Pre-Action Procedures

Before filing a parenting or property application in the Federal Circuit & Family Court of Australia, you must comply with the relevant pre-action procedures.

1. Participate in Dispute Resolution

You and your ex-partner must participate in Family Dispute Resolution and make a genuine effort to resolve the dispute. If your dispute involves parenting matters, you must obtain a section 60I certificate from a registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner.

If you are exempt from participating in dispute resolution or you were unable to reach an agreement at dispute resolution, you must give the other party written notice of your intention to commence a proceeding. The notice must set out:

  • The issues in dispute.
  • The orders sought if proceedings are commenced.
  • A genuine offer to resolve the issues; and 
  • A time, being at least 14 days from the date of the notice, within which the other party must reply.

If you are served with a notice of intention, you must reply in writing, either accepting the offer or setting out:

  • The issues in dispute.
  • The orders sought if proceedings are commenced.
  • A genuine offer to resolve the issues; and 
  • A time, being at least 14 days from the date of the notice, within which the other party must reply.

Commencing Proceedings

If you and your ex-partner cannot reach an agreement, you may commence proceeding by filing the required application or documents online through the Commonwealth Courts Portal. 

Filing Fees will apply. You may be eligible for reduced fees or a fee exemption if you are experiencing financial hardship or hold certain government concession cards. For a list of the current fees, see the Family Court Website.

Documents to File: Parenting

  1. An Initiating application that sets out the parenting orders you are seeking;
  2. A Certificate from Family Dispute Resolution, unless a relevant exemption applies;
  3. A Genuine steps certificate;
  4. A Notice of child abuse, family violence or risk;
  5. A Parenting questionnaire; and 
  6. An Affidavit in support of any interlocutory orders sought (if any), which sets out the facts relevant to those orders and addresses your child's best interests.

Documents to File: Property

  1. An Initiating application that sets out the property and/or financial orders you are seeking;
  2. A Financial Statement;
  3. A Genuine steps certificate;
  4. A Financial Questionnaire; and
  5. An Affidavit in support of the interlocutory orders (if any) you are seeking, which sets out the facts relevant to those orders.

TIP: If you are seeking both parenting and property orders, you can apply for the orders together in the same application.


Any applications or documents filed with the Court must be served on all parties to the proceedings, i.e., your ex-partner, the Independent Children's Lawyer (if any) and any other third parties, as soon as practical after filing. Proof of service must be efiled through the Commonwealth Courts Portal.

The process of service differs depending on the type of document:

  • Applications starting proceedings or subpoenas requiring the attendance of a person must be served by personal service. You must arrange for a person over 18 (other than yourself), e.g., your lawyer, a process server, or any other person who is not a party to the proceedings, to serve the documents by hand.
  • All other court documents may be served by ordinary service. Service should be made to their nominated address of service by post, email, fax or in-person; or to their last known address by post or in person.

I Have Been Served

If you have been served with an application for parenting or property orders, you will need to respond. To respond, you must pay the relevant fee and file a Response to Initating Application and the relevant documents, required for parenting and/or property proceedings. Once you have filed the documents you must then serve them on the applicant.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

You do not need to consult a lawyer prior to commencing or responding to court proceedings, and you may choose to represent yourself throughout the proceedings. However, given the complex and emotional nature of Family Law proceedings, you should retain a lawyer to provide you with legal advice about your rights and responsibilities and to represent you.

Duty of Disclosure

All parties to family proceedings have a duty to disclose all information that is relevant to the issues in the case. You must continue to provide any relevant disclosures as your circumstances change or new relevant documents are created or come into your possession.

If you fail to provide full and frank disclosure, the Court may:

  • Prevent you from using that information as evidence;
  • Dismiss your case;
  • Order costs against you; or
  • Find you guilty of contempt of court.

Full & Frank Disclosure in Property Matters

In property or financial cases, you must make full and frank disclosure of your financial circumstances. This requires you to disclose all sources of income, interest, earnings, property and other financial resources and includes any resources owned by a trust, company, or corporation controlled by yourself or which you are a beneficiary of. You will also be required to disclose the financial circumstances of your spouse or de facto partner.

Your disclosure obligations will generally be satisfied by filing a Financial Statement; however, you may be required to file an Affidavit if further particulars are necessary.

Full & Frank Disclosure in Parenting Matters

In parenting matters, parties must make full and frank disclosure of all relevant information. The relevant information will be case-specific but may include school reports, medical reports about the child or a parent, communications between the parents, photographs or a diary.

The Hearing

First Court Event

The First Court Event is a procedural hearing at which the Registrar will hear from the parties about the steps needed to prepare the matter for Court and make orders and directions accordingly.

Generally, the orders that may be made include orders for the gathering of evidence, expert reports, disclosure, valuations, or orders to meet with a Court Child Expert or undertake a parenting course or program.

Directions Hearing

Directions hearings are procedural hearings at which orders or directions will be made for the progression of the case.

Final Hearing

At the Final Hearing, each party will be allowed to present their case to the judge. This includes:

  • Giving an opening address that outlines your case;
  • Adducing evidence for witnesses and other material; and
  • Making submissions about the evidence and the law.

The judge will weigh up all the evidence and make a decision, which will be recorded in their judgment. The Judge may deliver judgment immediately after the hearing; however, ordinarily, judgment is reserved and delivered at a later date.

Urgent Applications

If your parenting or property matter is urgent, you may seek an order that the matter be given an urgent listing. You may seek an urgent applciation by seeking an interlocutory order in your Initiating Application or filing an Application in a Proceeding if the matter is already on foot. Your application must be accompanied by:

  • An Affidavit setting out the facts you rely on in support of the urgent application; and
  • A cover letter outlining the urgent nature of the application and why an urgent listing is required.

Urgent orders are generally sought in cases where:

  • A child is at immediate risk of physical or psychological harm.
  • You need relocation or recovery orders.
  • One party is under serious financial stress and needs urgent maintenance.
  • One party is about to, or has already, unilaterally sell the family home or other property of the relationship.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided above is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be nor should it be relied upon as a substitute for legal or other advice.