Two loving grandparents who smacked their grandson as a form of discipline have retained custody of the boy after a court ruled in their favour.
The landmark decision has flared debate once again over how to discipline children.
But Children’s Court magistrate Tracy Sheedy said the couple had done nothing wrong and admonished the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) for trying to remove the nine-year-old in the first place after it was revealed smacking and toy removal were used as forms of discipline.
“Although (the grandparents’) parenting may not have been perfect or adhere strictly to FACS policies there was no cogent evidence that Tyson was at risk of significant harm, or indeed at risk of any harm, from his maternal grandparents,” Sheedy ruled.
In Australia, New South Wales is the only state or territory which details what kind of physical punishment is acceptable.
Although child abuse is illegal, it’s not against the law for parents to smack their child but it has to be “reasonable” and cannot be administered to the head or neck.
Nor can it cause harm for more than a short period.
Sheedy, who is one of the NSW’s top child legal experts, has ordered FACS to pay the grandparents’ legal costs.
She said the couple were doing a “fantastic” job rearing their grandson, whom they’ve had full legal custody of since the boy was just seven months old.
“Tyson” is said to be happy, doing well at school and said he “10 out of 10” wanted to stay with his “Ma and Pa” as well as his dog “Mate” and cat “Tiger”.
The grandparents’ hell began in September 2015 when Tyson’s father applied for custody of his son and FACS threw their support behind the man despite his criminal history, lack of parenting experience and a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome.
Tyson’s grandfather couldn’t believe it when FACS told the couple it was their use of “physical discipline” that was an issue.
FACS then forced Tyson to live with his father early last year, alternating weeks with his grandparents.
Sheedy said FACS did this even though there had been a report from the independent Children’s Court Clinic which stated that the grandparents had supported Tyson’s relationship with both of his parents and “there is no evidence to suggest that Tyson has been abused in any manner while in the grandparents’ long-term care, with Tyson being able to validate his feelings of safety in living with them”.
FACS told the court: “FACS has concerns for the parenting capacity of the grandparents given their use of physical discipline.”
Sheedy accused FACS for “deliberately misleading” the court and ordered that the grandparents have full custody of Tyson until he turns 18.
She said FACS had misled the court by neglecting to say that Tyler’s father also smacked him.