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Judge is slammed by colleagues for ‘gross and deplorable’ SEVEN YEAR delay in making a ruling in child custody case after mum wins lottery
- Judge Anne Demack determined a controversial child custody case in 2013
- The father has successfully appealed the decision on basis it was ‘unjustified’
- Divorced pair will now be faced with further court hearings before determination
PUBLISHED: 15:55 AEST, 20 May 2021 | UPDATED: 15:55 AEST, 20 May 2021
A federal court judge has been slammed by her professional colleagues for taking seven years to determine a child custody case.
The family law case, which came after the mother won $1.2 million on the lottery, was heard by federal circuit judge Anne Demack in September 2013 to decide on custody of the children and division of assets.
The verdict was only handed down in September 2020 – and at some point the file of documents was lost, with key evidence not recovered before the ruling was made, according to The Guardian.
The father sought leave to appeal against the judgment, and Justice Steven Strickland of the Family Court granted it, saying the seven-year wait for a ruling was not only ‘gross and deplorable’ but was ‘rendered palpably worse’ by Justice Demack not giving any explanation or justification for the ruling.
Justice Stewart Austin, another Family Court judge, revealed the case file went missing in 2019 – and there was no evidence to suggest or confirm it was recovered before the judgement was made.
A father, who can’t be named, has successfully appealed the decision of a federal circuit judge on the basis a ruling from 2013 involving a child custody case wasn’t properly ‘explained’ or ‘justified’
In the successful appeal, it also emerged the ruling took seven years to determine (pictured The Family Court of Australia in Sydney’s CBD)
The legal proceedings were made more complex after the mother won almost $1.2 million from the lotto shortly before separating from the father in April of 2012.
In her ruling back in 2013, Judge Demack decided on joint custody for the children aged 12 and 11.
Both have special needs, with the 12-year-old diagnosed with autism and the 11-year-old with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Judge Demack also ordered the children to live with their mother apart from alternate weeks between Wednesday afternoon and Monday morning.
Justice Strickland said that ruling ‘overlook(ed), to put it as generously as I can, many aspects of the evidence’.
Her honour was required to carry out a more detailed consideration of the evidence, as well as analysis of the respective cases of the parties than would normally be required,’ he said.
‘The purpose of doing so would be to demonstrate to all concerned that the (seven-year) delay had not affected the decision. That did not occur.’
Judge Austin also felt Demack’s final ruling was inadequate.
He pointed to key material evidence not being taken into account, such as her finding that the father was unwilling to find work, despite the fact he was already gainfully employed.
Judge Austin also expressed his frustration that the family will now be faced with further court hearings before a final determination is made.
The higher court judges also said it was likely that many of the documents that were part of the lost files would never have been taken into account because copies of only some were sought and there was no list of what was originally included.
‘The only reasonable inference to draw is that Her Honour, when determining the disputes, was deprived of and therefore did not take into account material evidence,’ Justice Austin said.