FULL COURT sat for 29 weeks or part weeks

330 appeals RECEIVED and 349 appeals FINALISED

17 applications for SPECIAL LEAVE TO APPEAL were filed in the High Court

Appeal Division

Sections 21A, 22 (2AA), (2AB) and (2AC) of the Family Law Act 1975 provide for an Appeal Division for the Family Court.

The members of the Appeal Division of the Court are the Chief Justice, the Deputy Chief Justice and such other judges, not exceeding nine in number, as are assigned to the Appeal Division.

At 30 June 2014, the judges assigned to the Appeal Division were:

  • Justice Finn
  • Justice May
  • Justice Thackray (Chief Judge of the Family Court of Western Australia)
  • Justice Strickland
  • Justice Ainslie-Wallace
  • Justice Ryan
  • Justice Murphy.

The Full Court of the Family Court of Australia is made up of three or more judges of the Court; the majority must be members of the Appeal Division (Family Law Act 1975 s 4).

Appeals

The appellate jurisdiction of the Family Court is defined in Part X of the Family Law Act, in Part VIII of the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988 and Part 7 of the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989.

An appeal lies to the Full Court from a decree of the Family Court, constituted otherwise than as a Full Court, exercising jurisdiction under the Family Law Act and (with leave) under the Child Support Acts.

An appeal also lies to the Full Court of the Family Court from a decree of the Family Court of Western Australia; or the Supreme Court of a state or a territory, constituted by a single judge exercising jurisdiction under the Family Law Act and (with leave) under the Child Support Acts.

An appeal also lies to the Family Court of Australia from a decree of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia exercising jurisdiction under the Family Law Act and (with leave) the Child Support Acts. The jurisdiction of the Court in relation to such appeals is to be exercised by a Full Court unless the Chief Justice considers it appropriate for a single judge to exercise the jurisdiction of the Court in relation to such an appeal (s 94AAA(3)).

Full Court sittings

During 2013–14, the Full Court sat for 29 weeks (including some part weeks and including in some weeks in different locations). In 15 of those weeks, there were two Full Courts sitting in the same location on a number of days.

Administration of appeals

Appeals are administered by an Appeals Registrar in three areas:

  • Northern—Queensland, northern New South Wales and Northern Territory
  • Eastern—eastern, western and southern New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory
  • Southern—Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.

Western Australia is separately administered by a Registrar of the Family Court of Western Australia.

Trend In appeals

The number of appeals filed in 2013–14 increased by one per cent from 326 in 2012–13 to 330. The number of appeals finalised increased by five per cent to 349. The pending (active) cases as at 30 June 2014 was 237 which has reduced from 273.

There was no change in the number of appeals filed from the Federal Circuit Court, which remained at 179 cases, whilst appeals filed from the Family Court rose by just three per cent to 151.

Some appeals from the Federal Circuit Court are dealt with by a single judge and do not require a bench of three or more judges.

Table 4.1 and Figure 4.1 show the trend in notices of appeal filed, finalised and pending during the last five financial years.

Table 4.1 Notice of appeals filed, finalised and pending by jurisdiction, 2009–10 to 2013–14

  2009–10 2010–11 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14 % change from
2012–13 to 2013–14
Filed            
Family Court of Australia 113 135 153 147 151 3%
Federal Circuit Court 202 193 220 179 179 0%
Appeals filed 315 328 373 326 330 1%
Per cent from Family Court of Australia 36% 41% 41% 45% 46% 1%
Per cent from Federal Circuit Court 64% 59% 59% 55% 54% -1%
Finalised            
Family Court of Australia 144 129 138 140 158 13%
Federal Circuit Court 201 196 194 193 191 -1%
Appeals finalised 345 325 332 333 349 5%
Per cent from Family Court of Australia 42% 40% 42% 42% 45% 3%
Per cent from Federal Circuit Court 58% 60% 58% 58% 55% -3%
Pending            
Family Court of Australia 93 97 132 143 130 -9%
Federal Circuit Court 108 106 141 130 107 -18%
Appeals pending 201 203 273 273 237 -13%
Per cent from Family Court of Australia 46% 48% 48% 52% 55% 3%
Per cent from Federal Circuit Court 54% 52% 52% 48% 45% -3%

Figure 4.1 Notice of appeals, 2009–10 to 2013–14

This figure shows the notice of appeals filed, finalised and pending, from 2009–10 to 2013–14.

Proportion of notices of appeal filed by jurisdiction

The proportion of appeals arising from decrees of the Family Court (as opposed to appeals from the Federal Circuit Court) remained relatively steady at 46 per cent in 2013–14.

Figure 4.2 shows the proportion of appeal filings resulting from a decree made either in the Federal Circuit Court or in the Family Court.

Figure 4.2 Proportion of notice of appeals filed by jurisdiction of decree, 2009–10 to 2013–14

This figure shows the proportion of appeal filings resulting from a decree made either in the Federal Circuit Court or in the Family Court, from 2009–10 to 2013–14.

The number of appeals that were allowed or dismissed decreased by seven per cent to 52 per cent in 2013–14.

The total number of appeals withdrawn or abandoned rose by 22 per cent from 136 to 166. Withdrawn appeals increased from 52 to 70. Abandoned appeals increased from 84 to 96.

Figure 4.3 shows the trend in the manner in which appeals were finalised.

Figure 4.3 Notice of appeals finalised by type of finalisation, 2009–10 to 2013–14

This figure shows the notice of appeals finalised by type of finalisation, from 2009–10 to 2013–14.

Figure 4.4 Proportion of notice of appeals finalised by type of finalisation, 2009–10 to 2013–14

This figure shows the proportion of notice of appeals finalised by type of finalisation, from 2009–10 to 2013–14.

Note: Figures may add to more than 100%, this is due to rounding only.

Appeal demographics

The historical trend in gender remains generally consistent, although there was a slight decrease in males being more likely to lodge appeals (54 per cent) than females (41 per cent) (Figure 4.5).

Figure 4.6 shows a change in the trend towards self-representation. In 2013–14, the proportion of self-represented appellants remained relatively steady at around 38 per cent.

Figure 4.5 Proportion of appellants by gender, 2009–10 to 2013–14

This figure shows the proportion of appellants by gender, from 2009–10 to 2013–14.

Figure 4.6 Proportion of appellants' representation status, 2009–10 to 2013–14

This figure shows the proportion of appellants' representation status, from 2009–10 to 2013–14.

Time taken to finalise appeals

Of the appeals finalised in 2013–14, 74 per cent were finalised within 12 months. Figure 4.7 shows the time taken to finalise appeals over the past five years.

Figure 4.7 Months to finalise appeals, 2009–10 to 2013–14

This figure shows the time taken to finalise appeals, from 2009–10 to 2013–14.

Appeals to the High Court of Australia

Section 95 of the Family Law Act 1975 provides that an appeal does not lie to the High Court from a decree of a court exercising jurisdiction under the Family Law Act, whether original or appellate, except by special leave of the High Court.

During 2013–14:

  • 17 applications for special leave to appeal were filed in the High Court from judgments of the Family Court
  • 18 applications for special leave were determined or disposed of by the High Court: 17 were refused, one discontinued and none granted
  • No appeals were heard by the High Court.