​Family law

What does family law cover?

Family law covers:

  • arrangements for children after a relationship has ended
  • marriage and divorce
  • sorting out property after the breakdown of a marriage or a de facto relationship
  • spousal maintenance after the breakdown of a marriage or a de facto relationship
  • financial support of children (called child support).
Family law covers same‑sex and different‑sex relationships when there is a dispute.

If there are children, parents can use the family law system if they are married or not.

Anyone who has an ongoing relationship with children and wants that relationship to continue — such as grandparents — can use the family law system.

Family law is different to care and protection law — when Family and Community Services (FaCS) get involved because there are concerns for the safety of children.

My client is separating from their partner. Where can they go for help?
If you can sort out your family separation problems yourselves you do not have to use the family law system. However it is a good idea to still get legal advice.


A free government telephone service that provides legal information, referrals and sometimes advice for people who have a legal problem in NSW.

They can refer people to their closest legal service, including their closest Legal Aid NSW office and Community Legal Centre. 1300 888 529

The end of a relationship can be stressful and people will experience competing emotional, practical and financial issues. Non‑legal services can help people leaving a relationship.


Helps families with relationship issues, relationship breakdowns, making arrangements for children after their parents separate and can make referral to other services. 1800 050 321

My client has a dispute with their ex‑partner over the children. Where can they go for help?

If parents can’t reach an agreement about arrangements for their children after the breakdown of their relationship, they should get legal advice.

The law says that parents must make a genuine effort to communicate with each other about arrangements for their children and to resolve their disputes through mediation or counselling before they go to court.

Mediation is also called family dispute resolution. It can help families agree about decisions to do with children — for example where they will live and how much time they will spend with parents and family members.

Mediation is faster, cheaper and less stressful than courts.

You must usually go to mediation before going to court. But you won’t have to do this if your situation is urgent (for example, if someone is threatening to take children out of the country) or if there is family violence or a serious illness. Get legal help if you think you should go straight to court.

For family dispute resolution services

Site content is current as at November 2018

​For more information

Legal Aid NSW brochure — What happens when your relationship ends? [PDF 4.33MB]

Federal Circuit Court of Australia website — Family law matters

Federal Circuit Court of Australia brochure — Marriage, families and separation [PDF 252kb]

Federal Circuit Court of Australia website — If you can’t agree on parenting arrangements

Family Relationships Online

Family Relationships Online — Family mediation and dispute resolution

Best for Kids Website has information for parents and kids.

Guide for community workers

Download the PDF version of the Community Workers Guide [PDF 871kb]

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