The Western Australian

January 25, 2003

Father queries court orders

By Kate Gauntlett
The Western Australian

A MAN has questioned the use of ex parte orders in the WA Family Court after his former partner, convicted of one of the most serious cases of child neglect in NSW, was awarded temporary care of their children.

On January 17, at an ex parte hearing, meaning orders can be made without the other party being present, the court ordered the four children be removed from the man, and live with their mother for 12 days.

Peter, whose real name is not used for legal reasons, said he was extremely concerned about the children's welfare and felt the system had failed him.

He was angry he was not able to present his side of the story when the woman appeared in court.

Peter, who has been caring for the children since the pair split in August, said they were very distressed at being taken from their home and did not understand what was happening.

The woman claimed in a 12-page affidavit in support of an ex parte application for custody that Peter had been violent throughout their seven-year relationship, threatened the children and that she feared for their safety.

But Peter, who is the biological father of the three youngest children, claims he broke up with her amid concerns about her treatment of the children.

On Tuesday, when the children are due to be returned to him after the 12 days, he will apply for custody.

In 1994, the woman, then pregnant with the oldest of the four children, was sentenced to 200 hours community service for child neglect. A NSW magistrate described the case as the most horrendous the court had seen.

The victim, the woman's child to a previous partner, was made a ward of the State.

WA Family Law Practitioners Association vice-president Trevor O'Sullivan said ex parte orders were used in urgent and exceptional circumstances. The court balanced hardship to one party with risk of harm to the other.

"The more drastic the order being sought, the more grave must be the risk to be averted and it's also more important that the respondent be given the earliest possible opportunity to be heard," Mr O'Sullivan said.

2003 West Australian Newspapers Limited