Going to Court for a Family Law Matter

Q. What sort of process can I expect if I go to Court?

This depends on which Court your matter is listed in. The procedures in the different Courts differ slightly.

Generally your matter will initially be listed for a ‘first return date.’ This is a long list of matters and the purpose of the listing is to determine what needs to be done with your matter.

Sometimes an agreement is able to be reached on this day and handed up in Court. Your matter may be heard on an interim basis if the matter is urgent. If not, your matter may be listed for an interim hearing to determine what should happen with your matter until a final hearing becomes available. You may be ordered to attend a meeting with a family consultant appointed by the Court at some point during the proceedings.

Once some interim orders are in place the matter is then generally set down for a final hearing date.

Because the processes in Court are different for every matter you should discuss the likely conduct of your individual matter directly with one of our Family Law Solicitors.

Q. How long will it take to finish my matter?

Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to give estimates of time for your matter to be finalised because every matter is different.

Generally you should expect to have a first listing date for Court within 1-2 months of filing your documents. It is common for matters to take twelve months and over to be finalised by the Court.

Q. Can I change the date of my hearing?

No. You are required to attend Court on the date that your matter is listed. It is possible that Orders that are not favourable to you can be made in your absence.

In circumstances that you are legally represented, your solicitor can advise you whether they require you to attend Court personally.

Q. Do I have to attend my Court date?

Yes. It is very important that you attend Court each time that your matter is listed. Throughout the course of your matter there will be listing for different Court events.

Some of the listings are for interim or final hearings and some of them are procedural dates. You may also have to attend the Court for interviews with a Court appointed Counsellor.

It is important that you attend Court with your solicitor at all times unless you have been informed by your solicitor that you do not need to attend. Our Family Law Solicitors are able to provide you with further information about what to expect at Court on each occasion.

Q. What time should I arrive at Court?

You should always make sure that you are at Court approximately 30 minutes before the time that your matter is listed. If you are travelling to Court in the morning you should make sure that you consider morning and peak hour traffic when working out what time you need to leave home to arrive at Court 30 minutes before your listed time.

Q. Is there anything I should bring to Court?

You should speak to one of our Family Law Solicitors about what you need to bring to Court with you. If you are not represented you should have all documents which have been filed in the proceedings and any documents which you are relying on as part of your case.

If you are represented your solicitor will bring most of the relevant documents to Court with them. They will also notify you if they require you to bring anything extra to Court.

Q. Can my family and friends come to court with me?

Yes.

You can bring family or friends with you to support you at Court. It is usually best not to bring more than one person with you as too many people can sometimes inflame a dispute with the other party.

If you wish to bring a family member or friend, you should bring someone who you trust and who will assist you with decisions without placing pressure on you.

There are times when your family and friends may not be able to enter the Court room with you but they can wait outside with you.

Q. Can I bring children to Court?

The Court is not an appropriate place for children and they are not allowed to enter the Court room at any time. You should make arrangements for someone to look after your children when you attend Court.

If you are not able to make arrangements for someone to take care of your children there is a child care centre at some Courts and you should contact the Court directly to make enquiries about child care.

Q. Are there rules about how I should behave in Court?

Yes.

You should behave in a polite and respectful manner at all times whilst you are in Court. This includes times when you are waiting outside the Court room.

You should be careful not to react abusively or violently to anything that the other party may say against you in Court. Remember that your conduct is always being assessed when you are at Court, even when you are not in the Court room.

Q. How should I dress for Court?

There are no rules about what you need to wear to Court. However, when you are dressing for Court you should consider that Court is a formal environment and you should dress appropriately. Every time you go to Court the Magistrate or Judge sees you and can start to form an opinion of you based upon the way you are dressed.

You can wear a suit if you have one but do not need to purchase one especially for Court.

Generally it is acceptable for you to dress in a smart casual manner. Your clothing should be clean and you should be well groomed and tidy. For women this may mean a skirt and blouse and for men a button up shirt and slacks. You should not wear tracksuit pants or very casual clothing and you should never wear a hat or sunglasses in Court. If you are unsure about what to wear to Court you should ask your solicitor.

Q. How will I know where to go once I am in the court?

There is a Court list posted at Court every day. You should find your name on the list and the list will tell you where to go.

Q. Will I have to talk to the judge?

If you are representing yourself in Court you will need to speak to the judge. If you do not want to represent yourself you should contact our office and make an appointment with one of our Family Law Solicitors so that we can arrange to represent you.

If you have a solicitor representing you, you will generally not be required to speak to the judge as your solicitor will speak on your behalf.

There may be some occasions when the judge will speak to you directly and if this occurs you should make sure that you speak to the judge in a polite and respectful manner. If you have to speak to the judge you should always refer to the judge as “Your Honour.”

Q. What should I do if I fear for my safety at Court?

If you have any concerns about your safety while attending court, please call 1300 352 000 before your court appointment or hearing. The Court can make arrangements for additional security to be available.

Q. Is there any support when I am at Court?

If you are represented by a solicitor, your solicitor will provide support for you while you are at Court. You should contact our office to make an appointment with one of our Family Law Solicitors so that we may represent you in Court.

You may also like to bring a friend or family member with you as support as there are occasions when your solicitor may be very busy at Court and have other clients present on the same day that your matter is listed.

There are also representatives from the Salvation Army present at Court to provide support if you need it.

Q. What should I do if I have problems understanding English?

If you do not speak English the Court can arrange for an interpreter to be available.

You should contact the Court two days prior to your Court date to make these arrangements. If you are represented by a solicitor, your solicitor will usually make these arrangements on your behalf.

Steven Ng was admitted as a solicitor in 2006 and has practiced exclusively in the field of Family Law with Adams & Partners Lawyers ever since. He is the Family Law practice director for Adams & Lawyers Partners. Steven is also an experienced litigator and, whilst negotiating a resolution is always the preferred option, he is able to effectively represent his clients’ interests in any Court-based actions if the need arises. Read more about Steven here.