Tips to Survive a day in the Family Court

Family Court Matters, General

Tips to Survive a day in the Family Court

Going to court is a daunting experience for most separated parents or spouses. The family court is an unfamiliar environment that has its own set of rules and regulations. Family lawyers are used to appearing at court and communicating with the Judge.

Straight from a family lawyer’s mouth – we have put together some tips on how to survive a day at court:

1. Know the lawyer lingo!

Call the Judge “Your Honour”. When talking to the Judge be polite and respectful at all times. Say “Yes Your Honour” rather than “Yea”. You may here the phrase “ICL” which stands for Independent Children’s Lawyer. You may also here the words “property pool” “family report” and “family dispute resolution”. It is not the Judges role to explain to you what these terms mean. Obtain advice from a family lawyer prior to your court date so that you are well versed on what to expect.

2. Stand, sit, bow!

When you enter the courtroom, slightly bow towards the Judge (if the Judge is sitting). If the Judge walks into the courtroom when you are already there, you should stand, bow and remain standing until you are told by the court officer to be seated.

Stand up when you are speaking to the Judge or when the Judge is speaking directly to you.

3. Check in

Inform the Judge’s Associate when you arrive at Court and advise them your name and the other parties name. If you are represented your lawyer will do this for you. If you are self-represented, then you can ask to see the duty lawyer. You might want to watch some of the other court matters prior to your own to get a simple understanding of how the court operates. You could do on a day prior and just watch.

4. Be prepared

Make sure that you have complied with all orders made by the Court. For example, if at the last court date, the Judge asked you to file a document, it is important that you have filed the document within the time frame required. You will immediately be off on the wrong foot with the Judge if you haven’t complied with his or her orders. Make sure you have copies of all relevant documents with you. Organise them in a folder so you can access them quickly.

5. The long haul

The Judge will not make a decision about your case on the first court date. Most family law matters that start in court are resolved through negotiation or mediation along the way. Only very few matters result in a Judge made decision. You can get out of the court system by settling your matter with your ex-partner. If your ex-partner is represented by a lawyer, don’t be afraid to approach the lawyer (politely) and have some discussions about how you might resolve your matter. Both sides need to compromise!

6. Leave it to the experts

The most valuable thing that you can do is to seek legal advice from a family lawyer. Would you operate on yourself if you needed an operation? Or would you fix your own car if it broke down? Of course not, you would consult with the experts. The same goes for family law. Family lawyers practice family law all day, every day. Make sure you find a family lawyer that is the right fit for you and that you feel confident in.

If you cannot afford a lawyer, then you should ask Legal Aid for assistance or a Community Legal Service.

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