Australian Court System – the Two Court System

The Australian Court system is divided in two – the Federal Court system and the state court system. There is also recognition – although limited – of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander law in some parts of the legal system (such as “native title”) – however, this is unlikely to be relevant to New Zealanders in Australia.

There are also two main divisions of law – criminal law and civil law. Civil law covers disputes between individuals, companies and government over money, contracts, tax, and custody of children or dividing matrimonial property. Criminal law covers disputes that involve offenses (for example, drinking in public laws) that a person has been charged with by either police or by government departments.

 

Federal

The High Court is the top Court of the Australian legal system, and has the power to review laws made by the parliaments of the Upper and Lower houses, as well as hearing appeals made in the lower courts. Decisions made in the High Court are binding on all lower courts.

The Federal Court of Australia hears a wide variety of civil matters, covering corporations, industrial relations, bankruptcy, immigration and other matters covered by federal law. It also hears appeals from lower courts in the “Full” Court of the Federal Court.

The Family Court of Australia is the court that deals with marriage, de facto relationships, divorce and division of property and custody of children. The Family Court of Australia does not currently recognise same sex marriage, but does recognise civil unions in the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales. The Family Court of Australia has jurisdiction over all states in Australia except Western Australia. In Western Australia, family law matters are dealt with by a state court called the Family Court of Western Australia. If you need information in relation to getting married in Australia, please see our Marriage and Death in Australia section.

The Federal Circuit Court of Australia is the federal equivalent of the Magistrates Court, and hears less complex cases that would otherwise be dealt with by the Federal Court or the Family Court of Australia. The Federal Circuit Court has jurisdiction over simple family law matters that would otherwise be the jurisdiction of the Family Court of Australia, bankruptcy, consumer law, human rights, industrial law, copyright law, and privacy laws.

State

Local Court

The Local Court of New South Wales is the lowest state court in New South Wales. The Local Court deals with minor matters such as bail application, apprehended violence orders (“AVOs”), as well as offenses that are first being heard before being referred up, or are not serious enough to be referred up to the District or Supreme Court.   It also deals with minor civil cases, which have a value of less than $100,000.

If you are facing charges or have been summoned to the Local Court, you may want to have a lawyer represent you. You can either hire a privately practicing lawyer, or you may be eligible for a Legal Aid lawyer.   Legal Aid lawyers are allocated according to a means test, and according to what kind of legal matter you are involved in, and can be contacted on 1300 888 529. Alternatively, you can contact the New South Wales Law Society on (02) 9926 0300 to find a lawyer who specialises in the area of legal matters you are involved in.

Legal Aid, a state department, provides duty lawyers in the Local Court. If you are appearing in the Local Court, you can seek advice from the duty lawyers at the Court about your matter before your hearing, however, they are not able to represent you during your hearing unless it is to apply for bail, apply for more time to get legal advice, or in some cases, to let the Court know how you are pleading.

There are 150 Local Courts in New South Wales. Your Court paperwork will show which Courthouse you will have to attend.


District

The District Court of New South Wales deals with matters which are too serious for the Local Court to deal with, but not serious enough to be referred to the Supreme Court. The District Court deals with serious crimes such as armed robbery, sexual assault and reckless driving, as well as motor accident claims and civil claims of between $100,000 to $750,000. There are 8 District Courts in New South Wales, and any paperwork you receive in relation to your legal matters will show what Court you need to go to.

There are no duty lawyers available in the District Court of New South Wales. If you need to appear before the District Court on charges, it is important that you seek legal advice. You can contact the New South Wales Law Society on (02) 9926 0300 to find a lawyer who specialises in the area of legal matters you are involved in, or alternatively, contact Legal Aid New South Wales on 1300 888 529 to apply for a legal aid grant and to have a lawyer assigned to you.


Family Court

In New South Wales, family law matters are dealt with in the Family Court of Australia, in the New South Wales branches. The Family Court of Australia is the court that deals with marriage, de facto relationships, divorce and division of property and custody of children. If you need information in relation to getting married in Australia, please see our Marriage and Death in Australia section.

If you wish to file for divorce in the Family Court of Australia, you must have been living in Australia for at least 12 months before you file for divorce. You also need to have been separated and living apart from your partner for at least 12 months and have no expectation that you and your ex will be getting back together. There is a filing fee of $845 to file for a divorce application, but it can be reduced to $280 if you or your partner hold an Australian healthcare or pension card. You will need to give the Court copies of your marriage certificate.

If you wish to divide property or arrange for how your children will be cared for between you and your former partner and have reached an agreement, you can file an Application for Consent Orders in the Family Court of Australia, which has a filing fee of $155. If you and your ex are not in agreement, the Court will require you and your ex to attempt mediation, or prove that you cannot resolve your differences through mediation. If this is the case, you may have to start legal proceedings.

If you are involved in proceedings in the Family Court of Australia, you may want to have a lawyer represent you. You can either hire a privately practicing lawyer, or you may be eligible for a Legal Aid lawyer.   If you wish to find a privately practicing lawyer can contact the Law Society of New South Wales on (02) 9926 0300 to find a lawyer who specialises in family law.

Legal Aid lawyers are allocated according to a means test, and according to what kind of legal matter you are involved in. Legal Aid, a state department, also provides duty lawyers in the Family Court of Australia. If you are appearing in the Family Court, you can seek advice from the duty lawyers at the Court about your matter before your hearing, however, they are not able to represent you during your hearing unless it is a relatively simple matter. You can contact legal aid on 1300 888 529.


