Family Court – What Happens?

Family Court – What Happens?

Commencing proceedings in the Family Court of Australia or Federal Circuit Court of Australia is usually only done after settlement negotiations have failed and one party wishes to bring an end to their property dispute and/or parenting matter. The prospect of placing ‘your family life in the Judges’ hands’ is a daunting reality and it is important that the Court process is understood before proceedings begin.

Firstly, the party commencing proceedings files an Initiating Application setting out their desired outcome which is supported by written evidence (referred to as an ‘Affidavit’), a Financial Statement (in property matters) or a Notice of Risk (in parenting matters).

Following which, the other party files a Response outlining their respective desired outcome and why they disagree with the position adopted in the Initiating Application.

The first occasion on which parties are required to attend Court is referred to as the First Return Date. On this occasion, the parties usually have the opportunity to negotiate a settlement or seek procedural Orders from the Judge. Generally, parties are required to attend Court on each occasion that the matter is listed.

Despite a matter being ‘in the hands of a Judge’ parties have many opportunities to negotiate a settlement throughout the course of proceedings. If parties are unable to reach an agreement, the matter may eventually be listed for final hearing.  It is our role to try, where possible to settle matters before proceedings need to be commenced and, if commenced, before the matter is determined on a final basis.

It is important that you seek legal advice from a Family Law solicitor prior to commencing Court proceedings to ensure that you understand the process and your rights and obligations under the Family Law Act.