Family Court vs the Federal Circuit Court

Family Court vs the Federal Circuit Court – What are the Differences?

If you’ve been involved with matters relating to family law, you’ll most likely have heard of the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court. Both use the Family Law Act 1975, but what are the differences between the two? And how do they affect any legal proceedings you’re involved in?

Federal Circuit Court

The Federal Circuit Court was set up to deal with a wide range of legal matters relating to family law and general federal law (such as bankruptcy and copyright). Around 80% of family law matters are handled by the Federal Circuit Court, including divorce, child support and parenting cases.

Family law cases usually commence in this court, but if the court deems it necessary, they can be transferred to the Family Court.

Family Court

The Family Court handles the most complex financial and parenting cases. In addition, this court deals with appeals to decisions made in the Federal Circuit Court, and applications for marriage annulments and consent orders.

Complex parenting cases dealt with by the Family Court may involve:

  • family violence,
  • sexual abuse,
  • international child abduction,
  • mental health issues,
  • many expert witnesses, or
  • complicated issues surrounding law or jurisdiction.

Financial cases which may be handled by the Family Court could involve complex superannuation matters, several parties, many expert witnesses, or complicated valuations of corporate structures and trusts.

Overall, although both courts handle matters regarding family law, the Federal Circuit Court deals with simpler cases than the Family Court. Also, rules and procedures at the Federal Circuit Court tend to be less formal, frequently making legal proceedings cheaper and faster than they would be at the Family Court.

If you think you might need to apply to one of the courts regarding family matters, consult a family lawyer first to get an expert opinion. They will know which court you need to apply to, as well as each step of the process. A lawyer who specialises in family law will ensure you follow the correct steps and get the best outcome.

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