Padria v Padria [2012] FAMILY COURT

In this matter Greg Walsh acted for the mother who had received information and documents from the father in financial proceedings in the Family Court. She had sent that information and those documents to the Child Support Registrar with a departure application.

It would agree that the information in those documents attracted the operation of a Harman obligation, being an obligation to prevent the use of information by a third party who is aware of its provenance. The issue that arose was whether the Registrar had breached the Harman obligation and also whether the mother had breached that obligation. It was contended by the father that the Registrar had aided and abetted the mother in breaching the Harman obligation. It was argued on behalf of the mother and the Registrar that the Harman obligation must yield to a statutory provision, namely provisions of the Child Support (Assessment) Act (CSAA) involving the nature of disclosure in the departure application to the Registrar.

The mother and the Registrar relied upon extensive case law in respect of these issues in the hearing before Justice Watts. His Honour held that neither the Registrar nor the mother were in breach of the Harman obligation and a declaration was made that the Registrars and officers and employees of the Department of Human Services are not prohibited by reason of any undertaking to the Family Court from using information in the exercise of their statutory functions and powers namely the information in the documents sent by the mother to the Department as part of her application.

An application by the Father that a case be started before Court was also dismissed by Watts J.