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Know where to file your family law matter

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When judgement on a controversial family law matter needs assessment by a court, it is necessary to understand whether or not to begin a case with the Family Court of Australia or the Federal Circuit Court.   This article can assist you to determine the differences between the two courts and which court to use to start your proceedings.

Family Court of Australia

The purpose of the Family Court is to assist in complex family law matters. The Family Court was created by the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) to regulate the Family Court’s jurisdiction and functions. The principles that govern how the Family Court operates are contained in the Family Law Rules 2004 (Cth). The Family Court is more superior than the Federal Circuit Court and will hear appeals from cases associated with the Federal Circuit Court (within 28 days of an order being issued).

The Family Court deals with more complex matters and has the authority to determine all family law matters except divorce, including:

  • Complex parenting or property/financial disputes
  • International child abduction or relocation
  • Disputes as to whether or not a case ought to be heard in Australia
  • Special medical procedures like gender reassignment and sterilisation
  • Breach of parenting orders
  • Serious accusations of child sexual abuse
  • Complex questions of jurisdiction or law
  • Adoption
  • Marriage validity
  • Consent orders and
  • Cases that would surpass four days of hearing time

Federal Circuit Court

The Federal Circuit Court assists in resolving less complex family law matters to alleviate the workload of the Family Court and therefore deals with a higher number of cases. The Federal Circuit Court determines matters such as:

  • Family law parenting or property/financial disputes
  • Child support
  • Administrative law
  • Privacy law
  • Migration law
  • Trade practices law
  • Trademark and design law and
  • Workplace relations.

The rules and methods for the Federal Circuit Court are less formal which allows the process to resolve quicker than the Family Court.

The majority of cases are filed in the Federal Circuit Court, but some cases can be filed in either.  In these instances, a request should first be made to the Federal Circuit Court who will establish whether it should be transferred to the Family Court.

If you would like to submit your case or need a free initial discovery call if you feel your case has merit for an appeal, our team of family law solicitors at Shanahan Family Law can help.

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Luke Shanahan Family Law

Luke Shanahan


Luke Shanahan is the Principal Solicitor of Shanahan Family Law. Luke has been practising family law since 2008 and started his firm in 2014. He has three beautiful daughters and a supportive, gorgeous wife. In his spare time, Luke enjoys playing tennis and trips to the beach with family and friends. 

Luke is dedicated to providing the best possible legal representation for his clients. His experience and passion for family law set him apart from other solicitors. You only have to read their 5-star reviews to understand that.

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