The Family Court of Australia is a superior Australian federal court of record which deals with family law matters. Together with the Federal Magistrates Court, it covers family law matters in all states and territories of Australia except Western Australia. Its core function is to determine cases with the most complex law, facts and parties, to cover specialised areas in family law, and to provide national coverage as the national appellate court for family law matters.
Established by the passing of Family Law Act 1975, under Chapter 3 of the Australian Constitution, it commenced operations on 5 January 1976. It currently comprises a Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice, Appeal Division judges and other judges. At July 2008, there were 44 judges (5 of whom were also Judges of the Family Court of Western Australia), 2 judicial registrars and 1 senior registrar. The Court maintains registries in all Australian states and territories except Western Australia.
The Court has had three Chief Justices to date, Elizabeth Evatt AC, Alastair Nicholson and Diana Bryant QC (Formerly Chief Federal Magistrate, appointed to current role in 2004 The Deputy Chief Justice is John Faulks (appointed as a Judge in 1994 and to his current position in 2004).
The 2008-09 federal budget provided for Family Court expenditure of $137m (including services provided free to the Federal Magistrates' Court).
Commonwealth family law is dealt with by the Family Law Act 1975, the Family Law Regulations 1984 and the Marriage Act 1961. In 1986-87, the States agreed that children should be dealt with under the same legislation. The Family Law Act 1975 was amended in 1988 to reflect this agreement (although this did not happen in relation to Queensland until 1990). Western Australia, however, did not enter into the agreement and has maintained its own separate Family Court which deals with federal legislation (such as the Family Law Act) as well as state legislation such as the Family Court Act (WA). Unmarried partners in dispute over property are still required to go to State courts.
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