Legal Terms in Australia

Legal Terms

These terms cover a wide range of issues and processes commonly encountered in family law in Australia.

Affidavit – A written statement confirmed by oath or affirmation, used as evidence in court.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) – Processes, such as mediation or arbitration, used to resolve disputes without resorting to litigation.

Abduction and Recovery of Children – Legal processes and orders for the return of children who have been taken or retained against custody arrangements. This includes domestic and international abductions, often involving the Hague Convention.

Abuse of Children: Any physical, emotional, or psychological harm to a child. Family law proceedings often include protections and considerations to prevent abuse, including appointing an Independent Children’s Lawyer (ICL).

Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT): A body that reviews decisions made by the Child Support Registrar regarding child support assessments.

Adult Children: Refers to individuals over 18 who may still require financial support under certain conditions, such as continuing education or disability.

Binding Child Support Agreement – A formal agreement between parents regarding child support payments, which is legally binding and enforceable.

Binding Financial Agreement (BFA) – An agreement made before, during, or after a marriage or de facto relationship that sets out the financial arrangements in case of separation.

Best Interests of the Child: A legal standard used by courts to make decisions about parenting arrangements, prioritising the child’s welfare above all else.

Child Custody – The legal right to make decisions about the care and upbringing of a child, now often referred to as “parental responsibility.”

Child Support – Financial contributions required from one or both parents to support their child’s living expenses and upbringing.

Consent Orders – Court orders made by agreement between the parties without the need for a court hearing, covering parenting arrangements or property settlements.

Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 (CSAA): Legislation that provides the framework for assessing and collecting child support payments.

Contravention Application: An application made to the court when one party believes the other has breached a parenting order.

Child Support Registrar: The official responsible for managing the assessment, collection, and enforcement of child support payments.

Child Support Agreement: An agreement between parents about the financial support for their children, which can be either binding or limited.

Case Assessment Conference: An early step in family law proceedings where the parties meet with a registrar or mediator to assess the case and explore settlement options.

Children’s Matters: Legal issues related to the care, welfare, and development of children, including custody, access, and parental responsibility.

Clean Break Principle: The idea that financial settlements should aim to separate the financial ties between divorcing spouses as completely as possible to allow them to move on independently.

Commonwealth, State, and Territory Central Authorities: Bodies responsible for coordinating the return of abducted children under the Hague Convention and other international agreements.

Conciliation Conference: A meeting between parties, their lawyers, and a registrar to resolve disputes amicably without going to trial, commonly used in property and financial matters.

Contravention Application: An application to the court when one party believes the other has breached a court order, particularly in relation to parenting arrangements.

De Facto Relationship: A relationship where two people live together on a genuine domestic basis but are not legally married. Family law applies similarly to de facto relationships and marriages regarding property settlements and financial agreements.

Divorce : The legal dissolution of a marriage by a court or other competent body.

Division of Property: The process of dividing assets and debts between parties following separation or divorce.

Departure Orders: Orders made by a court to depart from the standard child support assessment formula due to special circumstances affecting either parent’s ability to pay.

Discovery of Documents: The legal process requiring parties to disclose documents relevant to the case, ensuring transparency and fairness in proceedings.

Equal Shared Parental Responsibility: A presumption that both parents should share responsibility for their children’s upbringing unless it is not in the children’s best interests.

Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) – A process where a neutral third party helps families resolve disputes, typically used for parenting and property matters.

Family Violence – Behaviour by a family member that causes physical, emotional, or psychological harm to another family member, including threats and coercion.

Family Law Act 1975 (FLA):  The primary legislation governing family law in Australia, dealing with divorce, property settlements, and child custody arrangements.

Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCA): The court responsible for handling family law matters, combining the former Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court.

Family Dispute Resolution (FDR): A process to help separating couples resolve disputes regarding children and property without going to court. It is mandatory to attempt FDR before applying for a parenting order.

Family Violence Order: A court order to protect individuals from family violence, including physical, emotional, and psychological abuse.

Family law barrister – is a legal professional who specialises in representing clients in family law matters in court. Barristers are typically involved in more complex and contentious family law cases, providing specialist advocacy services. 

Family counsellor (and FDR provider) – play crucial roles in helping families navigate disputes and conflicts, particularly during separation and divorce. 

Family consultant – This is the person who will interview your clients’ children, will observe the children’s interaction with
their parents, record the children’s views, and then report all that to the court.

Family Counselling: Professional services that provide support and mediation to families dealing with relationship issues, separation, or divorce, aiming to resolve conflicts amicably.

Final Orders: Court orders that provide a long-term solution to family law disputes, covering issues such as child custody, property settlements, and spousal maintenance.

Interim Orders – Temporary court orders made before the final resolution of a case, often used to address urgent matters such as living arrangements or financial support.

Independent Children’s Lawyer (ICL): A lawyer appointed by the court to represent the best interests of the child in family law proceedings.

Jurisdiction – refers to the legal authority of a court to hear and decide on matters within a specific geographic area or over certain types of cases.

Mediation – A voluntary process where an independent mediator assists disputing parties in reaching a mutually acceptable agreement.

Maintenance and Property Orders: Court orders relating to the financial support of a spouse and the division of property after separation.

Parental Responsibility – The legal duties, powers, responsibilities, and authority parents have concerning their children.

Parenting Plan – A written agreement between parents outlining arrangements for the care of their children, which is not legally enforceable but can be used to develop consent orders.

Property Settlement – The division of assets and liabilities between parties following the breakdown of a marriage or de facto relationship.

Parenting Order: A legally binding order issued by the court concerning the parenting arrangements for a child, including where the child lives and how much time they spend with each parent.

Paternity Testing: Legal procedures to determine the biological father of a child, which can impact child support and parental responsibilities.

Property Settlement: The process of dividing assets and debts between parties following separation or divorce, aiming for a fair and equitable distribution.

Relocation – The act of moving a child to a different geographical location, which can impact existing parenting arrangements and often requires court approval.

Separation – The point at which a married or de facto couple stops living together as a couple, marking the beginning of the end of their relationship.

Spousal Maintenance: Financial support paid by one spouse or de facto partner to the other following separation or divorce.

Superannuation Splitting: The process of dividing superannuation entitlements between parties in a property settlement.

Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993 (SIS Act): Legislation that governs the management and regulation of superannuation funds in Australia.

Variation of Orders: Legal procedures to change existing court orders due to a significant change in circumstances affecting either party or the children.