Court or Tribunal: 
Catchwords: Appeal, Child Support, Departure Determination, extra-curricular activities, School Fees, Sole Parental Responsibility
Judges:  Aldridge JBryant CJChief Justice Diana BryantCoates JJustice Michael KentJustice Murray AldridgeJustice Stephen CoatesKent J


Background: A divorced mother, known by her court appointed pseudonym as Ms Stewart, has sought an Order from the Court that her two children, one boy and one girl, upon reaching high school age, should be enrolled in two prestigious same-sex private schools, the son of which to follow in the father's family tradition, she claimed, and attend the father's and grandfather's alma mater. As the Federal Circuit Court heard the previous year prior the case being appealed to the Full Court of the Family Court, the estimated cost of the tuition fees alone, if both children attended private school, would be approximately $50,000 a year. The Court further heard that even without taking into account the extra expenses of a private education and probable fee increases, it would cost up to $300,000 in total to 
 
  [Legal Issue]In the original decision from the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, Justice Stephen Coates relied on the mother's financial capacity in determining as to whether this case had any merit, and consequently found that Ms Stewart had not established that the cost of private schooling would be affordable. "The mother said she could afford 40 per cent of the fees, yet on her income, I do not see she has proven her case," he said. He ruled that the children should attend a government high school, saying they would not be disadvantaged as the state provides "a capable education system". The judge said the Stewarts' son would cope with not going to the private school "if the mother responsibly handles the situation for the child, even though such an order would be a great disappointment    [Court Orders](1) The application in an appeal filed by the appellant mother on 21 February 2017 is dismissed. (2) The appeal is dismissed. (3) The appellant mother pay the respondent father’s costs of and incidental to the appeal to be agreed, or failing agreement, to be assessed.      


 ] Download Decision

Family Court of Australia emblem
Court or Tribunal: 
Catchwords: Allegations of Child Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Equal Shared Parental Responsibility, False Allegations of Child Abuse, Parental Disorders, Risk of Psychological Harm, Sole Parental Responsibility, Unacceptable Risk, Unsubstantiated Allegations
Judges:  Tree J


Background: The mother of children aged 10 and 7 years was in her third long term relationship. The first relationship commenced when she was aged 18 years and produced 3 children. The second relationship commenced when the mother was aged 25 years and lasted for 12 years, producing 3 children. The mother alleged that the father had sexually abused one child and the child protection department removed two children from the mother’s care and stopped contact with the father for a period, deeming that the father presented an unacceptable risk of harm to the children. This assessment was later reviewed and reversed when it was found that the mother had made false allegations of sexual abuse by the father. The children were then placed in the care of the father. The mother commenced supervised co 
 
  [Legal Issue]The family consultant opined that an allocation of equal shared parental responsibility and equal division of time between the parents might overcome the reluctance of the father to facilitate a meaningful relationship between the mother and the children, as it would effect a balance in power between the parents. The judge described this view as hope triumphing over experience. The judge found that the consultant had not considered the effect of the mother’s allegations on the father. The judge noted that the family consultant had not spoken to the mother’s therapist whom the mother had seen monthly for 8 years. The judge ordered that the children live with the father and spend time with the mother, and that the father have sole parental responsibility.   [Court Orders]The children B born ... 2004 and C born ... 2008 (“the children”) shall live with the father. The father shall have sole parental responsibility for all decisions concerning the long-term care and welfare and development of the children, but otherwise each parent shall have the sole responsibility for all decisions concerning day-to-day care, welfare and development of the children for the time that they are in that parent’s care. The father is to notify the mother in writing of all      


 ] Download Decision

Family Court of Australia emblem
3: Helbig & Rowe [2015] FamCA 146 |
Court or Tribunal: 
Catchwords: Allegations of Child Abuse, Child Abuse, Complaint against ICL, Emotional Abuse, False Allegations of Child Abuse, Falsified Documents, Risk of Psychological Harm, Sole Parental Responsibility, Unacceptable Risk, Unsubstantiated Allegations
Judges:  Rees J


Background: The parents separated in January 2009 when the children were three and eight weeks old, respectively. The mother moved away from the matrimonial home with the children, who lived with her. This case has a signification history of litigation since then, culminating into these proceedings. In this case, the mother has made serious allegations of child sexual abuse by the father against a child of the marriage. As a result she has requested that the children live with her and that any time that the children spend with the father be supervised. After investigation, the allegations were deemed to be 'false'. The family report went so far as to recommend that the children be 'immediately' removed from the mother's care because of her unrepentant beliefs that the father was a paedophile  
 
  [Legal Issue]This case hinged on whether the allegations made by the mother that the father had sexually abused the child or children of the marriage were reliable and plausible to the extent that they would raise the issue of "unacceptable risk". The family courts responsibility is not to determine whether child sexual abuse did or did not occur, unlike the criminal courts. However when faced with an allegation of child sexual abuse, it refers to the standard of proof of "unacceptable risk".    [Court Orders]-That X (“X”) born ... 2005 and Y (“Y”) born ... 2008 (“the children”) live with their father, Mr Rowe (“the father”). -That the father have sole parental responsibility for the children. -That the father inform Ms Helbig (“the mother”) in writing (including by email or text message) as soon as practical of any specialist medical appointments for either of the children with any medical consultant. -That the father do all acts and things to ensure that the mother is provide     