Contact Details – Family Court New South Wales

The Family Court of Australia in New South Wales has eight locations, and we have listed some of the larger ones below:

Sydney Family Court

Lionel Bowen Building

97-99 Goulburn Street

SYDNEY NSW 2001

Phone: (02) 9217 7136

Newcastle Family Court

Commonwealth Law Courts Building

61 Bolton Street

NEWCASTLE NSW 2300

Phone: (02) 4926 5204

Wollongong Family Court

Commonwealth Government Centre

Level 1, 43 Burelli Street

WOLLONGONG NSW 2500

Phone: (02) 4253 6233


Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is the highest state court in New South Wales. The Supreme Court hears both civil and criminal matters, as well as having an appeals division. The Supreme Court deals with serious criminal offenses that will be heard in front of a jury, as well as civil matters which cannot be dealt with in the District Court. There are multiple Supreme Court locations in New South Wales (many of which are located in the Sydney CBD), and any paperwork you receive in relation to your legal matters will show what Court you need to go to.

There are no duty lawyers available in the Supreme Court of New South Wales. If you need to appear before the Supreme Court, it is important that you seek legal advice. You can contact the Law Society of New South Wales on Law Society of New South Wales on (02) 9926 0300 to find a lawyer who specialises in the area of legal matters you are involved in, or alternatively, contact the Legal Aid New South Wales on 1300 888 529 to apply for a legal aid grant and see if you are eligible to have a lawyer assigned to you.


Children’s Court

The Children’s Court of New South Wales deals with criminal matters involving people under the age of 18, the care and protection of children and compulsory schooling orders. The Children’s Court has three locations in Parramatta, Glebe and Broadmeadow, and can also be heard at Magistrate or District Courts.

If your child is involved in proceedings in the Children’s Court, you may want to have a lawyer represent your child. You can either hire a privately practicing lawyer, or you may be eligible for a Legal Aid lawyer.   Legal Aid lawyers are allocated according to a means test, and according to what kind of legal matter you are involved in. Alternatively, you can contact the Law Society of New South Wales on (02) 9926 0300 to find a lawyer who specialises in the Children’s Court.

Legal Aid, a state department, provides duty lawyers in the Children’s Court. If you are appearing in the Children’s Court, you can seek advice from the duty lawyers at the Court about your matter before your child’s hearing, however, they may have a limited ability to represent your child during the hearing. Legal Aid can be contacted on 1300 888 529 to apply for a legal aid grant.


Getting Arrested

Police in New South Wales have a wide range of powers, including the ability to issue “move on notices” which means that a person needs to leave an area and not return for 24 hours, and “temporary protection orders”, which restrains a person from approaching another person or their residence for up to 72 hours.

In some circumstances, you are required to give information to the police about yourself, and refusing to answer or giving a fake name and address could mean a fine or jail time. These include if you are in a venue that serves alcohol, if you are driving a car or a motorbike, or if you are suspected of committing a crime or being about to commit a crime. However, you do not need to answer any other questions.

Police do not need a warrant to arrest or search someone if they are in the middle of committing a crime or the police have “reasonable suspicion” that you have been involved in a crime.   The police can also arrest you if they think it is necessary to stop you from causing damage to someone’s property, harming someone else, to keep you from destroying evidence about a crime, if you have an outstanding warrant or have failed to appear in Court.

To arrest you, the police must tell you are under arrest and why, as well as telling you their name and where they are stationed. The police are allowed to use as much force as is “reasonable” to carry this out should you resist being arrested.

If you are arrested, the police must offer you an opportunity to call a friend, family member or a lawyer, and you must be provided with medical care if you are injured. The police cannot keep you for more than 4 hours unless they get a Court order that allows them to keep you for longer or they charge you with committing a crime.

If you are not under arrest, the police cannot detain you.

If you are arrested, the police must ensure that you appear in a local Court as soon as possible to be released on bail or held in custody. If the Court refuses to grant you bail, you will most likely be transferred to a remand centre.

You should consider getting legal advice as soon as possible if you are arrested. You can either hire a privately practicing lawyer, or you may be eligible for a Legal Aid lawyer. However, Legal Aid in New South Wales do not attend police stations to advice people that have been arrested, and will not give people who have been arrested advice over the phone. Alternatively, you can contact the Law Society of New South Wales on (02) 9926 0300 to find a privately lawyer who specialises in criminal law.

Magistrates Court

The Magistrates Court of Queensland is the lowest state court in Queensland. The Magistrates Court deals with minor criminal offenses, including traffic offenses and shoplifting, as well as offenses that are first being heard before being referred up, or not serious enough to be referred up to the District or Supreme Court.   It also deals with minor civil cases, which have a value of less than $150,000.

If you are facing charges or have been summoned to the Magistrates Court, you may want to have a lawyer represent you. You can either hire a privately practicing lawyer, or you may be eligible for a Legal Aid lawyer.   Legal Aid lawyers are allocated according to a means test, and according to what kind of legal matter you are involved in. Alternatively, you can contact the Queensland Law Society to find a lawyer who specialises in the area of legal matters you are involved in.

