Family Law

The Magistrates' Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine matters related to state laws and some federal matters. The Family Law Act 1975 gives the Magistrates' Courts certain powers to deal with family law matters.

The Magistrates' Court of Victoria has the power to hear a similar range of matters related to children, property and intervention orders as the Federal Circuit Court however its powers are limited by the legislation and developed court procedures.

If matters heard before the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria are defended, they must be transferred to the Family Court of Australia.

The Magistrates' Court does not deal with divorce proceedings.

My child needs a passport and I am unable to locate the child’s other parent. What should I do? 

The Magistrates’ Court has limited jurisdiction in relation to Family Law matters. If you wish to obtain a passport for your child and you are unable to locate the other parent, you will need to make an application to the Federal Magistrates’ Court or the Family Court. 

Where can I obtain a divorce kit?

Divorce kits are available from the Family Court of Australia or the Federal Magistrates' Court.

Where do I get orders for child contact and residence?

The Family Court of Australia makes all orders in relation to application for child contact and residence.

Has my maintenance cheque arrived?

If the child was born on or after 1 October 1989 and the parties also separated on or after that date, you should contact the Child Support Agency.

The Child Support Agency can be contacted by telephone on 131272.  Further information is available from their website - www.csa.gov.au.

Types of Family Law Orders

Contact Order

A contact order says who the child can see and when he or she can see them.

Residence Order

A residence order covers who the child lives with.

Specific Issue Order

A specific issues order covers areas of parental responsibility which is not covered by residence and contact orders. They relate to issues which affect the daily or long term care, welfare and development of the child. 

These issues may include:

  • What school the child will go to
  • The religious upbringing of the child
  • The child's medical treatment.

However, it is important to note that if defended, the matter will be referred to the Family Court.

Child Support and Maintenance

Child support and maintenance are regular payments made by one parent to the other to pay for the costs of looking after the child. There are two types of child support and maintenance orders which can be obtained.

Child Maintenance - Stage 1

The Court can only make a child maintenance order if you separated before 1 October 1989 and no child of the relationship was born after that date.

Child Support - Stage 2

If you separated after 1 October 1989, or have a child born after that date, the agreement can be registered at the Child Support Agency. If there is no agreement on how much child support should be paid, you can apply to the Child Support Agency to make an assessment. This procedure involves an administrative assessment which is broadly based on a percentage of the liable parent’s taxable income.

A departure order may be sought should either party be dissatisfied with an assessment by the Child Support Agency. This application can be made at either the Magistrates' Court of Victoria or the Family Court. 

Property Issues

Only parties who are or were married can apply for a property settlement under theFamily Law Act 1975. Different laws apply to de facto or same sex partners.

The Magistrates’ Court can only deal with property settlements by consent. The Magistrates' Court cannot deal with matrimonial property where the value of the property exceeds $100,000 unless both parties agree to the court hearing the case.

Property disputes between domestic partners (both de facto and same sex partners) can be heard in the Supreme, County or Magistrates' Courts depending on the value of the property in question.

Recovery Orders

A recovery order is required when the child is taken without your consent. You can apply for a recovery order requiring the location of the child to be disclosed and for the child to be returned to you.

Once a recovery order is made in the Magistrates' Court the final hearing may be determined by the Family Court of Australia. 

Change of Name

An application to resolve a child welfare issue pursuant to the Family Law Act 1975, such as change of name, can be made to the Family Court of Australia, the Federal Magistrates’ Service or the Magistrates' Court of Victoria. Both parties must consent to the Magistrates' Court hearing the matter. Lack of consent requires immediate transfer to the Family Court. 

Marriage of Minors

The Magistrates' Court may deal with applications for Marriage of Minors. Any person wishing to marry and who is under the age of 18, is considered a minor and must make an application to the Court requesting consideration of special circumstances to be married underage. The Magistrate will hold an inquiry into the relevant facts and circumstances and based on the results of this inquiry, will conclude whether to approve or refuse the application.

Applications for the marriage of minors will only be considered in situations of exceptional or unique circumstances that can justify the Magistrate approving the application. It should be noted that pregnancy in itself, is not a justifiable, exceptional or unusual circumstance.

Legal Advice

Legal representation can be obtained either through a private practitioner or Victoria Legal Aid. There are legal services which provide free legal information and assistance relating specifically to Family Law and Child Support issues. Community Legal Services are located throughout Victoria.

If you need a solicitor but cannot afford one, you may be eligible for legal aid or financial assistance. Before attending court, it is always useful to contact the Registrar court for any further information and advice.

Contacts

Contact the Magistrates' Court where your matter is listed or your nearest court. 
Contact details for all Victorian Magistrates' Courts are available under Contact Us

Email: help@magistratescourt.vic.gov.au