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Violence and Parenting Orders

A recent case has caused many domestic violence commentators to slam the Newcastle Family Court.

The case involved Ms T and Mr S who had been arguing for many years through the Courts over parenting orders for their daughter.

The Court had ordered that the father have weekly visits to see his daughter, but in 2010 the mother stopped the visits because she had given evidence against the father in his criminal trial for hitting her, tying her to a chair and holding a sword to their daughter in 2007.

The father pleaded guilty and was sentenced to at least 2 1/2 years jail.

In 2013 the mother was convicted of 20 breaches of the parenting orders because the judge hearing the case did not believe the father’s trial and conviction on criminal charges constituted “a change in the family dynamic” that would warrant her stopping their daughter’s weekly visits to the father.

However, that decision was later overturned on appeal by the Full Court of the Family Court.

After being released from jail in 2014, however, the father applied to have his regular visits to see his daughter reinstated.

The father said he was pressured into pleading guilty to the criminal charges and that he did not commit the violence offences for which he had been convicted.

The child was interviewed by a father’s application in January 2015 ordered that monthly visits be commenced at a supervised contact centre, with the frequency of the visits building up to fortnightly unsupervised visits.

The Judge praised the father for his “positive conduct….stability and lawfulness” in prison and noted that he intended to apply to have his conviction acquitted.  The Judge was not impressed, however, by the mother and admonished her for keeping the father from seeing his daughter.

Anti-domestic violence campaigner, Rosie Batty, told the Federal Government Senate inquiry into domestic violence last year that she was going to focus on the Family Court as it was her “biggest are of concern”.

It appears that the Family Court may be focusing on maintaining a meaningful relationship between a child and each of the child’s parents rather than protecting children from home.

If you have a family law issue, call Ruth Single on 4324 7699.