Seeking legal advice

It is advisable to obtain legal advice before making a decision about what to do or before applying to the courts. A lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and responsibilities. They can also explain how the law applies to your case. The Family Relationship Advice Line (FRAL) can help you with free legal advice and information about services available to assist anyone with family relationship issues including information relating to family law proceedings. Call 1800 050 321 or +61 7 3423 6878 if you are overseas. You should notify FRAL that you require legal advice so they can take your details and organise a lawyer to contact you. FRAL will provide a timeframe and you should advise if your request is urgent. Alternatively you can obtain initial free legal advice from a Legal Aid Legal Advice Line in your state or territory. Court staff cannot give you legal advice.

Pre-filing procedures in parenting matters

Before you file an application for parenting orders you are required to read the Marriage, families and separation brochure.

Before you file an application for parenting orders you are required to read the Marriage, families and separation brochure.

The Family Law Act 1975 requires the courts to take into consideration the best interests of the child as the most important consideration when making parenting orders. For more information see Parenting Cases – the best interest of the child.

You can also refer to the brochure Parenting After Separation prepared by Family Law Pathways in South Australia, but applicable nationally, which provides some general insights regarding parenting after separation.

You must also make a genuine effort to resolve the matter by family dispute resolution. Part V11 of the Family Law Act 1975 requires that an applicant obtain a certificate from a registered family dispute resolution practitioner before an application is filed. To find a family dispute resolution service provider in your local area, call FRAL (as detailed above). 

For information on the procedures and requirements for compulsory family dispute resolution in family law proceedings refer to the fact sheet Compulsory Family Dispute Resolution.

For information on the procedures and requirements for compulsory family dispute resolution in family law proceedings refer to the fact sheet Compulsory Family Dispute Resolution.

 In certain circumstances the Court can grant an exemption from the requirement to file a certificate as indicated in the fact sheet.

Filing an application with the Court

If all parties have reached agreement and want to formalise the agreement to make it legally binding they can apply to the Family Court of Australia for consent orders. Go to How do I apply for Consent orders for more information.

If there is no agreement and your application will be for determination by the Court, then one party can start court proceedings by filing an Initiating Application to ask the Federal Circuit Court of Australia or the Family Court of Australia to make orders. Go to the Protocol for the division of work between the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court for information about which court you should file your application in. If you are filing interim parenting orders in the Federal Circuit Court in Sydney, Newcastle or Canberra you should read the Notice to Practitioners Interim Parenting Proceedings.

If there is no agreement and your application will be for determination by the Court, then one party can start court proceedings by filing an Initiating Application to ask the Federal Circuit Court of Australia or the Family Court of Australia to make orders. Go to the Protocol for the division of work between the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court for information about which court you should file your application in. If you are filing interim parenting orders in the Federal Circuit Court in Sydney, Newcastle or Canberra you should read the Notice to Practitioners Interim Parenting Proceedings.

You can file an Initiating Application electronically (eFile) on the Commonwealth Courts Portal. Go to How do I register for the Portal  for information. See How do I electronically file an application for information on how to eFile an application.

You can file an Initiating Application electronically (eFile) on the Commonwealth Courts Portal. Go to How do I register for the Portal for information. See How do I electronically file an application for information on how to eFile an application.

 Note: Your application will be preserved for 90 days. The Court does not have access to your application until you pay the filing fee and submit the application. To find your partly completed application log in and go to Partly completed applications under File access. Note: If you have any portal related queries, please email support@comcourts.gov.au or contact us by Live Chat – Chat online.

OR

Complete and file the following forms at a family law registry (original + copy for each party).

Complete and file the following forms at a family law registry (original + copy for each party).

  1. Initiating Application (note: this form is applicable in both courts)
  2. Affidavit (Federal Circuit Court) or Affidavit (Family Court only required if interim orders sought). Refer to information on preparing an affidavit in related information.
  3. A certificate from a registered family dispute resolution practitioner or an Affidavit of non-filing of family dispute resolution certificate – see fact sheet above.
  4. Federal Circuit Court – A Notice of Risk.  You must file this notice if you are seeking parenting orders. Family Court – A Notice of Child Abuse and Family Violence. If you are alleging family violence or a risk of family violence and/or child abuse you must file this notice.
  1. Initiating Application (note: this form is applicable in both courts)
  2. Affidavit (Federal Circuit Court) or Affidavit (Family Court only required if interim orders sought). Refer to information on preparing an affidavit in related information.
  3. A certificate from a registered family dispute resolution practitioner or an Affidavit of non-filing of family dispute resolution certificate – see fact sheet above.
  4. Federal Circuit Court – A Notice of Risk.  You must file this notice if you are seeking parenting orders. Family Court – A Notice of Child Abuse and Family Violence. If you are alleging family violence or a risk of family violence and/or child abuse you must file this notice.

Fees

You will be required to pay a filing fee or you may be eligible for an exemption. Refer to the Guideline for fee exemption to find out if you are eligible.

If you are eligible you should complete the Application for exemption from fees general and attach a photocopy of documentary evidence (both sides).

If you are not eligible, but payment of the fee will cause you financial hardship you can complete the Application for exemption from fees – financial hardship.

You will be required to pay a filing fee or you may be eligible for an exemption. Refer to the Guideline for fee exemption to find out if you are eligible.

If you are eligible you should complete the Application for exemption from fees general and attach a photocopy of documentary evidence (both sides).

If you are not eligible, but payment of the fee will cause you financial hardship you can complete the Application for exemption from fees – financial hardship.

Apply for final parenting orders only – $330 (or $0 if eligible for an exemption).

Apply for final and interim parenting orders – $445* (or $0 if eligible for an exemption).

Apply for final parenting and financial orders – $545 (or $0 if eligible for an exemption).

Apply for final and interim parenting and financial orders – $660* (or $0 if eligible for an exemption).

Payment

If you have eFiled your application you will be required to pay the filing fee by credit card (visa/mastercard) when you complete the online interactive application.

If you file your application by post or in person go to Making payments to the courts for more information.

If you file your application by post or in person go to Making payments to the courts for more information.

Urgent applications

You can ask the Court to consider an urgent application by seeking appropriately worded orders and providing evidence in a supporting affidavit why the Court should list the matter for an early hearing date or make an urgent order. The Court will consider the application based on the evidence provided and notify you of any further requirements or a listing date. You cannot eFile an urgent application.

In extremely urgent situations you can seek an urgent order to be made ex parte. This means the Court would deal with the matter immediately and without notice to the other party. Ex parte orders are usually only granted in matters where you can substantiate urgency by seeking appropriately worded urgent orders in the application. You will need to explain the grounds on which you are seeking urgent orders in your supporting affidavit. Refer to r5.12 of the Family Law Rules 2004. In addition, you should also include a cover letter stating the urgency. State courts also have a limited jurisdiction under the Family Law Act 1975, you should check with your local state court as to whether they have the jurisdiction to hear and determine your type of application. For example, an urgent application may be heard in a state court in country locations where no other service is available.

What will happen after I have filed the application?

You are required to serve the filed documents on the other parties. 

See How do I serve an initiating application for more information.

See How do I serve an initiating application for more information.

If you filed an initiating application at a registry, sealed copies will be returned to you for service.

If you eFiled the application, you should print a sealed copy of the application so you can serve the respondent. To print the application you should go to Documents filed and print a copy for service.