The Role of Third Parties in Family Law Proceedings

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Usually the parties to family law proceedings are a husband and a wife, or former de facto partners, or the parents of a child or children. Spouses and parents are inevitably enmeshed in other family relationships and commercial arrangements which can be relevant to the dispute between them. Other parties (third parties) can therefore become involved in both property and parenting proceedings in a range of ways.

1. Who are the likely third parties?

In property proceedings the third parties may include:
– commercial entities (banks, superannuation funds);
– public authorities (bankruptcy trustee, Commissioner of Taxation, DPP);
– extended family members (including former spouses, de facto partners, adult children); or
– legal entities acting on behalf of extended family members (a family company, a Trustee of a family trust)

In parenting proceedings the third parties are usually extended family members who are seeking Parenting Orders, but sometimes public child protection authorities become involved in cases, particularly in cases where there are allegations that neither of the parents is able to provide appropriate care for the child.

2. How do third parties become involved?

Third parties may be involved at their own election in order to protect their own interests in the outcome, or, they may be joined into proceedings by one of the primary parties to the dispute. On occasions the Court will require that third parties be given notice of proceedings so that they can be afforded an opportunity to participate, particularly where the outcome of the proceedings is likely to affect their rights.

3. Can the Court make Orders affecting third parties?

Yes. However, before doing so the third party must be afforded procedural fairness, including notice and the right to be heard.