Shields v Buchan [2019] NZFC 1586

Published 11 May 2022

Contact arrangements — psychological abuse — alienation — estrangement — enmeshment — welfare and best interests of child — vexatious litigant — Care of Children Act 2004, ss 4, 5 & 6. The parties had been involved in years of acrimonious litigation over the care arrangements of their daughter. Their daughter was in the day-to-day care of the applicant mother. Initially the father had contact five nights a fortnight, but he sought 50/50 shared care. In a previous decision, this was altered to six nights every fortnight. This was then amended to supervised contact, after the father verbally and psychologically abused the mother so badly that a protection order was required. The father chose not to have this supervised contact and did not see the daughter for a year. The Judge had to determine what contact, if any the father was to have with his daughter. The father had developed the opinion that his daughter wanted a 50/50 care arrangement and refused to consider the harm that constant litigation and abusing and disparaging her mother was having on the child. Psychological reports found the father and daughter had become enmeshed (a family dynamic disorder where two people have blurred or absent boundaries). The father needed to undertake therapy and start acting in the best interests of the child, rather than doing what he wanted before unsupervised contact could occur. The Judge wanted to make an order granting the father regular supervised contact, but as he had refused to exercise it previously and said that he would again, the Judge found that this rejection would hurt the child and potentially cause long term damage. An order was made placing the child in the day-to-day care of her mother, with no physical contact with the father. The pair were to have contact online that could be monitored by the mother. Better contact could be worked towards by the father taking steps to change his behaviour. As the father had been a vexatious litigant, slowing down the court process and filing unnecessary and cumbersome applications, he was preventing from filing further applications. The litigation needed to end so the child could be removed from parental conflict and have the opportunity to have a stable life. Judgment Date: 13 March 2019. * * * Note: names have been changed to comply with legal requirements. * * *