Paul and Kaitlyn were in a relationship for approximately two years and had a child together, named Annabelle. They separated before she was even born.
During the relationship, Paul was increasingly abusive towards Kaitlyn, physically and verbally. Paul hit and punched Kaitlyn whenever he lost his temper, which he was quick to do. He would hit Kaitlyn and punch her in the stomach on a regular basis and at times when she failed to listen to him and/or when he lost his temper. He also attacked her with a lit cigarette and sprayed tomato sauce all over her.
Paul also had significant drug and alcohol abuse issues. He drank excessively and smoked marijuana most days. A short time into the relationship, Kaitlyn discovered that Paul cultivated and dealt marijuana. She expressed her concern on a number of occasions but Paul not only dismissed her concerns, he also became aggressive and violent towards Kaitlyn.
Paul had a long criminal history for a range of offences including possession of a prohibited drug, stealing, harassment, dangerous driving whilst disqualified, larceny, common assault and break and enter.
As a result of these issues, Kaitlyn ended her relationship with Paul. Soon after the relationship ended, Paul began stalking Kaitlyn and made repeated death threats to her and Kaitlyn’s mother. His threats escalated and he became increasingly volatile. Kaitlyn and her mother reported all incidents to the police and obtained Apprehended Violence Orders against him.
After Annabelle was born, Kaitlyn allowed some very short periods in a public location (her local café) for Paul to spend time with Annabelle. However after a series of threatening phone calls to both her and her mother, Kaitlyn decided it was not safe for Annabelle to see Paul at all.
Paul subsequently filed an Application for parenting orders in the Federal Circuit Court seeking to spend time with Annabelle. Upon being served with Paul’s application, Kaitlyn came to see us for advice. We discussed with her the risks she considered Paul posed to both Annabelle and herself. Kaitlyn wanted Annabelle to have a relationship with her father, but she was scared of him and his volatile and violent nature. We discussed with her the two primary considerations in determining children’s best interests, that is the benefit of Annabelle having a meaningful relationship with both parents, and the need to protect Annabelle from harm by being subjected or exposed to family violence. We discussed about how the need to protect from harm has to have greater weight. We advised Kaitlyn about supervised time for parents at contact centres, and she thought that this arrangement would be suitable as it would provide a safe environment for Annabelle to spend time with her father.
At the listing of the interim hearing, the Judge strongly indicated to Paul that supervised time at a contact centre was the appropriate way forward on an interim basis. Paul and Kaitlyn were then able to agree to consent orders for this supervised time to occur.
Contact centres are specialist supervision agencies providing a formal service to supervise the time a child spends with a parent and/or significant member of family. Supervisors monitor all interactions and conversions between the child and their parents and prepare detailed reports on how the time progressed between the parent and child. Supervisors are usually positioned within a close proximity to the child and parent and act proactively to immediately cease time in the event any inappropriate activity takes place.
Paul spent time with Annabelle on four occasions supervised at the appointed contact centre. Kaitlyn cancelled the fifth visit as Annabelle was unwell. Upon hearing this, Paul called the contact centre repeatedly, 24 times in total over a 3 hour period. On each call, until the call was terminated by a contact centre worker, he yelled various threats and profanities, and he threatened the life of one of the contact centre workers. As a result of this, the contact centre refused to facilitate the supervision of any further time between Paul and Annabelle.
Kaitlyn then approached another contact centre in order to facilitate supervised time between Paul and Annabelle. That second contact centre also refused to supervise time between Paul and Annabelle, as the worker was concerned about his presentation when he attended for an intake assessment. The worker thought he exhibited all the signs of being drunk and/or high, and he showed no remorse for the threats he had made to the previous contact centre.
As a result of these events, Kaitlyn sought our advice about changing her position for orders that Paul did not spend any time with Annabelle. We took into consideration Paul’s recent conduct combined with his history, the history of the parents’ relationship, and his tenuous relationship with Annabelle, and too the view that seeking “no time” was appropriate in the circumstances.
In the meantime Paul continued his harassment of Kaitlyn, and of people supporting her including her mother. He was then jailed following an incident where he drove his ute into the Kaitlyn mother’s home, smashing into the front living room.
After Paul was released from jail, the case went to final hearing over 3 days during which both parents and their witnesses were cross examined. The Judge agreed with our reasoning that the risk of harm to Annabelle sadly outweighed the potential benefit to her of spending time with Paul. The Judge made a finding that that Paul’s behaviour fell within the statutory definition of family violence under the Family Law Act, and there was a need to protect Annabelle from physical or psychological harm. The Judge found that Paul posed an unacceptable risk of harm to Annabelle, and that although the Judge was reluctant to making an order for no time, there was no alternative given that formal supervision at a contact centre was not possible. The only order the Judge made in relation to time and communication was that Paul could send birthday and Christmas cards and presents to Kaitlyn for Annabelle. The order allowed Kaitlyn to check the contents before deciding whether she would pass them onto Annabelle.
Paul did not appeal the decision.
If you have concerns in facilitating time between your child and your former partner, or alternatively, if you are spending limited or no time at all with your child and wish to obtain parenting orders. It is important that you act proactively and seek legal advice as to your rights, responsibilities and obligations. Sarah Bevan Family Lawyers are skilled in this area and will provide you with the advice you need.
All names and identifying features have been changed for privacy reasons in our case studies. These case studies only have basic detail in them, and you should always bear in mind that every case is unique. These case studies are examples only, and cannot be applied to your circumstances without consideration of all relevant facts.