Family & Divorce

How to Manage the Family Law Court Process

Going to the family court can be daunting. TGB Family Lawyer Dina Paspaliaris offers tips for handing your family dispute in court.

Going to the family court can be daunting. Adelaide family lawyer Dina Paspaliaris offers tips for handing your family dispute in court.

The average life of a current Family Law court matter (both in the Family Court and Federal Magistrates Court) is approximately 12 months.

As a family lawyer practicing in Adelaide for the last nine years, I have noticed an improvement of time frames for matters in the family law courts.

If you and your former partner cannot reach an agreement about a property settlement or your children’s living arrangements, the court process and your matter may be heard before a Judge or Federal Magistrate.

If this happens, it is important to obtain legal advice. A lawyer will explain your legal rights and help you understand what orders you are able to seek from the Judge or Federal Magistrate. A lawyer will represent you at your hearings, however you should also attend to hear what occurs and be actively involved in your matter.

The Judge or Federal Magistrate makes “interim orders” and directions, which enables parties to obtain and exchange information to assist in either negotiating a settlement or obtaining a determination from the court. The orders guide the parties through the court process and the aim of the interim orders, if complied with by both parties, is to lead to a speedier resolution of your matter.

If the interim orders are not complied with, then the resolution of the matter may be delayed.

However, if you are involved in the court process and comply with the procedures of the court, then a resolution should be imminent.

If you have a lawyer acting on your behalf, it is important to listen to their advice and provide the instructions and information they require to adhere to the court process.

If you choose not to obtain independent legal advice and decide to be self represented, it is important that you understand the orders that are made by the court and what the court is expecting of you.

If you are served with an application, it is important to deal with the application head on, rather than avoid the court process.

Tips for handling the family court process:

1. If you have not yet obtained legal advice, then do so

2. Decide  whether to instruct a lawyer to act on your behalf throughout the court process, or if you will represent yourself

3. Be prepared for the first hearing and do your research. For example, you can use the Family Court website to gather as much information as possible for your case

4. Prepare your responding documents, which outlines your case of argument and have evidence to support your case (a lawyer can also do this for you)

5. Visit the court precinct before your actual court case to familiarise yourself with the court surroundings, this will ease your nerves on your first day at court

6. On the day of your hearing, arrive early at the court house so you are relaxed and have the opportunity to look up on the court list (in the foyer of the family law courthouse) your court room. You should also consider bringing a support person, even though they wont be able speak on your behalf

7. If you are self represented, when you enter the courtroom you will need to speak with the court associate/officer and let them know you are self represented. You will then need to take a seat in the courtroom and wait for your matter to be called on. When your matter is called on, you should then make your way to the bar table. If you have a lawyer acting for you, he or she will speak on your behalf to the Judge or Federal Magistrate.

8. When addressing the Judge or Federal Magistrate, you should always address them as “your honour”

9. Be prepared with the list of the Orders you are seeking. Remember the interim orders that are made will determine how your case will progress in the court system. The more organised you are the speedier the resolution.

Remember, if you comply with the interim orders it is the first step to a quicker resolution. The length of your matter will also depend on the complexity of your case and the co-operation of the other party.

TGB is South Australia’s largest family and divorce law firm. For advice about your family law matter contact your nearest TGB office.