If you have divorced your spouse or separated from your de facto partner, you might still need the court’s help to resolve certain parenting or financial issues. You ask for that help by submitting an application for an order to a Family Law Court. This article will explain that process.
There are two basic kinds of orders a Family Law Court can enter on your behalf:
Financial orders are used to divide property, including splits of superannuation interests, and to award spousal maintenance.
Parenting orders decide who will make parenting decisions about children, where they will live, and what kind of contact parents will have with children who do not reside in their household.
If you and your former spouse or partner come to an agreement about financial and parenting issues, you may not need a court order. If you want the security of knowing your agreement will be enforced by the court, however, you can ask the court to enter a consent order. An order to which both parties agree will be entered and enforced as if it were entered by the court after a contested hearing.
If you and your former spouse cannot come to an agreement, asking the court to enter a financial order or a parenting order may be the only way you can resolve your dispute.
What do I need to do?
Before you can apply for a court order (other than a consent order), you must make a good faith attempt to resolve your differences with your former spouse or domestic partner. That usually means you must engage in a process of dispute resolution before you apply for a court order. Exceptions are made for emergencies and when it would be unsafe to meet with the other party, provided the court agrees to relieve you of the obligation to comply with the dispute resolution requirement.
Dispute resolution procedures are similar in financial cases and in parenting cases. You need to engage in a process of mediation using a dispute resolution practitioner. The court can give you a list of practitioners in your area.
If dispute resolution fails, you need to comply with additional procedures. In financial cases, you need to exchange financial information with the other party and make a settlement offer. In parenting cases, you need to obtain a certificate of compliance with dispute resolution.
You then fill out and file an application that tells the court what kind of order you want. Applications for relatively simple relief are usually filed in the Federal Circuit Court. More complex applications are usually heard in the Family Court. A lawyer can help you prepare the application and can tell you which court is best suited to hear your case.