Legal Aid, a state department, provides duty lawyers in the Magistrates Court. If you are appearing in the Magistrates Court, you can seek advice from the duty lawyers at the Court about your matter before your hearing, however, they are not able to represent you during your hearing unless it is to apply for bail, apply for more time to get legal advice, or in some cases, to let the Court know how you are pleading.


Contact Details – Magistrates Court Queensland

There are several branches of the Magistrates Court in Queensland, and these are some of the main ones:

Brisbane Magistrates Court

363 George Street

BRISBANE QLD 4000

Phone: (07) 3247 5778

Cairns Magistrates Court

5D Sheridan Street

CAIRNS CITY QLD 4870

Phone: (07) 403 8900

Richmond Magistrates Court

53 Goldring Street

RICHMOND QLD 4822

Phone: (07) 4741 3227

Longreach Magistrates Court

91 Galah Street

LONGREACH QLD 4730

Phone: (07) 4650 1983


District

The District Court of Queensland deals with matters which are too serious for the Magistrates Court to deal with, but not serious enough to be referred to the Supreme Court. The District Court deals with serious crimes such as armed robbery, sexual assault and reckless driving, as well as civil claims of between $150,000 to $750,000. There are 32 District Courts in Queensland, and any paperwork you receive in relation to your legal matters will show what Court you need to go to.

There are no duty lawyers available in the District Court of Queensland. If you need to appear before the District Court on charges, it is important that you seek legal advice. You can contact the Queensland Law Society on 1300 367 757 to find a lawyer who specialises in the area of legal matters you are involved in, or alternatively, contact Legal Aid Queensland on 1300 65 11 88 to apply for a legal aid grant and to have a lawyer assigned to you.


Family Court

In Queensland, family law matters are dealt with in the Family Court of Australia, in the Queensland branches. The Family Court of Australia is the court that deals with marriage, de facto relationships, divorce and division of property and custody of children. If you need information in relation to getting married in Australia, please see our Marriage and Death in Australia section.

If you wish to file for divorce in the Family Court of Australia, you must have been living in Australia for at least 12 months before you file for divorce. You also need to have been separated and living apart from your partner for at least 12 months and have no expectation that you and your ex will be getting back together. There is a filing fee of $845 to file for a divorce application, but it can be reduced to $280 if you or your partner hold an Australian healthcare or pension card. You will need to give the Court copies of your marriage certificate.

If you wish to divide property or arrange for how your children will be cared for between you and your former partner and have reached an agreement, you can file an Application for Consent Orders in the Family Court of Australia, which has a filing fee of $155. If you and your ex are not in agreement, the Court will require you and your ex to attempt mediation, or prove that you cannot resolve your differences through mediation. If this is the case, you may have to start legal proceedings.

If you are involved in proceedings in the Family Court of Australia, you may want to have a lawyer represent you. You can either hire a privately practicing lawyer, or you may be eligible for a Legal Aid lawyer.   Legal Aid lawyers are allocated according to a means test, and according to what kind of legal matter you are involved in. Alternatively, you can contact the Law Society of Queensland on 1300 367 757 to find a lawyer who specialises in family law.

Legal Aid, a state department, provides duty lawyers in the Family Court of Australia. If you are appearing in the Family Court, you can seek advice from the duty lawyers at the Court about your matter before your hearing, however, they are not able to represent you during your hearing unless it is a relatively simple matter. You can contact legal aid on 1300 65 11 88.


Contact Details – Family Court Queensland

The Family Court of Australia in Queensland has four locations:

Brisbane Family Court

Harry Gibbs Commonwealth Law Courts Building
119 North Quay
BRISBANE QLD 4001

Phone: (07) 3236 1534

Cairns Family Court

Commonwealth Government Centre

Level 3

94 – 104 Grafton Street

CAIRNS QLD 4870

Phone: (07) 4031 1109

Rockhampton Family Court

Virgil Power Building

Ground Level

46 East Street, cnr Fitzroy Street

ROCKHAMPTON QLD 4700

Phone: (07) 4920 3866

Townsville Family Court

Commonwealth Centre

Level 2 (Blue Foyer)

143 Walker Street

TOWNSVILLE QLD 4810

Phone: (07) 4772 3262


Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is the highest state court in Queensland. The Supreme Court hears both civil and criminal matters, as well as having an appeals division. The Supreme Court deals with serious criminal offenses that will be heard in front of a jury. It also deals with civil claims which are valued over $750,000. There are 11 Supreme Court locations in Queensland, and any paperwork you receive in relation to your legal matters will show what Court you need to go to.

There are no duty lawyers available in the Supreme Court of Queensland. If you need to appear before the Supreme Court on charges, it is important that you seek legal advice. You can contact the Law Society of Queensland on Law Society of Queensland on 1300 367 757 to find a lawyer who specialises in the area of legal matters you are involved in, or alternatively, contact the Legal Aid Queensland on 1300 65 11 88 to apply for a legal aid grant and see if you are eligible to have a lawyer assigned to you.


Children’s Court

The Children’s Court of Queensland deals with criminal matters involving people under the age of 17, and comes under branches of the Magistrates and District Courts, depending on how serious the offence is. Children’s Court cases are heard at the same locations as Magistrates and District Courts.

If your child is involved in proceedings in the Children’s Court, you may want to have a lawyer represent your child. You can either hire a privately practicing lawyer, or you may be eligible for a Legal Aid lawyer.   Legal Aid lawyers are allocated according to a means test, and according to what kind of legal matter you are involved in. Alternatively, you can contact the Law Society of Queensland on 1300 367 757 to find a lawyer who specialises in the Children’s Court.

