What is a judgment

A judgment is the judge's decision on the matters before the Court. A judgment outlines the facts of the case, discusses the evidence and refers to legislation and case law upon which the judicial decision is based. Judgments record, explain and communicate judicial decisions and the legal reasoning behind the decisions. The amount of detail varies with each judgment.

Family Court judgments

Judges of the Family Court of Australia deliver judgments at both first instance and appellate levels. The decisions reflect the Court’s expansive jurisdiction, the wide variety of issues that it addresses, and its position as a superior specialist federal court which deals with the most complex and serious family law cases.

The Court recognises that the accessibility of its judgments to the public is very important. It commits the resources required to ensure that most final judgments delivered are anonymised and published consistently with section 121 of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth). Beginning in 2007 virtually all judgments, after anonymisation, are published in full text on the Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII) website.

This policy has enabled the Court to better respond to community interest and concerns about particular cases highlighted in the media.

Appeal judgments

Appeals from family law and child support decisions of the Federal Circuit Court are usually heard by a single judge of the Family Court.

Appeals from the decision of a single judge of the Family Court (judge at first instance) are heard and decided by the Full Court. The Full Court consists of three or more judges, two of whom must be from the Appeal Division of the Court.

Full Court judgments provide significant decisions about the interpretation and application of law, and form the basis of legal precedent used to decide later cases.

A decision of the Full Court is binding upon judges at first instance.

Reserved judgments

Reserved judgments are written by a judge or judicial registrar at a later date, following the completion of a trial. A reserved judgment may be a First Instance or Full Court judgment.

Ex tempore judgments

Ex tempore is the term used to describe an oral judgment delivered by a judge or judicial registrar immediately upon completion of a trial. An ex tempore judgment may be a First Instance or Full Court judgment.

Rulings

A ruling is a decision on a specific point of law (e.g. admissibility of particular evidence).

Note: Section 121 of the Family Law Act 1975 makes it an offence, except in very limited circumstances, to publish or distribute a report of a case or part of a case, including information contained in a judgment, which identifies parties, related or associated persons, witnesses or others involved in the case. A breach of the section is a criminal offence. The section also sets out certain limited defences to criminal liability. An example is where the Court has expressly authorised the publication.

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