Thursday, 23 October 2008

Family Court: Children required to go to father's funeral

In the recent Family Court case of Ronaldson and Ronaldson, the father of four young kids aged between 8 and 3 was about to die from a brain tumour. There was no love lost between the mother and the paternal grandparents. The immediate question for the court was who was going to take the children to their father's funeral?

The mother proposed that she take them. The father's parents proposed that they have the children for 24 hours including the funeral.

The mother said that the father had been violent when they were together, and alleged that she had been assaulted by the paternal grandfather and that post-separation the father and his parents had attempted to abduct the children from school.

The paternal grandfather did not help things along in court by calling the mother the "so-called mother" and a never ending stream of vitriol towards her.

Ultimately Justice Cronin held that:
  • the mother should deliver the children to the paternal grandmother 15 minutes before the service
  • the mother should remain at a respectful distance during the service, and leave shortly afterwards
  • the children should be able to stay for the wake, and later back to the mother, enabling them to talk to their mother about what must be a very confusing time.

Judges of the Family Court are at times expected to have the wisdom of Solomon. Justice Cronin for me had this pearl of wisdom in his judgment:

It is also troubling that the funeral is an unresolved matter as well. This will be a time when the grandparents will be grieving as adults whilst the children will have to try to come to grips with the long term loss of their father. The funeral
is for the living not the dead and as such, the children will be more of
assistance to the grieving of the grandparents than the other way around. In
my view, the children should be a part of that process because they
represent the replacement of the joy and love lost in the death of their
son. That is hard for any parent at any age to handle... the attendance of
the children is of vital importance but more for the comfort of the

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