The Family Law Act 1975 (Commonwealth)

The Family Law Act 1975 is the main law on matters involving divorce, property settlement after marriage breakdown or de facto relationship breakdown, spouse maintenance for a party to a marriage, de facto partner maintenance for a party to a de facto relationship that has broken down and issues relating to parenting arrangements after separation. The courts that exercise the jurisdiction under the Family Law Act are the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

If you reside in Western Australia and/or your case may occur in Western Australia, the main law is found in the Family Court Act 1997 (Western Australia) and the Family Legislation Amendment Act 2006 (Western Australia). The Court set up under that Act is the Family Court of Western Australia. For more information about the law and practices and procedures in Western Australia go to www.familycourt.wa.gov.au, or contact your local family court registry in Western Australia.

Rules, Practice Directions and Guidelines

In the Family Law Act, the Parliament delegated authority to the Chief Justice of the Family Court to make rules, regulations and by-laws connected with the Act. These are known as the Family Law Rules 2004. The Rules deal with the practice and procedure of the Court and apply to all proceedings under the Family Law Act in the Family Court.

The Chief Justice of the Family Court also has the authority to make practice directions and guidelines about the procedures of the Family Court. These are intended to inform everyone who uses the Court about the way cases move through the Court.

To view the Family Court Rules and Practice Directions see Rules and Legislation.

To view the Rules, Practice Directions and Information Notices released by the Federal Circuit Court of Australia see Rules and Legislation .

If your case will take place in Western Australia, for more information about the Rules, Practice Directions and Guidelines that will apply go to Family Court of Western Australia, or contact your local family court registry in Western Australia.

Child Support Acts 1988-89 (Commonwealth)

The Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988 and the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 established the Child Support Agency. These Acts cover child support for:

  • children who were born on or after 1 October 1989, and
  • children whose parents separated after 1 October 1989, and
  • children who had a sibling (brother or sister) born after 1 October 1989.

Under these Acts, financial support for children is called child support. You apply to the Child Support Agency for child support. For information on how to change the child support assessment, contact the Department of Human Services.

Case law

Case law refers to previous decisions, or judgments, made about family law by judicial officers. In the legal profession, these are known as precedents. These decisions become part of the family law which applies in Australia.

International law

Australia is part of an international agreement called the Hague Convention, which is an agreement about international child abduction. One of the main aims of the Hague Convention is to promptly return children wrongly removed from another convention country. Australia is a convention country but not all countries are. A complete list of convention countries can be found in Schedule 2 of the Family Law (Child Abduction Convention) Regulations 1986.

For more information on the Hague Convention, see the fact sheet Family Dispute Resolution (Hague Matters).

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