Weekly Snapshot Issue: 36 – 12 July 2019

Case we’re reviewing…

The question of relocation of children from one state to another in family law matters is a never particularly easy for Courts because in addition to the usual complexities in deciding with om children should live; the Court must also consider the impact of the move on the lives of the children and the effect from the deterioration of the relationship with the parent that stays behind.

The Court faced such a question in the case of Fallon & Fallon [2010]. In this case, the mother and father had met a point of crisis in their individual lives. The father was coming to terms with childhood sexual abuse, heavily reliant on illicit drugs and had suffered a brain aneurysm. The mother was recovering from drug rehab and struggling as a single mother. When they met, they dove into an intense passionate relationship and married within a few weeks. The relationship soon began to falter but they relied on drug use and a swingers’ lifestyle as a means of distraction from the unresolved issues in their relationship.

The parties were living in Perth where both their extended families were based. In an attempt to refresh their relationship and seek new property investment opportunities, they moved to Melbourne. Initially, both parties were unhappy but it appears that the father eventually somewhat adjusted to life in Melbourne. The mother remained seriously unhappy; to the extent that she made it clear to the Court that she intended to return to Perth whether or not the Court agreed for the children to return back with her.

Essentially, the mother sought that the children (including one child from a previous relationship but that the father treated as his own son and two other young children) move back to Perth and spend significant and substantial time with the father. The father sought that the children live with him and that he would assist in the costs of sending the children back to Perth to spend time with the mother during school holidays and that he’d facilitate for her to spend time with them whenever she returned to Melbourne. Interestingly however, he sought that this arrangement continues for at least one year, after which he’d return to Perth. He also submitted that if the Court ruled that it was in the children’s best interests to move back to Perth; then he would make arrangements and return also.

What was perhaps so sad about this case was the Court’s finding that neither parent was truly invested in the interests of the children. The father submitted that the mother suffered from mental health issues, was selfish, abused drugs and only really wanted to return to Perth to reunite with a school sweetheart she had recently gotten in back in touch with. The father gave evidence that the mother often acted impulsively and without regard to the welfare of the children. She would quickly become restless and bored and therefore could not settle anywhere for long. Furthermore, her insistence on returning to Perth irrespective of the Court’s decision highlighted her selfishness, especially in light of evidence from an expert psychologist and family report writer who noted that the worst thing that could happen to the children was to be separation from either parent.

The mother submitted that the father had emotionally abused her and to get a break from his abuse; she would exaggerate her symptoms and tell doctors that she was feeling suicidal. This meant she would get three days of bed rest with meals and peace and quiet. She alleged that the father was manipulative and provided her with drugs as a means of controlling her. Shortly after their separation; the father took an overdose of prescription medication and left a suicide note. He then contacted the mother online and told her what he had done. She alerted the police and they found him unconscious in his car some 150 metres from the former matrimonial home where the children were asleep. Naturally, she had concerns about his mental health and drug use. She also alleged that the real reason he wanted to remain in Melbourne was not because he cared about the children’s interests but rather as a means of punishing her for separating from him.

The Court accepted both parties’ evaluation of each other and found that they each led narcissistic and superficial lives and their professed concerns for their children were not reflected in their lifestyle.

Ultimately, after carefully considering s60(cc) factors and the experts’ evidence, the Court ruled that the children return to Perth immediately (to enable the eldest child to start school at the beginning of the year to minimise disruption), for the parents to have equal shared parental responsibility and for the parents to have a shared care arrangement of the children once the father sets his affairs in order and returns to Perth. Sadly, the Court noted that it does have fears that the mother could very well decide to move again if her new relationship didn’t blossom or she has a falling out with one of her family relatives. This is a prime example of how the Court’s hands are often times tied in securing children’s welfare. All the Court could really do at any given point of time is to decide in the children’s best interests considering the context and proposals set before it.

Leunig cartoon we’ve enjoyed…

Deep Fake Software apps we’re wary off…

Do some of you remember when once upon a time; people used to think “photographs don’t lie?” We then got on with the times and accepted the prevalence of Photoshop. Whether you support it or not, artificial intelligence has now developed to a point where with just 3.7 seconds of audio; “Deep Voice” – the software can clone your voice to create a new, fake audio clip.

Just a year ago, the Chinese tech giant Baidu needed 30 minutes of audio to clone a voice. With rapid development, it now requires barely a sentence of original audio to be able to accurately clone your voice and record a whole new fake clip. What kind of effect this will have on society is soon to be discovered and we can already foresee this technology being used as part of “revenge porn” and creating issues in terms of the admissibility and credibility of evidence in Court.

To make matters worse, another software called “DeepNude” uses photographs of clothed women (the app only works on photos of women) and creates a new naked image of that same person. The programmer behind the app was inspired by the x-ray sunglasses published in magazines from the 60’s and 70’s and when he discovered AI – he went on a mission to make his inspiration a reality. When confronted with whether the application should have been ever made; the programmer pointed out that the technology for it was already available and the app doesn’t transmit the photo. It only creates it and allows the user to do what they will with the results.

Proverb we’re loving…

A large chair does not make a King

– Sudanese proverb.

Poem we’re contemplating…

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