 ] Download Decision

Family Court of Australia emblem
4: Thornton & Thornton [2015] FamCA 92 |
Court or Tribunal: 
Catchwords: Allegations of Child Abuse, False Allegations of Child Abuse, Recorded conversations, Unacceptable Risk, Unsubstantiated Allegations
Judges:  Murphy J


Background: The parents of two girls, aged 10 and 6, engaged in failed financial negotiations after separation. Soon after these negotiations, the mother raised allegations of child sexual abuse by the father against their two female children. The children were medically examined but were found to have no physical indications of sexual abuse. The children were also found to have made inconsistent statements to police, family members and carers. The children also made conflicting statements as to their desire to see their father.  
 
  [Legal Issue]Where the mother alleges that the father had engaged in sexual misconduct against their two female children – Where relevant rules of evidence are excluded pursuant to s 69ZT of the Act – Where expertise need not be established as a result – Where the trial judge holds that the appropriate qualifications, training or experience of an expert is a significant factor in the attribution of weight. Where the evidence is insufficient to establish the risk as unacceptable.    [Court Orders]The mother has been handed sole parental responsibility for the girls. The father will be allowed to spend unsupervised time with the girls, aged 10 and 6, for up to half of each school holiday period, but the mother will make all major decisions about the girls. The Judge explained that the Sole Parental Responsibility Orders were to avoid conflict between the parents.      


 ] Download Decision

Court or Tribunal: 
Catchwords: Appeal, Child Support, Departure Determination
Judges:  May JStrickland JThackray CJ


Background: The appellant father in this case sought a review of a child support departure determination and a subsequent Social Security Appeals Tribunal decision which both determined an increased taxable income for child support purposes. The father’s appeal to the Federal Circuit Court on this matter was dismissed and the father now seeks to appeal that decision. 
 
  [Legal Issue]This was an application for leave to appeal from the dismissal of an appeal from the Social Security Appeals Tribunal which increased the appellant’s taxable income for child support purposes. The application was dismissed with costs. In its judgment, the court analysed and determined a number of significant questions of law arising out of the interpretation of the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 (Cth) which would be of interest to family law specialists.   [Court Orders]The appeal application was dismissed. The Court found no error in law by failing to refer to s 117(7A) of the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 (Cth). No issue of procedural fairness arises – Application for leave to appeal dismissed – Appellant father ordered to pay costs.     


 ] Download Decision

Federal Circuit Court of Australia emblem
6: Wands & Vine [2015] FCCA 221 |
Court or Tribunal: 
Catchwords: Contravention, Obstruction of Contact with Child, Parenting Orders
Judges:  Scarlett J


Background: This is an application to deal with the Respondent Mother for contravention of a parenting order, which was one of a series of orders made on 17th December 2013 after a Defendant Hearing. The order provided that the Father would spend time with the child [X] on the Father’s birthday for a period of a number of hours on [date omitted] 2014. That time did not take place. The Mother, with the benefit of legal advice, has conceded that contravention and no reasonable excuse has been established, although I have heard submissions in mitigation from the Mother’s solicitor. 
 
  [Legal Issue]Children – parenting orders – contravention of parenting orders – orders – where mother has previously contravened parenting orders – whether make up time should be allowed – whether injunction should be ordered against the mother in respect of the child’s school.   [Court Orders]The Respondent Mother did on 24 May 2014 without reasonable excuse contravene Order (5)(e) made on 17 December 2013 in that she failed to allow the Father to spend time with the child [X]. In respect of the above contravention the Mother is required to enter into a bond under the provisions of section 70NEC of the Family Law Act 1975 without surety or security for a period of eighteen (18) months on the condition that she abide by all current parenting Orders. By way of make-up time the Ap     


 ] Download Decision

Full Court of the Family Court of 

Australia emblem
7: Re: Jamie [2013] FamCAFC 110 |
Court or Tribunal: 
Catchwords: Appeal, Gender Identity Dysphoria
Judges:  Bryant CJFinn JStrickland J


Background: The child concerned, “Jamie”, aged almost 11 years at the time of hearing, was diagnosed as having childhood gender identity disorder. At first instance, the parents were asking the court to authorise them to consent to treatment on behalf of Jamie, under the guidance of Jamie’s treating medical practitioners, for the administration of particular drugs designed to achieve suppression of certain hormones affecting the development of male features and particularly the onset of male puberty. The treatment, which occurs in two stages, comprises administration of puberty-suppressant hormones (stage one) and oestrogen (stage two), and is common to children who are diagnosed with this condition. The treatment would enable Jamie, born a male, to live in her affirmed sex as a female. 
 
