The Family Court of Australia was established with the passing of the Family Law Act (FLA) 1975. The court is a Federal Court and is a superior court of record. It's judges have the same status as Federal or Supreme Court judges. There are no juries. Appeals lie to the Full Court of the Family Court comprising three judges, and in appropriate cases, five judges. Appeals thereafter lie to the High Court. The Family Court has the power to deal with issues involving divorce, children, property and spousal maintenance by way of s.51 of the Constitution and each case is considered on it's merits (as shown in the cases B v B and Smith v Smith)
The 1976 Act removed the fourteen grounds for divorce that existed under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1959 and replaced them with a single reason, being an ''irretrievable breakdown'' of the marriage. In granting a divorce, the Court must be satisfied that the parties are seperated, the marriage has broken down irretrievably, and where the parties have children, the arrangements which have been put in place for the children are appropriate.
In regards to child maintenance, the Child Support Acts of 1988 and 1989 both confer original and appellate jurisdiction on the Family Court. The Court also has jurisdiction to make a parenting order concerning children, including residence orders, contact orders and specific issues orders. In making a parenting order, the Court considers what, in all circumstances, is in the best interests of the child (as shown in the 1988 case of M v M).
This idea arose in the ratifying of the UN Treaty on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CROC) in 1990. This provides that the best interests of the child must be of 'paramount consideration' in all actions concerning...