Family De Facto - Family Law Terms

Understanding Family Law Legal Phrases and Terms

Family Law solicitors will often use many terms in the course of your discussions and in written documents.

These may include:

  • Affidavit
  • Consent Order
  • Ex Parte hearing
  • Family Dispute Resolution

Below is a list of many of these terms and the plain English definitions of each to better help your understanding.

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Family Law Terms

Family Law solicitors will often use many terms in the course of your discussions and in written documents. The following is a list of many of these terms and the plain English definitions of each:

Abuse – the definition is set out below with the definition of ‘Family Violence’.
Address for service – the address given by a party where documents can be served on them by hand, post or some other form of electronic communication.
Adjourn – defer or postpone a court event to another day.
Affidavit – a written statement by a party or witness. It is the main way of presenting the facts of a case to the court. An affidavit must be signed before an authorised person (such as a lawyer or Justice of the Peace) by way of swearing on the Bible or attesting to the truth of the contents of the statement.
Appeal – a procedure which allows a party to challenge the decision made by a court.
Applicant – the person who applies to a court for orders.
Case – when a person makes an application to a court for orders,  that becomes the case before the court.
Consent order – an agreement between the parties  that is approved by the court and then becomes a court order.
Contravention – when a court finds a party has not complied with (followed) a court order, that party is in contravention of (or has breached) the order.
Court hearing – the date and time when a case is scheduled to come before the court.
Court order – the actions the parties or a party must do to carry out a decision made by a court. An order may be either interim or final.
Divorce order – an order made by a court that ends a marriage.
Enforcement order – an order made by a court to make a party or person comply with (follow) an order.
Ex parte hearing – a hearing where one party is not present and has not been given notice of the application before the court; usually reserved for urgent cases.
Exposed to family violence –the definition is set out below with the definition of ‘Family Violence’.
Family consultant – a psychologist and/or social worker who specialises in child and family issues that may occur after separation and divorce.
Family dispute resolution – a process whereby a family dispute resolution practitioner assists people to resolve some or all of their disputes with each other following separation and/or divorce.
Family Law Act 1975 – the law in Australia which covers family law matters.
Family law registry – a public area at the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court where people can obtain information about the court and its processes and where parties file documents in relation to their case.
Family report – a written assessment of a family by a family consultant. A report is prepared to assist a court to make a decision in a case about children.
Family violence – means violent, threatening or other behaviour by a person that coerces or controls a member of the person’s family (the family member), or causes the family member to be fearful. A child is exposed to family violence if the child sees or hears family violence or is otherwise exposed to family violence. Family violence may also amount to child abuse.
Abuse – in relation to a child means,

  • an assault, including a sexual assault, of the child;
  • or a person (the first person) involving the child in a sexual activity with the first person or another person in which the child is used, directly or indirectly, as a sexual object by the first person or the other person, and where there is an unequal power in the relationship between the child and the first person;
  • or causing the child to suffer serious psychological harm, including (but not limited to) when that harm is caused by the child being subjected to, or exposed to, family violence;
  • or serious neglect of the child.

Family violence order – an order (including an interim order) made under a prescribed law of a State or Territory to protect a person from family violence.
Filing – the procedure of lodging a document at a family law registry for placing on the court file.
Final order – an order made by a court to bring a case to a close.
Form – a particular document that must be completed and filed at court. Different forms are used for different family law matters.
Independent children’s lawyer –( ICL) a lawyer appointed by the court to represent a child’s interests in a case.
Interim order – an order made by a court until another order or a final order is made.
Judgment – a decision by a court after all the evidence is heard.
Judicial officer – a person who has been appointed to hear and decide cases; for instance, a judge.

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