Parental conflict in a separated family


Parental conflict can be very damaging for children as well as reflecting badly upon the parent or parents contributing to the conflict when they are seeking a parenting order from the family courts.

A recent article published in The Courier Mail titled “Kids pawns in custody fight” (08.07.2018) highlights a topic which is unfortunately too often seen (to varying degrees) in family law parenting disputes. In the particular case to which this article refers, the conflict between parents and the disdain that they had for each other lead the Judge to describe their conduct as “appalling.” Related blogs which you may like to read on our site include Conflict between parents & parenting orders  and Abusive Conduct by a parent. 

Contact our Brisbane child custody lawyers or North Brisbane child custody lawyers or call 07 3506 3651 if you have concerns  regards how parental conflict is effecting children following your separation or divorce. You may be involved in a situation where children are being exposed to conflict or would like to receive more information and advice about how our family lawyers or child custody lawyers can assist where a party is exposing a child to conflict between parents or is communicating a poor attitude about the other parent to their child. Our team at LGM Family Law have experience in all aspects of family law. We offer a free 15 minute telephone consultation and reduced rate fixed fee initial consultations. In any case, please feel free to read on…..

The article in the Courier Mail summarises a lengthy 33 page judgement and draws welcome attention to how damaging parental conflict can be for children. The quotes from her Honour Justice Carew used in the article show how unfavourably the Court views such behaviour of “warring parents” who fail to protect their children from “ongoing conflict” which was found to cause “emotional damage” to the children.

The case was heard in Brisbane over the course of 5 days at the Family Court of Australia before her Honour Justice Carew. The judgement was published to the Family Court website under the pseudonym SPALDING & BARBARO [2018] FamCA 362. The matter involved 4 children who were aged 10, 8, 6 and 6. The parents had been separated for approximately 7 years at the time of the hearing. The Father had a history of dependence on prescription pain killers and the Mother had a history of excessive alcohol use. The eldest child was diagnosed with multiple cognitive and behavioural disorders and on account of the conflict between his parents had been driven to the point of considering suicide. Unfortunately, even when faced with what most parents would consider a shocking and emergent situation, the parents could not be distracted from their dispute to work together for the best interest of their children.

In the opening paragraphs of her judgement Justice Carew stated:

“The children have been damaged by their parents’ conduct. The children are caught in the middle of the conflict and sadly feel responsible for finding a solution. The children have been video recorded, audio recorded, had their conversations analysed, had various parts of their bodies photographed, all in the name of evidence gathering by their parents. I agree with the family report writer’s opinion that the ‘long-standing issues of parental conflict are insurmountable’.

 If there were a realistic option of removing the children from both parents I would seriously consider it.”

The Court heard evidence from multiple independent sources which included teachers, the school principal, doctors, the police, counsellors whom the parents had consulted, counsellors who had assisted the children psychologists and psychiatrists on whom the parties had attended and a family report writer. Most of the independent parties had observed the high level of parental conflict  and expressed concern for the effect the conflict was having on the children.

During the course of the hearing the Court was told of various incidents and acts perpetrated by each of the parents which used the children for the purpose of and exposed them to, parental conflict. Some of these incidents included:

  • Multiple unfounded allegations of sexual abuse made by the mother;
  • Offensive and derogatory language used by each of the parents towards each other to or in the presence of the children;
  • The mother sending the children wearing nothing but underwear to spend time with the father;
  • Painting an offensive image and word on the front fence of one of the parent’s properties, which was not covered or removed, allowing the children to view it repeatedly;
  • The mother proposing the father spend more time with the children in exchange for money from the father;
  • The mother removing a child from school so that she could video record inappropriate guided questioning of the child to elicit information to be used against the father; and
  • Both parents withholding the children on different occasions from spending time with the other parent for extended periods.

After consideration of the issues and effects on the children and being guided by the recommendations of independent court appointed experts, her Honour made orders which controlled the inappropriate behaviour of the parents, provided for the children to live equally with each parent and for the father to have ultimate responsibility for making all decisions relating to the children’s education and health.

This is but one of many examples of how parental conflict can affect the arrangements for the children that a Court will Order. In this case, both parents were responsible for causing and contributing to the conflict.

In many cases, it is only one parent who is responsible for exposing the child or children to parental conflict or inappropriately guiding the children in their attitudes towards the other parent. In such circumstances the Court will take measures to shield the children from the conduct of the offending parent. For example, in cases of this kind, it is not uncommon for the Court to make a parenting order  reducing that parent’s time with the children or limit that parent’s ability to make decisions for the children in order to alleviate the conflict between parents.

Please feel free to contact our child custody lawyers Brisbane or North Brisbane child custody lawyers or call 07 3506 3651 if you are concerned about your children being exposed to conflict between parents or require assistance to resolve parenting issues or regards family law property settlement. Our friendly and knowledgeable child custody lawyers at LGM Family Law have experience in high conflict parenting matters and all aspects of family law. We offer a free 15 minute telephone consultation and reduced rate fixed fee initial consultations.