town B unit. In cross examination, it was put to the Respondent that during the meeting at the park on 2 April 2019 the Applicant had informed her that he had decided that the relationship was over. The Respondent denied that the Applicant had made that statement to her.

  3. In compliance with the trial direction orders, the Respondent filed a trial affidavit sworn 8 March 2019 and filed that day. Relevant to the issue of the date of the ending of the parties’ de facto relationship, the Respondent says in evidence that:

    a)           The last time the party spent time together was the morning of 2 February 2016 and that following an argument the Applicant left that morning “with a suitcase.” The Applicant did not return to the home after that time other than when he attended, in the Respondent’s absence, to pick up his computer table and his personal belongings;

    b)           On 26 February 2016, the Respondent organised to have the internet connection at the Town B home changed from the Applicant’s name to her name and she took over paying internet account. The Applicant cooperated with her in arranging this;

    c)           On 3 March 2016, the Respondent organised to have the electricity account for the electricity connection to the Town B home changed from the Applicant’s name to the Respondent’s name;

    d)           Since 2 February 2016, the Respondent has made all the payments required on the loan accounts secured by way of mortgage over the Town B home and has paid all outgoings relating to the Town B home without contribution from the Applicant.

  4. Other than the evidence detailed above, the Respondent’s affidavit does not assist in relation to a decision made by either of the parties, whether communicated to the other party or not, that their de facto relationship had come to an end.
  5. I have carefully read the print out of the evidence of the SMS chain at annexure “D” to the Applicant’s affidavit of 18 April 2019 and considered the content in the light of the question as to whether or not, in the view of either party, the de facto relationship between them ended on 2 February 2016 or 2 April 2016. On an unknown date is a message from the Applicant:

    Im saving up money incase we can get back so I can pay u back all those lost weeks and if we cant fix together then yeah I move out with … he needs a flatmate.

  6. There is a strong inference in the messages evidence that the parties had planned a trip together to Country D and had bought tickets in relation to that trip and that the Respondent was obtaining a refund in relation to the Applicant’s tickets:

    I’m getting refund from your tickets

  7. Immediately followed by a message from the Applicant:

    …cool keep it for ur backup

  8. To which the Respondent replies:

    …had to pay $500 fine … But I will get rest back.

  9. From the Respondent:

    I just want the best for you at the moment! As being together or not! If moving out helps U move on! I’m happy to help U! I feel bad keeping everything I do think u deserve some to … There is no flighting anymore … Just want to see u happy!

  10. And:

    …and yeah I’m not sure about us either … It’s too hard as we both know …

  11. And:

    I really think u r the person I want to end up with in life! Sucks we can’t be together… I have a lot more respect for then u think

  12. And:

    but I think u will do so well in life! Keep saving and look after yrself … Contact me anytime okay?

  13. Later from the Applicant:

    yeah I know what you mean busy does help, good on you, I really hope we can work this out sometime when I’m not so sad.. Be safe [name]

  14. And:

    I will try my best to get better and be the man you need and deserve.

  15. And:

    hope ur well, im starting to feel better but would like to have a more stable job away from mum them hopefully move out somewhere else or something.

  16. And:

    I still have strong feelings for you and don’t want to be with anyone else, but I know it’s hard to live together and I still have to improve myself, I will keep trying and hope one day we can go on some dates together or something and see if we can work this out.

  17. Sometime thereafter from the Respondent:

    and one day if you want to go on a date … Just remember you only have to ask”.Family law Sunshine Coast

    Family law Sunshine Coast

    Family lawyer Sunshine Coast

Family mediation and dispute resolution

Family mediation and dispute resolution

Mediation is a way of resolving disputes between people in conflict, usually facilitated by a neutral person. Separated families are encouraged to use family mediation to help resolve their disputes about children, instead of using the family law courts.

What is family mediation?

People refer to ‘mediation’ in many different ways. It can be as informal as having a friend or family member helping to talk through the issues in dispute. It can also be a formal process involving a professional mediator.

Disputes can involve just two people in conflict, or include extended family members. Where there are issues related to child protection, mediation may involve full family group conferencing.

When disputes can’t be resolved by mediation, the matter may need to go to a court for a judge to make decisions. Going to court is a long, stressful and expensive process. The aim of mediation is to avoid the situation reaching this point.

The family law system encourages separated families to come to their own arrangements in caring for their children without going to court. This can be done in several different ways:

  • discussion between the parents
  • using a friend or family member to help
  • informal general mediation
  • using a special family mediation process covered under the Family Law Act 1975 called Family Dispute Resolution (FDR).

After a relationship breakdown, discussions about dividing property and future care for children can become very emotional. This is when people may need to use a more formal mediation process with an accredited Family Dispute Resolution practitioner.

Family Dispute Resolution

Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) is a special type of mediation for helping separating families to come to their own agreements. During FDR families will discuss the issues in dispute and consider different options, while being encouraged to focus on the needs of their children. FDR uses a neutral and accredited Family Dispute Resolution practitioner.

