What is an intervention in Family Law proceedings? Generally, an intervention occurs when a party obtains the court’s permission to enter into a lawsuit which has already started between other parties. The interested party may file a complaint stating their basis for a claim in the existing lawsuit.
Part IX, Sections 91 – 92A of the Family Law Act 1975 deals with intervention in Family Law cases and proceedings. This article discusses matters pertaining to intervention in Family Law cases and proceedings.
Section 91: Intervention by the Attorney General
The Attorney General serves as the legal advisor to the Government of a State. He or she represents the State and acts on its behalf in all legal proceedings in which the State is a party.
The Attorney General protects, preserves, observes, and promotes the rules of law and justice. They ensure the system is fair, efficient, and consistent in the level and nature of penalties imposed under the law.
However, where the court proceedings do not involve the State, there are only few circumstances in which the Attorney General may intervene. The Attorney General does not become involved in private legal disputes between individuals, such as family law cases.
However, Section 91 of the Act provides the instances on an Attorney General’s intervention in Family Law:
- any proceedings under the Act where the Court requests the Attorney General to do so,
- matters that affect the public interest,
- a parenting order, other than a child maintenance order,
- orders relating to the welfare of children, and
- divorce orders, where there has been a miscarriage of justice by reason of fraud, perjury, suppression of evidence or any other circumstance.
Section 91 also provides that where the Attorney General intervenes in any proceedings, they shall be a party to the proceedings with all the rights, duties and liabilities of a party.
Hence, under the Family Law Act, an Attorney General may become involved in active or ongoing civil or family law proceedings where there is a matter of public interest. The Attorney General intervenes if the matter is of significant public importance. The outcome of the matter has significant implications for the community, which go beyond the interests and concerns of the parties involved in the proceedings.
Section 91A: Delegation by an Attorney General
Generally, an Attorney General delegates administrative functions of their role to other persons. Under the Law Officers Act 1964, some Law Officers have the powers of the Attorney General. For instance, the Solicitor General acts as second Law Officer. They provide legal advice to the Australian Commonwealth and the Australian Government Solicitor.
For Family Law proceedings, Section 91A provides that an Attorney General can delegate their powers provided under Section 91. Under the said Section, where there is a Family Court of a State, an Attorney General of one State may delegate their powers and functions under Section 91 to the Attorney General of that State.
However, a delegation under Section 91A does not prevent the exercise of a power or the performance of a function by the Attorney General who delegated such exercise of power or function.
In addition, the Attorney General of a State that intervenes in any proceedings in accordance with a delegation under Section 91A can be a party to the proceedings with all the rights, duties and liabilities of a party.
Section 92: Intervention in Family Law Proceedings by Other Persons
Section 92 sets out the general rule on intervention in Family Law: that any person may apply for leave (permission) to intervene in such proceedings. The Court makes an order entitling the person to intervene in the proceedings if the Court finds it appropriate to do so.
In divorce or validity of marriage proceedings, a person in relation to whom an order has been made requiring a parentage testing procedure to be carried out may apply to intervene in the proceedings.
A person to whom the Court has granted permission for intervention will be deemed a party to the proceedings with all the rights, duties and liabilities of a party.
Sections 91B and 92A: Legal Intervention in Child Protection Cases
Sections 91B and 92A specifically address intervention in family law cases such as child protection cases. For instance, when child maltreatment or child abuse cases arise.
Section 91B enables a Family Court to request intervention by a child welfare officer or child protection officer in matters involving the welfare of a child. An officer who agrees to intervene is deemed to be a party to the proceedings. Order for costs cannot be made against the officer.
Section 92A lists persons (see below) entitled to intervention in Family Law cases. This includes child abuse cases or proceedings where someone has alleged that a party has abused a child or poses a threat to the child:
- guardian of the child,
- parent of the child with whom the child lives,
- person with whom the child is to live under a parenting order,
- person who has parental responsibility for the child under a parenting order,
- any other person responsible for the care, welfare or development of the child,
- prescribed child welfare authority, and
- person who is alleged to have abused the child or from whom the child is alleged to be at risk of abuse.
Persons who intervene under Sections 91B and 92A are deemed to be parties to the proceedings. They will have all the rights, duties, and liabilities of a party.
Seeking Legal Advice from Expert Family Lawyers
This article provides situations or instances of intervention in Family Law cases or proceedings. Perhaps you are a concerned party in an ongoing lawsuit and you wish to file for permission to intervene. It is highly advisable to seek legal advice and other legal services regarding such matters.
JB Solicitors has a leading team of experienced lawyers in Family Law that can help with your specific situation. We offer legal services such as legal representation and specific legal advice tailored to your needs. We ensure that we resolve our clients’ legal matters and concerns. Do you have any more queries on intervention in Family Law? Contact us today.