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The Family Court of Australia (and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia except appeals) can determine all matters dealing with family law. This includes:
nullity or validity of marriage;
child support; and
appeals from decisions of the other courts including by a Federal Judge dealing with family matters, and of decisions made in the Family Court itself.
In child support matters, the parties must first satisfy all requirements of the Child Support Agency which are through the cumbersome Child Support "Change of Assessment" process, objection, SSAT and then Federal Circuit Court of Australia.
The procedures of the Family Court are set out in the Family Law Rules 2004. (A note... Some Judges give a lot more flexibility on filing documents than others so do read the rules around filing) The Court aims to help families resolve their disputes without the need of going to a trial before a judge. Accordingly, the Court has a case management approach that has three main phases:
Stage 1: Prevention
Stage 2: Resolution
Stage 3: Determination
Court Registries The Family Court of Australia has approximately 20 registries (offices providing services to the community).
The Family Court of Australia also provides circuits (visiting services) to a wide range of smaller communities, including many more remote indigenous communities. You can find out more about these visiting services either from the Family Court's websitewww.familycourt.gov.au or by contacting your nearest registry.
Complaints The Family Court takes all complaints seriously. At the Court you have a right to:
fair and helpful assistance;
having your privacy respected and information about you kept confidential unless the law requires otherwise;
a fair and just hearing in a safe environment;
timely decisions by the Court; and
restricted access to information on the file held by the court in relation to your proceedings
If these rights are not met, you have a right to complain. The Family Court staff will help you by:
being courteous, helpful and sensitive to your individual needs;
giving prompt and responsive service;
providing mediation services appropriate to your needs or referring you to a community agency where appropriate;
delivering these services in a safe and secure environment; and
providing accurate and up-to-date information that is clear and understandable (however Court staff cannot provide legal advice to people who are or may be involved in legal proceedings).
Things you can complain about
Administrative issues. For example, if the standard of service you receive from the Court, including the conduct of staff, does not accord with the Client Service Charter of the Family Court. EXAMPLE: Mr X believes that he has had to wait for an unreasonably long time before being served at the Registry counter and when he was served. He asks to speak to the staff supervisor about his experience.
The conduct of judges and judicial officers. If you make a complaint about the conduct of a judge or judicial staff, your complaint will be referred to an Administrative Judge for their examination. EXAMPLE: Ms Y believes that there has been an unreasonable delay in delivery of judgment in her matter. She writes to the Court and her letter is referred to an Administrative Judge.
Things you can't complain about
If you are not happy with a judicial decision. If you believe that a judge misunderstood the facts, weighed them up incorrectly in exercising a discretion, made a mistake of law, or in short made the wrong decision, you have the right to appeal or seek a review of the decision. To do this you must file another action in a Registry. EXAMPLE: Mr Z is not happy with the contact arrangements that the Judge hearing his Child Contact matter has ordered. He believes that there were issues overlooked, or misrepresented, and that the hearing was not a fair one. Mr Z decides he would like an appeal, or review, of the Judge's decision. He consults a solicitor for advice on doing this, or if he is a self-represented litigant, he approaches the Registry for procedural advice on how to make application. (Please be aware the Registry cannot provide legal advice on any matter.)
Note: If you are happy with the service you received or have had a good experience that you can share about someone in the court system please share it here on our forums.