Legal Aid, a state department, provides duty lawyers in the Children’s Court. If you are appearing in the Children’s Court, you can seek advice from the duty lawyers at the Court about your matter before your child’s hearing, however, they may have a limited ability to represent your child during the hearing. Legal Aid can be contacted on 1300 65 11 88 to apply for a legal aid grant.


Getting Arrested in Queensland

Police in Queensland have a wide range of powers, including the ability to issue “move on notices” which means that a person needs to leave an area and not return for 24 hours, and “temporary protection orders”, which restrains a person from approaching another person or their residence for up to 72 hours.

In some circumstances, you are required to give information to the police about yourself, and refusing to answer or giving a fake name and address could mean a fine or jail time. These include if you are in a venue that serves alcohol, if you are driving a car or a motorbike, or if you are suspected of committing a crime or being about to commit a crime. However, you do not need to answer any other questions.

Police do not need a warrant to arrest or search someone if they are in the middle of committing a crime or the police have “reasonable suspicion” that you have been involved in a crime.   The police can also arrest you if they think it is necessary to stop you from causing damage to someone’s property, harming someone else, to keep you from destroying evidence about a crime, if you have an outstanding warrant or have failed to appear in Court.

To arrest you, the police must tell you are under arrest and why, and detain you by either asking you to come with them or stay in a certain place to answer further questions. The police are allowed to use as much force as is “reasonable” to carry this out should you resist being arrested.

If you are arrested, the police must offer you an opportunity to call a friend, family member or a lawyer, and you must be provided with medical care if you are injured. The police cannot keep you for more than 8 hours unless they get a Court order that allows them to keep you for longer or they charge you with committing a crime.

If you are not under arrest, the police cannot detain you.

If you are arrested, the police must ensure that you appear in a local Court as soon as possible to be released on bail or held in custody. If the Court refuses to grant you bail, you will most likely be transferred to a remand centre.

You should consider getting legal advice as soon as possible if you are arrested. You can either hire a privately practicing lawyer, or you may be eligible for a Legal Aid lawyer.  Legal Aid lawyers are allocated according to a means test, and according to what kind of legal matter you are involved in. Alternatively, you can contact the Law Society of Queensland on 1300 367 757 to find a lawyer who specialises in criminal law.

Magistrates Court

The Magistrates Court of South Australia is the lowest state court in South Australia. The Magistrates Court deals with minor matters such as bail applications, intervention orders, as well as criminal offenses that are first being heard before being referred up, or are not serious enough to be referred up to the District or Supreme Court.   It also deals with minor civil cases, which have a value of less than $100,000.

If you are facing charges or have been summoned to the Magistrates Court, you may want to have a lawyer represent you. You can either hire a privately practicing lawyer, or you may be eligible for a Legal Services Commission lawyer.   Legal Services Commission lawyers are allocated according to a means test, and according to what kind of legal matter you are involved in, and can be contacted on 1300 366 424. Alternatively, you can contact the South Australia Law Society on (08) 8229 0200 to find a lawyer who specialises in the area of legal matters you are involved in.

The Legal Services Commission, a state department, provides duty lawyers in the Magistrates Court. If you are appearing in the Magistrates Court, you can seek advice from the duty lawyers at the Court about your matter before your hearing, however, they are not able to represent you during your hearing unless it is to apply for bail, apply for more time to get legal advice, or in some cases, to let the Court know how you are pleading.

There are a number of Magistrates Courts in South Australia in Adelaide and in the surrounding suburbs. Your Court paperwork will show which Courthouse you will have to attend.


District

The District Court of South Australia deals with matters which are too serious for the Magistrates Court to deal with, but not serious enough to be referred to the Supreme Court. The District Court deals with serious crimes such as armed robbery, sexual assault and reckless driving, as well as motor accident claims and civil claims of between $100,000 to $750,000. There are 6 District Courts in South Australia, and any paperwork you receive in relation to your legal matters will show what Court you need to go to.

There are no duty lawyers available in the District Court of South Australia. If you need to appear before the District Court on charges, it is important that you seek legal advice. You can contact the South Australia Law Society on (08) 8229 0200 to find a lawyer who specialises in the area of legal matters you are involved in, or alternatively, contact Legal Services Commission South Australia on 1300 366 424 to apply for a Legal Services Commission grant and to have a lawyer assigned to you.


Family Court

In South Australia, family law matters are dealt with in the Family Court of Australia, in the South Australia branches. The Family Court of Australia is the court that deals with marriage, de facto relationships, divorce and division of property and custody of children. If you need information in relation to getting married in Australia, please see our Marriage and Death in Australia section.

If you wish to file for divorce in the Family Court of Australia, you must have been living in Australia for at least 12 months before you file for divorce. You also need to have been separated and living apart from your partner for at least 12 months and have no expectation that you and your ex will be getting back together. There is a filing fee of $845 to file for a divorce application, but it can be reduced to $280 if you or your partner hold an Australian healthcare or pension card. You will need to give the Court copies of your marriage certificate.

If you wish to divide property or arrange for how your children will be cared for between you and your former partner and have reached an agreement, you can file an Application for Consent Orders in the Family Court of Australia, which has a filing fee of $155. If you and your ex are not in agreement, the Court will require you and your ex to attempt mediation, or prove that you cannot resolve your differences through mediation. If this is the case, you may have to start legal proceedings.

