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QLD Family Law - Should I Attend the Family Report?

Discussion in 'Family Law Forum' started by Billbobson, 16 August 2016.

  1. Billbobson

    Billbobson Active Member

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    I'm hoping to seek some help on my current situation as the help I see on here is quite good.

    Background:

    I have recently attended family court and obtained interim orders for access to my daughter (3-year-old) of 3 nights per fortnight, increasing to 4 nights from January. They are non-consecutive nights, Sunday and Tuesdays. The orders contain no information about holiday time either (we tried to negotiate on the day but my ex wouldn't enter into discussion and threatened to not sign the consent orders for the court to ratify if we continued to argue the point).

    In court, I asked the judge to stop my ex taking our daughter to a psychologist she had taken her to on 3 occasions. I knew nothing of it and was not involved until my daughter told me she was going. The judge agreed immediately, stating it was not in the interest of a 3-year-old to be seeing a psychologist. Interestingly (and frustratingly), the judge then ordered a family report be done to ascertain if she still needed to attend one and for us to return to court in October.

    My ex has emailed my solicitor asking us to vacate the October date as she now agrees that my daughter doesn't need to see the psychologist. From what I understand, if I vacate this, the next time I would get an opportunity to fight for more access (including holidays) would be at the trial call over, which the date has not be set yet. I believe we are in the trial list for some time in 2018. Prior to the call over, we would need to get a family report done.

    We have said yes, we would be willing to do so by adjourning the date until June or the trial call over, whichever comes first. I don’t want to be left in a situation where I need to wait until August or later next year before I get a chance to increase time with my daughter and discuss holiday time and consecutive nights etc. FWIW, holidays are important as my family all live in Tasmania and I would love to visit them with her. We have raised this with my ex and she has flat out refused for me to have even 1 additional night for a 3 day holiday.

    My ex has said no to adjourning and will only agree to vacate the date to trial call over.

    My question is this – should I just attend the family report in August and raise some of these issues with the family reporter in the hope that they will report that I should have some increased time and holiday time?

    We would also need to do a response affidavit to counter some of the outlandish and ridiculous things said within hers. Is it likely they would take time away from me and suggest different orders to the ones we have in place?

    Or should I, as my solicitor suggest, vacate, knowing that it all likelihood, the call over will be around June anyway and that would mean we need to get a family report done in April/May. This would give me the benefit of having the FR done when I have 4 nights locked in with my daughter.

    My solicitor feels that this would offer me the best chance of gaining additional time and arguing for holiday time. This would mean though that the current orders would stay in place until my daughter is at least 4. So no holiday time and no consecutive nights.

    All I want is to make sure I can get to a 50/50 split of time. My ex is vehemently opposed to this and only ever wants me to have no more than 30%. She is doing everything in her power – moving 45 mins away etc – to make it as difficult as possible for me to get there. I understand I need to play a long game, but boy is it frustrating.

    Sorry, it’s long, and still doesn't fully explain the situation but I've tried to keep to facts, with emotion left out.

    I'm just looking for suggestions on what I might do? I'm not thrilled with the current interim orders and want to make sure I leave myself as much room as possible to continue fighting.
     
  2. AllForHer

    AllForHer Well-Known Member

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    Would you mind answering a couple of other questions?

    Primarily, what reason has the mother given for opposing more time?

    Have there been allegations of family violence in this case?
     
  3. Billbobson

    Billbobson Active Member

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    I certainly can!

    1. Her main reason is simply that she doesn't believe it is right for my daughter to have equal time with each parent. She has based this on certain research she has read and her 'motherly' intuition.

    2. None - she has implied throughout her affidavit that she has felt threatened etc ( I assure you though, there has never been and never will be with her or any other person). She has, however, signed the form stating there is no family violence. The implication is merely a tool she is using (she has sought advice from women's legal groups). It bothers me, but there isn't much I can do about it unfortunately.
     
  4. AllForHer

    AllForHer Well-Known Member

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    Okay, so I usually don't like to share too much insight where there's a lawyer already giving advice, but here are my views.

    First, the psychologist and the family report.

    It's not uncommon for parents to unilaterally recruit a psychologist to get 'on side' with their case, but the Court doesn't put any weight in an expert opinion where the expert has only talked to one parent, as would be the case in your circumstances. This is why the Court orders family reports - the family report writer assesses the child's relationship with both parents, not just one, and it doesn't just assess whether there are issues, but also if the relationship is 'healthy enough' that the child wouldn't experience any drawbacks from spending more time with the non-residential parent.

    For this reason, I think you should attend the family report, because it means you'll have a professional opinion to back your case for more time. Not doing so means the mother can continue giving low-impact reasons for not facilitating more time without any other party to dismantle those claims.

    Some tips for the family report - don't make it about you and your ex. It's important that you appreciate the role she plays in your daughter's life, so speak highly of her as a mother and avoid the temptation to share with the report writer what a menace she is as an ex. I can't stress this enough - the last thing you want is a report that says you're unable to encourage the child's relationship with the mother, which means there's a risk to the child's relationship with the mother if the child spends more time with you. What you want to show is that you and the child have a meaningful relationship and it will serve the child well to be able to grow that relationship further by spending more time with you.

    The other issue is the concern you have about delays in the process.

    You can file an application in a case to have interim orders changed at any time during proceedings. The Court may or may not change them - generally, it doesn't like to change routine too often during proceedings - but if you can make the case for the change being in the child's best interests, then it may be more compelled to do so.

