There is no doubt that going to court is a daunting experience, especially so when considering that your future financial and emotional wellbeing, and that of your children, could rest on the outcome.
For many, by the time their family law matter is in court, they have already been through a great deal of stress through the negotiation and mediation phases of their matter. Attending court can add to this stress but with the right preparation and level of expectation, it can be a very productive and much less stressful event.
What happens at your first court date ultimately depends on which court you are in (family law can be heard in the Family Court of Federal Circuit Court) the application that was filed to initiate court proceedings. If you have a lawyer, they will prepare your case on your behalf and will be ready to proceed. Even so it is advisable that you re-read any material that has been filed in your matter a so that all of the issues that have been raised are fresh in your mind.
From a practical point of view, here is what you can expect on your first day in court.
After you have entered the court building and gone through security, you will see a court list. This will tell you which court your matter is in, the Judge who will be hearing the matter and the time it is listed (your appointment timeslot if you will).
These details will also be available on the court website after 4.30pm on the day before so it is always recommended that you refer to that. Make sure you arrive at court at least 30 minutes before your matter is listed to allow for any delays going through security.
There will be a mass of people inside the court building comprising of clients, lawyers and barristers. You will note from the court list that your matter has been listed at the same time as many other matters. Once you have made your way up to the floor on which your matter is listed, wait close to the courtroom in which it is listed.
The Judge’s Associate (their support team) will do what is called a “call-over”. The Associate comes outside the courtroom and calls all matters before Judge X. If you have a lawyer, they will inform the Associate that they represent you and will advise what the matter is in court for today.
Sometimes the Judge will do the call-over themselves inside the courtroom. Every Judge is different in this regard.
After the call-over is finished, the Associate will then start to call each individual matter. If you have a lawyer, when your matter is called your lawyer will enter the courtroom with you and they will appear wholly on your behalf. You will not need to say anything unless specifically addressed by the Judge, which is rare. It is important to be courteous and respectful of the Judge. This includes standing when they leave or enter the courtroom and bowing on entry and exit to the courtroom.
The Judge will deal with the quickest matters first, and these include consent adjournments, consent directions and consent orders. If your matter falls within one of these categories, it will be dealt with relatively quickly.
If, however, your matter is set down for an interim hearing, or if there is some disagreement about how the matter should progress, then you will likely spend most of the day at the court until the court reaches your matter. There is still an opportunity to resolve the matter at court before it is mentioned by the Judge and usually every effort is made to reach consent orders.
Once your matter has been mentioned before the Judge, you are free to leave the court. You will not receive a copy of the orders that have been made. These will be uploaded onto the Court Portal and your lawyer will print and send you a copy once they are available (usually within 2 -3 working days).
Preparation is the key for any court event and this includes being familiar with the court process as set out above. The best preparation you can do is to engage an expert family lawyer who deals with the court in these types of matters on a regular basis. Their experience can be paramount in relieving the pressure on you at an already difficult time as you prepare for your first date in court about your family law matter.
If you have a family law matter in court and would like to seek advice or support in the preparation before your court date contact our team of expert family lawyers today for a no-obligation initial appointment.