Proceedings: Contested parenting application.
Facts: The father was physically violent and verbally abusive to the mother and children (). There were two Domestic Violence Orders in favour of the mother (). The two eldest daughters suffered from depression and anxiety, cut themselves, and had self-esteem issues (). The youngest son was diagnosed with autism, but the father refused to accept the diagnosis, and refused to make arrangements to reduce the son’s emotional distress ().
Issues: Parenting orders to be made.
Decision and Reasoning: Judge Willis identified ‘grave concerns’ about the father’s ability to regulate his emotions and about his parenting skills to independently parent (). The children had ‘suffered catastrophically’ from their parents’ separation and their exposure to the family violence (). Due to the father’s admissions to family violence, the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility was rebutted ().
Judge Willis remarked at :
I have the impression that the mother has significant insight into her own behaviour and that of all of the children. She is acutely aware and has the skills to deal with Z and Y cutting themselves, of them suffering depression and anxiety and having self-esteem issues. Some of these issues will, no doubt, be directly related to their exposure to family violence. Day in day out, experts in this Court talk about the effect of family violence in children and their inability to sustain relationships, become depressed and blame themselves for breakdowns. All of these things have happened for Y and Z.
Judge Willis ordered that the father undertake an anger management course, and that the mother undertake a Domestic Violence course in relation to the cycle of violence (-). The judge ordered that the son have limited contact with the father (see Orders).