    Ironically, my husband's situation was close to identical to yours (and in Queensland, too). We started proceedings when my stepdaughter was 3.5 years of age, dad had three nights a fortnight, mum refused to discuss any additional nights, citing that any additional time with dad would interrupt the child's routine and this came from 'mother's intuition'. The Court threw both arguments out at first mention, but didn't grant any additional time except for holidays of seven nights every three months (so I think the Court will support you if you ask for that in interim orders). The reason the judge didn't grant more was because he felt mum would just file another application in a case to have it changed back, and it would go on and on until trial.

    In the end, we got 50/50, by (reluctant) consent, implemented gradually. 50/50 started when the child turned six.

    In short, attend the family report. It might help your case for more time, even in the interim.
     
  5. Billbobson

    Billbobson Active Member

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    I just thought that I would provide a quick update to my original question and ask another.

    I attended the family report and the report and recommendations have come back overwhelmingly positive for me including:

    Increasing my time with my daughter immediately to 5 nights per fortnight rising to 6 nights from June 2017.

    The mother attending counselling to deal with her separation anxiety and approach

    That the court consider a proximity order to keep us within 20 mins of each other.

    Now my question is - how likely is it that the judge will make orders based on the recommendations? Will they even read the report in its entirety - it runs at 44 pages. I'm due to return to court in October and I'm just trying to get a sense of what to expect.
     
  6. AllForHer

    AllForHer Well-Known Member

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    What kind of time are you seeking in your your current initiating application?
     
  7. Billbobson

    Billbobson Active Member

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    I've always maintained that I want to progress to a 50/50 care arrangement, staged appropriately of course.

    I hope that we can get exactly what the family report says moving forward.

    It's a bit of a weird one though as we do currently have interim orders in place - I had previously agreed to 3 nights f/n (which I'm getting) moving to 4 nights from January 17. We hadn't gone any further than that.

    The reason the judge ordered the family report was mostly because my ex had taken my daughter to a psychologist without my consent and they wanted to see if this should be continued. The report said no, it should not.

    To be clear though - the order was to get a family report done while also considering if my daughter should continue to see the psychologist.

    During this process, the report writer has undertaken a comprehensive family report and made further recommendations as I noted above.

    I'm hoping that we can get back in front of the judge in October (already booked in) and argue that the current interim orders be changed to reflect what is in the report.

    I'm really keen to understand that now the family report is done, if the judge will just take the recommendations contained within and change the interim orders in place. I'd hope to have a good chance otherwise why order it, only to disregard the contents?

    For reference, I first attended court in June where the Judge ordered a family report and for us to return in October with the findings.
     
  8. AllForHer

    AllForHer Well-Known Member

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    I understand what you're aiming for, but I was more inquiring about what orders you have actually asked for your in your initiating application. Have you asked for 50/50 as final orders?

    In any case, I am glad to hear that you attended the family report. They are some very positive recommendations from what sounds to be a detailed and considered report. The Court, of course, doesn't have to follow the recommendations made by the report writer, but it quite often does, particularly in cases like yours where there appear to be no real issues other than the mother's reluctance to facilitate more time for the child to spend with you. In any case, whether the Court follows the recommendations or not, the report writer is now a Court-appointed expert witness in your case, which will help your position immensely.

    It's impossible to know if the recommendations of the writer would be implemented at interim hearing. The Court might want the mother to complete the appropriate course first, or it might order one additional night instead of two, to make it four nights a fortnight rather than five, with prospects to increase again at next interim hearing.

    In any case, this is what I would do if I were in your position.

    If you're not seeking 50/50 already, file an amended initiating application to that effect so the other party will know what you're after if they proceed to trial.

    You might also consider filing an application in a case for interim orders that reflect the family report writer's recommendations. Essentially, the intended timeline will be the gradual increase in the child's time with you as you have suggested, except it will commence now rather than after a trial, so if you actually do go to trial, you might only be in dispute over one night to reach 50/50 instead of three or four.

    I would also send correspondence to your ex's lawyer, pitching consent orders for the gradual increase in time as recommended by the report writer, with 50/50 to commence once the child, say, starts prep or first grade.

    There is no doubt the report will have (or should have, at least) removed some of the wind from your ex's sails. With a trial still on the horizon, there is still a high cost involved, but now with a reduced likelihood of success, so you may find her more willing to negotiate an outcome outside of Court. At the very least, it's worth a try. You may end up with consent orders earlier than you think.
     
  9. Billbobson

    Billbobson Active Member

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    Yes, I have asked for 50/50 in my initiating documents.

    She is self-representing so, unfortunately, there is no lawyer to correspond with and she's proven in the past to no listen or negotiate.

    I'll have a chat with my lawyer about what you've suggested and see what her thoughts are as well.

    I'm hopeful now that with the report, we can reach an agreement without going to trial - something in no one's interest, and hopefully the report helps her see it's not going to end well if we do.
     
  10. Billbobson

    Billbobson Active Member

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    Hi AllForHer,

    I have another question for you if you're happy to provide your time?

    I've mentioned before that in the family report, it has recommended that the court consider a proximity order of 20 mins.

    Well tonight I received an email from my ex stating she was moving to her parents at the end of September (45 Min car ride away) and this is two weeks before we go to our next court appearance in October.

    Where it's complicated is that my lawyer is away and their office closed with them not returning until after the move. So basically, I can't contact them to find out what to do or if there is something I can do?

    My ex had previously been self represented but had now engaged a solicitor once they saw the report and i believe they've been advised to do this prior to us getting to court and in advance of them making a proximity order.

    Any advice you can give would be appreciated

    Sucks as I know they will be doing this to undermine a potential order and future parenting arrangements.

    Thanks.
     

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