Jurisdiction of FCA/FCCA

  • Protocol for the division of work between the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court

    Note: The Australian Government plans to introduce legislation in the 2018 Spring Parliamentary sittings to implement structural changes to the federal courts. Under this proposed legislation:

    • a new Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCA) would be established, through the amalgamation of the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, and
    • a new Family Law Appeal Division (FLAD) would be established in the Federal Court of Australia to hear all appeals in family law matters from the FCFCA (and some appeals from the Family Court of Western Australia).

    Subject to the passage of this legislation by the Australian Parliament, the FCFCA and FLAD will commence operations from 1 January 2019. These proposed changes may affect the information and links in this Chapter.

    For further information and updates click here.

    Open via Family Court of Australia website

    Open via Federal Circuit Court of Australia website

In Australia, there are two federal courts where jurisdiction under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (FLA) is predominantly exercised: the Family Court of Australia (Family Court) and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (FCCA). State courts of summary jurisdiction (usually the relevant local court or magistrates’ court) are also able to exercise jurisdiction under the FLA.

The Family Court is a superior court of record which has original jurisdiction to hear family law matters. The Family Court deals with the most complex and intractable parenting disputes requiring substantial court time. These cases often involve allegations of physical or sexual abuse of children, family violence, mental health issues, and substance abuse. Other areas of family law affecting children that the Family Court deals with include domestic and international relocation, international child abduction and the Hague convention, as well as medical procedures requiring court authorisation. The Family Court also acts as an appeal court from decisions of single judges of the Family Court and the FCCA. The number of cases that are now dealt with at first instance in the Family Court represents a small percentage of all family law cases as the majority of parenting cases are now dealt with in the FCCA.

The FCCA is also a court of record and of law and equity however it is not a superior court. The FCCA is considered the high-volume or trial court and deals with most divorce applications and the majority of first instance family law applications nationally (excluding Western Australia). On 12 April 2013 the name of the court was changed from the Federal Magistrates Court to the FCCA. The FCCA regularly conducts regional circuits and has judges based in all capital cities and some regional cities. The FCCA has jurisdiction in family law and child support though does not have jurisdiction to determine matters relating to adoption or applications for nullity or validity of marriage.

In January 2010, the Chief Justice of the Family Court and the Chief Judge of the FCCA published a protocol about the division of work between the two courts (refer link at top of this page).

In Western Australia, family law cases are dealt with by the Family Court of Western Australia.