What are Subpoenas in Family Law Matters?

Subpoenas in Family Law Matters

It is common in family law proceedings for Subpoenas to be issued to third parties seeking information that is relevant to the proceedings. Such information is considered to be independent and can be very useful in proving or substantiating a parties claim.

In the case of property settlements, subpoenas may be required to be issued to a bank or accountant for documents relevant to the dispute, perhaps if it is suspected that a party is hiding an asset or not disclosing their true financial position or all financial documents that are required.

In parenting matters, subpoenas for school records and medical records are common as independent evidence from third parties (such as school staff or General Practitioners) is often held in high regard by the Court.

There are 3 types of subpoenas, being:

1. Subpoena for the production of documents (which is the most common subpoena);
2. Subpoena for a person to attend Court for the purpose of providing oral evidence; and
3. Subpoenas for the production of documents and requiring a person to attend Court to provide oral evidence.

Subpoenas are filed with the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (at a cost of $55) and there are strict requirements for the service of filed subpoenas on all parties involved in the proceedings as well as the subpoenaed third party (including proper methods of service, the payment of conduct money etc).

So, when should a Subpoena be issued?
Subpoenas can be useful in circumstances where a party has failed to disclose or there are real concerns for a child’s safety, welfare and development. Going direct to the source document can assist in substantiating what would otherwise be an unsubstantiated claim which has come down to a “he said she said” argument.

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