If you are involved in proceedings in the Family Court of Australia, you may want to have a lawyer represent you. You can either hire a privately practicing lawyer, or you may be eligible for a Legal Services Commission lawyer.   If you wish to find a privately practicing lawyer can contact the Law Society of South Australia on (08) 8229 0200 to find a lawyer who specialises in family law.

Legal Services Commission lawyers are allocated according to a means test, and according to what kind of legal matter you are involved in. Legal Services Commission, a state department, also provides duty lawyers in the Family Court of Australia. If you are appearing in the Family Court, you can seek advice from the duty lawyers at the Court about your matter before your hearing, however, they are not able to represent you during your hearing unless it is a relatively simple matter. You can contact Legal Services Commission on 1300 366 424.

The main location of the Family Court in South Australia is the Adelaide Family Court, which is located in the Roma Mitchell Commonwealth Law Courts Building on 3 Angas Street, Adelaide. They can be contacted on 1300 352 000.


Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is the highest state court in South Australia. The Supreme Court hears both civil and criminal matters, as well as having an appeals division. The Supreme Court deals with serious criminal offenses that will be heard in front of a jury, as well as civil matters which cannot be dealt with in the District Court. The main location of the Supreme Court in South Australia is located at 1 Gouger Street, Adelaide (and can be contacted on (08) 8204 0289) – however, any Court paperwork you receive in relation to your legal matters will tell you where you need to go to.

There are no duty lawyers available in the Supreme Court of South Australia. If you need to appear before the Supreme Court, it is important that you seek legal advice. You can contact the Law Society of South Australia on (08) 8229 0200 to find a lawyer who specialises in the area of legal matters you are involved in, or alternatively, contact the Legal Services Commission South Australia on 1300 366 424 to apply for a Legal Services Commission grant and see if you are eligible to have a lawyer assigned to you.


Children’s Court

The Children’s Court of South Australia deals with criminal matters involving people under the age of 18, the care and protection of children and compulsory schooling orders. The main location of the Children’s Court is at 75 Wright Street, Adelaide, and they can be contacted on (08) 8204 0331.

If your child is involved in proceedings in the Children’s Court, you may want to have a lawyer represent your child. You can either hire a privately practicing lawyer, or you may be eligible for a Legal Services Commission lawyer.   Legal Services Commission lawyers are allocated according to a means test, and according to what kind of legal matter you are involved in. Alternatively, you can contact the Law Society of South Australia on (08) 8229 0200 to find a lawyer who specialises in the Children’s Court.

Legal Services Commission, a state department, provides duty lawyers in the Children’s Court. If you are appearing in the Children’s Court, you can seek advice from the duty lawyers at the Court about your matter before your child’s hearing, however, they may have a limited ability to represent your child during the hearing. Legal Services Commission can be contacted on 1300 366 424 to apply for a Legal Services Commission grant.


Getting Arrested

Police in South Australia have a wide range of powers, including the ability to issue “move on notices” which means that a person needs to leave an area and not return for 24 hours, and “temporary protection orders”, which restrains a person from approaching another person or their residence for up to 72 hours.

In some circumstances, you are required to give information to the police about yourself, and refusing to answer or giving a fake name and address could mean a fine or jail time. These include if you are in a venue that serves alcohol, if you are driving a car or a motorbike, or if you are suspected of committing a crime or being about to commit a crime. However, you do not need to answer any other questions.

Police do not need a warrant to arrest or search someone if they are in the middle of committing a crime or the police have “reasonable suspicion” that you have been involved in a crime.   The police can also arrest you if they think it is necessary to stop you from causing damage to someone’s property, harming someone else, to keep you from destroying evidence about a crime, if you have an outstanding warrant or have failed to appear in Court.

To arrest you, the police must tell you are under arrest and why, as well as telling you their name and where they are stationed. The police are allowed to use as much force as is “reasonable” to carry this out should you resist being arrested.

If you are arrested, the police must offer you an opportunity to call a friend, family member or a lawyer, and you must be provided with medical care if you are injured. The police can only keep you for 4 hours without either charging you or getting a Court order to keep you for longer.

If you are not under arrest, the police cannot detain you.

If you are arrested, the police must ensure that you appear in a local Court as soon as possible to be released on bail or held in custody. If the Court refuses to grant you bail, you will most likely be transferred to a remand centre.

You should consider getting legal advice as soon as possible if you are arrested. You can either hire a privately practicing lawyer, or you may be eligible for a Legal Services Commission lawyer.   Legal Services Commission lawyers are allocated according to a means test, and according to what kind of legal matter you are involved in. Alternatively, you can contact the Law Society of South Australia on (08) 8229 0200 to find a privately lawyer who specialises in criminal law.

Magistrates Court

The Magistrates Court of Victoria is the lowest state court in Victoria. The Magistrates Court deals with minor matters such as bail applications, intervention orders, as well as criminal offenses that are first being heard before being referred up, or are not serious enough to be referred up to the County or Supreme Court.   It also deals with minor civil cases, which have a value of less than $100,000.

If you are facing charges or have been summoned to the Magistrates Court, you may want to have a lawyer represent you. You can either hire a privately practicing lawyer, or you may be eligible for a Legal Aid lawyer.   Legal Aid lawyers are allocated according to a means test, and according to what kind of legal matter you are involved in, and can be contacted on 1300 792 387. Alternatively, you can contact the Victoria Law Institute on (03) 9607 9311 to find a lawyer who specialises in the area of legal matters you are involved in.

