FCFCOA Information Notice: Subpoenas and the Department of Fairness Families and Housing Victoria

(IN-DFFH)

1. Introduction

1.1 This information notice outlines the information sharing protocols between the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (the Court) and the Department of Fairness, Families and Housing, Victoria (DFFH), which provide an important mechanism for gathering evidence in parenting proceedings.

1.2 This information notice replaces Subpoenas and the Department of Health and Human Services Victoria (issued 12 October 2018).

1.3 The agreement between the Court and DFFH facilitates the exchange of timely and relevant information about child protection matters when families and children are, or have, been involved in family law proceedings, and where there are concerns about children at risk of abuse and/or family violence.

2. Information sharing protocol

2.1 DFFH may provide the following documents to the Court in family law parenting proceedings:

  1. a written response to the Notice of Child Abuse, Family Violence and Risk filed in the proceedings, which outlines DFFH's involvement with the family; and
  2. upon an order being made by the presiding judicial officer, a written report pursuant to section 69ZW of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (Family Law Act), providing information about DFFH's involvement with the family and the outcome of any investigation.

2.2 Upon receipt of the documents listed above, orders are made by the presiding judicial officer to release the information for inspection only (if a party or parties are unrepresented), or for inspection and photocopying (if the parties have legal representatives).

3. Intervention by DFFH

3.1 The Court may order that DFFH intervene in the family law proceedings pursuant to section 91B of the Family Law Act.

3.2 The court recognises that intervention by DFFH in proceedings is to be assessed by the presiding judicial officer on a case-by-case basis, after receiving the documents listed in Part 2 above.

4. Subpoenas

4.1 Noting that considerable time and work is required by DFFH to respond to subpoena, a request to issue a subpoena against DFFH will be granted only with leave of the Court.

4.2 Such leave will be granted only where there is a legitimate forensic purpose in seeking more information.

4.3 Permission is to be sought by:

  1. written request, setting out:
    1. documents and information already received from DFFH;
    2. the precise documents sought under subpoena;
    3. the relevance of the documents sought; and
    4. a copy of the subpoena; or
  2. oral application in open court, at which time the matters set out in (a) above are to be addressed.

4.4 Leave will generally not be granted for the issue of a subpoena:

  1. seeking production of DFFH's entire file; or
  2. for documents that may be obtained pursuant to section 69ZW of the Family Law Act.

4.5 If a DFFH file is produced to the Court in response to a subpoena, the file will redact all references to the notifier.

 

The Honourable Justice William Alstergren
Chief Justice (Division 1) | Chief Judge (Division 2)
Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia
Re-issued: 1 September 2021