Alan Weiss

Mother with Borderline Personality Disorder Relieved of Parental Responsibility

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Sydney, NSW -- (SBWIRE) -- 10/03/2013 -- In a case decided by the Family Court entitled Drinkwater v. Tyrie ([2013] FamCA 640), a woman who had borderline personality disorder was relieved of parental responsibility over her daughter. Consequently, the five year old daughter who was living with her went to live with her father and the mother was allowed only supervised visits with her daughter at a contact center.

On the witness stand, the father testified that the mother’s actions and behavior was probably due to the hard life she had when she was a child. Her own mother abused drugs and died of a drug overdose. She was placed in foster care and experienced sexual abuse while in foster care. She did well in school, however, and she had completed until Grade 11. She did well in school as she thought it was her only lifeline to escape the misery of her life. She was training to be an Enrolled Nurse at around the time that her husband filed the application for sole parental responsibility over their daughter.

The woman had successive relationships with men and had four children with different men. Her firstborn was taken away from her custody at age five and has since lived with his father. The second child had cerebral palsy and lived with the mother. The third child, the daughter of five, is the subject of these proceedings. There is a fourth child, a baby who, at first, was thought by the father to also be his child but after a paternity test, it was established that he was not. The fourth child of the woman is the child of her third husband’s first cousin. They were married and now separated because of a complaint of domestic violence by the woman, but they have not yet divorced.

The father was observed to have a good relationship with all the three children of the woman even if they were not all biologically his. He is tender and warm and he seems to understand the emotional needs of the children. The children respond to him and were equally warm with him.

The relationship between the mother and the father was tolerable even after their separation. The child spent significant time with her father and enjoyed staying with him. It was only when the father began a relationship with another woman who was thirteen years his junior did the relationship become strained. The mother absolutely detested her former husband’s new partner although the court observed this new partner to be mature for her age and quite motherly with the child. The court was of the opinion that the new partner of the father would be a good parental role model for the child as opposed to the mother.

The father testified that he would not have filed the application had it not been for his worry that the mother’s uncontrollable outbursts of rage over the slightest things would endanger the child. He testified that once, she had called her husband to go to their daughter’s preschool and administer an antipathetic as the school called and she had a fever. The father agreed and had already gone to the school together with his new partner and was giving their daughter the antipathetic when the mother swooped down to the school, snatched the child from her husband and started calling him names in front of the whole school. She threatened to kill her husband if he ever allowed his partner to touch their child again.

The same thing happened when the partner painted the nails of the child when she stayed with the father. The mother went to their house and screamed insults and threats against the partner. When the mother was being interviewed by the court appointed psychologist, the child was with the father in the other room. The woman got upset by the line of questioning of the psychologist and stormed out of the office. She went to where her daughter and the father were playing and yanked the child away from the father, hurling insults against the father, accusing him of poisoning the minds of everyone about her. The father merely pointed out that the child was getting frightened of her and she should calm down. The mother left and came back later. When the psychologist asked her what happened, the mother simply stated that she was upset and now she is not.

Once when the father dropped off the daughter at the mother’s house and the child told her mother of all the fun things she did with her father and his new partner, the mother took all three of the children, put them in the car and pursued her husband. On the freeway, she tailgated his car, tried to overtake him twice and all the while, she was hurling insults at the father and his partner. A

Once when the preschool contacted the mother to remind her of some payment due, the mother went to the father’s place of work and caused a stir there without knowing if the payment was due from the father or from him. The woman hurled insults at the father and called him names in the presence of all his co-workers.

When the mother was on the witness stand, she denied having violent outbursts of uncontrollable rage. She says that people shouldn’t upset her, was all. She was questioned in detail about the affects her behavior had on her child and everyone around her and she exhibited no insight or empathy.

The court accepted the evidence of the family consultant and the court appointed psychologist who all opined that the woman’s symptoms adhered to the characteristics of a person with borderline personality disorder. Her violent rages about the smallest irritations, her risky behavior (speeding, tailgating, hurling insults, yanking the child etc.) are not only characteristics of persons with borderline personality disorder; they also put the child in significant risk of harm.

The woman was ordered to undergo psychiatric therapy for six months. The child will live with the father and will have contact with the mother only with supervision at a contact center.

About the Author: Alan Weiss
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