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In 2021 the Family and Federal Circuit Courts merged to become the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (known as the FCFCOA).
The Court’s family law jurisdiction includes applications for divorce, applications for spousal maintenance, property and financial disputes, parenting orders, enforcement of orders, location and recovery orders, warrants for the apprehension or detention of a child, and determination of parentage.
Electronic Hearings vs in person Hearings
In a COVID world, we are now attending most Court hearings and dates electronically through Audio Visual Link.
The ALA Offices have state-of-the-art AVL setups to allow our clients and Solicitors to attend Court in the same room with full access to technology that allows seamless court appearance.
Final hearings, however, are still generally conducted in person at your local Registry.
Important Court Staff
When you are attending Court, it is good to know what role each Court staff member plays in how your case will be conducted. Below is a basic explanation of the terminology used at Court and what each person does:
- Parties: a person, business, or other individual who is involved in a case. The person starts the Court proceedings is called the Applicant and the party who is responding is called the Respondent.
- Judge: The judge is the person who will decide your case. In a courtroom, the Judge sits at the front of the Court and will be robed.
- Registrar A registrar is a judicial officer who has some of the powers of a Judge. The role of a Registrar is to move your matter towards resolution (by way of negotiations, conferences or even to set the matter down for hearings with a Judge)
- Judge’s associate or court officer the judge’s associate helps the judge with the proceedings of the Court. They will also help the judge keep a record of what happens during each matter. In a courtroom, the judge’s associate sits in front of the judge
- Court Child Expert A Court Child Expert may undertake the functions of a family counselor (under s10C of the Family Law Act 1975), family consultant (under s11B of the Family Law Act 1975), or Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (under s10G of the Family Law Act 1975).
- Witness: people who give evidence about the legal dispute. They may prepare statements, attend court, or both.
In family law proceedings in Australia the terms final hearing and trial are often interchangeable and are used to refer to the final proceedings of a matter before a court where an issue of law or fact is in dispute and a judicial decision is required. The proceedings are before a Judge who make a decision (orders) and give reasons for the decision (referred to as a judgement.)
This is a notice that a person in a case may serve on the other party requiring that they admit certain facts or the authenticity of certain documents.
The notice is drawn up using the Court form known as Form 27. Any admission made in this way only applies for the purpose of the proceedings.
The person served with this notice may choose to dispute the fact or document but must do so within 14 days of service of this notice – if the fact or document is not disputed in this time the fact or document is deemed to be admitted.
An Interim Hearing is a hearing done on the papers and on submissions (usually without cross examination) to deal with a matter on a temporary basis pending a final hearing.
An interim hearing in family law often sets temporary arrangements for parents to spend time with children or parties to make financial payments/arrangements, whilst the court waits for expert reports, consultants and final hearings allocations.
A Notice to Produce is a notice served by one party on the other requiring them to bring or “produce” to the hearing certain documents. These documents must be in the “possession, custody or control” of the person served. The notice is drawn up using the Court form known as Form 26.
A Procedural Hearing is a short hearing conducted by a Deputy Registrar. will make directions as to the next steps in your case e.g. agreed consent orders, mediation, Conciliation Conference.
A procedural hearing will occur several times throughout your matter to progress it towards settlement or final hearing.
Substituted Order is a court order that allows service of court documents in a form other than personal service which is required.
This could be by way of serving a third party (family or friend), serving via text message, via email, in the post or even via social media.
Orders for substituted Service are only made when all avenues for personal service have been exhausted and or the other party cannot be located or is evading service.
A transcript is a record of the spoken evidence in a court case.
All court hearings are recorded and then can be transcribed at the application of the party or at the application of the court. If a party requires a copy of a transcript, they are solely responsible for the costs unless the parties jointly apply for such transcript.
A Family Report is a report prepared by a Court psychologist which contains recommendations to assist the parties, ICL and the judge to determine what is in the children’s best interests.
The report is from a behavioural science viewpoint, not a legal viewpoint. It involves interviews with the family members and other people who are important to the child’s or children’s welfare.
The family Report is a key part of every children’s matter and is given heavy weight by the judge and ICL in them determining the children’s best interest which is the paramount consideration.
- The governing legislation is the Family Law Act 1975
- The governing “rules” are:
- The relevant practice directions are available here https://www.fcfcoa.gov.au/resources/practice-directions
Where to from here?
The Family Court system is complex and is difficult to navigate, contact our Accredited Specialists in Family Law and Senior Family lawyers so that they can assist you to work through the Court process.
The lawyers at ALA Law (formerly Amanda Little & Associates) are confident advocates and will protect your interests. Contact us to see how we can help you.