McLeod v Nepe [2020] NZFC 3141

Published 01 October 2020

Interim parenting order — supervised contact — psychological abuse — physical abuse — drug abuse — child's views — Care of Children Act 2004, ss 4, 5, 5A, 6 & 132 — Family Violence Act 2018, ss 9, 10 & 11 — W v W [Custody] [2005] NZFLR 1122 — Westcott v Schoeler (2001) 20 FRNZ 381 — MGW v ABW [Care arrangements] [2008] NZFLR 1101 — Brown v Argyll [2006] NZFLR 705. The parties had an interim parenting arrangement in place whereby the father had day-to-day care of the parties' two children and the mother was permitted supervised contact. The mother sought to discharge the interim arrangement. The parties had a history of Family Court appearances for a number of years; after the parties' first child had been born, a protection order and interim parenting order had been made in favour of the mother. She claimed there was psychological, physical, alcohol and drug abuse. She claimed the father had verbally abused her by calling her names and suggesting she kill herself, that he had grabbed her by the throat, had pushed her over while pregnant and when she had their infant child in her arms. On one occasion he had punched her in the face, causing her to lose several teeth and need hospital treatment which involved her jaw being rewired. A lot of this abuse was fueled by drug and alcohol consumption. The mother claimed the abuse had caused her to fall into a depression, which added to her already fragile mental state given her family history. This was supported by a social worker report, which stated that she was not fit to care for the children by herself and needed supervised contact. In deciding whether to discharge the interim parenting arrangement, the court had to consider the welfare and best interest's of the children, the views of the children, and under s 5A of the Care of Children Act 2004 (COCA) any instance of family violence. The Judge noted that since the original allegations of violence, the father had completed a non-violence programme and appeared to have changed his ways with regards to drug and alcohol use, and was able to care for the children. The mother's living situation by comparison was precarious which she acknowledged and was working on. The children were comfortable in the presence of both parents, and the eldest child noted that he didn't like it when his paternal relatives spoke ill of his mother and that he missed his mother. The Judge decided that for the time being it was in the best interests of the children to remain in the day-to-day care of the father, with supervised contact with the mother. Judgment Date: 12 May 2020. * * * Note: names have been changed to comply with legal requirements. * * *