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How to avoid conflict of interest in FMC?

Hi, I have recently started a topic on this site in a general forum to do with not being able to afford private school fees. The link to the thread is as follows.

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In very brief summary I have applied to the FMC to review a decision of the SSAT and as I can't afford legal representation I will be self represented.

I live near Windsor but I decided to lodge the court application in Newcastle. There are 2 main reasons why I did that. The first is that I do not feel confident I will get a fair hearing at the Parramatta FMC and I don't want the matter heard at the Sydney FMC. My ex (one of the respondent's) has a cousin that is a FM at Parramatta and they are very good friends. At the time I lodged the appeal I was fairly sure that the FM concerned was working at Parramatta court but have since been told that she recently moved to the Sydney court. The other reason I didn't want to lodge at the Sydney FM court is that my son works in the Sydney Family Court (in an admin role for one of the magistrates that deals with divorce) and I really don't want him to be exposed to his parents coming and going from the court.

I believe that my ex's cousin would not be able to hear our case but I don't have any confidence in the absolute sanctity of the court process. And after hearing a number of the screw-ups that my son has seen in the Family Court since working there I have even less faith in the fact that I will get a decision that has not been influenced in some way by my ex's cousin. Its a bit far fetched to expect that the magistrates don't speak to one another in the course of their normal working day.

The Newcastle court accepted the application from me after I attached a letter telling them why I lodged away from my closest court(s). However, they advised that I may be subject to costs for the other side as a consequence of this.

What I would like to know is this:

1> How can I argue that the case should remain at Newcastle because I have been told that my ex will most likely request the case be transferred back to Sydney where she lives.
2> How should I argue that my reasons for lodging at Newcastle were justified and hopefully avoid costs

And in a general question, how do I get access to the powerpoint presentation about preparing for self representation?

 Thanks for any advice

Last edit: by Steve

Hi Steve
The word that lingers with me to use in your arguing to remain at Newcastle is "temptation". That it could be a tempting thing for the a relative to access the file unnecessarily or unconciously influence. Thus imposing an unwarranted duty of care on the administration at Sydney Registry.
The advice you have is reasonably based. It sounds reasonable in the situation.
Your arguments in respect of Parramatta are a little less convincing. Exploiting the fact that the relative has, or, maybe still, at Paramatta. You do wish to impose restraints on that person so by keeping the matter in Newcastle is warranted.
It is not  good form in my mind to argue bias in the court any time without definitive proof. Whenever those arguments arerun there are possibly tags of a "conspirationalist" in the chamber. Arguing without resorting to that strategy could be more fruitful. Raising the points in a more oblique form wherein the same points are made yet framed in a more surruptitiuos cloak.
By "respectfully" posing the question as to how that person of concern will not be able to taint the case through having contact with persons of that court, or the other, raises an issue that argument can be evolved around.
Your intial need is to win the first round, using a simple strategy of not showing your aguments until any motion for relocation is sought. But it is common for that to be on the table at every hearing unless the other side has money to waste. There are no guarantees in what you are seeking.
Magistrates aren't meant to talk about cases when they are aware of conflicts. But it is not unreasonable to anticipate that the probability exists and in the interst of justice and fairness the aleviation of internal tensions within a specific registry warrants your keeping the case in a neutral location. The expeditious progress of the matter is in the interests of all, especially a court short on resources.

The argument in respect of costs is that should further court time be require to deal with any matters arising from the location of the hearing would add a greater cost to the parties. Using that argument is not absolutely suggested. There are inherent deficiencies in all arguments.

Hope those comments give you something to work with?

What is done for you, let it be done, what you must do, be sure you do it, as the wise person does today that what the fool will do in three days - Buddha
Thanks for the suggestions. I am a bit out of my depth here (as almost any self representing litigant is likely to be) so I need to refine my approach.

I assume that at the first hearing date my ex's solicitor will say something like:

Magistrate, we would respectfully request that the matter be transferred to the Sydney FM court which is closer to where my client (any myself) reside and we would ask the court to find in the matter of costs against the Applicant for wasting the courts time by lodging at a location that was likely to cause inconvenience and additional costs to my client

The magistrate will then turn to me and say:

Mr XX could you please explain to the court why you lodged this application at Newcastle when you reside closer to the Parramatta court or indeed with the Sydney court where there are greater court resources to deal with this matter

My response (and this is where I need help) might be as follows:

Magistrate, I submitted a covering letter with my application to the court administration in which I explained that there were 2 reasons why I did not wish to lodge the application at either the Sydney FMC or the Parramatta FMC.

Firstly I would like to draw you attention to the fact that the respondent (Mrs XX) is closely related to one of the FMs in Sydney and it was my understanding at the time I lodged the application that the FM concerned worked at both the Sydney and Parramatta FMC's.


I am not aware of the courts proceedings but I did not want to impose an additional burden on the court by having the court deal with the matter of avoiding any possibility of conflict of interest that might arise if the matter was heard in the same court as may be the workplace of the FM concerned.

Secondly, my eldest son is currently working part time in an administrative capacity at the Sydney Family Court. I did not wish my son to be exposed to the proceedings of this case and I did not wish to impose an unwarranted duty of care on the administration at the Sydney FMC.

Any comments would be appreciated
Sometimes  court proceedings are alike paddling down a river with rapids. It is slow getting to the rapids, but the time in the rapids are moments lived.
Anticipating everthing, yet preparing for anything is perhaps woth considering.
After the rush of the rapid, and you come back down, the opportunity to learn from self-honesty is available.
The wording you project is plausible.
Identifying all the possible issues thatcan be incorporated into you advocation and keeping those based on rational arguments is posibly of value.
The best source of concepts is yourself. Eithout a counsel there isn't a filter, nor a tangential link in which details can be lost.
Your location argument is possibly secondary to the actual case your running. Legal reasoning is a new realm for us to become acquainted with.
Best of luck

What is done for you, let it be done, what you must do, be sure you do it, as the wise person does today that what the fool will do in three days - Buddha
Steve said
Magistrate, we would respectfully request that the matter be transferred to the Sydney FM court which is closer to where my client (any myself) reside and we would ask the court to find in the matter of costs against the Applicant for wasting the courts time by lodging at a location that was likely to cause inconvenience and additional costs to my client

At my one and only appearance I actually tried something very similar. Basically that I was going to contest and thus, from what I was told, that the matter would have to go to FCoA and that I'd informed the other parent's solicitor about this and that it would be a waste of my time and resources to make me attend simply to repeat this. The magistrate, who I have to say was extremely fair, quickly dismissed the idea of costs. However what he did do was tell us to go out and make arrangements for contact that weekend before we continued, so out we went and the five minute expectation of walking in and out turned into contact being resumed. I also got a telling of for not being represented, however I still wonder whether my naivety actually did me a favour.

The magistrate throughout previous decisions came across as being very fair, but not taken in by weak excuses and very orientated toward keeping families together. He even got a possession of a firearm dropped to allow contact to continue. He also came down quite heavily on what he considered were some foolish actions by the police, giving them quite a telling off in the process.
I agree that the issue of the location is secondary to the actual case but my main reason for trying to think this through before the time is that I don't want to start the whole process off on the back foot and then lose the conviction of my arguments for the case itself.

Basically I am trying to approach this one step at a time and try and get advice (before the fact) on the issues that I think will arise.

It's the old saying that "knowledge is power".

But I do also take the point that it can be counter-productive to be too rigid in my expectations because that can throw me off course as well.
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