The main objective of FDR is to assist participants to make a parenting plan setting out the agreed future parenting arrangements.

It is a practical and low cost way for separating families to sort out future parenting arrangements with professional help. For more information see the Family Dispute Resolution Factsheet.

It is compulsory under Australian family law for separated parents to attempt Family Dispute Resolution before applying to a family law court for parenting orders.

There are exemptions to this requirement, including:

  • when you are formalising an agreement through ‘consent orders’
  • where family violence or child abuse is a factor
  • when you are responding to an application to court
  • urgent issues
  • a person is unable to participate effectively (for example, due to incapacity or geographical location), or
  • a person has contravened and shown a serious disregard for a court order made in the last 12 months.

Family Dispute Resolution practitioners

When a family disagrees about arrangements for children after separation, an FDR practitioner is a good person to ask for help.

An FDR practitioner is an independent person trained in mediation and negotiation and specialising in family disputes. They are neutral and don’t take sides with any of the people involved in the mediation. They will facilitate the process by encouraging people to talk about the particular issues in dispute.

They are trained in working in a family law environment and in responding to domestic and family violence. They are also trained in creating a supportive environment, particularly for the safety of vulnerable people. They should provide a safe environment to allow people to openly discuss and clarify issues as well as allow them to feel safe to disagree.

An FDR practitioner is accredited under the standards set out in the Family Law (Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners) Regulations 2008.

Family Dispute Resolution services

FDR services are available at government-funded services including:

  • Family Relationship Centres
  • Legal Aid Commissions
  • Other community-based family law services

There are also accredited FDR practitioners who provide their services as a private business.

If you are in a regional or remote area, you can access telephone or internet based FDR through the Family Relationship Advice Line or a private FDR practitioner.

How to find a Family Dispute Resolution practitioner or service

To find a government-funded service, call the Family Relationship Advice Line on 1800 050 321 or use the Find Local Help search to look for a Family Relationship Centre, Family Dispute Resolution service or Regional Family Dispute Resolution service near you.

To find a private Family Dispute Resolution practitioner, search the Family Dispute Resolution Register. Information about private provider’s costs can also be provided through the Register.


A common question people ask is “How long will the mediation process take?” There is no simple answer to this question. It can take a few hours, or can be over a few days. It depends on the number and complexity of issues being discussed.

Some families have complex issues to deal with that can make mediation difficult and take a long time. When each family member makes their child’s interests the priority, workable parenting agreements can be reached sooner.


If a dispute can be resolved through mediation, it will be significantly less expensive than having to go to court.

The cost of FDR depends on the provider and may be free for eligible people. Private providers set their own fees which can vary. Community-based family law services have a standard fee policy based on income levels and capacity to pay.

Family Relationship Centres provide one hour of FDR free to every family. Centres charge clients earning $50,000 or more gross annual income $30 per hour for the second and third hours. Clients who earn less than $50,000 gross annually and those who receive Commonwealth health and social security benefits receive the second and third hours free. If further sessions are required, Family Relationship Centres may also charge fees in accordance with the Centre’s fees policy.

You should let your FDR service provider know if you are on a low income or experiencing financial difficulties.


An FDR service provider should be able to provide a suitable venue or options that suit your circumstances.

An FDR session doesn’t have to be face-to-face or in the same room as the other person. It can even be done by telephone or video call. This can be for many reasons, including safety concerns or because the participants live a long way from each other.


Everything you say in front of an FDR practitioner is confidential. There are some exceptions, such as to prevent a threat to someone’s life or health or the commission of a crime.

What is said during FDR cannot be used as evidence in court. An FDR practitioner must report child abuse or anything that indicates a child is at risk of abuse, and this may be used as evidence in some circumstances.

Counselling and Family Dispute Resolution

Unlike counselling, FDR does not focus on the emotional side of relationships. It concentrates on resolving specific disputes.

Participants may find it helpful to see a counsellor before going to FDR. This can help to develop a strategy to stay focused on achieving a positive outcome during the mediation session.

When FDR is not working, the FDR practitioner may suggest other options, such as family counselling.

Children and Family Dispute Resolution

Sometimes, a mediator will include children in the mediation if they are of an age or maturity that is suitable to the proceedings.

Other models of mediation can be ‘child-inclusive’, with a child consultant that talks with the children and provides the child’s views back to the parents during the mediation.

Starting Family Dispute Resolution

Once someone engages an FDR practitioner, the practitioner will usually invite the other person to a mediation session. The practitioner will advise the other person that if they don’t attend the mediation, the practitioner may need to issue a certificate so that the first person can make an application to a family law court.

The FDR practitioner will assess if FDR is suitable for the family situation. This includes considering issues such as family violence, safety, equality of bargaining power, risks to children, the emotional and psychological health of participants and any other issues that they think may make FDR unsuitable.

The FDR practitioner should also explain their role and the process of mediation so each party understands clearly what is expected and the potential outcome of the mediation.

What happens in Family Dispute Resolution?

