The information on this page relates to court processes and procedures for family law issues and the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.
The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia deals with family law issues. In some cases state magistrates courts may make a parenting order. The court you choose will depend on your legal issue.
Family law can be complex. You should get legal advice.
Choosing a court
The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia, the Family Court of Western Australia, and the local or magistrates courts in each state and territory all have the power to make decisions about family law issues under the Family Law Act 1975.
The court you choose will depend on:
- the issues
- the cost
- where you live
- the services available.
Most family law cases are now heard in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.
For information visit the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia website or phone 1300 352 000.
The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia operates in every state except for Western Australia for family law matters. Visit www.familycourt.wa.gov.au for more information.
Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia
The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia deals with matters which include:
- parenting orders
- locating and recovering children
- property settlement
- spousal maintenance
- child maintenance and child support issues
- divorce orders
- enforcing orders of the Federal Circuit and Family Court.
This court is divided into two divisions, Division 1 and 2. Division 1 deals with the most complex legal disputes and specialist cases. The court will decide the appropriate division for the hearing of the matter. Some of the factors that are relevant for the court to determine the appropriate division include:
- The complexity of the legal, factual or jurisdictional issues involved;
- Whether the case involves international issues;
- Whether the case involves multiple parties;
- Whether the case involves multiple expert witnesses;
- Whether the case is likely to involve questions of general importance to the development of family law jurisprudence;
- The likely length of the case;
- The respective workload of each division;
- The impact on litigants of the matter being transferred;
- Any circumstances that require the matter to be referred to a specialist list;
- In relation to parenting proceeding, whether the case involves serious criminal conduct;
- In relation to a financial proceedings, whether the case involves:
- Complex asset structures;
- Complex valuation issues;
- Complex taxation or like issues;
- Bankruptcy or insolvency; and/or
- The interests of an estate.
For both property and parenting matters, you’ll need to participate in pre-action procedures (such as attending family dispute resolution) before going to court, unless it is unsafe to do so or an exception applies in your circumstances. These steps will help you reach agreement with the other person. Only after these procedures have been followed can you ask the court to decide your case.
Information about court processes and procedures, application forms and self-help kits are available online.
State Magistrates Court
The Queensland Magistrates Courts can deal with some minor family law matters, depending on where you live, such as urgent or interim (short-term) cases about children where there is a domestic violence case being heard.
Some magistrates courts may accept applications for consent orders. However, applications for parenting orders are mostly made in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. You should get legal advice about this before you file an application.
Various time limits apply for certain family law matters, for example:
- If you want to apply for divorce, you must have been separated for 12 months.
- If you want to apply for spousal maintenance, you must do so within 12 months of your divorce becoming final, or within 2 years from the date your de facto relationship ended.
- If you have separated and want to apply for de facto property settlement, you must do so within 2 years of the day you separated.
- If you want to apply for property settlement following your divorce, you must do so within 12 months of your divorce becoming final.
There are time limits for appeals and review.
You should get legal advice on all of the above areas as time limits can be as little as 7 days.
Do I need legal advice?
You should get legal advice if:
- you want to make an application to the court to resolve a family law dispute
- you’re unsure about time limits.
Get legal advice
We may give legal advice about applying to the court/s for family law disputes.
The following organisations may be able to give legal advice:
Community legal centres give legal advice on a range of topics. Contact them to find out if they can help.
Family Relationship Advice Line gives information about the family law system in Australia.
Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private lawyer for advice or representation.
Who else can help?
These organisations may be able to help. They don’t provide legal advice.
Family Relationship Centres give information, referrals, dispute resolution and advice on parenting after separation.
Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia deals with family law cases. Court forms and information on family court processes are available online.
Disclaimer: This content is for general purposes only and not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, please contact us or speak to a lawyer. View our full disclaimer.
Last updated 31 January 2023
If you have a general question for Legal Aid Queensland, please use the general question form or call 1300 65 11 88, Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 4.30pm.