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Sterling Law gets costs order against solicitor

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This week, Sterling Law obtained a costs order on the indemnity basis against a solicitor in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.

The Facts

Sterling Law acted for the father in a parenting matter. The mother had prior to proceedings relocated from Katoomba NSW to Queensland without notice to our client. Our client the father sought a relocation order so that the child could have a meaningful relationship with both parents.

After the Federal Circuit Court trial, judgment was reserved. The mother then sought to re-open the evidence by filing an Application in a Case instead of complying with the Court’s Orders for the filing of written submissions. Solicitor for the mother said that the Application in a Case was filed on Senior Counsel’s advice.

The Application in a Case was dismissed at the first return date on 16 July 2021. The solicitor for the mother appeared without Counsel and sought an adjournment so that Senior Counsel could argue the Application. Sterling Law also appeared without Counsel and pointed out the ‘new’ evidence was not germane to the child’s best interests, nor was it likely to change the result. Furthermore, the mother was not a credible witness, and this had been demonstrated when she was extensively cross-examined at trial, so a hearing with further cross-examination would be required if the evidence was reopened. The ICL noted the ‘new’ evidence could have been adduced at the trial.

Judge Tonkin dismissed the Application in a Case later that day. Sterling Law then sought indemnity costs on behalf of the father against the mother, her solicitor and Counsel. We submitted that the Application in a Case was bound to fail, had caused undue delay and expense and had been filed for the ulterior purpose of delaying judgment so that the mother could remain in Queensland for longer. Furthermore, an offer of compromise was imprudently not accepted. None of those submissions were challenged on behalf of the mother or her lawyers.

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