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Court or Tribunal: 
Catchwords: Allegations of Child Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Entrenched Parental Conflict, False Allegations of Child Abuse, Meaningful Relationship, Parental Disorders, Property, Psychological Disorders, Recorded conversations, Risk of Psychological Harm, Unacceptable Risk, Unsubstantiated Allegations, With whom a child lives with
Judges:  Hannam J


Background: The mother is 42 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 property dispute. In relation to parenting matters there are three significant factual disputes. First, the father contends that he was the victim of serious systematic violence perpetrated by the mother for most the relationship. The mother contends that it was the father who was violent towards her and that if she also engaged in violence, it was in response to the father’s antagonism. Second, the mother contends that the father and his (second) wife Mrs H abused the children after separation, which is denied by the father. Finally, it is central to the father and the ICL’s ca 
 
  [Legal Issue]No doubt in the majority of cases there will be a positive benefit to a child of having a significant relationship with both parents, but there will also be some cases where there will be no positive benefit to be derived by a child by a court attempting to craft orders to foster a relationship with one parent if this would not be in the child’s best interests. The ICL’s proposal is based to a large extent upon the recommendations of Dr K. In his report Dr K was of the view that the children should live with their father and he should have sole parental responsibility for them. He then said: After a significant period of time to allow the children to develop security and connection in their father’s home, it would be ideal for the children to maintain some time spent with the m   [Court Orders]The children shall live with their father, Mr Huffman (“the father” or “the husband”). The father shall have sole parental responsibility for the children. The children shall spend no time with their mother, Ms Gorman (“the mother” or “the wife”), for a period of 12 months from the date of these orders. Thereafter, the children shall spend supervised time with their mother each second month, at a supervised contact centre. The father shall do all acts and things neces     


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2: Kristoff & Emerson [2015] FCCA 13 |
Court or Tribunal: 
Catchwords: Briginshaw test, Contributions, De Facto Relationship, De Facto Relationships, Meaningful Relationship, Proceedings to Alter Property Interests, Property, Substantial Relationship
Judges:  Judge Brewster


Background: The case involved a sex worker who made a claim for a property order against a former client turned partner of 8 years. The applicant alleged that she lived in a de facto relationship with the respondent from 2003 until 2011. The parties met in 1999 when the applicant “was employed as a sex worker and the respondent was one of her clients”, their relationship evolving to a point where the “applicant began to involve the respondent with her family” and from “2000 onwards the sexual relationship between the parties ceased to be a commercial one” 
 
  [Legal Issue]The Court ultimately found that whilst the parties did have a relationship that exceeded “friendship”, it was not enough to constitute a de-facto relationship. There was no financial interdependence or children of the relationship and the applicant did not give up sex work for the respondent. In any event, the Court held that on the facts, it would not be just and equitable to make orders altering the party’s property interests. Parties to a supposed de-facto relationship must evidence more than a mere sexual relationship. The Court will consider the totality of the relationship including amongst others, living arrangements and financial interdependence to establish the existence of a de-facto relationship.   [Court Orders]The Court found that the couple were not in a de facto relationship and as such the claim for property fails.      


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3: Ridgely & Stiller [2014] FCCA 2668 |
Court or Tribunal: 
Catchwords: Emotional Abuse, Equal Shared Parental Responsibility, Meaningful Relationship, Obstruction of Contact with Child, Parental Alienation, Parenting Orders, Risk of Psychological Harm, Sole Parental Responsibility, Substantial and Significant Time, Unacceptable Risk, With whom a child spends time with
Judges:  Bender J


Background: The parents separated in 2007 after five years together. The child had lived with the mother since her parents separated when she was 13 months old. Since the separation, the mother engaged in an unrelenting campaign to undermine the child’s relationship with her father, causing the child significant distress. The mother interfered with her daughter’s court-ordered parenting time with her father, often resulting in the child not seeing her father for months at a time.  
 
  [Legal Issue]These proceedings primarily hinged on Section 60CC (2)(a), where the court is required to consider the benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with both of the child’s parents. This section was particularly relevant given that the mother prevented and was likely to continue preventing the child to have a meaningful relation with her father.   [Court Orders]The child, who had lived with her mother since her parents separated when she was 13 months old, shall live with father and spend time with the mother. The father shall have sole parental responsibility in relation to health and education, and otherwise the parties to have equal shared parental responsibility.     


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4: 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.     


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5: Regan & Walsh [2014] FCCA 2535 |
Court or Tribunal: 
Catchwords: De Facto Relationships, Meaningful Relationship, Same Sex Relationship, Substantial Relationship
Judges:  Coker J


Background: The parties agreed that they knew each other from early 2005 and that, at times, they lived together throughout that period and shared sexual relations, but they disagreed as to the nature of their relationship. The applicant’s position was that their relationship was to the exclusion of all others and that it was one of a genuine domestic relationship. The respondent, on the other hand, described the relationship as one of “friends with benefits” and did not concede that there was ever a de facto relationship between the parties.  
 
