The relevance of "Hate"

The Relevance of "Hate" in Parenting Matters before the Family Court

I attended the National Family Law Conference in Melbourne in mid-October 2016, together with over 1,100 family law practitioners, Judges and other professionals involved in the family law area, such as psychologists and mental health workers.  One topic of a seminar at the conference piqued my interest.  It involved a broad and lively discussion around the issue of when one or both parents in fact “hate” each other and the impact of such “hate” on parenting order negotiations and Court proceedings.  The word “hate” is very rarely used in Family Court proceedings.  The preferred phrase is “high conflict” which is designed to encompass matters before the Court involving an extremely intense and sometimes dangerous set of circumstances where one or both parties have an intense dislike for the other, for whatever reason, which then impacts on the parenting of their children.  The discussion was enlightening because the presenters in fact were promoting reality where circumstances sometimes arise where the dispute between parents is so bitter that in truth one or both of them hate each other.  The psychologist and other presenters were very clear in that they considered there are two types of “hate”.  The first such type is known as reactive hate and covers circumstances where, for example, one parent hates another because of what he or she did to that other parent (often being violent towards them or being unfaithful to them).  This reactive hate is vastly different from the second category of hate known as pathological hate.  Pathological hate is so deep seated that it does not matter what the outcome of the proceedings, provided the person who is hated, is demoralised and completely capitulates, or is beaten.

 The reason these topics were of such relevance and of such interest is because as family lawyers we come across these circumstances on a regular basis and the presenters were clear as to how family law practitioners should approach different clients with different sets of circumstances, exhibiting elements of either or both categories of hate.

Reactive hate is easier to identify and address and ultimately treat, because it tends to be more rational and less permanent.  In contrast, pathological hate requires significant professional intervention well beyond the expertise of a family lawyer and, in some cases, can lead a Court to make orders refusing that parent with the pathological hate for the other parent from spending any time whatsoever with the children of the marriage or relationship.

The National Family Law Conference had a number of incredibly interesting and insightful sessions across a broad range of topics relevant to family law in 2016 and beyond.

Ben Farmer

5 December 2016