Children: I have been served

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If you have been served with an application for parenting orders, this means another relevant person (usually the other parent of your child (or children) has applied to the Court to start parenting proceedings. They are known as the applicant and you (as the other party) are known as the respondent.

Unless an exemption applies, you should have been approached by the applicant to participate in dispute resolution and pre-action procedures.

If you are the applicant and have been served with the other party’s response, you will need to respond.

You should read the documents as soon as possible. You should also refer to the Family Law Practice Direction – Parenting proceedings, which sets out the procedural requirements and steps in proceedings about parenting matters.

How do I respond?

If you are the respondent in the proceedings (i.e. you did not start the proceedings)

If you have been served with an Initiating application filed by another person (the applicant), you will need to respond. To respond, you must pay the relevant fee and file:

  1. a Response to initiating application setting out which of the orders sought by the applicant you agree with (if any), and the orders you are asking the Court to make
  2. a Notice of child abuse, family violence or risk
  3. a Genuine steps certificate
  4. a Parenting questionnaire, and
  5. if the applicant has asked the Court to make interlocutory orders, and/or you are asking the Court to make interlocutory orders, an Affidavit that sets out the facts in support of your application for interlocutory orders, and addresses the best interests of your children, and otherwise respond to facts asserted by the applicant in their affidavit.

Once filed, you must serve all documents on the applicant.

Filing a response means you are in the same position as the applicant. You are not at a disadvantage just because the other party started the case first.

If you are the applicant in the proceedings (i.e. you started the proceedings)

If you filed an Initiating Application in which you did not ask the Court to make parenting orders, but the other party asked the Court to make parenting orders in their Response, you will need to respond to the application for parenting orders.

You can do this by:

  1. either:
    • amending your Initiating application to seek parenting orders, or
    • filing a Reply, and
  2. filing a Notice of child abuse, family violence or risk
  3. a Genuine steps certificate
  4. a Parenting questionnaire, and
  5. if the other party has asked the Court to make interlocutory orders, and/or you are asking the Court to make interlocutory orders, an Affidavit that sets out the facts in support of your application for interlocutory orders, and addresses the best interests of your children, and otherwise respond to facts asserted by the applicant in their affidavit.

A further filing fee will apply to the amended Initiating application or Reply.

What do I need to pay?

Fees apply when filing a Response to initiating application, Reply or amending an Initiating application. The fees vary, depending on the types of orders you are asking the Court to make. Other fees may also apply during the course of your proceedings.

For the current fees, see Fees.

In some cases, for examples, if you hold certain government concession cards or you are experiencing financial hardship, you may be eligible for a reduced fee or fee exemption. For more information see the Guidelines for exemption of court fees.

The Court does not set the fees payable. Court fees are set by Federal Government Regulations.

Filing with the Court

Applications, responses and replies should be eFiled online through the Commonwealth Courts Portal. For more information about eFiling and a step-by-step guide see How do I eFile?.

Service

After you have filed your documents, you need to serve them on the other party.

For information on what you need to do to serve your documents, see the Service kit and the step-by-step guide How do I serve family law documents?

Legal advice

You are not required to be represented by a lawyer, or to seek legal advice, before entering into consent orders or applying to the Court, or if you have been served with an application. However, family law is complex, and getting legal advice will help you to better understand your rights and responsibilities.

Practice directions

Practice directions are procedural guidelines issued by the Court. They complement legislation, rules and regulations. They provide specific direction about the practice and procedure that must be followed in certain types of proceedings.

Practice directions are issued by the Chief Justice/Chief Judge upon advice of judges of the Court, pursuant to the Court’s inherent power to control its own processes, as well as the power under the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Act 2021 for the Court to give directions about the practice and procedure to be followed in a proceeding.

In general, practice directions are issued to:

  • complement particular legislative provisions or rules of court
  • set out more detailed procedures for particular types of proceedings, and
  • notify parties and their lawyers of matters which require their attention.

Below are links to the practice directions that apply to this area of law: