It is becoming increasingly common for litigation to be initiated in multiple jurisdictions about the same subject matter and involving the same litigants.
Accordingly, it is important for litigants to understand what is meant by:
- Jurisdiction; and
- Accrued Jurisdiction.
What is Jurisdiction?
The term jurisdiction refers to the authority of a court to hear and determine specific types of cases.
Some examples of court jurisdiction include:
- The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia can hear and make determinations of civil matters relating to family law issues in all States and Territories, except Western Australia;
- The Federal Court of Australia has a broad jurisdiction and can hear and determine almost all civil matters and some criminal matters; and
- The Supreme Court of New South Wales has unlimited civil jurisdiction and also hears serious criminal matters in the State of New South Wales.
The jurisdiction that is given to each court will usually depend on the purpose for which the court was established, and it is usually defined in the relevant legislation.
Jurisdiction is important because it limits the power of a court to hear certain types of cases. If the courts did not exercise appropriate jurisdiction, then every court could conceivably hear every case brought to them, which would ultimately lead to confusing and conflicting results for litigants.
What is Accrued Jurisdiction?
The concept of accrued jurisdiction has played an important function in broadening the court’s power and in preventing jurisdictional disputes.
The term ‘accrued jurisdiction’ within the context of the Australian legal system, refers to the power held over state matters by federal courts.
Accrued jurisdiction will occur where multiple relevant cases are brought before the courts and the courts are competing for jurisdiction between them.
A de-facto couple separated in 2006 and finalised the division of their property in the Supreme Court of New South Wales. Prior to 1 March 2009 the Supreme Court of New South Wales held jurisdiction in relation to the property division of de facto relationships.
After the orders were made, the parties reconciled and continued their relationship for a number of years before finally separating again.
After this final separation, the de facto Wife initiated proceedings in the Family Court of Australia to set aside the Orders of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, as the Family Court of Australia now held jurisdiction to determine property disputes of de facto couples (which came into effect on 1 March 2009).
However, the de-facto Husband disputed that the Family Court of Australia held this jurisdiction.
At Hearing the central issue was whether or not the Family Court of Australia had accrued jurisdiction to determine whether the Orders made by the Supreme Court of New South should be set aside.
Ultimately it was found by the Full Court of the Family Court of Australia, that the Family Court of Australia does have accrued jurisdiction to vary or set aside the Supreme Court of New South Wales Orders made in 2006.
Dorter Family Lawyers and Mediators specialises in family law disputes that involve multiple areas of jurisdiction and/or multiple Courts. If you require any assistance with the above we can assist.
This post is an overview only and should not be considered as legal advice. If there are any matters that you would like us to advise you on, then please contact us on (02) 9929 8840.