Counsellors, psychologists & doctors

FAMILY LAW ESSENTIALS FOR COUNSELLORS, PSYCHOLOGISTS, AND DOCTORS

We receive many enquiries from counsellors, psychologists and doctors about the family law problems of their patients.

We summarise below the more common family law enquiries from health care professionals.

  • I have been subpoenaed to produce documents – What do I do?

A subpoena is a court order requiring that the recipient produce documents to the court. Copies may be produced – and we recommend that you do so to avoid originals being lost. The subpoena will name a time and place for the production of documents. Do not produce them to the solicitor issuing the subpoena. You are not obliged to produce the documents to court unless you have received reasonable conduct money to cover costs of collating, copying, and transporting the documents to the court.

For further information on your rights and obligations pursuant to subpoenas, contact us to obtain a copy of a detailed seminar paper which we have previously produced.

  • Are my client’s files privileged?

You cannot claim privilege over your patients’ client files merely because they are your patient, or because there is some form of confidentiality agreement between you. You may be entitled to object to producing the documents to court if it exposes you to self incrimination or compliance is onerous or irrelevant. You may have confidentiality under specific legislation such as s19N of the Family Law Act. Your patient may have grounds to object to you complying with the subpoena.

  • What are my obligations under the Mandatory Reporting Legislation?

In New South Wales, Mandatory Reporters are required to report to DOCS the name of a child with whom the reporter has reasonable grants to suspect is at risk of harm. A Mandatory Reporter is a person who works in healthcare, welfare, education, children’s services, residential services, or law enforcement wholly or partly with children. A failure to make a report can expose the Reporter to a financial penalty. Mandatory Reporters are protected from liability for defamation, liability for malicious prosecution or conspiracy, or for breaching professional etiquette, ethics, or standards. The identity of a Mandatory Reporter must not be disclosed.

For further information on your rights and obligations under the Mandatory Reporting Legislation, please contact us for a recent seminar paper.

  • I have made a mandatory report – but DOCS has not done anything. What further can be done?

DOCS only become involved in cases where there are serious concerns for children. Other alternatives are for one or both parents to become involved in court proceedings to seek parenting orders clarifying their respective rights or obligations. A non-parent (such as a relative or other person involved in their case) can also make applications for parenting orders. For further information in respect of parenting orders under the Family Law Act, see our website for separating parents.

  • My client has expressed concerns about their physical safety as a result of their separation. Will an AVO protect them?

The making of an AVO to protect an individual is not a criminal matter. When the defendant however breaches the AVO (whether the breaching action amounts to a criminal act in itself or not) is a criminal act. The police will be obliged to arrest and charge the defendant with the alleged breach of the AVO.

The protection given by an AVO is therefore to make an otherwise legal action (which is contacting or approaching the person that has protection) a criminal offence and thus necessitate the prompt intervention of the police. Spouses needing AVOs commonly will also need to consider family law issues such as parenting arrangements and financial and property settlements. Resolution of these issues can minimise the need for interaction between the spouses and therefore reduce the risks of domestic violence.

Healthcare professionals are often the first source of help for separating spouses.

Here are some of the more common problems facing such professionals.

 

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