The FDR practitioner will help to identify the issues that need to be resolved and encourage each party to listen to the other’s point of view.

The FDR practitioner will try to keep each person on track and focussed on the children. Ideas and options will be shared with the aim of coming up with workable solutions that are in the best interests of the children.

Sometimes it’s not suitable to have each person in the same room so the practitioner may arrange to go back and forth from different rooms. This is called ‘shuttle mediation’. Sometimes it is necessary for the mediator to talk individually with each party to help move issues along or to discuss options for negotiation.

The participants will be helped to develop a parenting plan to set out arrangements for the children. An FDR practitioner will also check that everyone understands what is being said and agreed upon.

After Family Dispute Resolution

Once an agreement is reached it can be recorded as a parenting plan. This must be in writing, dated and signed by both parents. It can include mechanisms to change arrangements and resolve disagreements. Parenting plans can be renegotiated over time if necessary.

You can read more about parenting agreements on this website.

Sometimes agreement may not be reached at the time of the mediation. Sometimes an agreement can be made in an informal process after the FDR session.

When Family Dispute Resolution is unsuccessful & certificates

If the mediation is not successful for whatever reason, an accredited Family Dispute Resolution practitioner can issue a certificate to allow an application to be made to a family law court. The certificate is called a ‘Section 60I certificate’ and can only be issued by an accredited Family Dispute Resolution practitioner.

A Section 60I certificate can also be issued if FDR is not appropriate for the particular situation. This could mean there are concerns about family violence, the safety of the parties and risks to children, the ability for each party to be able to negotiate, or other issues the practitioner feels are relevant.

The Section 60I certificate will say one of the following things:

  • the other party did not attend
  • you and the other party attended and made a genuine effort to resolve the dispute
  • you and the other party attended but one or both of you did not make a genuine effort to resolve the dispute
  • the FDR practitioner decided your case was not appropriate for FDR, or
  • the FDR practitioner decided it was not appropriate to continue part way through the FDR process.

Note: ‘Party’ means the other person or persons involved in the parenting dispute.

Conflicts between work and family and mental health

Conflicts between work and family and fathers’ mental health

Amanda Cooklin – at

Research summary— June 2019
A man sitting in a dark office holding his head in his hands in frustration


Fathers today are often expected to fulfil the traditional role of ‘breadwinner’ while taking a more active role in child care. These competing demands can create work–family conflicts. Using data from the Growing Up in Australia longitudinal study we explored these conflicts and any effects they may have on fathers’ mental health.

Key messages

Fathers who reported high work–family conflict also reported high psychological distress.

When fathers can ‘escape’ out of high work–family conflict their mental health shows significant improvement.

In the workplace, access to flexibility, job security, reasonable work hours and control over work scheduling and tasks can protect fathers from work–family conflict.


In the context of long work hours, and the slow progress on fathers’ access to flexible or part-time work, Australian fathers continue to be tied to their work and workplaces. What does this mean for fathers’ wellbeing and, more broadly, for their capacity to foster warm and nurturing relationships with their children?

Contemporary expectations for fathers continue to prioritise a ‘breadwinner’ model, where fathers’ jobs and income are seen as vital resources for families, in the same way that mothers’ unpaid work is viewed. However, fathers also want, and indeed are expected, to be warm, caring, involved and equal carers for infants and children. These competing demands and dilemmas create conflicts for fathers between their job demands and family care – referred to as work–family conflicts (Goode, 1960).

In scientific terms, work–family conflict is a well-established construct in occupational health and organisational psychology literature, capturing parents’ experiences of ‘felt strains’ that arise when work and family demands are incompatible in core ways (Goode, 1960; Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985). These can include ‘time-based strains’, when fathers’ miss out on family events due to work commitments or miss opportunities at work due to caring responsibilities. They can also include the more daily and incremental experiences of divided attention or distraction, exhaustion and lack of energy – these are vital resources for family wellbeing and parenting. While the ‘work–family’ juggle has typically been viewed as a problem for mothers, Australian research has shown that one in three fathers’ report work–family conflict (Strazdins, O’Brien, Lucas, & Rodgers, 2013).

What implications do these conflicts have for Australian fathers’ mental health and wellbeing? Which are the most ‘risky’ jobs for fathers and how can we promote fathers’ wellbeing at work?


Our program of research (Cooklin et al., 2016; Dinh et al., 2017) has sought to address these questions using data from the Kinder (K) cohort of parents participating in Growing up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC). LSAC has gathered data from families every two years, starting in 2004, when children in the K cohort were aged 4–5 years. In this study, we used data from five waves of couple families, spanning fathers of children aged 4–5 to 12–13 years. Fathers provided data on their own work and family characteristics; and their health and wellbeing using the following items:

  • Mental health was assessed via the Kessler-6 (Kessler et al., 2002), a standardised way of capturing experiences of psychological distress and symptoms of depression or anxiety (e.g. ‘I feel nervous’ or ‘I feel worthless’).
  • Work–family conflict was reported by fathers’ responses to validated items capturing their family-to-work strains (e.g. ‘Because of my family responsibilities … the time I spend working is more pressured’) and their work-to-family strains (e.g. ‘Because of my work … I have missed out on home or family activities that I would have liked to have taken part in) (Marshall & Barnett, 1993). Fathers who reported an average response to all four items of ‘(almost) always’ were classified as having ‘high work–family conflict’.
  • Fathers’ work characteristics (income, occupation, work hours) were recorded, as were four indicators of ‘job quality’ – flexibility, security, autonomy over workload and access to paid family-related leave.
  • Fathers’ age, education, number and age of children and general physical health were also included in analyses.


