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Patrick H.
Patrick H., Lawyer
Category: Australia Law
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Experience:  Dip Law LPAB - Sydney based lawyer
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My ex-partner has just told my eldest daughter (aged 13) that

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My ex-partner has just told my eldest daughter (aged 13) that he will no longer have her for visits unless I (her mother) pay him $25 per night in advance. She is my adopted daughter and she has up till now always shared visits with her younger sister (aged 9). He has until now treated her as his own. He told her that as I probably won't agree to this he will therefore no longer have anything to do with her. I choose not to be blackmailed, and I think that she is better off in the long run not being influenced by a person who could do this to a child. I am worried about her self-esteem because my daughter is devastated that the man she has called Dad since she was 2 no longer wants anything to do with her. My youngest daughter is upset and confused and can't believe this is only about money. My youngest stays with him 7 nights and with me 7 nights. This now means that the relationship between the girls is effected also. We have no formal agreement in place for shared care and I want to know if I have any legal rights. I feel powerless and need to be informed about possible action I can take. The damage is done to my eldest daughter. My youngest is the most exposed to him right now and I think I should stop her from continuing the shared care and bring it back to a fortnightly weekend visit. Can I do this and how can I enforce it? He will disagree and insist that we go to mediation. He always insists we go to mediation when he can't bully me into agreeing with him. I am not interested in being heard. I am interested in protecting my children from a man who can treat a child this way. Can yo help?
Hello and I'm very sorry to hear about your situation.

Could you explain a little more about your ex's relationship with both your children. If your ex treated your eldest as his child for any period, how long?

What court orders or mediated custodial/access arrangements are currently in place, or is there just an informal arrangement? How long have you been separated and how long have the arrangements been in place?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hello and thank you for responding so quickly. My ex (Robert) and I were never married. He is Grace's biological father (my youngest child, aged 9). Robert and I met when Eden (my adopted daughter, now aged 13) was 2. We became engaged when she was about 3 and from then she has called him Dad. We never got married and split up when I was about 3 months pregnant with Grace. He had no contact with either of the girls till Grace was 15 months old. Since then, we informally arranged visits with both girls from day visits to 1 night then 2 nights (every second weekend). This occurred over about a 2 year period. Eventually, we went to mediation and agreed on increasing the nights of care. Over another 2 years we gradually increased to 3 nights per fortnight and then to 4 nights per fortnight (for both girls). After another year or so, we agreed to increase care to 5 nights, then 6 then 7 per fortnight. Eden did not want to increase from the 4 day weekend every fortnight and her visits have remained so till now. There are no court orders. This is just an informal agreement.

Unfortunately, as your ex is not legally a parent of your second child he has no legal obligation toward her and you cannot legally compel him to see your eldest child.

Whilst the history you describe means that your ex's ultimatum does not reflect favourably upon him as a good father figure, a court cannot force him to take on responsibility for a child that is not his, and nor is it likely to make his custody or access to his own child conditional upon his taking custody or including your eldest child in his activities with his own child.

Nevertheless, a court will likely accept that siblings should spend time together, so if the father wants very considerable time with his own daughter, a court might accept an argument that his access time may need to be somewhat limited to ensure that the sisters spend sufficient time together. I expect though, that such an argument would only apply if the amount of custody/access that the father was seeking was very substantial (e.g. more than half the weekends and holidays).

So in practice, if an argument about custody access times does not seem a viable way to make him alter his position you will be faced with either having to deal with your ex's decision to cease treating your eldest as part of his family, or agreeing to contribute to his expenses when taking your eldest child.

I appreciate this is not the answer you were hoping for, and I definitely sympathise with your predicament, but unfortunately the above does reflect the legal reality of your situation.

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Thank you and good luck.

Patrick H. and other Australia Law Specialists are ready to help you
I note that you have not rated my answer.

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Thanks in advance,

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi Patrick,


thanks so much for answering me so quickly. I appreciate your response, even though I had hoped the law would be more supportive. I couldn't answer earlier because I was out with my daughter. Thanks again, your assistance is appreciated and I would be happy to use your service again if I needed to.


Kind regards


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