Elise* came into the Gold Coast Community Legal Centre while she was pregnant with her first child. The father of the child, David*, was harassing Elise to the point where the pregnancy was being put at risk. He didn’t want Elise to keep the child and was pushing Elise to abort the pregnancy by constantly text-messaging her, going to her home, and threatening to harm her and the unborn child. The Centre advised Elise to seek help from the Queensland Police Service. A Domestic Violence Order (“DVO”) was put in place with full no contact conditions (and appropriate family law exceptions) that named her and the unborn child as protected persons.
Despite this, David breached the DVO multiple times. His behaviour, fuelled by drug and alcohol abuse, continued to escalate. Elise went into labour prematurely while David was taken into custody for breaching his DVO. After the child was born, Elise was worried about what David would do in the future should the violence continue and escalate even further. David also refused to acknowledge that the child was biologically his and therefore refused to pay child support which left Elise financially disadvantaged.
Mediation was deemed inappropriate in the circumstances and David continued to harass and threaten Elise even while he was out on bail. Even though he refused several times, David eventually agreed to do a DNA test at an accredited laboratory if Elise paid for the testing. The DNA test confirmed that David was the father of the child, but this was not enough for the Child Support Agency.
The Centre assisted Elise to make an application to the Federal Circuit Court of Australia for a declaration of parentage and orders for sole parental responsibility, for the child to live with her but have supervised time with David. The parenting Orders were quite detailed and allowed David to graduate up to unsupervised time after a period of supervised time. David also had to provide clean drug test results to Elsie, complete anger management counselling sessions, Centacare’s Men’s Behavioural Change Program and attend parenting courses.
David chose not to attend the first Federal Circuit Court date and Orders were made in his absence on a final basis that day. This included a declaration that David was the father of the child and could now be assessed for child support through the Child Support Agency. Following the making of the Orders, Elise offered David supervised time with his child in accordance with the Final Orders, but he has not made any contact with her for two months.
* Not their real names