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The Family Law Court Process

If you are unable to come to an agreement out of court, you will need to issue proceedings at the Family Court of Australia or the Federal Circuit Court.

Going to Court

Going to court involves the following steps:

  1. Your solicitor will prepare an application and a financial statement. An affidavit detailing your version of events will need to be filed in most cases
  2. Your matter will be listed for a Case Assessment Conference in the Family Court or a Directions Hearing in the Circuit Court. This gives you an opportunity to settle the matter before it goes further
  3. If it can’t be settled, you will have to attend a Conciliation Conference or a medation
  4. If your matter still can’t be settled, it will be listed for a final hearing where a judge will consider it. The judge will make orders according to the Family Law Act

The court will consider five main factors when determining how to settle your property and financial matters, including:

Whether a property settlement is necessary, for example, if the parties have decided to keep financial affairs separate and the relationship was short a settlement may not be appropriate.

  1. The value of your assets and liabilities
  2. Financial and non-financial contributions
  3. Factor such as age and earning capacity, health, whether young children will need to be cared for etc
  4. Whether the division of assets is just and equitable

Stages of the court process for settlements

There are many stages to the court process. The pathway usually follows these steps:

  • Attempts to resolve matters out of court
  • In children’s matters parties attend compulsory mediation
  • If there is no agreement, one party will file an application to the court
  • The other party will file a response
  •  An initial hearing or conference takes place in the court to assess the matter at which time direction and/or orders may be made by the court
  • Parties (and lawyers) attend a conference to try settle the issues
    • Parties prepare the matter for trial
      • A further hearing may be held to determine whether the parties are ready for the trial
        • A trial is held before a judge or a magistrate
        • A decision is made by judge or magistrate and the judgment is issued by the court.

In between all of this stages there may be exchanges of documents, experts’ reports (especially if there are disputes over children’s arrangements or property values), correspondence with the other side and, maybe, further attempts at mediation or a negotiated settlement.

Sometimes the court will appoint an expert to investigate and report on issues involving children and may order the appointment of a lawyer to represent the children (called an Independent Children’s Lawyer).

Make an enquiry

If you have a question, want some more information or would just like to speak to someone, make an enquiry now and we’ll be in touch with you very soon.

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