In this matter, Ms Richards appealed orders made by Federal Magistrate Brewster (as he was then) dismissing her application to relocate to Brisbane with her three year old daughter. Ms Richards had been living in Brisbane between February 2011 and February 2012 when an interim order was made for her to return to Canberra.
Mr Parsons, Ms Richard’s former partner and the father of her daughter, had been charged twice with assaulting Ms Richards. On one occasion he received a good behaviour bond and the next he was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment.
Whist noting the violence and stating he would have grave reservations in making an order that a child live with a person guilty of such domestic violence, Federal Magistrate Brewster made an order for joint parental responsibility. His Honour was satisfied that Ms Richards would not be placed at any significant risk in Canberra provided there was no significant interaction between the parties.
Ms Richard’s current housing arrangements in both Canberra and Brisbane, the breakdown of the relationship between Ms Richards and her own mother (who lived in Canberra) and the support she had in both cities were taken into account.
His Honour's decision related to the benefit of the child having a meaningful relationship with her father and suggesting that this could only be fostered by them having short and regular face-to-face time together.
The Full Court was "extremely concerned" that the court appeared to have a greater regard to the child having a relationship with the father than:
The availability of employment and accommodation of Ms Richards in Canberra;
Ms Richards’ financial circumstances if she remained in Canberra;
The fact that Mr Parsons waited 8 months after Ms Richards had relocated to Canberra to commence proceedings and Ms Richards had been in Brisbane for 12 months prior to being ordered to return to Canberra;
Ms Richards’ evidence that she had limited support in Canberra;
The fact that Mr Parsons is in arrears of child support;
The distance between the parties might make it less likely the child would be exposed to further family violence between the parties.
The Full Court found that the judgment was "plainly wrong' and requires intervention. The matter was remitted for further hearing.