Armstrong v Mann [2020] NZFC 1319

Published 22 June 2020

Interim contact and care arrangements — alienating behaviour — warrant to enforce — interim order — unfounded allegations — enmeshment — parental estrangement — welfare and best interests of child — safety — Care of Children Act 2004, ss 4, 5, 6, 70 & 73 — Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, ss 132 & 133 — Journal of Family Therapy (2017) 39 103-122 — Family Court Act 1980, s 11B. This hearing was to establish interim contact and care arrangements for the parties' child. The child had not seen his father in 14 months after the mother obtained a without notice parenting order and the father refused to have supervised contact with his child. The mother alleged the father had psychologically, physically and sexually abused the child. The Judge found there was no foundation for any of these allegations and the only risk to the child was the mother's behaviour which was alienating the child from his father. Parental alienation is a process where one parent teaches a child to reject the other parent, to experience fear when they are around that parent and to avoid having any contact with the parent. The alienation results in the damage or breakdown of the child/parent relationship. Estrangement from a parent poses long term risks to a child. The Judge considered reversing the day-to-day care of the child from the mother to the father, but believed the dramatic change would not be in the welfare and best interests of the child. The father was to have contact every Saturday for two hours, extending to overnight contact after one month and then moving to contact from Wednesday to Monday every second week. A warrant to enforce the parenting order was to lie at the Court for the father to obtain in the event that the mother failed to comply with the parenting order. Both parents and the child were also to engage in psychological treatment. Judgment Date: 26 February 2020. * * * Note: names have been changed to comply with legal requirements. * * *