August 13, 2008
A DYING man has been told by the Family Court that he may leave a "time capsule", consisting of a letter and DVD, for the 11-year-old daughter he has not seen for five years. The main purpose is to exonerate the girl for her father's death.
The girl has consistently expressed a wish that "her father was dead", the court was told. The man, who has terminal liver cancer, has as little as six to 12 months to live.
The court's family consultant has expressed concern for the girl's emotional health in light of the vehement remarks she has made about her father over years.
The girl's lawyer, Duncan Holmes, said: "While wishing your father dead might be a typical childish remark, in this case the little girl's wish is going to come true, quite quickly. In the circumstances, you have to do what you can."
The girl was three when her parents separated in 2000. The trial judge, Justice Le Poer Trench, said the mother was "permeated with hatred for the father" and was unwilling to foster the relationship between father and daughter.
In 2002, the court ordered that the father be allowed regular phone contact, and be able to send letters and gifts. The parents were ordered to attend counselling.
The girl last saw her father in December 2003. He applied in 2006 to see her every second weekend and half the school holidays. But, according to Mr Holmes, the case had "meandered through the court for 2½ years until it clicked into gear after his diagnosis of inoperable liver cancer".
Mr Holmes said the child had expressed hatred of her father from a young age. Yet the court records showed there was no abuse or serious violence.
Mr Holmes said the mother had not believed her ex-husband was dying, and it had been necessary to bring his doctor to court to give his diagnosis.
The court has said the father should provide the letter and DVD to Mr Holmes, who would check it to ensure it was suitable, containing, for example, nothing that disparaged the mother. The time capsule will be lodged with the court and the girl will be told how to access it.
Mr Holmes said the court had also made orders to attempt to set up a last meeting, but he held little hope it would proceed. He said it was rare for a court to go to such lengths to allow a father "to convey his love to his daughter".