Legal Aid, a state department, provides duty lawyers in the Magistrates Court. If you are appearing in the Magistrates Court, you can seek advice from the duty lawyers at the Court about your matter before your hearing, however, they are not able to represent you during your hearing unless it is to apply for bail, apply for more time to get legal advice, or in some cases, to let the Court know how you are pleading.

There are 53 Magistrates Courts in Victoria. Your Court paperwork will show which Courthouse you will have to attend.


County

The County Court of Victoria deals with matters which are too serious for the Magistrates Court to deal with, but not serious enough to be referred to the Supreme Court. The County Court deals with serious crimes such as armed robbery, sexual assault and reckless driving, as well as motor accident claims and civil claims of between $100,000 to $750,000. There are 13 County Courts in Victoria, and any paperwork you receive in relation to your legal matters will show what Court you need to go to.

There are no duty lawyers available in the County Court of Victoria. If you need to appear before the County Court on charges, it is important that you seek legal advice. You can contact the Victoria Law Institute on (03) 9607 9311 to find a lawyer who specialises in the area of legal matters you are involved in, or alternatively, contact Legal Aid Victoria on 1300 792 387 to apply for a legal aid grant and to have a lawyer assigned to you.


Family Court

In Victoria, family law matters are dealt with in the Family Court of Australia, in the Victoria branches. The Family Court of Australia is the court that deals with marriage, de facto relationships, divorce and division of property and custody of children. If you need information in relation to getting married in Australia, please see our Marriage and Death in Australia section.

If you wish to file for divorce in the Family Court of Australia, you must have been living in Australia for at least 12 months before you file for divorce. You also need to have been separated and living apart from your partner for at least 12 months and have no expectation that you and your ex will be getting back together. There is a filing fee of $845 to file for a divorce application, but it can be reduced to $280 if you or your partner hold an Australian healthcare or pension card. You will need to give the Court copies of your marriage certificate.

If you wish to divide property or arrange for how your children will be cared for between you and your former partner and have reached an agreement, you can file an Application for Consent Orders in the Family Court of Australia, which has a filing fee of $155. If you and your ex are not in agreement, the Court will require you and your ex to attempt mediation, or prove that you cannot resolve your differences through mediation. If this is the case, you may have to start legal proceedings.

If you are involved in proceedings in the Family Court of Australia, you may want to have a lawyer represent you. You can either hire a privately practicing lawyer, or you may be eligible for a Legal Aid lawyer.   If you wish to find a privately practicing lawyer can contact the Law Institute of Victoria on (03) 9607 9311 to find a lawyer who specialises in family law.

Legal Aid lawyers are allocated according to a means test, and according to what kind of legal matter you are involved in. Legal Aid, a state department, also provides duty lawyers in the Family Court of Australia. If you are appearing in the Family Court, you can seek advice from the duty lawyers at the Court about your matter before your hearing, however, they are not able to represent you during your hearing unless it is a relatively simple matter. You can contact legal aid on 1300 792 387.


Contact Details – Family Court Victoria

The Family Court of Australia in Victoria has two locations:

Melbourne Family Court

Owen Dixon Commonwealth Law Courts Bulding

305 William Street (cnr Latrobe Street)

MELBOURNE VIC 3001

Dandenong Family Court

53-55 Robinson Street

DANDENONG VIC 3175

Phone: (03) 9767 6286


Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is the highest state court in Victoria. The Supreme Court hears both civil and criminal matters, as well as having an appeals division. The Supreme Court deals with serious criminal offenses that will be heard in front of a jury, as well as civil matters which cannot be dealt with in the County Court. There are multiple Supreme Court locations in Victoria (many of which are located in the Melbourne CBD), and any paperwork you receive in relation to your legal matters will show what Court you need to go to.

There are no duty lawyers available in the Supreme Court of Victoria. If you need to appear before the Supreme Court, it is important that you seek legal advice. You can contact the Law Institute of Victoria on (03) 9607 9311 to find a lawyer who specialises in the area of legal matters you are involved in, or alternatively, contact the Legal Aid Victoria on 1300 792 387 to apply for a legal aid grant and see if you are eligible to have a lawyer assigned to you.


Children’s Court

The Children’s Court of Victoria deals with criminal matters involving people under the age of 18, the care and protection of children and compulsory schooling orders. The Children’s Court many locations in Victoria including Melbourne, Broadmeadows and Dandenong, and can also be heard at Magistrate or County Courts.

If your child is involved in proceedings in the Children’s Court, you may want to have a lawyer represent your child. You can either hire a privately practicing lawyer, or you may be eligible for a Legal Aid lawyer.   Legal Aid lawyers are allocated according to a means test, and according to what kind of legal matter you are involved in. Alternatively, you can contact the Law Institute of Victoria on (03) 9607 9311 to find a lawyer who specialises in the Children’s Court. 

Legal Aid, a state department, provides duty lawyers in the Children’s Court. If you are appearing in the Children’s Court, you can seek advice from the duty lawyers at the Court about your matter before your child’s hearing, however, they may have a limited ability to represent your child during the hearing. Legal Aid can be contacted on 1300 792 387 to apply for a legal aid grant.


