If you are a party to a family dispute regarding property matters, you need to consider both jurisdiction and the appropriate forum for your case. Knowing which court has jurisdiction over your case keeps you away from legal conflicts and waste of resources.
Jurisdiction is a complex legal term. It is the power of a court to hear and decide a particular case. Different courts have different jurisdictions. Some cases can only be entertained by a specific court; other cases can be entertained by any court.
The Family Court of Australia is the highest court which can deal with property settlement disputes involving property. Both the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court can issue orders involving property located in a foreign country. The Family Court can also issue orders against assets within Australia.
As to property settlement orders, however, Family Courts can only issue property settlement orders involving property located in Australia.
Another consideration you need to know in a property settlement proceeding is disclosure. Full disclosure of financial matters is required by the court before which the proceeding is pending. The court handling the case will require both parties to divulge all properties and assets in all kinds held by them. Schedule of assets, as well as a list of income and liabilities, are required to be disclosed.
Documents pertinent to property settlement held by any one of the parties also need to be informed to the court. The other party holding a copy of a property document n the custody of the other is also required to disclose such copies.
The purpose of the full disclosure is aimed at assisting the judge with crucial information from which to base his decision. Information like these will help the judge to make a reasonable and just decision. In case a party refuses to provide vital information about any property held by him and a subsequent decision is made, the decision may be attacked on appeal by the other party.
Australian courts cannot execute matrimonial property orders over properties located outside Australia. This is because real properties are under the exclusive jurisdiction of the court where the property is located. This is true with property settlement orders involving real properties outside the country. The exception here is when the purpose of the order is maintained, it can be recognised even outside Australia and may be enforced internationally.
This is however limited to countries which have reciprocal enforcement treaties or bilateral agreements with Australia as covered by Family Law Act 1975 (Cth). Countries which have reciprocating jurisdictions can enforce those orders so long as they are signatories.