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Personal Records in Parenting Proceedings

Lara Tom
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08 May 2020

Can my ex obtain my personal records in parenting proceedings?

When a party to court proceedings wants to obtain information about another person, they may be able to issue a subpoena requiring that information to be provided to the court.

What kind of information can be subpoenaed?

Subpoenas can provide for information about any person relevant to the proceedings to be made available, such as:-

  • children;
  • the parents;
  • new partners; and
  • grandparents.

In the context of parenting proceedings, subpoenas are commonly issued to the following places:-

  1. the police - to obtain information about criminal histories and domestic violence;
  2. the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women - to obtain information about notifications relating to a child the subject of the proceedings;
  3. hospitals and GPs - to obtain information about mental health treatment and injuries to the children;
  4. schools - to obtain information about a child's academic performance and behaviour.

There are limits to the scope of information that can be requested, and it is important that the subpoena requests only information which would be relevant to the proceedings.

Can I inspect the subpoenaed documents?

Once the documents have been sent to the court, the party who requested them can file a Notice of Request to inspect the subpoenaed documents.  Once leave to inspect has been granted, the parties to the proceedings, or their solicitors, can attend the court house to inspect the subpoenaed documents.  If a Family Report Writer has been appointed, they will generally be permitted to inspect the documents as well.

Generally you will not be permitted to make copies of the documents or remove them from the court house.  In some cases the Court may grant leave for the parties' solicitors to copy the documents, however the documents must not be provided to anyone else and can only be used in accordance with the Court's directions.

Can I object to the subpoenaed documents being provided?

There may be circumstances where a party to the proceedings, or the third party receiving the subpoena, wishes to object to the information being provided.  Situations where it may be appropriate to object include:-

  1. the disclosure of the information will place a party to the proceedings or a child at risk of harm - this may be particularly relevant where there has been child abuse or domestic violence;
  2. the documents requested are not relevant to the proceedings - the information should be used to prove or disprove an issue in dispute;
  3. the scope of the information requested is too broad - by way of example, recent counselling records may be relevant while historical records from a person's childhood are not.

If a party wishes to object to the subpoenaed documents being provided, they must do so in writing and the Court will then decide whether to allow access to the information.

If you would like more information, or assistance in filing or objecting to a subpoena, contact the Family Law team today on (07) 4963 2000 or via on our online contact form below.