  [Legal Issue]De facto property – threshold consideration of whether a de facto relationship exists so as to afford jurisdiction – factors to be considered – influence and significance of financial considerations when little else is agreed.   [Court Orders]The relationship was not found to be de facto in nature. Mr Regan’s application was dismissed and it was held that the Court could not make orders altering the parties’ property ownership.     


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Court or Tribunal: 
Catchwords: Emotional Abuse, Enmeshment, False Allegations of Child Abuse, Hearsay, Meaningful Relationship, Obstruction of Contact with Child, Parental Alienation, Parental Alienation, Risk of Psychological Harm, Supervised contact with Child, Unsubstantiated Allegations
Judges:  Austin J


Background: For three years after separation, children aged 15, 12 and 10 years had at the mother’s insistence spent time with the father only at the mother’s house. The mother then severed all of the children’s interaction with the father for a period and recommenced access only if the father was supervised. The mother proposed that the father be eliminated or excluded from the children’s lives. The father contended the mother had exerted so much pressure upon the children they were induced to reject him and to resist any interaction with him (alienation). The mother contended that she supported the children’s relationships with the father and their individual rejection of him and that the children’s resistance to interacting with the father was due to their own adverse experiences wi 
 
  [Legal Issue]The judge gave little weight to a recommendation by a psychologist who treated the youngest child’s anxiety, that visits by the youngest child with the father should be postponed until the child has built appropriate coping skills to manage his anxiety. The judge preferred the opinion of the family consultant over the opinion of the treating psychologist for reasons including: (a) the psychologist had made only a superficial appraisal of the youngest child’s situation, and (b) documents containing hearsay of the treating psychologist’s opinions were tendered in evidence rather than an affidavit, denying the father the opportunity to test the evidence by cross-examining the psychologist directly (expert evidence unsatisfactory). The family consultant recommended a change of reside   [Court Orders]The judge found that if the two youngest children remained living with the mother then their relationships with the father would likely be destroyed. The judge ordered that the two younger children live with the father. The judge ordered a graduated approach where there was a temporary suspension of interaction between children and mother, followed by temporary period of supervision of the children’s time with the mother, leading to substantial and significant time with the mother.     


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Court or Tribunal: 
Catchwords: Domestic Partner Declaration, Family Provision, Meaningful Relationship, Relationships, Succession
Judges:  Burley J


Background: The plaintiff and K lived together in a sexual relationship from time to time over a period of about 38 years. Prior to meeting K, the plaintiff had two relationships with women, and had a child from each relationship. The plaintiff married three further times during the period he knew K. According to the plaintiff, he maintained a relationship with K throughout each marriage.  
 
  [Legal Issue]The plaintiff sought a declaration pursuant to the Family Relationships Act 1975 (FRA) that he and K were, on a given date, domestic partners and, if such a declaration was granted, an order for provision out of the estate of K.   [Court Orders]The court found there was a mutual friendship, including a sexual relationship, which manifested itself often from 1973 to 2011. The court also noted that the plaintiff looked after K when he was unwell. In all the circumstances, the court found it was in the interests of justice to make a declaration that there existed between the plaintiff and K the required relationship entitling the plaintiff to make a claim out of K’s estate.     


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Court or Tribunal: 
Catchwords: De Facto Relationships, Substantial Relationship
Judges:  CRISFORD J


Background: Ms Shelley, a registered nurse, moved into Dr Markhov's unit as his tenant in 1995, a few years after they had met. Over the years the pair bought properties and resided in them together as landlord and tenant. At times they lived on their own, but for the majority of the 14 years, they shared a house and maintained a regular sexual relationship. Ms Shelley claimed over that time the pair were in a "committed and marriage-like" relationship and slept together "every night". Dr Markhov however admitted that they had regular sex, but denied that they were in a "marriage-like" relationship. Dr Markhov claimed that over that time period he was actively looking for a life-partner who was "culturally compatible" to him, on dating websites and had even went overseas to meet women. 
 
  [Legal Issue]The court was asked to define the relationship as part of a property dispute between the Dr Markhov and Ms Shelley, who were housemates and had regular sex for 14 years, but otherwise disputed the precise nature of their relationship. The application was lodged in the WA Family Court a few months before Dr Markhov married another woman in 2009.   [Court Orders]In handing down her decision, Judge Crisford said while she found some of Dr Markhov’s attitudes “dishonourable”, she was not satisfied there was a marriage-like relationship. He never intended to have a long-term relationship with her, she said. Judge Crisford said Ms Shelley benefited from the arrangement in much the same way and disputed her claims of an exclusive, marriage-like relationship.     


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