Can a case be reopened?

The Court will, in certain circumstances, exercise its discretion to reopen a case where the parties are awaiting a final judgment and new evidence comes to light as was the case with Stone & Clifford [2016] FCCA 2045.

In this case his Honour Judge Wilson reserved his judgment after the trial which involved two children, aged 12 and 9. The main issue in question was in relation to parental responsibility. The mother sought sole parental responsibility whereas the father sought equal shared parental responsibility of the children. There was no discussion at the trial as to whether the children should spend time with the father as it was agreed between the parties that the children would solely spend time with the mother.

Following the trial, Judge Wilson reserved his decision and, at a later date, notified the parties that the decision was to be handed down shortly thereafter. This prompted the father’s solicitors to issue a subpoena to the children’s school, requesting various school records. The father then sought the Court’s permission to reopen the case to present the further evidence contained in the subpoena material.

The father argued that the school performance of the children outlined in the subpoena material was relevant as it demonstrated that the children’s performance at school was not what was suggested by the mother during the trial.

His Honour Judge Wilson granted permission for the case to be reopened. His main reasons for this included:

  • A final judgment had not yet been made in the matter;
  • The school records were significantly different to the evidence given at trial, and painted “a very different picture of the happiness and progress of the children at the school”; and
  • It is necessary for the material to be considered for the purpose of determining the best interests of the children.

If you need legal assistance in an upcoming family law court proceeding or are thinking about commencing court proceedings for your family law matter please contact Shanahan Family Law on (07) 5353 9366.

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