Monday, 1 September 2008

Family Court case: child ordered to see dying father

In the recent Family Court case of Wen and Lam, the father was dying of liver cancer and had 6 to 12 months to live.

Jusitce Le Poer Trench ordered that the mother ensure that the 11 year old daughter, who had not seen the father since she was aged 6, see the father once a month, even though the child hated the father and said that that the father was selfish, mean and a very bad man and that she wanted him dead. His Honour "agonised" over the decision, being concerned that to force the child to go may have an impact on her in the mother's household:

Given the mother's demonstration of loud voice and anger in Court, I would have to suspect that she was like this at other times and so I have a concern that the child may have some level of fear of her mother.
That is all about the immediate. However, until the child is able to fend for herself financially and emotionally she has to live with her mother and is totally dependent on her.


His Honour said:

The mother, Ms Lam, is apparently permeated with hatred for and disgust of the father. So much so that she really doubts he is actually ill, let alone dying. This is notwithstanding Professor N having given evidence in the hearing before me that the father has inoperable liver cancer and his life expectancy is only six to 12 months. The child has expressed the most negative statements about her father including a wish that he die.
The family consultant, Ms M, has produced a number of family reports for the case. She has given oral evidence. Her opinion is that if the father dies without he and the child being able to meet and say goodbye, the child will come to regret this later in life when she has her emotional independence from her mother and has time to reflect on the appalling way in which she was drawn into the conflict between her parents.
Before proceeding further I must record my observations of the mother. She is without a doubt one of the most extraordinary people who I have ever seen in my Court. She is apparently devoid of any compassion for the father, a person who she apparently once loved and the father of her child. She presented as angry and apparently loudly protesting in her evidence. She was intractable in her stance to the father's application. Although saying the choice was the child’s whether she saw her father or not, it was clear from the mother's evidence that she thought the child should not see her father.
The mother has re-partnered and has another child. I was left with the impression that the mother took the view that she and the child have now moved into another family unit and that the father is a threat to that new family. It is most likely the child has a form of anxious attachment or insecure attachment to her mother.... I am satisfied the mother is not interested in repairing her relationship with the father. She wants him out of her life and out of the child’s life.


Jutice Le Poer Trench also suggested that the father write a letter to the child and make a DVD as part of her legacy, when she was older and independent of the mother, which she might then be able to enjoy.

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