Federal Circuit Court

The Court process – family law

Dispute Resolution

The Court encourages you to use dispute resolution services to resolve your dispute. Dispute resolution provides you with an opportunity to reach an agreement without the need for the Court to make an order.

Before filing an application for a parenting order, you (as the applicant) must obtain a certificate from a family dispute resolution practitioner. There are, however, certain exceptions which are outlined in the brochure ‘Compulsory Family Dispute Resolution – court procedures and requirements’.

If you do not file a certificate or an affidavit satisfying the requirements for an exemption, the Court cannot accept your application.

Filing an application for orders in the Court

To apply for orders in the Court, an applicant must file:

- Initiating Application
- Affidavit
- Financial Statement (for financial matters)
- Certificate from a registered family dispute resolution practitioner (for parenting matters – see information under before you file).

Note – Specific applications are required for divorce and contravention applications. Some child support applications also require the use of a specific form..Information on child support applications is available on the Family Law website.


eFiling – Applications for Divorce (and certain accompanying documents) can now be electronically filed through the Commonwealth Courts Portal (www.comcourts.gov.au). 

Initiating applications can also be eFiled through the Commonwealth Courts Portal
(www.comcourts.gov.au). 


Responding to an Application

To respond to application for order, a respondent should file:

  • Response
  • Affidavit
  • Financial Statement (for financial matters)

For more details about starting proceedings, see Part 4 of the Federal Circuit Court Rules. 

You can file documents with the Court in person or by post.

Note – Applications for Divorce (and certain accompanying documents) can now be electronically filed through the Commonwealth Courts Portal (www.comcourts.gov.au). 

View registry contact details. You must file the original and a copy for each party to the case. The Court will keep the original and return the sealed copies to you. You must then arrange to serve a sealed copy on each party. You should also keep a copy of all documents for your records.  

If a fee applies to the application, you must pay it at the time of filing. View court fee details. In some cases fees do not apply. For example, if you hold certain government concession cards or can demonstrate financial hardship. View more information on fee exemptions

First court date

The Court will allocate a first court date when you file your documents. This is usually referred to as a ‘duty list’. On this day, the Court may:

  • give directions 
  • approve proposed consent orders 
  • conduct an interim hearing
  • finalise the application 
  • fix a date for a final hearing.

The first court date also provides you with an opportunity to define the issues in dispute and, if possible, reach an agreement.

Directions – These orders will guide the conduct of the matter by ensuring you undertake certain tasks; for example, that you must file a document by a certain date.

Consent orders – If you reach an agreement on the day, you can present the signed agreement (proposed consent orders) to the Judge and ask them to make the orders by consent. Consent orders can be interim (temporary) or final.

Interim hearing – The Court may conduct an interim hearing, time permitted, and make interim orders that are effective until the matter can be finally determined. The Court aims to limit the number of interim hearings in preference to giving a matter an early final hearing.

Finalise the application – The Court may hear some applications and make final orders; for example, an application for a passport or an urgent application for a recovery order.

Fix a final hearing date – Depending on the facts and case management procedures, the Court may fix a date for a final hearing.

For more details about the first court date, see Division 10.1 of the Federal Circuit Court Rules. 

You (and your lawyer, if you have one) must attend the first court date and have a good understanding of the case. You must also be familiar with all the documents filed and prepared to advise the Judge of the main issues in dispute.

Note – The Court operates a docket system. This means that the application will usually be determined by the same Judge from the first court date to the final hearing.

Final hearing

The length of the final hearing will depend on the facts of the case. At the final hearing, you must know:

- the final outcome you want, and
- the facts you are relying on.

Note – Unless otherwise approved by the Judge, you must present all evidence to the Court by affidavit.

A final hearing is usually conducted in the following way:

Applicant’s evidence – you (or your lawyer) outlines your case. The respondent may cross-examine you or your witnesses. You may then re-examine your witnesses.

Respondent’s evidence – you (or your lawyer) outlines your case. The applicant may cross-examination you or your witnesses. You may then re-examine your witnesses.

Independent Children’s Lawyer – If there is an independent children’s lawyer appointed, they may also present evidence to the Court and cross-examine you or your witnesses. For more information about Independent Children's Lawyer go the Determination section of this website.

Expert report - If a single expert, such as a family consultant, prepared a report you may cross-examine the expert. See information about Family Reports in the Determination section of this website.

Closing address – the Court gives you an opportunity to make any final comments in support of your case.

After hearing the case, the jusdge may make orders and give reasons for their decision. Alternatively, the Judge may reserve the decision to another day, usually within three months. The Court will inform you of the date so you can attend and provide you with a copy of the decision. The decision will include the orders made and the reasons for the decision.

Note – Once an order is made, you must comply with it.

 

 (From Family Court of Australia website)

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