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Glossary of Terms

A

Adoption: The legal process by which a person or couple becomes the legal parent(s) of a child who is not biologically theirs.

Annulment: Legal declaration that a marriage is void, retroactively cancelling it as if it never existed.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR): Methods like mediation and arbitration used to resolve family law conflicts without going to court.

Abuse: The physical, emotional, or psychological mistreatment of one family member by another, including child abuse and domestic violence.

Arbitration: A method of dispute resolution where a neutral third party hears both sides and makes a binding decision.

Affidavit: A written statement of facts sworn under oath, often used as evidence in family court proceedings.

Affirmation: A non religious promise to tell the truth in court.

Appeal: The process of requesting a higher court to review and possibly overturn a lower court’s decision.

Adoption Agency: A licensed organisation facilitating the placement of children with adoptive parents and assisting throughout the adoption process.

Applicant: the person who makes an application to the court for an order to be made.

Appearance: when a party or their lawyer goes to court 

Allegation: A statement or claim of fact that has yet to be proven or disproven.

B

Bench Trial: A trial held before a judge without a jury, where the judge makes the final decision on the case.

Binding: A decision or agreement that is legally obligatory and cannot be changed without mutual consent.

Breach of Contract: Failure to fulfill the terms and conditions of a legally binding agreement.

Birth Certificate: Official document recording the birth of a child, including the names of the parents.

Bankruptcy: Legal process for individuals or businesses unable to repay their debts, potentially affecting family law matters.

Benefits: Financial support or assistance available to eligible individuals or families in need.

Bona Fide: In good faith; sincere and without fraud or deceit.

Bankruptcy Court: Federal court handling bankruptcy cases and related matters.

Breach of Fiduciary Duty: Violation of the duty to act in the best interest of another party, often related to financial matters.

C

Child Support: Financial payments made by one parent to the other to support the needs of their child(ren) after a divorce or separation.

Custodial Parent: The parent with whom the child primarily resides and has physical custody.

Child Custody: Now known as parenting arrangements, is the legal and physical responsibility for the care and decision-making for a child.

Co-Parenting: Collaborative parenting approach after divorce, focusing on the child’s best interests.

Child Neglect: Failure to provide a child with necessary care, attention, or supervision, potentially leading to legal intervention.

Child Visitation: Court-ordered time granted to a non-custodial parent to spend with their child.

Civil Union: A legal relationship between two people, typically offering the same legal rights and protections as marriage.

Custody Agreement: A written plan detailing child custody arrangements agreed upon by both parents.

Child Emancipation: Emancipation in Australia is the legal process of children “divorcing their parents.”

Child Abandonment: Desertion of a child without providing proper care, support, or contact.

D

De Facto Relationship: A relationship between two persons of the same or opposite sex who live together on a genuine domestic basis. De facto partners have certain legal rights and obligations similar to those of married couples.

Divorce: The legal termination of a marriage.

Domestic Violence: Any form of abusive behavior or conduct within a family or domestic relationship, including physical, emotional, psychological, financial, or sexual abuse. The law provides protection and support for victims of domestic violence.

Dispute Resolution: The process of resolving family law disputes outside of court, typically through methods such as mediation or negotiation. It aims to reach mutually acceptable agreements without the need for litigation.

Disclosure: The process of providing relevant financial and other information to the other party during family law proceedings. Full and honest disclosure is essential to reach fair settlements.

E

Equal Shared Parental Responsibility: A principle in where both parents of a child are responsible for making significant decisions regarding their upbringing.

Ex-Parte: A legal term used when a court order or application is made by one party without the presence or notification of the other party. Ex-parte orders are typically granted in urgent situations where immediate action is necessary.

Enforcement Order: A court order issued to ensure compliance with a previous court order or agreement. It is used when a party fails to meet their obligations or fails to follow the terms of an existing order.

Evidence: Information or materials presented in court to support or refute a claim or issue in a family law case. Evidence can include documents, witness statements, expert reports, and other relevant information.

F

Family Dispute Resolution (FDR): Also known as mediation, FDR is a process where a neutral third party assists separated or divorced parents in resolving parenting and other family-related disputes outside of court.

Family Law Act 1975: The primary legislation in Australia that governs family law matters, including divorce, child custody, property settlement, and spousal maintenance.

Financial Agreement: Also referred to as a “Binding Financial Agreement” or “Prenuptial Agreement,” it is a legally binding contract made between parties in anticipation of, during, or after a de facto relationship or marriage. The agreement sets out how assets, liabilities, and financial resources will be divided in the event of separation.

Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing (FDRH): A court hearing in family law proceedings where parties attempt to resolve financial matters with the assistance of a Registrar or Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner.

Full and Frank Disclosure: The obligation of parties involved in family law matters to provide all relevant financial information, including assets, income, and liabilities, to each other and the court.

Family Consultant: A professional appointed by the court to provide expert advice and recommendations concerning children’s welfare and best interests in parenting disputes.

Family Violence: Any behaviour within a family or domestic relationship that causes physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological harm, or that controls or dominates a family member through fear. Family violence is taken very seriously in family law matters and may influence parenting and property arrangements.

Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia: A court that deals with a range of matters, including family law, in Australia. It handles divorce applications, property disputes, parenting matters, and child support issues, among others.

Filing: The process of formally submitting documents and applications to the court to initiate or respond to family law proceedings.

Final Orders: The legally binding decisions or judgments made by a court at the conclusion of a family law case, which may relate to parenting arrangements, property settlement, or financial support.

G

Grounds for Divorce: The legally acceptable reasons or justifications for seeking a divorce. In Australia, the only ground for divorce is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, demonstrated by a 12-month separation period.

Grounds for Annulment: The legal reasons for declaring a marriage void, making it as if the marriage never existed. Grounds for annulment may include bigamy, fraud, or lack of consent.

H

Hague Convention: An international treaty that aims to protect children from abduction and wrongful retention across international borders. It provides a legal framework for the prompt return of abducted children to their country of habitual residence.

Hearing: A formal proceeding held in court where evidence is presented, arguments are made, and decisions are rendered by a judge or magistrate.

Hearsay: In family law proceedings, hearsay refers to evidence presented in court that is based on what someone else said, rather than what the witness personally experienced or observed. Hearsay evidence is generally not admissible unless certain exceptions apply.

High Court of Australia: The highest court in Australia and the final court of appeal in the Australian legal system. It has jurisdiction to hear significant family law cases involving constitutional issues or points of law.

I

Independent Children’s Lawyer (ICL): A lawyer appointed by the court to represent the best interests of a child in family law proceedings. The ICL’s role is to independently assess the child’s needs and present their views to the court.

Interim Orders: Temporary court orders issued to deal with urgent matters or maintain the status quo while waiting for a final decision in family law proceedings.

Intervention Order: Also known as a restraining order, apprehended violence order (AVO), or domestic violence order (DVO) in different Australian states, it is a court order designed to protect a person from harm or harassment by another individual.

Injunction: A court order that prohibits or compels a party from taking certain actions. In family law, injunctions may be issued to prevent the dissipation of assets or to stop one party from disposing of property pending property settlement proceedings.

J

Joint Custody: An arrangement where both parents share legal and physical custody of a child or children after separation or divorce. Joint custody allows both parents to make decisions about the child’s welfare and spend significant time with the child.

Judgment: A formal decision or ruling made by a judge or magistrate in a family law case. The judgment sets out the court’s findings and orders.

Jurisdiction: The authority of a court to hear and decide a legal case. In family law matters, the court must have jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter to make valid decisions.

Justice: The principle of fairness and impartiality in the legal system. Family law aims to achieve just outcomes that consider the best interests of all parties involved, especially children.

K

Kinship Care: When a child is placed in the care of relatives or extended family members (kin) due to child protection concerns or family breakdown. Kinship care is considered a form of out-of-home care.

L

Legal Aid: Government-funded legal assistance provided to individuals who cannot afford to pay for legal representation. Legal aid may be available for certain family law matters, ensuring access to justice for all.

Lawyer: Any person who has been admitted to the legal profession as a barrister or solicitor. 

Liability: In family law property settlement, liability refers to debts, loans, or financial obligations that a party owes, which must be taken into account when determining the distribution of assets and liabilities.

Legal Representative: A person, such as a lawyer or solicitor, who represents and advocates for a party’s legal interests in family law proceedings.

M

Marriage: A legally recognised union between two people, which provides them with certain legal rights and responsibilities.

Mediation: A process in which a neutral third party, known as a mediator, assists disputing parties in reaching a mutually acceptable agreement. Mediation is commonly used in family law to resolve issues related to parenting, property settlement, and financial matters.

Magistrate: A judicial officer who presides over court hearings and makes decisions in certain family law matters. In some cases, magistrates may have jurisdiction to hear specific family law disputes.

Matter: A legal issue, case, or dispute brought before a court or tribunal for resolution.

M

No-Fault Divorce: A divorce process where neither party is required to prove the other party’s fault or wrongdoing in the breakdown of the marriage. In Australia, divorce is based on the principle of irretrievable breakdown, which does not assign blame to either spouse.

