The Family Law Act 1975 (Commonwealth)
The Family Law Act 1975 is the main law in Australia on matters involving divorce, property settlement after marriage, spousal maintenance (between married couples), and issues relating to children’s arrangements after separation and divorce. The Act emphasises the obligations of parents and the best interests of the children.
All children are covered by the Family Law Act, regardless of whether their parents were married or not. However, the Act does not cover property disputes between de facto couples. The Courts set up under the Family Law Act are the:
- Family Court of Australia; and
- Federal Circuit Court.
For further information go to the Family law principles section of the family law courts website.
If you reside in Western Australia and/or your case may occur in Western Australia, the main law is found in the Family Court Act 1997 (Western Australia) and the Family Legislation Amendment Act 2006 (Western Australia). The court set up under that Act is the Family Court of Western Australia. For more information about the law and practices and procedures in Western Australia go to:
- Family Court of Western Australia; or
- your local family court registry in Western Australia.
Family Law Rules, Practice Directions and Guidelines
In the Family Law Act, the Parliament delegated authority to the Chief Justice of the Family Court to make Rules, Regulations and By-Laws connected with the Act. T hese are known as the Family Law Rules 2004. The rules deal with the practice and procedure of the Court and apply to all proceedings under the Family Law Act.
The Chief Justice of the Family Court also has the authority to make practice directions and guidelines about the procedures of the Court. These are intended to inform everyone who uses the Court about the way cases move through the Court.
Child Support Act 1988-89 (Commonwealth)
The Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988 and the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 established the Child Support Agency.
Under this Act, financial support for children is called child support and you apply for it to the Child Support Agency. For information on how to change the child support assessment, contact the Child Support Agency.
Case law refers to previous decisions, or judgments, made about family law by the Judges in the Family Court. In the legal profession, these are known as precedents. These decisions become part of the family law which applies in Australia.
Australia has signed an international agreement called the Hague Convention. This is an agreement about international child abduction. One of the main aims is to promptly return children wrongly removed from another convention country. Australia is a convention country but not all countries are.
A complete list of convention countries can be found in Schedule 2 of the Family Law (Child Abduction Convention) Regulations 1986.