A MOTHER who initially denied her baby’s father paternity, then refused him visitation, threatening to leave him off the birth cert, failing to turn up in court brought up the spectre of sexual abuse on the child when she finally did appear in court recently.
“The only reason she’s in here is because of the court order. She never voluntarily came in to court to argue, and you expect me to believe her?” asked Judge Desmond Zaidan of the respondent’s solicitor Jackie McManus in the Family Court in Athy on 11 January.
“She’s not only shown contempt for the father, but also for this court,” he said.
The mother had been ordered to give some access to the father in September, and when she refused again, the judge was left with no option but to threaten her with jail if she didn’t appear at the recent sitting.
“In 35 years in the business I’ve never seen a man so devoted. He travels every time, turns up religiously, and leaves empty-handed,” said the judge.
“The mother is still playing ducks and drakes…This has been before me 20 times, and I’ve only ever seen her once,” he added.
“I remember when this woman had to be in hospital for two months, and this man was willing to take his daughter, and yet she went to Tusla and put her in the care of strangers instead,” said the judge.
“If you don’t adhere to my [access] order I will send you to jail and give full custody to the father, and it will be up to Tusla what they’ll do with your other child,” warned the judge.
“Access or custody, take your pick,” he offered.
“No party, not Tusla, lawyers, nobody has raised any evidence to show this man is a threat,” he said.
“Never mind the law, this is morally wrong,” he said after Ms McManus brought the allegation to the public domain for the first time in this case, that the child told her older sister that her father had “touched her private parts under her clothes” after her one overnight visit with him in November.
“We’re awaiting a Tusla report into the credibility on this,” Ms McManus revealed.
“There’s been so many allegations against this man, and none have been substantiated,” said the judge.
“The mother has had the full support of Tusla, unlike this man, and he has a right in law to get to know his daughter,” he added.
“I’ve told Tusla that unless they can show me there are any child protection issues here, and up til now I’ve received absolutely nothing from them on this,” said the judge.
“It’s very easy to make cowardly allegations, but there were no allegations of sexual abuse the last time she was here,” he continued.
“It is very unprofessional of Tusla not to give the court an indication of the report,” conceded Ms McManus.
“Your client has shown the legal process no respect,” said Judge Zaidan.
“I see no reason not to believe this man, but all you have to do is allege child abuse and everyone runs for cover,” he said.
“Until I hear from Tusla I won’t grant overnight access…I’m erring on the side of caution,” Judge Zaiden said.
However, he did re-assert his previous order of access between 10am and 5pm every Saturday and Sunday, and he asked Ms McManus to write to Tusla to expedite this report.