Nullity: The legal declaration that a marriage is void or invalid from its inception, meaning it is considered as if the marriage never existed. Nullity may be granted if the marriage was not legally valid, such as in cases of bigamy or lack of consent.

Negotiation: The process of discussing and bargaining with the other party to reach a settlement or agreement outside of court. Negotiation is a common approach used in family law to resolve disputes.

O

Order: A formal written decision or judgment issued by a court. In family law, orders can pertain to various matters, including parenting arrangements, property settlement, and spousal maintenance.

Oath: A solemn declaration or promise made by a person to tell the truth in court or to fulfil a legal obligation.

Objection: A formal protest or disagreement raised by a party during court proceedings regarding evidence, a question, or a legal matter.

P

Parental Responsibility: The legal authority and responsibility to make important decisions concerning a child’s upbringing, such as education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. In Australia, the term “parental responsibility” is used in parenting orders.

Parenting Plan: A written document detailing the arrangements for the care and responsibilities of children after separation or divorce. While not legally binding, parenting plans are encouraged by the court as a means of resolving parenting disputes.

Parenting Orders: Court orders that set out the arrangements for the care, welfare, and development of a child. Parenting orders may cover issues such as living arrangements, visitation, and decision-making responsibilities.

Property Settlement: The process of dividing assets and liabilities between parties after the breakdown of a marriage or de facto relationship. Property settlement aims to achieve a fair and equitable distribution of property.

Pre-Nuptial Agreement: Also known as a prenuptial agreement or financial agreement, it is a contract entered into by a couple before marriage or entering a de facto relationship. Pre-nuptial agreements outline how assets and finances will be divided in the event of separation or divorce.

Perjury: The act of deliberately providing false or misleading information while under oath or giving evidence in court. Perjury is a criminal offense and can lead to legal consequences.

R

Respondent: In family law proceedings, the person who responds to an application or initiates legal action in response to another party’s application. The respondent may be the other party in a divorce, parenting, or property settlement case.

Registrar: A court official with the authority to hear certain family law matters and make decisions on procedural and non-controversial issues.

Relocation: The act of moving a child’s residence to a different location, either within Australia or internationally. Relocation disputes may arise in family law when one parent wishes to move with the child, affecting parenting arrangements.

Rescind: To cancel or revoke a court order or decision.

Restraining Order: A court order that prohibits a person from engaging in certain actions or behaviors, such as contacting or approaching another individual. Restraining orders are often used in cases of domestic violence.

S

Spousal Maintenance: Financial support provided by one spouse to the other after the breakdown of a marriage or de facto relationship. Spousal maintenance aims to assist the lower-earning or non-earning spouse in meeting their reasonable needs.

Sole Parenting Responsibility: An arrangement in which one parent has sole decision making for the child.

Separation: The process of ending a marriage or de facto relationship, where the parties begin living separately and apart from one another.

Standard of Proof: The degree of certainty or evidence required to prove a fact or allegation in court. In family law matters, the standard of proof is usually the balance of probabilities.

Subpoena: A court-issued document that compels an individual to produce documents or give evidence in court as a witness.

Spouse: A party to a marriage

T

Trial: A formal court proceeding where evidence is presented, witnesses are examined, and legal arguments are made before a judge or magistrate. Trials are used to resolve family law disputes when parties cannot reach an agreement through negotiation.

Tribunal: A specialised court or quasi-judicial body that hears certain family law matters, such as child support and administrative appeals.

Transparency: The principle of openness and clarity in legal processes and decision-making, ensuring that parties understand the proceedings and the reasons for the court’s decisions.

Third-Party Proceedings: Legal proceedings where a party who is not directly involved in the dispute seeks to join the case or intervene due to their interest in the outcome.

V

Valuation: The process of assessing the monetary worth of assets, properties, or businesses for the purpose of property settlement.

Voir Dire: A trial within a trial, during which the court determines the admissibility of evidence, the credibility of witnesses, or the competency of certain testimony.

Voluntary Parenting Agreement: An agreement reached by parents regarding parenting arrangements without the need for court intervention. While not legally binding, voluntary parenting agreements are encouraged by the court.

W

Without Prejudice: A legal term used to indicate that a communication, offer, or proposal is made in an attempt to resolve a dispute without admitting liability or prejudice in future legal proceedings.

With Prejudice: A legal term used to indicate that a court order, judgment, or dismissal is final and prohibits the matter from being brought before the court again.

Witness: A person who provides testimony or evidence in a court of law to support the facts of a case.

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