Can the Court refuse a parent unsupervised time with their child?
Yes. An issue often raised in disputed children’s cases is whether or not there is an “unacceptable risk of abuse” to the child if time the child spends with one of the parents is not supervised. This language comes from the High Court Decision M v M. In that respect, it mirrors the language of the legislation Section 60CC(2)(b). Behaviours that have been found to constitute unacceptable risk include history of physical abuse, illicit drug or abuse of prescription medication, sexual abuse.
It must be demonstrated, on the facts and evidence before the Court, that accumulatively and collectively there is an unacceptable risk of abuse of the child to have unsupervised time with the specified parent or individual.
The Court starts with an acknowledgment and recognition that abuse of children (both sexual and physical) does occur in the community. The Courts, however, approach these allegations with a heightened vigilance on the basis that:
· Not all allegations of abuse are true.
· False allegations may be made by either parents acting in good faith or as a result of
misinterpretatation of information.
· Sometimes (and hopefully rarely) parents deliberately fabricate allegations.
The Courts balance the risk of harm to the child having contact with the benefits of that contact. In each case the evidence is meticulously examined by the Court.
See Family Law case examples on the Family Law blogsite