Court NSW

What happens when I go to Court for a family law matter?

The 12 steps below show how a typical financial case can progress before the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

The procedure can be shortened by settlement at any stage (e.g. a separation agreement). It can also be delayed depending on the attitude of the parties and the matters complexity. The procedures in the Family Court of Australia for a financial case are similar, however the procedure and terminology can vary slightly.


  1. Separation occurs;
  2. Parties obtain legal advice;
  3. Disclosure / Negotiation / Mediation;
  4. An Initiating Application, Affidavit and Financial Statement is filed with the Federal Circuit Court of Australia;
  5. Your Initiating Application, Affidavit and Financial Statement is served on spouse;
  6. Your spouse files a Response to Initiating Application, Affidavit and Financial Statement;
  7. Both you and your spouse attend the first return date at Court before a Judge;
  8. Both you and your spouse attend Conciliation Conference at Court before a Registrar;
  9. Both you and your spouse attend Directions Hearing before a Judge;
  10. Both you and your spouse attend the Hearing before a Judge;
  11. Judgement is delivered.
  12. The Judgement is implemented and assets are divided/sold.


  1. In most cases, you try to settle the matter rather than going to Court. This involves both parties making full disclosure of their financial position. It involves negotiation and possibly attending a mediation. Most matters will resolve at or before step 3.
  2. At the first return date (Step 7) the Judge will usually set a date for a Conciliation Conference and make Orders to ensure that the matter is completely ready for the Conciliation Conference e.g. the Court will ensure all disclosure has been exchanged and all assets have been valued.
  3. The Conciliation Conference will take place with a Registrar. Both parties and their lawyers attend. The aim is to reach a settlement. If you reach a settlement Court Orders are made and the Court proceedings come to an end.
  4. A Directions Hearing will take place if the matter does not settle at the Conciliation Conference. The Judge will set a hearing date and make orders to ensure that the matter is properly prepared for hearing.
  5. Judgement will not occur immediately after the Hearing, Judgement will be delivered on most occasions between 3 to 6 months after the Hearing, however, it can take longer.
  6. Most matters will take approximately 1.5 to 3 years to progress from separation to Judgement if settlement does not occur.

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