Domestic violence, parenting alienation and family contributions
Our client Sam came to us after his wife issued an intervention order against him, claiming he had assaulted her. Sam had pushed his wife against a wall in frustration after his Wife had accused him falsely of having an affair, called him obscene names and hurled items at him, while he packed his belongings to leave.
Shortly after he came to Aberdeen Lawyers, Sam had been charged with breach of an intervention order and had spent 2 weeks in remand.
We attempted to negotiate parenting and property matters by consent, but the Wife’s response was that Sam was violent and so should have ‘no’ contact with the children and she would only accept a division of assets which resulted in her receiving 75% of the asset pool. Until then, Sam had experienced a close relationship with his children. He denied ongoing family violence, which he said was limited to that single occasion.
His Wife also sought 75% of the asset pool, in circumstances where the children were aged 16 and 10, Sam had property at the commencement of their 17-year relationship and he had also received a gift of unencumbered property from his parents during the relationship.
We soon realized that the Wife was exceptionally unreasonable and that she was determined to punish Sam for leaving the relationship by attempting to retain most of the assets, including the matrimonial home, and turning the children against him. When he came to us, the children were not speaking to him nor spending time with him.
Because of the Wife’s shocking accusations, and relentless attempt to frustrate the relationship between Sam and his children, we did not waste time making written proposals to negotiate and issued court proceedings quickly.
In our application we sought orders to appoint an Independent Children’s Lawyer who could provide an objective point of view.
Due to the Court’s cautious approach to family violence accusations, Sam’s initial time with his children was supervised for a few weeks, to rebuild Sam’s rapport with his children, who had not seen their father for 4 months and to provide an objective report by the supervisors of their observations between the Father and children.
Soon, the children had forgotten about the Mother’s accusations and Sam was receiving hugs on their arrival and requests from them to stay longer.
The supervisor’s report established that the sessions were going well and the children were not fearful of their father. Orders were proposed by the Independent Children’s Lawyer (‘ICL’) and accepted by the Court that unsupervised time should commence and the parties should attend upon a family consultant for a family report. The Wife opposed this order, but the Court made the Orders that we and the ICL sought.
The family report established that Sam was calm, reasonable and trying his best to be a good father, while the Wife was working hard to alienate the children from their father and had a tendency to catastrophise events.
The family consultant recommended that time between Sam and his children increase gradually over a period of a few months from immediate overnight time at weekends, to 5 nights each fortnight and half the holidays.
Sam was happy with this recommendation, and we attempted to negotiate a settlement with the Wife for parenting orders as recommended by the Family Consultant and 60% of the asset pool (which was 10% higher than we recommended), as Sam new that his Wife was unreasonable and wished to settle without further court proceedings.
The Wife rejected both parenting and property offers and we prepared affidavit documents for trial, painstakingly providing each and every contribution and annexing the family report and supervision reports in evidence.
After a 3-day trial, the Trial Judge decided that the eldest child should live with the father on a full-time basis and see the Mother when she wished to and the younger child should spend 6 nights a week and half of all school holidays with her father.
She also awarded the Husband 60% of the asset pool (because of his larger financial contributions) which left the Wife with 40% of the asset pool. This was 20% less than Sam had originally offered her, and 35% less than she had sought in her application. Sam was also awarded the matrimonial home.
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