No direct contact ordered after father’s 10 year pursuit of equal shared care

Many separating parents are strongly of the belief that their children should spend equal time with each parent.

And quite often it is the case that such an arrangement is best for the children.

But sometimes a parent is so certain that they should enjoy equal time with their children that they will pursue such an outcome at all costs, even when others, including the court, do not consider it best for the children’s welfare.

Such actions will of course prolong the dispute between the parents, which in itself will be likely to cause harm to the children.

And an unreasonable pursuit of equal shared time can have even worse consequences for that parent, as a recent family court case demonstrated.

The case concerned arrangements for a child born in 2009.

Unfortunately, her parents had been in dispute over arrangements for her for 10 years which was most of her life.

An order made in 2012 divided her time over a fortnight with eight nights spent with the mother and six nights with the father.

In 2016 an order was made splitting her time nine nights to the mother and five to the father.

And in October 2020 the court made an order that the child live with her mother and spend three nights a fortnight with the father.

Then, following non-compliance with that order by the father, the mother issued further proceedings in 2021. The court suspended the 2020 order and replaced it with an order for the father to have supervised, indirect contact only.

The father made it clear that he would not take up any form of supervised contact, and that he intended to publish information from the proceedings. The father was also breaching the court’s order by meeting the child, by waylaying her on the way to or from school.

Another hearing took place in June 2022, when the court rejected the father’s argument that the child should share her time equally with each parent. Instead, it made an order in similar terms to the October 2020 order.

Matters then took a turn for the worse. The father continued to see the child outside the times set out in the order, told the court that he would not keep to the terms of the order, and in July he assaulted the mother, in the presence of the child.

The court suspended the June order and ordered that the father have indirect contact only. The father did not take up this indirect contact.

The child, meanwhile, unsurprisingly indicated that she wanted the litigation to stop.

The case went back before the court in January this year.  By this time the court was also considering the father’s imprisonment for contempt of court.

The judge at the hearing stated: “What is surprising and concerning is that father was not able to work with the order from October 2020 which was an order which gave a substantial amount of time for [the child] to spend with both parents, a very normal order in these sorts of proceedings. Father was focused instead on his conviction that the right order was for [the child] to have half her time with each parent, and he was not prepared to accept less.”

Taking everything into account, the judge decided the right decision for the child was that there be no direct contact and the father to have ‘letterbox contact’ only with the child, enabling him to write to her, or send a card or a present, once a fortnight.  The father remained under threat of imprisonment if he breached the order.

The judge also made an order barring any further applications relating to the child without the permission of the court, until she reaches the age of 16.

You can read the full report of the case here.

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Image:  Darren Baker  /