How does family law work in Australia?

How does family law work in Australia?

Australia’s family law system is focused on resolving legal aspects of family relationship issues. This system is focused on helping people to reach agreement to resolve issues without having to go through long and drawn out Court battles.

Australian family law at present, is governed by the federal Family Law Act 1975 and other Court Rules.

Matters covered under family law in Australia


A marriage is void and may be annulled in the following cases:

  • In the case of bigamy, this is if one or both the parties were already married to someone else; 
  • If both parties are closely related or are in a prohibited relationship; 
  • If the marriage took place abroad where the marriage laws are drastically different from the laws in Australia, the marriage can be considered void;
  • If one or both the parties were under-age and could not have been legally married;
  • If one or both the parties did not agree to get married and were forced into getting married.


In case there is an irretrievable breakdown of marriage, an application for a Divorce can be filed with the Federal  Circuit Court of Australia if the couple have had a 12 month separation period before  the date  of filing for the Divorce  and there is no likelihood of resumption of cohabitation. This separation period is valid even if the couple have been living in the same household but separately and apart. 

Applying for divorce

An application for Divorce can be filed by either party or both parties jointly. In case of a marriage less than 2 years the parties attempt counselling and provide evidence with the filing of the application of having attended counselling.  

An application for Divorce can be filed if either spouse:

  • Is an Australian citizen or resident and plans to live in Australia;
  • Is an Australian citizen by birth or descent ;
  • Has lived in Australia for 12 months before filing for divorce.

Neither of the parties can remarry before the divorce becomes final by Order of the Court. 

If children are involved

If the couple has children under the age of 18, the divorce is granted only when the Court is satisfied that proper arrangements have been made for the children.

This applies to:

  • any child of either of the parties, even if the child is born before marriage or after separation;
  • any adopted children;
  • any step-children.

Laws affecting children

Family law also deals with care and living arrangements for the children in the event of parents separating. The Court will only make Orders in the best interests of children. Certain steps must be taken to seek to resolve disputes before embarking on a Court case. Careful consideration needs to be given to these steps so that an early resolution of parenting disputes can be achieved.

De facto couples

A de facto relationship is valid only if the couple have lived together for a minimum two years. Within two years of separation, the parties are eligible to file an application for property and/or spousal maintenance in Courts exercising Family Law jurisdiction.

Property and financial outcomes

In case of a Divorce or death of a spouse, property and financial wealth is not split in half as community property in Australia.  Time limits apply for filing an application for property settlement following a Divorce.

Financial division of property is dealt with under the Family Law Act 1975 and is dependent on a number of matters including the length of the relationship, the value of assets/liabilities,  the financial and non-financial contributions made by the parties to the relationship, contributions as a homemaker/parent and the future needs of the parties.  In case of a separation or Divorce, the Courts exercising Family Law jurisdiction have power to distribute the property and financial wealth  of the parties pursuant to the Law.

Parties can also request the Court to make Orders confirming their agreement relating to the separation of assets and wealth. The Court can only make Orders which are fair and equitable. We can assist you with reaching an agreement with your spouse.

Family and relationship disputes are sensitive, and not all cases are the same. Careful legal and other professional advice may be required so that appropriate decisions can be made for all concerned. We are happy to assist where required. You may contact us through our website –

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