December 07, 2008 12:00am
“STEVE” has been barred from seeing his daughter for seven years.
He has never harmed his only child or her mother. He has never threatened them and a court has accepted he is of good character.
But last week, after a tortuous 10-year journey through four courts, more than 20 hearings, 12 psychologists and six lawyers, he was told he could not see his daughter until she came of age.
Steve, whose real name cannot be revealed for legal reasons, has gone through more than 20 intrusive psychological examinations, while daughter “Molly” has endured seven.
He says he has spent more than $100,000 in 10 years.
His wife twice raised sexual-abuse allegations, proven false after months of investigation.
But the court accepted she would “shut down” emotionally if Steve was allowed to see his daughter and that her distress would affect her parenting skills.
It was deemed in Molly’s best interests that she not see her father until she turned 18.
Now Steve, a successful small businessman from Melbourne’s southern suburbs, faces being alienated from his daughter forever.
“It just rips your heart out. If you can’t forge a relationship with your child in their formative years, there’s a real risk that you never have a good relationship,” he said yesterday.
“There was no violence, threats, abuse, harassment or intimidation.
“I was shocked when (the judge) announced that the order would apply to both my ex-wife and our daughter and would last for 10 years.
“I was able to persuade her that this would criminalise me if my daughter tried to contact me when she grew up.
“But I bucked the system and paid the price. If you argue with the court’s finding, they label you as unco-operative.”
Steve said while everyone wanted women and children protected from violence, intervention orders should not be used as weapons in custody battles.
“These orders are being used to persecute men and children by litigants who know courts will always err on the side of caution and remove fathers without there being any violence at all,” he said.
Steve said he feared his daughter had been scarred by the court’s insistence on psychological examinations.
This year he approached his ex-wife’s new partner to see if there was any chance of mediation that would allow him to see Molly.
His wife instantly launched legal action alleging he breached an intervention order that prevented him approaching her or Molly.
“The court decided that my – very polite – conversation with my ex’s partner represented harassment. It’s just unbelievable,” Steve said.
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