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(No) Special Treatment for the Elderly
07 November 2014
The Full Court of the Family Court has recently rejected a request by great grandparents that the children's proceedings with respect to their great grandchildren be rushed through the Court, notwithstanding their ages of 94 and 91 years.
In Mankiewicz & Swallow  FamCAFC 193, the great-grandparents initially asked that their four great grandchildren spend time with them. This application was dismissed, and Orders were made preventing the great grandparents from making another application, without permission from the Court.
The great grandparents appealed this decision, and sought that the hearing of their appeal be expedited. Given their ages and frailty, they argued that there was an urgency as it was in their great grandchildren's best interest to see and interact with them whilst they were still alive and together as a couple.
The Full Court rejected this argument, on the basis that the great grandparents had not had a relationship with three of the four children in question, and had not seen the fourth child for 15 years.
The Full Court did however leave open the possibility that in other circumstances, the ages of the parties may give rise for the necessity of an expedited hearing. This is consistent with the Family Law Rules, which provide at rule 12.10(4)(a) and (e) that when deciding whether to expedite a matter, the Court may take into account (amongst other reasons):
- whether the age, physical or mental health of a party would affect the availability or competence of the party
- whether the purpose of the case will be lost if it is not heard quickly
- In this matter, given that the appellants were quite elderly and one of them in very poor health, it is difficult not to draw the inference that by refusing to grant the expedition of the appeal, the Full Court had serious doubts regarding the merits of the appellants' case.
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