14 September 2020

The Honourable Christian Porter MP
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Attorney-General,

I am pleased to present the annual report on the operations of the Family Court of Australia for the financial year ending 30 June 2020, in accordance with Section 38S of the Family Law Act 1975.

This report has been prepared in accordance with the Department of Finance’s Resource Management Guide No. 135: annual reports for non-corporate Commonwealth entities (May 2020), but adjusted to reflect the changes in structure brought about by the Courts Administration Legislation Amendment Act 2016.

A report on the provision of corporate and registry services and the financial statements are included as part of the Federal Court of Australia’s 2019–20 annual report. This is due to the Courts Administration Legislation Amendment Act 2016 that amended a number of Acts in order to adjust the Courts’ governance structures to support shared services and bring the Courts into a single administrative entity under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 and a single statutory agency under the Public Service Act 1999.

This is the Court’s 31st annual report.

Yours sincerely,

[Signed in hard copy]

The Honourable William Alstergren
Chief Justice

Reader’s guide

The purpose of this report is to inform the Attorney-General, the Parliament, Court clients and the general public about the performance of the Family Court of Australia in the 2019–20 reporting year.

Prepared according to parliamentary reporting requirements, this report outlines the goals stated in the Court’s Portfolio Budget Statements and Corporate Plan and relates them to the results achieved during the year.

Part 1: The year in review

The Chief Justice’s overview highlighting significant issues and initiatives the Court has undertaken during the reporting year.

Part 2: Overview of the Court

Information about the Court, including its role, functions, powers, governance, organisational structure and initiatives.

Part 3: Report on Court performance

How the Court performed during the period against the outcome and related program. The performance reports are based on the outcome and program framework and performance information in the 2019–20 Portfolio Budget Statements and the Court’s Corporate Plan.

Part 4: Appeals

Information about the Appeal Division, trends in appeals and appeals to the High Court.

Part 5: Management and accountability

Provides information on corporate governance and judicial and collaborative committees.

Part 6: Appendices

Outcome and program statement, committees, external involvement, judicial activities, information required by other legislation and contact details.

Part 7: Indexes

List of requirements and alphabetical index.

Acronyms and abbreviations and a glossary of Court-specific terminology are on pages iii–iv.

An electronic version of this annual report is available from the Court’s website at www.familycourt.gov.au/annual-report.

Acronyms and abbreviations

Alternative Dispute Resolution
Australian Law Reform Commission
Member of the Order of Australia
Officer of the Order of Australia
Australian Public Service
Australasian Legal Information Institute
Creative Commons
Chief Executive Officer
Chief Justice
Digital Court File
Digital Court Program
Federal Costs Advisory Committee
Federal Circuit Court of Australia
Freedom of Information
Independent Children’s Lawyer
Memorandum of Understanding
National Enquiry Centre
Medal of the Order of Australia
Public Governance, Performance and Accountability
Pacific Islands Law Officers’ Network
Reconciliation Action Plan
Senior Executive Service of the Australian Public Service

Glossary of Court-specific terms

The case management system used by the Family Court, including the Appeal Division, and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

Child dispute services
The family consultant services of the Courts. Family consultants are Court experts who specialise in child and family issues after separation and divorce. They provide the Courts and families with expert advice regarding children’s best interests; help parties resolve their dispute where possible; write and produce family reports; and advise the Courts and families about the services provided to families and children by government, community and other agencies.

The Court
The Family Court of Australia.

Family consultant
A psychologist and/or social worker who specialises in child and family issues that may occur after separation and divorce.

Family law registry
A public area at a family law court where people can obtain information about the Courts and their processes and where parties file documents in relation to their case.

Interim proceedings
Proceedings for orders pending a final determination of the issues in dispute.

Interlocutory proceedings
Proceedings taken during the course of, and incidental to, a trial.

Cases that come to the Family Court that involve allegations of sexual abuse and/or serious physical abuse of a child go into the Court’s Magellan program.

A Court lawyer who has been delegated power to perform certain tasks; for example, grant divorces, sign consent orders and decide the next step in a case.

How the Courts’ offices are known. For example, the Melbourne registry is in the Commonwealth Law Courts building on William Street.

Reserved judgments delivery time
The time between the hearing and the delivery of the judgment concerned.

A set of directions that outlines Court procedures and guidelines. The rules of the Family Court of Australia are the Family Law Rules 2004 and the rules of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia are the Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001.

Tables and Figures

  • Table 2.1: Judges assigned to the Appeal Division, 30 June 2020
  • Table 2.2: Family Court of Australia judges, 30 June 2020
  • Table 2.3: Family Court of Western Australia judges, 30 June 2020
  • Table 3.1: Snapshot of Court performance against targets, 2019–20
  • Table 3.2: Summary of original jurisdiction workload by application type, 2019–20
  • Table 3.3: Issues sought on final orders cases filed, 2019–20
  • Table 4.1: All proceedings in appeal cases, 2015–16 to 2019–20
  • Table A1.1: Outcome 2: Family Court of Australia
  • Table A6.1: Judicial committees, 30 June 2020
  • Table A10.1: Information required by other legislation
  • Figure 2.1: Organisational Chart
  • Figure 3.1: Percentage of applications filed, 2019–20
  • Figure 3.2: Issues sought on final orders, 2019–20
  • Figure 3.3: Attrition and settlement trend in the Court’s caseload, 2015–16 to 2019–20
  • Figure 3.4: Cases finalised at first instance trial, 2015–16 to 2019–20
  • Figure 3.5: All applications, 2015–16 to 2019–20
  • Figure 3.6: Final orders applications, 2015–16 to 2019–20
  • Figure 3.7: Applications in a case, 2015–16 to 2019–20
  • Figure 3.8: Consent orders applications, 2015–16 to 2019–20
  • Figure 3.9: All applications, clearance rates, 2015–16 to 2019–20
  • Figure 3.10: Age of pending applications, 2015–16 to 2019–20
  • Figure 3.11: All applications, time pending, 2015–16 to 2019–20
  • Figure 3.12: Applications finalised within 12 months, 2015–16 to 2019–20
  • Figure 3.13: All applications, time to finalise, 2015–16 to 2019–20
  • Figure 3.14: Reserved judgments delivered within three months, 2015–16 to 2019–20
  • Figure 3.15: Time to deliver reserved judgments, 2015–16 to 2019–20
  • Figure 3.16: Representation of litigants in final order applications at some stage in the proceedings, 2015–16 to 2019–20
  • Figure 3.17: Representation of litigants at trials, 2015–16 to 2019–20
  • Figure 3.18: Notices of Child Abuse, Family Violence or Risk of Family Violence filed, 2015–16 to 2019–20
  • Figure 3.19: Magellan cases, 2016–17 to 2019–20
  • Figure 3.20: Total judicial services complaints, 2015–16 to 2019–20
  • Figure 4.1: Notices of appeal filed, finalised, pending, 2015–16 to 2019–20
  • Figure 4.2: Proportion of notices of appeal filed by jurisdiction, 2015–16 to 2019–20
  • Figure 4.3: Notices of appeal finalised by type of finalisation, 2015–16 to 2019–20