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Psychotherapy Condition Leads to Contact Order Appeal

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Wherever possible, the courts will do what they can to support contact between parents and children but, in some instances, that contact comes with conditions attached.

The nature of such conditions was the cause of contention in recent appeal proceedings brought by the father of two young boys. The man appealed against a High Court order that allowed for contact periods with his children, which would progress from supervised to unsupervised and increase in length but were dependent upon him engaging in psychotherapy. This condition had been imposed following a lengthy and bitterly fought fact-finding hearing in relation to allegations against the man made by the boys’ mother.

The Court made serious and extensive findings of abusive behaviour and the man was assessed to have a flaw in his character that meant he posed a risk to his children until the issue was addressed. In addition to the fact-finding hearing, an independent psychiatrist was instructed to make an evaluation of the father, to help inform welfare proceedings. Her opinion was that he had narcissistic personality traits and, if left untreated, this could pose an ongoing risk to the children if unsupervised contact took place. She recommended psychotherapy two to three times a week over two years.

In his appeal the man challenged the Court’s risk evaluation and the weight it had placed on the court-appointed psychiatrist’s evidence. On considering the evidence, the Court of Appeal found that the risk evaluation had been carried out properly and that the High Court had not been blinded by labels but had focused on the behaviour or traits of the father which had undoubtedly led to the emotional abuse of the mother and children. The appeal was dismissed.