This study included data from 3,460 LSAC fathers who were employed and living in a couple household. Over half (55%) were working more than 50 hours per week. The sample was diverse: about half were in a non-professional, semi-skilled occupation, the remainder worked in professional roles. Twenty-six per cent had a low household income relative to the overall sample, 23% a medium household income, the remainder high.

Our longitudinal analyses showed that:

  • When fathers moved into high work–family conflict, from one wave to the next, their mental health also deteriorate.
  • Fathers who reported persistent high work–family conflict over two waves reported the highest psychological distress.
  • When fathers ‘escaped’ out of high work–family conflict (i.e. from high work–family conflict in one wave to low/no conflict in the next) their mental health also showed significant improvement.

These findings were the case even when we controlled for prior mental health for fathers, and all other work and family characteristics. This strengthens the evidence that these changes to mental health (improvements, deteriorations) were a direct outcome of changes or persistence in work–family conflict.

What job factors were associated with more ‘risk’ for persistent work–family conflict? In fully adjusted analyses, when a range of father and family covariates were included, the factors associated with persistent work–family conflict and poor mental health were very long work hours (>50 hrs/week); no access to flexible work; no job security; no control over workload; and not having access to paid family-related leave.


This research shows that fathers’ work–family conflict is powerfully linked to fathers’ mental health. Specifically, changes to work–family conflict prompts corresponding changes to fathers’ mental health, either improving or eroding fathers’ wellbeing. These findings provide a strong impetus to focus on how we redress work–family conflict for the one-in-three Australian fathers for whom this is a problem. Not only is this urgent for fathers but also employers. Work–family conflict is linked to lower productivity and higher burnout, stress and job turnover in employees (Amstad, Meier, Fasel, Elfering, & Semmer, 2011).

There is a consistent pattern for fathers about the key job features that can potentially be protective against entrenched work–family conflict, thereby promoting their mental health. These factors – access to flexibility, job security, reasonable work hours, control over work scheduling and tasks – are modifiable via policy and workplace change. This evidence gives good guidance about the priorities to promote the proper implementation of optimal job conditions for employed fathers (and mothers) (Cooklin et al., 2016). We highlight the importance of ensuring, particularly while fathers do spend long hours at work, that they have access to the conditions and workplace entitlements that help them to manage combining work and care in ways that don’t undermine their mental health.

Cross-examination and Family Violence

Cross-examination and Family Violence

About Family Violence and cross-examination

Family Violence means violent, threatening or other behaviour that coerces or controls a family member or causes them to be fearful (Section 4AB Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)).

Protecting family members, and particularly children, from the effects of family violence is central to all determinations of what is in a child’s best interest. Ensuring the safety of all people engaged in the family law system, including when attending Court, is high priority for the Court.

Safety at Court

Litigants concerned about their safety when attending Court events can contact the Family Court’s Registry to arrange a safety plan prior to the listing.

Family Advocacy and Support Service (FASS) for cross-examination

The Family Advocacy & Support Service (FASS) is a free legal and support service provided by Legal Aid to assist family law litigants who have been affected by family violence. For more information about FASS, litigants can attend the free Legal Aid Family Law Duty Service at each Registry between 10am and 3pm, Monday to Friday or contact the Legal Aid Office.

Personal Cross-Examination

Unrepresented litigants will be unable to cross-examine the other party at an interim or a final hearing if there are allegations of family violence and:

  1. Either party has been charged with or convicted with an offence involving violence or threat of violence to the other party;
  2. A final Family Violence Order applies to both parties;
  • An injunction has been made under the Family Law Act for the personal protection of one party against another; or
  1. The Court determines the prohibition should apply.

In matters involving family violence which do not fall into the above categories, the Court can provide alternative protections[3], such as cross-examination via video link.

Litigants prohibited from cross-examining another party can either engage a private legal practitioner to act for them or apply to the Commonwealth Family Violence and Cross-Examination of Parties Scheme (‘the Scheme’) to obtain legal representation.

Unrepresented litigants who do not have legal representation either privately or through the Scheme will be unable to cross-examine the other party at the final hearing. For further information litigants can attend the free Legal Aid Family Law Duty Service at each Registry between 10am and 3pm, Monday to Friday or contact the Legal Aid Office.

