- Federal Magistrates Court rules mum and dad titles must be used correctly
- By AINSLEY PAVEY
- Contributed by: Admin ( 9 articles in 2012 )
SIBLINGS caught up in their warring parents' "poisonous" split have been ordered by a court to stop calling their step parents "mum" and "dad".
The extraordinary ruling in the Federal Magistrates Court permits the two boys, aged five and six, to use the terms as a prefix only to their step parents' given names.
Federal Magistrate David Halligan said: "This is necessary to attempt to protect and recognise the unique positions of the mother and father, positions that cannot be filled by the step parents."
Mr Halligan declared the orders were in the "best interests" of the boys.
The decision to enforce the naming order follows a finding by Mr Halligan of a "significant deficit in the parenting capacity of both parents".
"The conduct of the mother and (stepfather) in facilitating (the eldest son's) use of the (stepfather's surname at school) and calling him Dad and the father by his given name - and the father's conduct in attempting to have (the eldest son) call (the stepmother) Mum - indicate that orders are necessary," Mr Halligan said.
He said those orders were to "ensure both children are known by their birth names at all times, and to regulate the terms by which the children address their parents and step parents".
Under the orders, the mother will have sole parenting rights but is restrained from "allowing either child to be known or referred to by any other name other than his birth name".
She won the right to relocate the boys to her home in outback Queensland. The boys will see their father, who lives interstate, during school holidays.
Mr Halligan said: "I accept that the father has told the children to call (the stepmother) mum, and that when one considers his criticisms of the mother for allowing the children to call (the stepfather) dad, he is either being hypocritical, or worse, using the children as weapons in the conflict with the mother in a tit for tat response to the children calling (the stepfather) dad.
"I am satisfied it is more likely than not to be the latter."
Mr Halligan went on: "
(T)here is a risk of psychological harm to these children. It arises from both parents' exposure of the children to their poisonous attitude towards each other, and the denigration by both parents of the other directly to - and in the presence and hearing of - the children."
According to the judgment, the eldest son had told a court-appointed psychologist he felt "weird" about calling his stepmother "mum". The youngest boy, meanwhile, had referred to his own dad by his first name and his stepfather as "dad".