Discounting the mother-child relationship in parenting orders: A snapshot in time

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We look at mothers who have lost parental responsibility and who have been ordered to spend no or at best minimal supervised time with their child(ren). Our case sample included 50 recent interim and final first instance judgments heard in the Federal Circuit Court or the Family Court, as well as 13 judgments from the Family Court of Australia Full Court. We discover that the nature and quality of the pre-existing attachment of mother and child are outweighed by a view that the child(ren) would be at an unacceptable risk of harm in the mother’s care attributable to some sort of maternal dysfunction or an inability to acknowledge (and/or treat) its impact on her parenting capacity. The most common maternal harm identified by judicial officers was emotional and included the mother’s inability to facilitate a meaningful relationship between the father and his child(ren); in some matters this derived from the mother’s concerns about physical or sexual harm perpetrated by the father. In addition, decision-making themes found in our analysis included siblings, children’s views and the important role of the independent children’s lawyer and family consultant. We conclude by highlighting areas of concern and make recommendations to prevent inconsistencies and undue influence in proceedings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-248
Number of pages28
JournalAustralian Journal of Family Law
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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