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Briginshaw test and what it means for family law

Briginshaw test and what it means for family law

“There is no mathematical scale according to which degrees of certainty of intellectual conviction can be computed or valued. But there are differences in degree of certainty, which are real, and which can be intelligently stated, although it is impossible to draw precise lines, as upon a diagram, and to assign each case to a particular subdivision of certainty. No court should act upon mere suspicion, surmise or guesswork in any case. In a civil case, fair inference may justify a finding upon the basis of preponderance of probability. The standard of proof required by a cautious and responsible tribunal will naturally vary in accordance with the seriousness or importance of the issue—See Wills’ Circumstantial Evidence (1902), 5th ed., p. 267, note n: “Men will pronounce without hesitation that a person owes another a hundred pounds on evidence on which they certainly would not hang him, and yet all the rules of law applying to one case apply to the other and the processes are the same.”

Read more here

The Briginshaw test is applied in family law, particularly where the court is asked to make a finding regarding a serious allegation, such as sexual abuse of a child. A mere allegation, without more, is unlikely to result in such a finding.

The family law courts remain courts of law and evidence and in the absence of evidence in support of allegations, the person making the allegation is nearly always disappointed.

If you need help with your family law case, contact us at Freedom Law today. We specialise in preparing cases for hearings at short notice all over Australia and we are happy to provide you with a fixed fee quote where possible. Our team members can assist you with your enquiry.

