Recent Case Law - Attendance of Children on Psychologists
Posted: 7th March 2015
Posted in: News
Posted by: Dean Evans, Partner
A recent Federal Circuit Court decision of Olssen & Wise  FCCA 1594 heard before Judge Neville in the Canberra Registry dealt with the issue of a parent unilaterally taking the children to a psychologist.
The Father in that case involved the children in psychological testing without notice to or with the consent of the Mother. Further, he did not initially raise his concerns with the Mother.
The Judge commented that “Procedure (or proper process) is designed to ensure that, as far as possible, all parties are accorded fairness and the opportunity properly to put his or her case. Properly considered, procedures are intended to protect parties, and in family law matters, children in particular. The way the matter has proceeded, without reference to the Court until, in large measure, after the event, in my view, has placed everyone – including the children – at significant risk”.
The Court observed that the Father would have been best first speaking with the Mother as to his concern and then providing her with notice and involving her in respect of the children’s attendance upon a psychologist. He found that the Father’s actions may have contributed to the anxiety of one of the children. He recognised that the Father sought to act protectively but the lack of notice to, and involvement of the Mother indicate otherwise and that the children suffered as a result.
At paragraph 66 of the decision the Judge commented “it seems to me that the failure to advise the Mother of the involvement of all of the boys in the “sessions” with Dr M, the failure to advise the Mother of the matters discussed with the psychologist and in particular – a possible change of residence – as well as the children not attending school, have each contributed to general failures of process that warrant Court intervention”.
In his final consideration, the Judge noted a paragraph 186 “In my view, the steps taken by the Father, and by Dr M, which I have outlined in detail here, have constituted “a practical injustice or a denial of procedural fairness to the Mother. They may also have compromised the position of the children and their relationship with their Mother”.
The Judge found that the Father should not have engaged a psychologist without reference to the Mother. The children had been embroiled in a parenting contest and the Father’s action caused the matter to escalate alarmingly.
The Court made an order that an experienced family consultant prepare a report.
This decision is a reminder to parties in family law matters that both parents must be consulted in respect to important issues that relate to the welfare of children.