A mother who was made subject of a vexatious proceedings order in 2014, preventing her from initiating further proceedings in the family court without seeking leave (permission) of the court to do so, has since attempted at least 15 times to seek leave to make various appeals in her matter. All have failed, including her most recent application for leave to appeal, which was recently heard in the family courts under the pseudonym Spencer & Spencer.
But despite her most recent failure, it’s interesting because even if someone is prevented from bringing proceedings due to being declared a vexatious litigant, there doesn’t seem to be any way of stopping them from filing endless applications seeking leave to bring proceedings. Theoretically, a vexatious litigant could continue to—vexatiously–file applications seeking leave to bring proceedings until their funds run out.
The mother in this case was found to have abused her child emotionally and psychologically by causing the child to falsely believe he had been sexually abused by his father, allegedly during supervised visits at a contact centre. The child was ultimately ordered to live with the father and spend no time with the mother. She may only write letters to the child, who is now 12 years old.
The case has a really complex and lengthy litigation history which would be difficult to summarise here, but it’s worth mentioning that the courts have found the mother’s allegations to be “constructs designed to destroy the possibility of the child having a relationship with the father”. To date, the father has spent almost a million dollars in the litigation with the mother, while she herself has spent $300,000.
Even worse is the effect on the child, who has been made to believe this abuse has occurred. The courts’ decision that the child should live with the father was made to “give [the child] the opportunity to reattach to reality rather than a life shrouded in false belief with the consequences that may have for his mental health in the future and the potential to irrevocably harm him, or at least psychologically scar him and potentially impede his ability to form normal relationships”.
What are vexatious proceedings orders?
Vexatious proceedings are proceedings which are found to be an abuse of the process of a court, instituted to harass or annoy or cause delays or detriment to other parties. They can be proceedings instituted without reasonable grounds or to achieve a wrongful purpose, and a litigant can be found to be vexatious regardless of their subjective intention or motive (in other words, their own justification to themselves as to why they are instituting proceedings).
Once a vexatious proceedings order has been made, a potential litigant has to apply to the court for leave to institute new proceedings each time they wish to do so, rather than being able to simply file an Application.
In this case, after the vexatious proceedings order was made in 2014, the mother has continued to file a “plethora of applications to revisit parenting orders”. The judgment explains:
A total of 15 applications and one Response made by the mother seeking a variation or reopening of the final parenting orders that were dealt with prior to the hearing before the primary judge. All 16 attempts were dismissed…There were a further six applications which came before the primary judge on 1 August 2018; however, the mother agreed that all but two should be dismissed…
She has sought leave to file applications in an “attempt to use the court proceedings to attack various third parties who were not supportive of her world view”, including against the Independent Children’s Lawyer, the child contact centre, doctors, psychologists and professional bodies, legal counsel and even members of her own family including her father.
You can read this case in full here.
If you need help with a family law matter, please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.
Please note our blogs do not constitute legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Family Law