Contributor: Greg Connellan
Family Court of Australia
The Family Court deals with cases under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth). A decision of a single Family Court judge can be appealed to the full Family Court (i.e. three Family Court judges). A decision by the full Family Court can be appealed to the High Court.
The Federal Circuit Court (formerly called the Federal Magistrates Court) was established as a separate court to deal with some cases that previously went to the Family Court or Federal Court. This court can hear a range of less complex family law matters and has the same child support powers as the Family Court. Proceedings can be transferred between the Federal Circuit Court and the Family Court and there is a right of appeal to the Family Court in some matters. The jurisdiction of the Federal Circuit Court has expanded over time and includes reviewing some administrative decisions, and industrial, migration and consumer matters.
Although state Supreme Courts can hear matters involving Commonwealth law (i.e. they have federal jurisdiction), the Federal Court can also hear these cases. In some circumstances, the Federal Court can also hear state matters.
The Federal Court’s business includes industrial disputes, actions under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) and bankruptcy matters. The Federal Court also hears appeals of decisions of the Commonwealth Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
A decision of a single Federal Court judge can be appealed to the full Federal Court (i.e. three Federal Court judges). A decision by the full Federal Court can be appealed to the High Court.
The High Court is the highest court in Australia. Appeals may be made to it from state Supreme Courts, although generally the High Court gives leave to appeal only when important points of law need to be decided. Some matters may be heard directly by it (e.g. constitutional matters).
The High Court’s decisions are binding on all states, so a decision on a case appealed from a Victorian Supreme Court to the High Court will (usually) result in a decision by the High Court that is binding on all other state courts.