Fight for access to daughter Dad currently denied contact

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 05:00 05/02/2014

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A North Taranaki father has called for public support after a Family Court judge ruled he was not to have any contact with his daughter until she comes of age.

The father, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his children, was challenging Judge Patrick Toomey's decision made in the Family Court last year.

In his decision, Judge Toomey determined that any contact the father had with his daughter would be detrimental to her.

The father has the care of his teenage son.

His appeal was heard in a public-excluded hearing in the High Court in New Plymouth yesterday before Justice Ailsa Duffy.

Two people in the public gallery left the court when the order was made.

The media were permitted to remain under strict suppression of any information which might lead to the child's identity.

The father represented himself in court. The girl's mother's counsel was Gordon Wilson and the daughter was represented by Paul Shearer. Counsel assisting the court was Simon Jefferson.

The father said he did not want to be in the position in years to come when his daughter asked "why didn't you fight for me?".

"I'm the best man for the job [for his children] by a country mile."

The judge said the key issue was whether the father should be given some contact with his daughter or, under Judge Toomey's order, no contact with her at all.

The judge said it seemed a realistic approach for the father to have some regulated contact with his daughter.

That contact could be supported by an independent group such as Barnardos, the judge said.

If it went well it could be increased until the father could be having his daughter to stay for weekends.

Justice Duffy found the order that precluded any contact at all was "quite radical". In principle every child should have contact with both parents, she said.

Mr Shearer told the judge that he agreed that Judge Toomey had made the correct decision in denying contact with the father.

Mr Wilson, for the girl's mother, said if contact was allowed to continue "alienation was almost inevitable" and the risk for the girl was "too high".

In making his decision Judge Toomey had decided that the "war" going on between the parents due to the father's extreme and unusual behaviour needed to be brought to an end, Mr Wilson said. At one point the father was jailed for not adhering to court orders.

On Saturday the father placed a public notice in the Taranaki Daily News which read, "Dad in High Court fights Family Court on no contact of daughter for the next 9 years of her life. Support welcomed."

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The high court appeal decision was reserved.

- Taranaki Daily News

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