The Irish Times
Fathers and mothers seeking access to their children were among cases heard at the Dublin Circuit Family Court yesterday.
In a case before Judge Mary Faherty, a mother appealed an earlier District Court decision to give her ex-partner twice weekly access to their infant daughter. She also appealed a decision not to grant her a safety order.
The mother, who is heavily pregnant, claimed her ex-partner punched her at a friend’s house last year. She told the court her friend, who witnessed him punching her, was too afraid to give evidence about his violence.
She claimed her ex-partner had “psychosis” and her daughter was “too young to be around that”.
She also accused him of smoking cannabis, said she had seen him driving their daughter even though he had been banned for having no insurance and said that when he brought the baby back after access, her nappy was soaking because he hadn’t changed her.
Asked why she took him back after the violence, she said he was a very convincing person. “I’m too soft,” she said.
She also conceded, having denied it at the District Court, that he was the father of her unborn child.
The father denied violence. He said when he was granted access to his daughter it was “brilliant”. He accused the mother of being “a mad drinker”. He said she told him to call to her home for access recently because she was too drunk to bring their child anywhere.
When he arrived at the house she was at the window “cursing and screaming” and she told him to get out of her garden. He called gardaí, he said, and they told him to leave her until she sobered up.
The father said he was on medication for depression after the death of his mother, and had been homeless, but now had a two-bedroom house. He claimed his ex-partner wanted to control everything and was “bitter, horrible and nasty”.
“She does this to all her babies’ fathers,” he said.
Judge Faherty refused the appeal, but ordered the father to take a test for cannabis use and said she’d change access if it came back positive. She also asked the father to give an undertaking not to use or threaten to use violence against his ex-partner. She also said “under no circumstances” was the father to drive the child.
In a case before Judge Carmel Stewart, an unrepresented father applied for full custody of his primary-school-aged son. He told the court he had joint custody, but he was worried about the mother’s mental state.
The judge asked the mother if she suffered from mental illness, as the father suggested. The woman, who was also unrepresented, said she did not.
“She’s been diagnosed with schizophrenia,” the father said.
“I’m on medication,” the mother responded.
The judge asked where the child was now. “With me,” the mother told her.
The judge said she would ask the Child and Family Agency to carry out a report under section 20 of the Childcare Act 1991. The legislation allows a judge to direct the agency to investigate a child’s circumstances.
Judge Stewart adjourned the case for a week and told the mother to seek representation from the Legal Aid Board for what was “a serious application”.
Separately, Judge Stewart took an application from a father to reduce maintenance and review access.
The court heard the couple had separated in 2012 and access had been arranged around the father’s five-week shift pattern, but it hadn’t taken place since February.
‘Father stopped access’
The mother, who was unrepresented, told the judge she hadn’t stopped access, the father “just stopped access himself”.
She said the children hadn’t seen their dad in months, were upset by that and were in counselling. “They find it hard to trust him again,” she said.
Judge Stewart noted the mother was unrepresented and adjourned the case until October to give her an opportunity to access legal aid.
In a separate case, Judge Stewart heard an access order was made last year giving a father access to his two young children every second weekend. While there was no application to change the access order, the court was told the father no longer wanted to “avail of the access”.
Counsel for the mother said she was anxious that the court would “take note of that”. The judge agreed to add it to the file.