Care arrangements altered because of parent with Asperger's Syndrome
Posted: 19th July 2013
Posted in: News
Posted by: Dean Evans, Partner
A father with Asperger’s Syndrome has had the time that he spends with his children reduce dramatically after a recent decision of the Federal Circuit Court.
The children in the matter were aged 9 and 11.
The Court found that the father had a reduced capacity to interact with the children and consult with the mother as a result of him having Asperger’s Syndrome. A sole parental responsibility Order was made in favour of the mother.
Father’s condition influences decision
The Court noted that the objects of the Family Law Act 1975 are to ensure that the best interests of children are met by ensuring that children have the right to know and be cared for by both parents, have a right to spend time on a regular basis and communicate on a regular basis with their parents and other people significant to their care, parents jointly share duties and responsibilities concerning the care, welfare and development of the their children, parents should agree about the future parenting of their children and children have a right to enjoy their culture.
A family report writer identified that the father’s parenting capacity was a significant issue in the matter. The report writer identified significant deficits in the father’s capacity to engage with the children appropriately and that the father lacked insight, parental judgement and empathy with the children. An example was given of the father displaying poor insight with his then infant son, by putting a box of chocolates in his cot while he dropped his older daughter at day care.
The family report writer noted that the Asperger’s Syndrome as applicable to the father is “compromised capacity for empathy which literally translates as being unable to see the world from another’s point of view and therefore accurately reading their queues….”.
Children’s best interests taken into account
The Court found that an Order providing for the father to spend no more than four hours a week with the children was in the children’s best interests. This amount of time would allow for positive engagement between the children and father, not merely for the sake of spending time.
The Judge urged the father heed professional advice on the interactive component of his relationships with the children. It was hoped that the father could be professionally assisted over time and his capacity for appropriate and empathetic engagement with the children could develop to an extent whereby the children wished to spend more time with him.
The mother was held to have sole parental responsibility for major long term decisions concerning the children given that the parties were unable to consult with each other or communicate as a result of the father’s condition.