Family law is a sensitive legal issue and so the Australian legal system is set up in a manner which provides comprehensive support to help guide families through what are often difficult times of their lives. Common reasons for using this system in Australia include family break-up or divorce as well as more serious cases such as child abuse.
There are two main legal processes for family law in Australia: the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia. Together, they comprise the Family Law Courts.
The courts offer a range of services to the clients that engage them. Key services of both courts include the support required to forge a path through the legal system, access to services that can help to sort out family disputes, information about the legal systems and the workings of each court, an easy means of filing that's the same no matter which court is engaged, quality services to all litigants and a simple process for transferring cases to other courts as and when required.
Despite their shared characteristics, the Family Court and Federal Magistrates Court deal with different issues relating to family law - the type of cases they deal with reflects the judicial power of each court.
For example, the Federal Magistrates Court tends to deal with cases that are less complex and where a decision can generally be reached fairly quickly. Its purpose is to act as an approachable and accessible alternative court to other, superior federal courts and it came into being in 2000.
The Family Court of Australia, by contrast, deals with the more complicated matters and, in legal terms, is the superior court in the family law process. The types of cases it deals with are more complex than those bought before the Magistrates Court.
The n both courts can generally be split into two key areas: parenting issues and financial matters.
The types of parenting issues the court deals with include allegations of serious physical or sexual abuse (otherwise known as Magellan cases), cases where a child welfare agency is involved, issues surrounding family violence, complex cases involving multiple parties, mental health issues, complicated questions relating to the application of the law and international child abduction under the Hague convention.
The financial matters dealt with by the Family Court include those where there are complicated matters surrounding a trust, cases involving multiple parties, cases involving a complicated area or application of the law and those cases that involve multiple expert witnesses.
The Family Court and Federal Magistrates Court have jurisdiction in all states apart from Western Australia, which has its own Family Court.