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Megan Dansie

- 11 Mar 2015
  • Family Law

First time in: What to expect at Family Court

Going into a court for the first time can be a nerve-racking experience but if you know what to expect, that can help remove some of the anxiety.

The first time you go to court your case will probably be before a Judge of the Federal Circuit Court. Only very complex matters go straight to the Family Court. Both courts are in the same building.

Make sure you know the time of your hearing and try to arrive 15-30 minutes early so you’re not under pressure.

Arrange a place to meet your lawyer and be prepared to pass through an airport style metal detector to enter the court building.

There is a notice board in the foyer which will list the courtroom where your case will be heard.

Your first hearing may be a directions hearing where the Judge sets a timetable for the progress of your case.

This may include counselling if there are children involved, or preparation of a financial conciliation conference.

Most Judges have a number of cases listed for each hour. You may need to wait for your turn.

If there is an issue that needs to be decided quickly, such as time with children, or freezing a bank account, the Judge may ask you to come back later in the day or on another day when they have time to hear more about the issues.

You may also need to wait while the lawyers try and negotiate an agreement before seeing the judge.

You can bring a support person with you.

If you have concerns about your safety, call the court beforehand and they can make appropriate arrangements.

Generally, courts are not suitable places for children and no one under 18 is allowed in the courtroom.  Please make other arrangements for your child’s care when you come to court.

Before entering the courtroom you should:

  • turn off electronic equipment, including mobile phones, and
  • remove hats or sunglasses, unless for medical or religious reasons.

Do not bring any food or drink into the courtroom.

The court doesn’t have any dress rules, but first impressions can count. Wear clean and neat “job interview” clothes if possible.