FAMILY LAW COURTS
In Queensland there are three courts, in which family law cases are heard. So, which court should you choose for your court proceedings?
Family Court of Australia
The Family Court is a Commonwealth Court, which deals solely with family law cases. As the most specialised of the family law courts, the Family Court hears the more complex family law cases.
You should file your court application in the Family Court if it involves:
- International child abduction
- International relocation
- Determination of whether a marriage or divorce is valid
- A dispute about whether the case should be heard in Australia or another country
- Seeking the court’s permission for a child to undergo a special medical procedure (such as gender reassignment or sterilisation)
- Allegations of a failure to comply with parenting orders made in the Family Court after a defended final hearing, where the orders were made less than 12 months beforehand
- Serious allegations of sexual or physical abuse of a child or serious controlling family violence
- Complex legal issues.
Also, for legal reasons, all Applications for Consent Orders must be filed in the Family Court.
Federal Circuit Court of Australia
The Federal Circuit Court (FCC) is also a Commonwealth Court. However, it does not deal solely with family law cases. The FCC also deals with a wide range of other federal law matters, such as bankruptcy, consumer laws, human rights, industrial law and migration.
The FCC deals with all less complex family law matters and, therefore, deals with the majority of family law cases heard by the courts. The court can decide cases about:
- Parenting arrangements
- Property settlement
- Spouse maintenance
- Child support
- Child maintenance
- Parentage testing and declarations
- Failure to comply with previous orders
- Location and recovery of children.
Further, all divorce applications must be filed in the FCC.
Magistrates Court of Queensland
The Magistrates Court is a State Court which deals with a wide range of civil and criminal law cases. It also deals with:
- Domestic violence applications
- Child protections cases
- Applications to change a child’s name
- Some parenting and property cases.
Technically, the Magistrates Court has the power to make interim (temporary) orders in property cases for both married and eligible de facto parties, or even final orders where the total value of the property is less than $20,000 (or more, if both parties agree). However, in practice, such applications are rarely filed in this court, because Magistrates do not have specialist family law training and the court does not have the established procedures and processes of the Family Court and FCC nor the resources of those courts.
Similarly, although the Magistrates Court has the power to make interim orders in parenting cases, or even final orders (if both parties agree, or if the case is about resolving inconsistency between existing parenting orders and family violence orders), the preferred courts for commencing parenting proceedings are the Family Court and FCC.