Getting Arrested in Victoria

Police in Victoria have a wide range of powers, including the ability to issue “move on notices” which means that a person needs to leave an area and not return for 24 hours, and “temporary protection orders”, which restrains a person from approaching another person or their residence for up to 72 hours.

In some circumstances, you are required to give information to the police about yourself, and refusing to answer or giving a fake name and address could mean a fine or jail time. These include if you are in a venue that serves alcohol, if you are driving a car or a motorbike, or if you are suspected of committing a crime or being about to commit a crime. However, you do not need to answer any other questions.

Police do not need a warrant to arrest or search someone if they are in the middle of committing a crime or the police have “reasonable suspicion” that you have been involved in a crime.   The police can also arrest you if they think it is necessary to stop you from causing damage to someone’s property, harming someone else, to keep you from destroying evidence about a crime, if you have an outstanding warrant or have failed to appear in Court.

To arrest you, the police must tell you are under arrest and why, as well as telling you their name and where they are stationed. The police are allowed to use as much force as is “reasonable” to carry this out should you resist being arrested.

If you are arrested, the police must offer you an opportunity to call a friend, family member or a lawyer, and you must be provided with medical care if you are injured. The police can only keep you for a “reasonable time” without charging you. In Victoria, there are no laws as to what constitutes a “reasonable” period of time.

If you are not under arrest, the police cannot detain you.

If you are arrested, the police must ensure that you appear in a local Court as soon as possible to be released on bail or held in custody. If the Court refuses to grant you bail, you will most likely be transferred to a remand centre.

You should consider getting legal advice as soon as possible if you are arrested. You can either hire a privately practicing lawyer, or you may be eligible for a Legal Aid lawyer.   Legal Aid lawyers are allocated according to a means test, and according to what kind of legal matter you are involved in. Alternatively, you can contact the Law Institute of Victoria on (03) 9607 9311 to find a privately lawyer who specialises in criminal law.

Western Australia has five courts: the Magistrates Court, the District Court, the Children’s Court, the Family Court of Western Australia and the Supreme Court.


Magistrates Court

The Magistrates Court of Western Australia is the lowest Court of the state, and has two main divisions – criminal and civil law. The Magistrates Court deals with civil matters for debts and damages and claims for the recovery of “real property” of up to $75,000 in value (including unpaid fines), minor claims for debts and damages up to $10,000, residential tenancy disputes (including unpaid rent, or disputes over rental bond money), and consumer and trader claims involving goods or services.   The Magistrates Court also deals with “simple” criminal offenses which are not serious enough to be referred up to the District or Supreme Court, as well as “simple” family law matters, which are then referred up to the Family Court of Western Australia.

The Magistrates Court also deals with driver’s licensing matters such as issuing extraordinary licenses (driver’s licenses that are issued solely for the purpose of going to and from work after your normal driver’s license has been suspended) and restraining orders. There are three types of restraining order available – violence restraining orders, misconduct restraining orders and police orders (temporary restraining orders able to be issued by police officers). Having a restraining order taken out against you is not the same as a criminal offense, however, it is a criminal offense to breach the conditions of a restraining order.

If you are facing charges or have been summonsed to the Magistrates Court, you may want to have a lawyer represent you. You can either hire a privately practicing lawyer, or you may be eligible for a Legal Aid lawyer.   Legal Aid lawyers are allocated according to a means test, and according to what kind of legal matter you are involved in. Alternatively, you can contact the Law Society of Western Australia on (08) 9324 8600 to find a lawyer who specialises in the area of legal matters you are involved in. 

Legal Aid, a state department, provides duty lawyers in the Magistrates Court. If you are appearing in the Magistrates Court, you can seek advice from the duty lawyers at the Court about your matter before your hearing, however, they are not able to represent you during your hearing unless it is to apply for bail, apply for more time to get legal advice, or in some cases, to let the Court know how you are pleading.


Contact Details – Magistrates Court Western Australia

There are several branches of the Magistrates Court in Western Australia:

Perth Courthouse, located in the Central Law Courts at 501 Hay Street, Perth

Telephone: (08) 9425 222

Armadale Courthouse, located at 109 Jull Street, Armadale

Telephone: (08) 9399 0700

Fremantle Courthouse, located at 8 Holdsworth Street, Fremantle

Telephone: (08) 9431 0300

Joondalup Courthouse, located at 21 Reid Promenade, Joondalup

Telephone: (08) 9400 0700

Midland Courthouse, located at 24 Spring Park Road, Midland

Telephone: (08) 9259 0200

Rockingham Courthouse, located on Whitfield Street, Rockingham

Telephone: (08) 9527 6433

Mandurah Courthouse, located at 333 Pinjarra Road, Mandurah


District Court

The District Court of Western Australia deals with matters which are too serious for the Magistrates Court to deal with, but not serious enough to be referred to the Supreme Court. The District Court deals with serious criminal offenses such as serious assaults, sexual offenses, fraud and commercial theft and burglary and drug offences, as well as civil claims of up to $750,000 and personal injury claims.

There are no duty lawyers available in the District Court of Western Australia. If you need to appear before the District Court on charges, it is important that you seek legal advice.   You can contact the Law Society of Western Australia on (08) 9324 8600 to find a lawyer who specialises in the area of legal matters you are involved in, or alternatively, contact Legal Aid Western Australia on 1300 650 579 to apply for a legal aid grant and to have a lawyer assigned to you.


