Which Court is right for your family law case?

The Family Court of Australia (FCoA) and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (FCC) both hear family law cases. Both Courts apply the Family Law Act. Both Courts have Judges with the power to make orders about divorce, parenting and financial issues. So what is the difference between the two Courts?

The purpose of the FCoA, as Australia’s superior court in family law, is to:

  • determine cases with the most complex law, facts and parties;
  • cover specialised areas in family law; and
  • provide national coverage as the appellate court in family law matters.

The FCC tends to hear less complex family law matters. The objective of the FCC is to provide a simpler, more accessible alternative to litigation and relieve the workload of the FCoA. The FCC is directed to operate less formally. It must proceed without undue formality and must endeavour to ensure that proceedings are not protracted.

As a general guide, if any one of the following criteria applies, your family law case should be heard in the FCoA. Otherwise, your family law case should be heard in the FCC:

  • Serious allegations of sexual or physical abuse of a child.
  • Serious allegations of family violence.
  • International child abduction.
  • International relocation.
  • Disputes as to whether a case should be heard in Australia.
  • Special medical procedures (such as gender reassignment and sterilisation).
  • Complex questions of jurisdiction or law.

Each Court has different rules and procedures. Each Court has the power to transfer cases to the other Court. It can be costly and time consuming for you if your case is filed in the wrong Court. It is essential that you get legal advice about which Court is right for your family law case.

The lawyers at Berry Family Law can advise you on the appropriate action to take.