In 2018, Two parents appeared in Family Court after the father applied for a change of residence for the child to live with him. Final parenting orders had been made in December 2016 by consent but before they had been made, the mother had made allegations of possible sexual abuse of the child by the father. Her allegations “did not meet the statutory reporting threshold of risk of serious harm”.
Changes to parenting orders by the court can only be done if there has been a ‘significant and substantial’ change in circumstances. This is known as “the rule in Rice & Asplund”. The father said the ‘significant change was that the mother had made numerous complaints in the previous six months to New South Wales Police and the Department of Family and Community Services alleging sexual abuse by the father on the child.
The child had been extensively questioned and interviewed without substantiation of abuse by the father. In fact, the child has a strong relationship with his father, despite living with his mother since the parents separated.
New parenting orders were made, ordering the mother be restrained from interviewing and questioning the child or permitting third parties (eg psychologists, police etc) to do so about allegations of sexual abuse of him. The mother was restrained from taking the child to see a psychologist without the father’s consent.
The court seemed to be saying that the mother was wrong about the father perpetrating abuse on his son and stopped her from taking the child from being interviewed – for the child’s safety. Ironically, the mother’s suspicions were doing the damage to the child.