Weekly Snapshot Issue: 53 – 8 November 2019

Case we are discussing…

Society’s conceptions about gender roles have certain shifted in the past few decades and the 1995 Family Court case of McMillan and Jackson certainly serves as good precedent that preconceived notions of a trial judge about the role which males and females ought to adopt in society should not affect the determination of a trial judge.

The case involved a child custody battle between a young and unemployed father and the maternal great grandmother. During a 3-year de facto relationship, the mother and father lived a somewhat nomadic lifestyle and moved very often from one caravan park to another. The child shortly after being born spent relatively considerable time with the maternal great grandmother.

Following separation; the father took his 2-year-old son to live with him. The mother initiated proceedings in the Dubbo Local Court and was granted access to the child; by consent. Shortly thereafter; the maternal great grandmother intervened and sought sole custody and the mother dropped her application and supported her grandmother in the proceedings.

Following an Interim Hearing at the Dubbo Local Court – orders were made for the child to remain living with the father and to spend time with the maternal great grandmother.

The maternal great grandmother then sought to transfer the proceedings to the Parramatta Family Court where following a Hearing; the Judge ordered that the child live with the maternal great grandmother and for the father be allowed to spend time with the child each alternate weekend.

The father filed for an Appeal and sought that the orders of the trial judge be set aside and for the case to be reheard.

At the Appeal, the full court of the Family Court noted that the trial judge had placed significant weight upon the fact that the father was unemployed and had not proposed to return to the workforce until the child was of school age; at which point his mother (the paternal grandmother) would leave her employment to look after the grandson while the father resumed work. This was a conscious decision the part of the father who had work readily available to him in the security industry but he was choosing to be unemployed and care for his son. The father in his proposal was agreeable for the maternal great grandmother to have access to the child; but only via the mother while she was spending time with her son.

The trial judge also found that the father had no relevant qualifications and unless he agreed to take on the work presently available to him; he would effectively be entrenching himself and his child in welfare dependency and this would have implications for the child’s long term living standards and cast a shadow upon the father’s capacity to act as a role model for his son. He went on to point out that the child’s respect for his father would be immeasurably heightened if he saw his father being able to support himself from his own exertions.

Despite the maternal great grandmothers age (who admittedly was not very old; aged 60); the trial judge found her to be a woman with a heart of gold and who “wore the pants” in the family and “projected an aura of robust good health”.

The full court of the Family Court found that the trial judges’ opinions of the fathers’ decision to remain home to look after his son demonstrated a clear gender bias which resulted in the trial judge failing to assess the father’s proposals on their merits.

The full Court in allowing the appeal noted that “whilst a trial judge does not and is not expected to leave his or her common sense and worldly experience outside the door of the court; a Judge must leave outside the court any pre-conceived notions which he or she may entertain, as a private individual, about the roles which males and females out to adopt in society”. 

Word of the week…

  Eunoia

[yoo-noy-uh] – Ancient Greek

(n.) a pure and well-balanced mind; a good spirit; beautiful thinking.

Performance tip that stuck with us…

When faced with an angst inducing task; like having to conduct a presentation or having a difficult conversation – try not to focus on yourself. It sounds stupidly simple; but shift your thinking away from how you sound/look/how you’re being perceived and instead remind yourself that you have a job to do and focus on  doing the job.

Often times, progress happens when these minute shifts take place in the way we think. We heard this tip from Karen Gibson – the conductor who led the choir at the wedding of Prince Harry & Megan Markle and it really stuck with us!

Interesting fact…

T here are approximately 7.6 billion people at the moment but they in fact represent only 0.01% of all living things on planet Earth. A recent comprehensive study of every class of living creatures overturned some long-held assumptions. For example; the vast majority of life is land based (as opposed to being in the oceans). An eight of the world’s mass is in fact bacteria buried deep below the land surface.

Sadly, the study found that despite our minute mass on Earth; the human footprint has caused grossly disproportionate damage in terms of culling wild animals and forests.

Masters of Success…

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