Family report recommendations weighed heavily by Court

Pierce & Percival

Family Report Recommendations

Family Report Writer

  1. The family report was Exhibit A. The family consultant who prepared the family report was Ms K. She interviewed the parties, the children, and the mother’s new partner on 3 August 2016.
  2. The father told the family report writer that his new residence at (omitted) comprised a two-bedroom apartment. (omitted) is located about 130 km distance from (omitted) Public School and it takes about 1hr 45m to 2 hours to drive, one-way. The father commutes from (omitted) to work in Sydney each day.
  3. The father stated he is a frequent visitor to his brother’s home, located in (omitted) Sydney close to (omitted), where he is always welcome to stay overnight with the children.
  4. The father did not complete a university degree course, but entered the workforce instead. He trained on the job to become a (occupation omitted). He worked in this specialty in his fly in fly out job in Western Australia. He also works in this position with (employer omitted), including as a (occupation omitted).
  5. Both parties informed the family report writer that the father had not spent time with the children since the weekend commencing 21 May 2016, a period of almost 3 months.
  6. The family report writer noted that an issue in dispute, at the time of her interviews with the parties, was whether or not the time that the children spend with the father should be reduced or remain as current, noting the interim parenting orders of November 2015.
  7. The mother presented to the family report writer, inter alia, as being conscientious with a strong preference for order, finding reassurance in routine, consistency and structure. She also impressed as carrying a high level of underlying anxiety, being disposed to a constant state of nervous vigilance.
  8. The mother told the family report writer that the children had been expressing that they were not enjoying the time that they were spending with the father from around Easter 2016.
  9. The family report writer observed that the mother appeared to place a high priority on the importance of the children maintaining their involvement in multiple sporting activities.
  10. The father impressed the family report writer, inter alia, as being emotionally defended and the bearing of a man who believed the world seemed in a conspiracy to slight or injure him. He impressed as carrying an underlying level of sadness and unresolved grief. He demonstrated that that although prone to introspection, he was also an intelligent, thoughtful man who was articulate and capable of insight, and seemed to care deeply about maintaining a relationship with the children.
  11. The father told the family report writer that he wanted to see the children and spend fatherly time with them without the interruption and interference of other people.
  12. The father told the family report writer that his ex-girlfriend was “a psycho” so he could not stay with her and he did not have enough money to pay the mortgage and live in Sydney. He earns $69,000 a year and he pays $687 per month in child support.
  13. In discussing his current alcohol use the father told the family report writer that he has not been using alcohol when the children are with him, not since the court order. He said he is happy to keep the court order in this context (the court notes that interim order 11 of the court’s orders of 24 November 2015 provides that the father is restrained from consuming alcohol whilst the children are in his care and shall not consume alcohol for at least 12 hours prior to the children coming into his care). He stated that he does not have a dependence on alcohol, it is not a need or requirement, and he is not an alcoholic.
  14. The children told the family report writer that the reason the children have refused to go with the father to spend time with him, as provided under the court orders, is, inter alia, because he does not listen; spending time with the father makes them feel anxious and afraid; they are afraid to tell the father what they feel for fear of him becoming angry with them; they never know where they are going to sleep; (omitted) is too far away and they may not make it back to play sport on weekends or get to school in time on Mondays.
  15. The family report writer noted that these concerns of the children echo the same concerns reported by the mother. Further, the child Y, when asked by the family report writer what was the main problem, stated, “there were always changes. When dad went to Western Australia, the entire thing had to change. We didn’t know when we were seeing dad. Then he was living with his girlfriend at (omitted). But now he has moved to the (omitted).”
  16. The child Y also reported to the family report writer that the father and his former girlfriend used to fight with each other with swearing. The children were mostly watching movies or sleeping during this time.
  17. The child X reported to the family report writer, inter alia, that she feels that she cannot say anything around the father. She reported that when the father asked the children whether their weekend was fun, if she said it was not fun, the father “lost it at us, he gets really mad, he started swearing at us… So if I had a bad day, now I just say “yes” and agree with him because I don’t want to get yelled at again.” She further stated that they cannot speak up when they are with the father. They do not say anything or do anything. They just try to stay happy. The child X stated that, “but I feel really down inside.”
  18. The child Y reported to the family report writer that “I start to feel worried and thinking about my worries…like what if I do a bad job and thinking about it… It feels like you are panicking if I think about going to see dad.” He stated that if he went to see the father by himself he would be very worried if no one was with him. The child X stated that if she had to see the father by herself, she would feel awkward and would not know what to do.
  19. The child Y reported to the family report writer that if he calls the father Mr Percival at his house he gets mad. This child reported that on one occasion the father, when he got mad, punched a wall, when they were at the father’s residence in bed.
  20. The child X stated that she had not seen the father drinking alcohol or seeming under the influence of alcohol when the children were spending time with him for a long time. She stated that she was not worried about this issue any more.
  21. The family report writer referred to the children’s strong feelings of emotional ambivalence, disappointment and anger toward the father.
  22. The family report writer observed the children in the presence of the father. Once in the children’s presence, the family report writer observed that the father showed himself capable of warming, becoming animated, maintaining age-appropriate conversation and even being playful, funny and demonstrative toward them. The family report writer observed that towards the end of the children’s time with the father in the observation session, the children showed genuine expressions of happiness and joy. She stated that the children said goodbye to the father having broken through some of the strained distance that had initially kept them apart. They exchanged spontaneous and reciprocal hugs with the father.
  23. Under the heading “Evaluation”, the family report writer stated that the children were assessed as having a warm and positive relationship with the mother, who was their primary attachment figure and carer.
  24. The family report writer assessed that although the children have been refusing contact with the father, their anxiety and ambivalence concerning the father closely mirrors the same anxieties and fears about the father expressed by the mother, in particular that the father can erupt with explosive outburst of anger which causes the children distress.
  25. The family report writer stated that the father appears to have some difficulties with poor emotional regulation and his capacity for effective parenting reflective functioning is changeable. She observed that although the father demonstrated he is capable of being child focused and having insight into the children’s emotional-social needs, his capacity for making himself both physically and emotionally available has been inconsistent and intermittent. She stated that the children seem to genuinely experience a high level of anxiety when they are with the father because they have learnt over time that spending time with him is not always emotionally safe or predictable. She observed that the children are strongly aligned with the mother.
  26. The family report writer assessed that the child X has a closer and stronger attachment with the father than does Y.
  27. The family report writer stated that the father, by self-report in his affidavit material, admitted that at the time of the separation he had great difficulties adjusting to the loss of the marriage. The father appears to have had a strong post separation grief reaction which led to a period of depression and difficulties with using alcohol as a coping strategy (the court notes the father’s admission in paragraph 60 of his trial affidavit that at the time of separation, his consumption of alcohol had increased and he used alcohol as a means to cope). The father’s capacity for effective parental reflective functional and emotional availability immediately post separation was assessed by the family report writer to have been low. She observed that the mother appeared to demonstrate an extremely high level of hypervigilant concern for the children’s safety and showed a level of unwillingness to allow the father to have any opportunity to begin to repair or even develop his own relationship with the children without it being mediated through the mother.
  28. The family report writer observed that there appeared to have been a significant rupture in the bond of trust between the child Y and the father which had created what was assessed to be an ambivalent attachment relationship between Y and the father. She assessed that the father’s intermittent emotional and physical availability across Y’s early years appeared to have also been a contributing factor to the growing ambivalence and developing hostility that this child felt towards the father.
  29. The family report writer stated that the children both reported feeling a level of anxiety and fear when spending time with the father. She referred to the children describing times when they had seen the father erupt with explosive anger and disapproval which they felt was directed toward them. She noted that the father denied that he got angry with the children. The family report writer stated that based on the father’s presentation and interaction with her, it was assessed that the father does struggle with poor emotional regulation and is likely to struggle with sudden flashes and outbursts of anger.
  30. The family report writer stated that the father did not appear to have the same difficulties with alcohol use as he did during the marriage and after separation.
  31. The family report writer stated that the father was assessed as lacking insight into the extent to which his own past conduct had contributed to the rupture in the children’s relationship with him, however he was not wilfully or consciously neglectful or seeking to harm the children.
  32. The family report writer stated that the children could benefit from the mother working on learning how to allow the children to become more emotionally independent and individuated from her and how she might learn to establish and maintain better boundaries with the children.
  33. The family report writer observed that the parties’ post separation relationship was characterised by extremely low levels of trust and very high levels of conflict. She stated that this case had a marker of being one of entrenched and enduring conflict. She stated that the conflict appeared to be getting worse and more entrenched. It was also now threatening to undermine the children’s ability to enjoy a close and significant relationship with the father and there were signs that the risk of the children becoming permanently estranged from the father over time was high.
  34. The family report writer stated that the father may still benefit from seeking professional help in better addressing and overcoming his poor emotional regulation and anger issues and examining how this may be impacting his parenting and the children’s relationship with him.
  35. The family report writer stated that the father has not helped himself. His reputation for intermittent availability to the children emotionally and geographically in the past, has been reinforced by his choice to relocate away from (omitted) to the (omitted). She stated that the children and the mother have expressed valid concerns about the impracticality of maintaining the current time spent with father arrangements when the father lives two hours away from where the children have long established sporting commitments and activities.
  36. The family report writer referred to the child X’s extra-curricular activities including representative (hobbies omitted) at a national level. She stated that asking this child to sacrifice participation in activities which showcase her gifts and talents will not assist her to want to spend time with the father. She stated that both children’s longer term emotional and psychological health and well-being and their capacity to form successful intimate adult relationships will be at risk of being undermined if they are allowed to continue to reject the father and are not assisted to try to repair the rupture between them. She stated that it was the child Y who was assessed as being at greater risk to develop a longer term anxiety disorder and become entrenched in his refusal to see the father and estranged from him. She referred to the child’s vulnerability to anxiety and his preference for routine and structure.
  37. Under the heading “Recommendations”, the family report writer stated, inter alia, that unless the father relocates back to the (omitted) area, whilst the father resides at (omitted), the time the children spend with him should be reduced to include from Friday after school until Sunday evening and half of the school holidays. Further, that the father should facilitate and support the children attending their sporting activities. It was inappropriate in the circumstances of this family for the mother to be in attendance at every sporting event when the children are scheduled to spend time with the father; the children need to be assisted to learn to rely on the father independent of the mother. That the number of sporting activities and commitments arranged by the mother for the children needs to be seriously rationalised to make room for the father to be able to spend time with the children.
  38. The family report writer recommended that the children’s wish to spend less time with the father during the weekend, so that they can continue to participate in their sporting commitments and not be required to undertake a two hour drive from (omitted) to (omitted) before school on Monday mornings, needs to be given serious consideration. She recommended that if the father was unable to make suitable structured arrangements to facilitate getting the children to their sporting engagements on Saturdays and Sundays when they are spending time with him, then the court should consider reducing the time that the children spend with the father to include each alternate weekend after sport on Saturday until Sunday evening. Finally, the family report writer recommended that the children and the parents should be referred for assistance by a family therapist/social worker or psychologist who specialises in post separation conflict and anxiety in children and/or the Anchor (Supporting Kids Through Separation) Program run by Unifam at (omitted).

