5.4.1 Choice of Court
The Registrar may take action to recover a debt in:
- a court with jurisdiction for the recovery of debts up to the amount of that debt, e.g. local and state courts,
- the Family Court of Australia,
- the Federal Circuit Court,
- the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory,
- the Family Court of a state, and
- a court of summary jurisdiction. A court of summary jurisdiction is defined in section 2B of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901. Essentially, any justice of the peace, or magistrate of a state or territory, sitting as a court to hear matters summarily, is a court of summary jurisdiction.
CSRC Act section 104, section 105, section 113
Choice of court for recovery action
The Registrar cannot take legal action in more than one court, at the same time, for the same debt. The Registrar must choose the court in which to take recovery action.
Example: The Registrar cannot use the Family Court if there is already legal action for recovery taking place in a local court for the same debt, unless the action in the local court is formally discontinued.
However, the Registrar may take successive actions using different enforcement processes, i.e. civil action and action under the FL Act (Deputy Child Support Registrar v Harrison (1996) FLC 92-656).
Where judgment is obtained in a civil court, the Registrar is not prevented from seeking to recover any unpaid portion of the judgement under the FL Act in a court with family law jurisdiction. However, only the parts of the judgment representing maintenance (as distinct from penalties or costs) may be enforced in this way (DCSR v Harrison).