  [Legal Issue]The first ground asserts that childhood gender identity disorder is not a special medical procedure which displaces the parental responsibility of the Appellants to decide upon the appropriate treatment for their child. The second ground, in the alternative, asserts that the Applicant Mother and Applicant Father be authorised to consent to the following special medical procedures on behalf of their child, ... (“Jamie”), being (i) he administration of puberty suppressant hormones, and (ii) additional treatment of oestrogen as may be considered appropriate by Jamie’s treating Endocrinologist.   [Court Orders]The appeal be allowed. Order 1 of the orders made by the Honourable Justice Dessau on 28 March 2011 be set aside. There be no order for costs.     


 ] Download Decision

Federal Circuit Court of Australia emblem
8: Mitchell & Mitchell [2014] FCCA 2526 |
Court or Tribunal: 
Catchwords: Child Abuse, Emotional Abuse, failure to call witness and Jones & Dunkel inference, Hostile Parental Behaviour, Interim Parenting Orders, Jones & Dunkel inference, Meaningful Relationship, Obstruction of Contact with Child, Parental Alienation, Risk of Psychological Harm, Sole Parental Responsibility, Supervised contact with Child, Unacceptable Risk, With whom a child lives with, With whom a child spends time with
Judges:  Harman JHenderson J


Background: Since separation, the three children lived primarily with their father [Mr Mitchell]. In these proceedings, Mr Mitchell has conceded that he has denied the children their right to a meaningful relationship with their mother, accepted by Mr Mitchell to be a caring and loving relationship, as well as exposing the children to his significant rage and repeated derogatory comments towards his ex-wife and her lesbian partner, while also exposing the children to discussions of adult issues, (such as the mother’s sexuality), which for children of these ages is entirely unnecessary and inappropriate. 
 
  [Legal Issue]These proceedings primarily hinged on the definition of "abuse" and "family violence", and whether the exposure of the children to the father's rage towards his ex-wife, and specifically the repeated derogatory comments towards his ex-wife and her lesbian partner, constitutes child abuse and/or family violence. The evidentiary standard of "Unacceptable Risk" was used to determine whether the risk of future abuse was significant enough to warrant measures.    [Court Orders]The children’s mother [Ms Mitchell] shall have sole parental responsibility of the three children. The three children shall live with their mother. The children’s father [Mr Mitchell] shall spend time with the children from 11am Saturday until 5pm Sunday each alternate weekend.     


 ] Download Decision

Court or Tribunal: 
Catchwords: Allegations of Child Abuse, Discretion to Admit Evidence, Emotional Abuse, Recorded conversations
Judges:  Hannam J


Background: The mother is 42 years old and the father is 43 years old. The parties commenced a relationship in 1999 when they were in their late twenties. The case involves competing claims of domestic violence and alleged child abuse. To support his case, the father has submitted transcripts of recorded conversations between himself and the mother. These recordings were made covertly, without the knowledge of the mother.  
 
  [Legal Issue]At issue is the admissibility of transcripts of covertly recorded conversations made by the father, alleged to have captured various unguarded conversations between the mother and the father. The mother objected to the admission of the transcripts of audio recordings on the basis that the evidence was unlawfully obtained and was inadmissible. Both the father and the Independent Children’s Lawyer sought to have the evidence admitted and argued that even if it were prima facie inadmissible the court should exercise its discretion to admit it.   [Court Orders]The evidence, which refers to transcripts of recorded conversations in the father's affidavit in paragraphs 25, 128 to 150 and 235 filed on 23 September 2014, is admissible.      


 ] Download Decision

Court or Tribunal: 
Catchwords: Emotional Abuse, False Allegations of Child Abuse, Parental Alienation, Parental Disorders, Psychological Disorders, Risk of Psychological Harm, Unsubstantiated Allegations
Judges:  Cronin J


Background: Mr Garzelli (“the husband”) married Ms Lewis (“the wife”) in January 2007 after they had met in 2005 through the internet. The husband is a 61 year old company director who was born in Australia. The wife is a 48 year old woman who was born in Country I. The husband and wife have one child N (“the child”) who was born in 2009 in Country I. This case focussed primarily on the credibility of the wife, and on the expectation that she would work with the father in a co-operative, shared parenting arrangement. 
 
  [Legal Issue]The Court, with the assistance of the psychiatric and psychological experts, determined that the mother went to significant efforts to manipulate circumstance to reflect poorly on the husband. It was suggested that a diagnoses of Borderline or Schizoid personality style or Asperger’s Spectrum Disorder was very likely, exposing the child to likely Parentified Child behaviours, which would force the child to align with the mother and abandon her relationship with her father, so as to meet the mother's increasingly demanding emotional needs and desires. The diagnoses would render the chances of a co-operative parenting arrangement very unlikely.   [Court Orders]That the husband have sole parental responsibility for the child born ... 2009 but for that purpose, the husband ensure the wife is kept abreast of all major issues about the child and in particular: (a) advise the wife of any medical treatment for the child; (b) authorise and direct the school at which the child attends to provide all school reports, newsletters, photographs and invitations usually directed to parents to be provided to the wife. The parents to otherwise have shared parenti     


 ] Download Decision