The Guides to Social Policy Law is a collection of publications designed to assist decision makers administering social policy law. The information contained in this publication is intended only as a guide to relevant legislation/policy. The information is accurate as at the date listed at the bottom of the page, but may be subject to change. To discuss individual circumstances please contact Services Australia.

5.4.1 Choice of court


The Registrar may take action to recover a debt in a court.

Act references

CSRC Act section 104, section 105, section 113

Choice of court for recovery action

The Registrar must choose the court in which to take recovery action. 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, for example, local and state courts
  • the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Divisions 1 and 2)
  • 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.

The Registrar cannot take legal action in more than one court, at the same time, for the same debt.

Example: The Registrar cannot use the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia 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, that is, 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).

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