Oral evidence of family report writer

  1. The court refers to the family report writer’s oral evidence, aspects of which are set out below.
  2. The family report writer stated that she did not think that the mother was deliberately trying to undermine the children’s relationship with the father.
  3. The family report writer was cross-examined in relation to whether family therapy should occur before the children began spending time with the father. The family report writer stated that an order providing, for example, daytime time to be spent by the children with the father every second weekend in conjunction with family therapy could be considered initially. She had stated that something positive between the children and the father should occur sooner rather than later.
  4. The family report writer referred to the children’s anxiety in possibly not getting to their sporting activities on the Saturday morning if they were spending the fortnightly Friday night with the father at (omitted).
  5. The family report writer stated that from the material that she had read, the children were not yet ready to go with the father on the fortnightly Friday night.
  6. The family report writer expressed concern as to how one addressed the children’s anxiety (in not getting to their sporting activity on the Saturday morning) which was real. She stated that if the children have to go with the father to (omitted) on the Friday night then their anxiety was a real problem.
  7. In this context, the family report writer was cross-examined in relation to whether the children’s anxiety could be addressed by staying in Sydney with the father on the fortnightly Friday night. She stated that if the father had a “predictable” place for the children to stay on the Friday night that might help.
  8. Cross-examined by the father in relation to the children spending holiday time with him, the family report writer stated that the children would need to know who would be present with the father, and that the father would provide his full attention. The father would need to take care at the beginning, to assist the children have confidence with him.
  9. The family report writer stated that a graduated program of the children spending time with the father would provide more flexibility, starting where the children “are” presently.
  10. In relation to Saturday sporting activities, the family report writer stated, inter alia, that she would be reluctant to see the children’s sporting activities “bleed” into Saturday afternoons, with the Saturday morning sports being acceptable.
  11. The family report writer stated that if the children were presently reluctant to spend time with the father, then a graduated regime of the children spending time with the father may work and family therapy might have to start before such time commences.
  12. The court accepts the evidence of the family report writer subject to the court’s comments under the meaningful relationship primary consideration discussion later in these Reasons.





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Leave to proceed against post-separation assets granted

Leave to proceed against post-separation assets granted

In Pinkett & Pinkett [2018] FCCA 712 (1 February 2018), the court allowed an Applicant Wife to proceed out of time (3 years) with an application for property settlement and spousal maintenance where there was little if any property at the time the deadline expired but the husband inherited about $350,000 post separation.

