Family Court of Western Australia
The Family Court of Western Australia is a state court that deals with family law. It was established by the passing of the Family Court Act (WA, 1975) and commenced operation in 1976. It deals with divorce, marital property settlements, child custody, adoption and surrogacy. Although funded by the Commonwealth Government, it is the only state-based family court in Australia.
Western Australia is unique amongst Australian states in being the only state with its own Family Court. Family law matters in all other states are dealt with by two federal Courts - the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court. The Family Court of Western Australia is an integrated court, in that it combines the functions of a Superior court and a lower Court. Officially, the Family Court is two courts in one - the Family Court itself (constituted by its Judges) and a Magistrates Court (constituted by Family Law Magistrates). Its Magistrates' division is officially differentiated from the main Magistrates Court of Western Australia by being referred to as the 'Magistrates Court at 150 Terrace Rd Perth'.
In 2008, the federal Attorney-General announced a review of the delivery of family law services by the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Magistrates Court. A November 2008 report set out a possible framework of governance options to achieve a more integrated system of case management practices across the federal family law jurisdiction, with changes in judicial structures and reporting relationships. According to the report, all review submissions, with the exception of that provided by the Federal Magistrates' Court, "considered that the most effective model for the delivery by the Courts of family law services would be a single family court, with two separate judicial divisions serviced by a single administration." The proposed federal model is similar to that of the Family Court of Western Australia, which the Law Council of Australia, in its submission, had noted as "providing a useful model of the structure and functioning of an integrated Family Court". The Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, Diana Bryant, in her submission, also favoured a single integrated federal family court structured similarly to the Family Court of Western Australia.
Under the terms of a 1976 agreement signed by Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and the State Premier Sir Charles Court, the Commonwealth government provides almost all funding for the operation of the Family Court of WA. The Western Australian government issues an invoice to the Commonwealth, on a quarterly basis, for the cost of operations, and receives payment from the Commonwealth. In 2007-08, the Court's operating budget was approximately $17m, $10.6m of which was for staff and judicial salaries. In that financial year, expenditure exceeded budget by $1.27m and by July 2008, the Court was carrying a cash deficit position of almost $200,000.
Although a State Court, the Family Court of Western Australia is located within the Commonwealth Court complex, which houses the Federal Court of Australia in Perth. The Court leases part of the building from the Commonwealth. Court security is provided as part of the lease arrangement.
For married people who want to divorce and make arrangements for children, property and spousal maintenance, proceedings in the Family Court of Western Australia are held under the Family Law Act 1975 (Commonwealth), which is federal legislation. For unmarried people who seek arrangements for children, property and maintenance, the Court proceedings are held under the Family Court Act of 1997 (Western Australia) which is state legislation. In 2002, the legislation was amended to incorporate de facto relationships and their property matters.
Elsewhere in Australia, the legal aspects of adoption are dealt with either in the Supreme or District Courts of each state and territory. In Western Australia, the Family Court of Western Australia is responsible for the approval of adoption applications in the state. Judges of the court make adoption orders and other related orders, and the court then issues the appropriate orders. The court also releases information from past adoption cases at the request of the Department for Community Development. Officers at the court coordinate the processing of adoption applications and release of information as well as answering enquiries from the public.
The Family Court of Western Australia has jurisdiction under the Western Australian Surrogacy Act 2008. Judges of the court may make parentage orders and other related orders. A parentage order transfers the parentage of a child from his or her surrogate birth parent/s to the child’s arranged parents. The arranged parents then become the child’s legal parents. After commencement of the Surrogacy Act 2008 on 1 March 2009, any person wishing to enter into a surrogacy arrangement must comply with all the procedures set out under the Act and Regulations if they propose to apply to the Family Court of WA for a parentage order. If a child is conceived through a surrogacy arrangement before the Act came into effect, an application may be made to the Family Court of WA for a parentage order provided the application is brought within 12 months of the child’s birth and all the requirements set out in the Act have been met.
- Justice Stephen Thackray (appointed 16 November 2006) (is also a Judge of the Appeal Division of the Family Court of Australia)
- Justice Simon Moncrieff (appointed 31 August 2009)
- Justice John Walters (appointed 6 December 2012)
- Justice Susan Duncanson (appointed 6 December 2012)
- Justice Richard O'Brien
All the Court's judges hold dual commissions; on appointment to office, they are also appointed to the Family Court of Australia. In addition to their judicial role in relation to family law matters, Judges of the Family Court of WA are often required after hours and on weekends to determine applications under the Telecommunications (Interception) Act from law enforcement agencies, relating to authorisations for carrying out telephone surveillance activities. In 2005 there were 153 such applications.
Family Law Magistrates
As at May 2016, the Magistrates of the Court are:
- David Monaghan (Principal Registrar)
- Annette Andrews
- Alan Moroni
- Lisa Stewart
- Gail Sutherland
- Francine Walter
- Mark Calverley
- Colin Kaeser
- Ciara Tyson
- Catherine Osborn
- Laura De Maio
- Thomas Kuurstra (Appeal Registrar)
- Leonie Forrest
Notes and references
- "A Better Framework for Federal Courts - Consultation". Attorney-General's Department. 20 November 2008. Archived from the original on 8 January 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
- "Report on future governance of federal family courts in Australia November2008" (PDF). Attorney-General's Department. 16 January 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
- "Law Council submission to Attorney-General's Department" (PDF). Law Council of Australia. 16 May 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
- "Chief Justice Bryant's submission to Attorney-General's Department" (PDF). Attorney-General's Department. 6 June 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
- "Letter from Chief Judge of Family Court of WA to House of Representatives Standing Committee" (PDF). Parliament of Australia. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 August 2008. Retrieved 2009-04-04.
- "Standing Committee On Legal And Constitutional Affairs 20 Oct 2008" (PDF). Parliament of Australia. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-04.
- "Joint Committee Of Public Accounts And Audit" (PDF). Parliament of Australia. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-04.
- "Legislation". Family Court of WA. Retrieved 2009-04-05.
- "The Family Law System". Commonwealth Attorney-General. Archived from the original on 7 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-10.
- "Adoptions". Family Court of WA. Retrieved 2009-04-10.
- "Surrogacy". Family Court of WA. Retrieved 2009-04-10.
- "Judges of the Appeal Division". Family Court of Australia. Archived from the original on 20 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-05.
- "Judges of the Family Court of Western Australia". Family Court of Australia. Archived from the original on 20 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-05.
- "Annual Review of WA Courts" (PDF). Supreme Court of Western Australia. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- "Law Almanac - WA Courts, Boards & Tribunals". WA Attorney-General's Department. Archived from the original on 25 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-05.