Jail threat for mother over breach of ex-partner’s child access

Mother claimed daughter aged 15 was assisting with personal care of disabled father

Judge Gerard Furlong at the  Dublin District Family Court said he was formally warning a mother that her liberty was in jeopardy if she frustrated a court order on breaching an access order regarding her child. “I am very serious when I give you that warning: you are sailing close to the wind,” he said. File photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Judge Gerard Furlong at the Dublin District Family Court said he was formally warning a mother that her liberty was in jeopardy if she frustrated a court order on breaching an access order regarding her child. “I am very serious when I give you that warning: you are sailing close to the wind,” he said. File photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

 

A woman has claimed her young daughter was exhausted, stressed and slept for 15 hours after “assisting in the personal care” of her disabled father during access visits to him.

The claim was made when the mother was summonsed to the Dublin District Family Court yesterday for breaching an access order.

She said she was very concerned about the primary school-going child. “Our daughter is helping with his personal care in the bathroom,” the mother told the court, becoming emotional.

But the father denied his daughter had assisted in his care. And the judge told the mother she could go to prison if she breached access again.

Judge Gerard Furlong said he was formally warning her that her liberty was in jeopardy if she frustrated the court order.

“I am very serious when I give you that warning: you are sailing close to the wind,” he said.

The mother appeared in court, unrepresented, following an application by her ex-partner. The estranged couple had been before the courts on other occasions to deal with access.

In February, an order was made by the Circuit Court, with the consent of both parents, allowing the father access to his daughter three days a week and one overnight a month.

Imprisonment

Yesterday, the father, who had legal representation, said since the order was made, he had missed out on some overnight stays and he did not see his daughter at all last week.

The mother supplied a note from her daughter’s GP, which said the child was unwell. She agreed she would not breach access again, pending an appeal she had initiated to overturn the arrangements.

The judge said access should resume as soon as the sick note expired. He struck out the case, but gave the father liberty to return to court if there was another breach.

In a separate case, the judge threatened a father with imprisonment. The father had custody of the estranged couple’s daughter, a toddler, and the mother had not been getting court-ordered overnight access, due twice a week.

The young mother claimed the overnights stopped when she “got with an ex-boyfriend”. She also said she was supposed to have the child at noon, but was not getting her until 4pm as she needed a three-hour nap after creche.

Best interests

The father said when his daughter did go to stay overnight, she wouldn’t settle or sleep. He said the access was “not going to work out”.

The judge told him he could change the arrangements through an appeal, but in the meantime, must adhere to the court order, in the best interests of the child. When the father protested and became agitated, the judge called in a garda and threatened to hold the father in contempt of court.

“You let her speak . . . I’m not getting my point across,” the father said.

“You mean you are not getting your way,” the judge said. He told the father he must provide access as ordered or risk a criminal conviction.

The father said he understood that and left the box, complaining. The judge struck out the case.

In a third breach-of-access case, the judge queried why a father, who had an access order since 2013 that had not been honoured, had only taken legal action recently. The mother claimed she had dressed her young son for access, but he had been too afraid to see his father.

“He beat me in front of the boy,” she said.

The judge asked both parents to apply for legal aid; if they were eligible, he could order a report from an expert to explore the allegations .

“If not, it’s very expensive and may be beyond your means,” he said. He adjourned the case to September.