Clients are sometimes confused about which Family Law Court is appropriate to hear their case in Melbourne. This is understandable as there are three separate courts on the same street in Melbourne which have jurisdiction on Family Law related issues.
#1 Magistrates Court of Victoria
233 William Street Melbourne
This is a State Court which has the exclusive jurisdiction to grant Intervention Orders under the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 in situations where people are subjected to family violence. “Family violence” includes threats, physical and sexual abuse, emotional and psychological abuse, economic abuse, damage to property, injury to animals and other threatening, coercive or in any way controlling and dominating behaviour which makes a family member fear for their safety or wellbeing or for the safety or wellbeing of another person.
#2 Federal Circuit Court of Australia (formerly Federal Magistrates’ Court of Australia)
305 William Street Melbourne
The court for custody in Australia is the FCFCOA or the Federal Circuit and Family court of Australia.
The primary objective of the court is to make decisions that are in the child’s best interests, taking into account a variety of factors, such as the child’s age, the character of the child’s relationship with each parent, and the child’s emotional and physical well-being.
This is a Commonwealth (or Federal) Court which has jurisdiction under the Family Law Act and Child Support Acts. It hears Divorce, Property Division, Maintenance, Child Support and Children/Parenting cases.
What Are the Functions of the Court for Custody?
The primary function of a court for custody is to make decisions about the care and custody of children when parents are unable to agree on their own. These courts are responsible for guaranteeing that the child’s best interests take priority in all custody disputes.
Among the specific functions of a custody court in Australia are:
• Making custody orders: The court has the power to make custody orders that determine who will have legal and physical custody of the child. Custody may be awarded to one parent, both parents or a third party.
• Determining parenting arrangements: The court can make orders about parenting arrangements, including the time each parent will spend with the child, the communication that will take place between parents and the child, and other matters related to the child’s care and wellbeing.
• Resolving disputes: If parents are unable to agree on custody arrangements, the court can intervene to help resolve the dispute. Before reaching a final decision, this may involve ordering mediation or other forms of dispute resolution.
• Enforcing custody orders: The court has the power to enforce custody orders if one parent fails to comply with the court’s orders. This may include fining or otherwise penalizing the non-compliant parent.
• Safeguarding the child’s best interests: The court’s primary duty is to safeguard the child’s best interests. This means that the court will consider a variety of factors when determining child custody, such as the child’s age, relationship with each parent, emotional and physical well-being, and any other pertinent factors.
How Does a Court for Custody Work?
Whenever a custody dispute arises, the first stage is typically to attempt a resolution through mediation.
This entails both parents gathering with a trained mediator in an attempt to reach a custody agreement.
If mediation is unsuccessful, the matter may be referred to a court for custody.
Both parents will have the opportunity to present evidence and argue why they should be granted custody of the child in court. The court will also consider the child’s opinion, if he or she is mature enough to have one, and any other relevant factors, such as the child’s relationship with their grandparents and other family members.
The court will then determine the custody arrangements. This may involve granting custody to one parent, granting joint custody to both parents or sending the child with a third party, such as a grandparent or other relative.
It is important to note that the decision of the court is final and legally binding. Failure to comply with the court’s orders may result in severe penalties, such as fines or imprisonment.
When Is There a Need to Go to Court for Custody?
There are several reasons why parents may need to go to court for custody of their child. Here are some common scenarios:
• Disagreements over custody: When parents are unable to agree on custody arrangements, they may need to go to court to have a judge make a decision.
• Safety concerns: If one parent is concerned about the safety or well-being of the child while in the care of the other parent, they may seek court intervention to assure the child’s protection.
• Relocation: If one parent wishes to move to a different state or country with the child, the other parent may object, resulting in a custody dispute that must be resolved in court.
• Parental alienation: When one parent attempts to alienate a child from the other parent, the afflicted parent may seek court intervention to preserve their relationship with the child.
• Domestic violence: If there is a history of domestic violence between the parents or if one parent has concerns about the safety of the child in the care of the other parent due to domestic violence, they may need to seek custody orders that safeguard the child from harm.
How to Contact the Court for Custody?
If you need to contact a court for custody, you can find the contact details for your local court by searching for the FCFCOA online.
Once you have identified the court in your area with jurisdiction over custody matters, you can contact them to learn more about the application process.
Depending on the court and the state or territory in which you reside, the specific procedures for filing a petition for custody may vary.
It is important to note that the process of filing an application for custody can be complex and time-consuming. It is always a good idea to seek legal advice of child custody lawyers and support throughout the process to ensure that your rights and the best interests of your child are protected.
A court for custody is a crucial legal forum for resolving disputes about child custody in Australia. These courts have the power to make decisions that are in the best interests of the child, taking into account a range of factors.
Even though the court’s decision is final, both parents must remember that their primary concern should always be their child’s welfare. By working together and putting their child’s needs first, parents can ensure that the custody arrangements put in place by the court are successful and beneficial for everyone involved.
#3 Family Court of Australia
305 William Street Melbourne
This is also a Commonwealth Court having the same jurisdiction as the Federal Magistrates’ Court detailed above plus exclusive jurisdiction to hear Nullity of Marriage or Validity of Marriage cases. It also hears Appeals from the Federal Magistrates’ Court.
The choice of which of Melbourne Family Law Courts is most appropriate to decide your case is important. There are different procedures which apply in the different courts. Melbourne Family Lawyers can advise as to which Court is best suited for your particular circumstances.
The founder of the firm, Silvio is a Family Law Specialist Accredited by the Law Institute of Victoria, Accredited FindLaw Feature Writer in Family Law and is a Founding Member of the Collaborative Law Committee of the Law Institute of Victoria.