A member asked over 8 years ago

A missing mother

9 weeks ago I took my 6yo daughter into my full time care out of concern for her well being due to her mothers erratic behaviour, which is too extensive to list here. I told her to contact my lawyer so that the issue could be discussed and resolved.  The mothers response was to take off to an unknown location and in 9 weeks has not contacted myself or my daughter. I attempted FDR but the mother could not be contacted so it was unsuccessful. She still maintains some phone contact with her parents, however they also don't know where she is.

At what points do our rights no longer become equal as it is impossible to make shared decisions when she can not even be contacted?

Daniel Myers
Family Lawyer at Schetzer Papaleo

Dear member,

I would like to know if there are any current orders in place. If so, the terms of those orders might be relevant to the exercise of parental responsibility including decisions about your daughter.

If there are no such court orders, given that your daughter is already living with and the mother is genuinely out of contact, then in the short-term you may not need to do anything formal except continue to make all efforts to consult her about "major long-term" issues (and ensure you keep a close written record of your attempts). This is because, subject to a court order, each of the parents of a child who is not 18 has parental responsibility for the child.

If the mother continues to be MIA, it may be appropriate to apply for a court order confirming that you have formal "sole parental responsibility" for your daughter. There are pros and cons of this. For example, if you obtain the formality of an order it will make it easier in practice when attending to things such as passport applications or enrollment at school. However the court process itself may not be in your overall interests and could prompt the mother (if and when she is served with the documents) into seeking orders that are less favourable to you.

To answer your specific question: "At what points do our rights no longer become equal as it is impossible to make shared decisions when she can not even be contacted?" again, I would need to know what the current status of parental responsibility actually is, but in general terms there is no fixed period and the court considers this question it will consider all circumstances relevant to the child's best interests including the history of parenting arrangements and both yours and the mother's current circumstances.

If you need any further assistance I'd be happy to make an appointment with you in my office.

Answered over 8 years ago   Legal disclaimer

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