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    The Purpose of Subpoenas

    May 6, 2019 4:51:33 PM


    One of the key steps in family law property settlements is identifying the net asset pool available for distribution between the parties. This can be notoriously difficult if one party is not disclosing their information or is hiding assets. One way around this is through the use of subpoenas, however subpoenas can be a double-edged sword. Many people may be concerned about the use of documents produced under subpoena, but there are protections to avoid misappropriation of these documents.

    What is a Subpoena?

    A subpoena is a legal document issued by a court at the request of a party in the case. A subpoena compels the person receiving it to produce documents or to give evidence at a hearing.

    In family law proceedings, a subpoena can be useful tool to obtain documents to support a party’s case or refute the other party’s case. Examples may include financial statements that one party is refusing to provide or is denying knowledge of, government department or police records that may be of use in a case, or medical records that pertain to a party’s capacity to care for a child.

    The Use of Documents Produced Under Subpoena

    While Section 121 of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) provides a general protection to parties in that it restricts the publication of Court proceedings or any documents relating to Court proceedings, documents produced under subpoena are afforded additional protection. This protection can be found in Rule 13.07A of the Family Law Rules 2004 (Cth) (“the Rules”), which states:

    Use of documents

    A person who inspects or copies a document, in relation to a case, under these Rules or an order:

                         (a)  must use the document for the purpose of the case only; and

                         (b)  must not otherwise disclose the contents of the document, or give a copy of it, to any                                   other person without the court’s permission.

    Parties can therefore be assured that any document that is produced pursuant to a subpoena will remain as part of the proceedings and cannot be used for any other purpose. This means that documents that are produced will not be able to be used for inflammatory purposes outside of the proceedings, or to report a party for any activity that shouldn’t have been undertaken.


    When documents are produced under subpoena, it often prompts concerns by parties to family law proceedings of the effect those documents may have on the proceedings themselves but, further than that, the use of those documents outside of the proceedings. Rule 13.07A of the Rules ensures that documents cannot at all be used for any purpose other than that for which they were produced, namely the family law proceedings.

    This is not legal advice. 

    Photo by Sam Johnson from Pexels

    Karla Elias

    Written by Karla Elias