At just eight years old, she had survived cancer. Then her father dragged her into a court battle in an attempt to force her to take his surname.
An eight-year-old girl fighting cancer was dragged into a long and bitter legal battle by her “emotionally abusive” father as he tried to force her to take his surname.
The Family Court of Australia in Sydney heard the father had twice confronted the distressed girl and abused her mother in hospital as she was being treated in his campaign to force the girl take a hyphenated surname to reflect his last name.
The court heard in late 2018, a month before the father made an application to the court to force her name change, he had arrived at the hospital unannounced and on crutches as his daughter was leaving a chemotherapy session with her mother and stuck a crutch in front of the girl’s wheelchair when they tried to get away from him.
“He … admitted in his oral evidence that his actions caused the wheelchair to tip slightly and the child screamed before the mother was able to steady the wheelchair,” Judge Gary Watts told the court.
“During this incident the father told the child that the mother may go to jail and that the mother is a nut job.
“What is even more concerning is that the father said that his actions were appropriate with the knowledge he had at the time.”
Neither the girl or her parents can be identified because of laws that suppress the identity of anyone involved in a Family Court matter.
The court heard the father was an emotionally abusive man who the girl distrusted. He had been kept at arm’s length from her for her entire life.
In 2018, a court backed parental hearing to arrange the terms of their relationship ruled the father could not see his daughter until 2022.
The father made an application in 2018 to the Family Court when she was six years old to force her to take the hyphenated surname.
His arguments to the court included that he was “devastated that the mother lodged the birth certificate without his name on it” after the girl’s birth. The court heard the certificate has now been amended to say he is the father.
He also argued that it “is important that the child knows she has a father and having a hyphenated surname will remind her of that …”.
The court heard that in the same month he made his application to the court, there was another incident at the hospital where the mother called security when the father tried to sit next to them and began yelling that the mother “belonged in a mental home”.
The court also heard the father had a lengthy history of making abusive posts about the mother on Facebook.
A family consultant told the court that “any benefits the child may have from having a relationship with both parents must be weighed against the risk to her of engaging with her father who she evidently does not trust”.
Judge Watts rejected the father’s application to have his daughter’s name changed in a ruling made this month.
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