The Court was satisfied that the Applicant Wife would suffer hardship if she were not permitted to proceed with an application for property settlement, and the Court was also satisfied that she a substantive reason for delay (serious mental health issues).

The Court noted that the Respondent Husband would be put to significant expense in defending the Applicant Wife’s claim without any guarantee of recovering his costs from her should her application for a property settlement fail.

It was also noted by the Court that the Respondent Husband had made significant post-separation financial contributions to the parties children.

  1. The reality is, at the date of separation – the wife says 2010, the husband November 2011, as at the date of the decree nisi was pronounced and the expiration of the period within which the wife could have brought her application, the parties had no assets other than their superannuation which the wife had cashed in and also the husband had a car. The wife withdrew her superannuation in August 2014. The husband had $44,051 in superannuation. He currently has $134,000 in superannuation so the vast majority of that has been accrued since separation.
  2. However, the case law is clear in relation to property applications. The contributions of a spouse to assets in one or the other’s hands is not just during the marriage, it’s the whole of the relationship and parties can, post-separation continue to make a contribution to assets in one party’s hands or the other. That contribution can be, as it would be here with the wife, a parenting and homemaking contribution which has yet to be assessed by the court. For that proposition, you would look at the matters of Pierce & Pierce[2] and the matter of Fields & Smith[3].
  3. The wife’s case is she was unable to bring her proceedings due to an incompetence or inability from proceedings commenced in (country omitted) against her father and grandfather initially for sexual abuse of she and her sisters when they were children. 

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Withholding of child invokes a Recovery Order

Withholding of child invokes a Recovery Order

A father has failed in his bid to resist the making of a Recovery Order where he fails to return a child contrary to a Parenting Plan:

Solos & Michaud [2018] FCCA 3050 (1 October 2018)

  1. In this application the mother has sought orders in the nature of a recovery order for the return of the child of the relationship who was not returned to the care of the mother following the provision of the child to the father most recently. The basis upon which the father resists returning the child is apprehension of risk to the child by reason of what he says is the mother’s self-confessed and proven drug-taking activity.
  2. I am not satisfied that there is merit in the father’s application. To the contrary. I am satisfied that it would orchestrate greater trauma to the child for the child to continue to live with the father having regard to the fact that the child was in the care of the mother until this application.
  3. Let me explain my reasoning.
  4. Some time ago the parents entered into a parenting agreement without the need of court involvement pursuant to which they agreed on a regime for each parent to have time with their child. One parent lives in Queensland. The other lives in Victoria. Pursuant to that arrangement the mother made the child available to the father in the state of Victoria. The time for the return of the child under the parenting arrangement required the child to be returned to the mother by a particular time. The father did not agree to that. Then followed an exchange between the parents culminating in an agreement by the father to return the child.
  5. For reasons not adequately explained the father the very next day brought this proceeding in this court in which he sought a rearrangement of the time regime.
  6. The evidence in respect of the so-called drug taking is unproven. It involves a great many allegations and counter-allegations, none of which are tested. Today, Mr Bunning of counsel handed to me a document from the Drug Detection Agency that indicated that the mother had returned a clean report in respect of drug-taking activities as recently as 24 September 2018. On behalf of the father, Mr Roberts said that the mother was a frequent and habitual user of a variety of drugs. That did not appear to be borne out by the evidence, albeit that the evidence is untested on the point.
  7. Ultimately, in a consideration of the application that is before me today the primary consideration is the best interests of the child. Both parties contended that the balance tipped in his or her favour. It seemed to me that the father, without the approval of the mother and without court sanction, failed to comply with his parenting arrangements as recorded in the parenting agreement. He instead has purported to rely on an historic examination of the mother’s drug-taking history, which, as I have indicated is based on the recent drug detection agency report and is not borne out.
  8. I am not in a position to assess the ability of either parent to adequately care for the child by reason of drug-taking activities or other factors. That can only be done with the benefit of a full investigation into the matter. But at this interim level it seemed to me that the most compelling factor that bore upon this case was obviously the best interest of the child underpinned by the time with whom the child has spent the most time thus far in the child’s short life.
  9. The mother has been the primary carer. I am satisfied that it would orchestrate much greater hardship to the child not to return to the mother than the reverse and, in those circumstances, it seemed to me that it is best to act in the child’s best interests at all times by making an order for the recovery of the child to the care of the mother.
  10. The price, of course, for that order is an absolute prohibition forthwith on any drug taking by the mother of any drugs of any description and I will forthwith prohibit her from so doing and I will require her to submit herself for fortnightly screening and verification. I will make a recommendation to the judge to whom this case is ultimately transferred to entertain an application if any one of the reports as to fortnightly screening is in the positive. In other words, the slightest indication of drug taking (or a resumption of drug taking if any pre-existed) will be visited sanguinely upon the mother.

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