Turner Freeman family law expert and Accredited Specialist Catherine Parks was successful in the appeal of her matter which limited a Father’s time with his children aged 10 and 6 years to day time contact only. The Father sought on appeal a meaningful relationship with his children which necessitated overnight time.
In all decisions under the Family Law Act relating to the care of children the Court must balance often competing needs of ensuring the safety of children and the right of children to a relationship with both of their parents. Of these two concerns the need to ensure the safety of the children is necessarily paramount. In this case in a first instance judgment of the Federal Circuit Court, the presiding Judge found that a father engaging in legal adult activities, to which there was no evidence that the children had been exposed to, presented an unacceptable risk to the children, for the purposes of overnight time. No such risk was said to be posed to the children during the daylight hours during which the Father enjoyed extensive unsupervised time. The Full Court of the Family Court overturned the decision on appeal and allowed the father overnight time noting the children’s right to a meaningful relationship with his children, which would usually include overnight time, should only be interfered with in the event that there is clear evidence of a properly defined unacceptable risk. The mere fact that a parent engages in adult activities in the same home as the children, so long as the children are not exposed to these activities or are not participants in these activities is not enough to constitute an unacceptable risk of harm.
The full judgement of this case is available here: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/FamCAFC/2016/3.html