Family Court of Western Australia

The Family Court of Western Australia deals with issues arising from the breakdown of a marriage or de facto relationship, and has jurisdiction over the division of property of the relationship and care arrangements for children. If you need information in relation to getting married in Australia, please see our Marriage and Death in Australia section.

The Family Court of Western Australia is located at 150 Terrace Road, Perth, and can be contacted on (08) 9224 8222.

If you wish to file for divorce in the Family Court of Western Australia, you must have been living in Australia for at least 12 months before you file for divorce. You also need to have been separated from your partner for at least 12 months and have no expectation that you and your ex will be getting back together, and if you have been married for less than 2 years, the Court will require you to attend compulsory counselling. There is a filing fee of $845 to file for a divorce application, but it can be reduced to $280 if you or your partner hold an Australian healthcare or pension card. You will need to give the Court copies of your marriage certificate.

If you wish to divide property or formalise an agreement between you and your ex for how your children will be cared for and you and your ex have reached an agreement, you can file a Form 11 Application for Consent Orders in the Family Court of Western Australia, which has a filing fee of $155. If you and your ex are not in agreement, the Court will require you and your ex to attempt mediation, or prove that you cannot resolve your differences through mediation. If this is the case, you may have to initiate legal proceedings.

If you are involved in proceedings in the Family Court of Western Australia, you may want to have a lawyer represent you. You can either hire a privately practicing lawyer, or you may be eligible for a Legal Aid lawyer.   Legal Aid lawyers are allocated according to a means test, and according to what kind of legal matter you are involved in. Alternatively, you can contact the Law Society of Western Australia on (08) 9324 8600 to find a lawyer who specialises in family law. 

Legal Aid, a state department, provides duty lawyers in the Family Court of Western Australia. If you are appearing in the Family Court, you can seek advice from the duty lawyers at the Court about your matter before your hearing, however, they are not able to represent you during your hearing unless it is a relatively simple matter.


Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is the highest state court in Western Australia. The Supreme Court hears both civil and criminal matters, as well as having an appeals division. The Supreme Court deals with serious criminal offenses such as murder, offenses involving weapons, drug charges and arson. It also deals with civil claims which are valued over $750,000 and disputes over probate, wills and deceased estates.

There are no duty lawyers available in the Supreme Court of Western Australia. If you need to appear before the Supreme Court on charges, it is important that you seek legal advice.   You can contact the Law Society of Western Australia on (08) 9324 8600 to find a lawyer who specialises in the area of legal matters you are involved in, or alternatively, contact Legal Aid Western Australia on 1300 650 579 to apply for a legal aid grant and to have a lawyer assigned to you.


Children’s Court

The Perth Children’s Court deals with criminal matters involving people under the age of 18. If the offense was committed before the child turned 18, it may still be heard in the Children’s Court.

The Perth Children’s Court is located at 160 Pier Street, and can be contacted on (08) 9218 0100.

If your child is involved in proceedings in the Children’s Court, you may want to have a lawyer represent your child. You can either hire a privately practicing lawyer, or you may be eligible for a Legal Aid lawyer.   Legal Aid lawyers are allocated according to a means test, and according to what kind of legal matter you are involved in. Alternatively, you can contact the Law Society of Western Australia on (08) 9324 8600 to find a lawyer who specialises in the Children’s Court.

Legal Aid, a state department, provides duty lawyers in the Children’s Court. If you are appearing in the Children’s Court, you can seek advice from the duty lawyers at the Court about your matter before your hearing, however, they have a limited ability to represent you during your hearing, and can only represent you for certain things. The duty lawyer’s office at the Children’s Court can be contacted on (08) 9218 0160 to make an appointment before your child’s hearing date.


Getting Arrested in Western Australia

Police in Western Australia have a wide range of powers, including the ability to issue “move on notices” which means that a person needs to leave an area and not return for 24 hours, and “temporary protection orders”, which restrains a person from approaching another person or their residence for up to 72 hours.

In some circumstances, you are required to give information to the police about yourself, and refusing to answer or giving a fake name and address could mean a fine or jail time. These include if you are in a venue that serves alcohol, if you are driving a car or a motorbike, or if you are suspected of committing a crime or being about to commit a crime. However, you do not need to answer any other questions.

Police do not need a warrant to arrest or search someone if they are in the middle of committing a crime, or have just committed a crime, or the police have “reasonable suspicion” that you have been involved in a crime.   The police can also arrest you if they think it is necessary to stop you from causing damage to someone’s property or harming someone else, if you have an outstanding warrant or have failed to appear in Court. To arrest you, the police must tell you are under arrest and why, and detain you by either asking you to come with them or stay in a certain place to answer further questions. The police are allowed to use as much force as is “reasonable” to carry this out.

If you are arrested, the police must offer you an opportunity to call a friend, family member or a lawyer, and you must be provided with medical care if you are injured. The police are not able to hold you for more than 6 hours without laying charges or getting an extension of time.

If you are not under arrest, the police cannot detain you.

If you or someone you know is arrested on a Friday night, Saturday or Sunday and held in police custody, they will be bought in front of the Saturday and Sunday courts from 10am onwards, which is located at 2 Fitzgerald Street, Northbridge. These Courts have duty lawyers available, or you can obtain a privately practicing lawyer.

If you need information about people being held in custody over the weekend, call the police Watch House on (08) 9422 7277.

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