We know that not everyone can afford to engage a family lawyer to represent themselves during a divorce. So our team of family lawyers in Perth have put together our essential tips for representing yourself in Family Court.
If you are representing yourself in Family Court, make sure you read this blog and take note of these tips which can help you prepare for your day in Court.
Tips For Representing Yourself in Family Court
1. Try To Resolve The Matter Before Going To Court
Most people who decide to represent themselves in Court, do it either to save money or feel that their case is simple enough for them to handle themselves. If the latter reason applies to you, the most obvious thing to do, is to first try to resolve your matters before going to Court.
If your matter involves children, Australian Family Law makes it mandatory to first attempt Family Dispute Resolution, also known as family mediation, before taking it to Court. If family mediation has failed to resolve your matter(s), it may be an indication that your case may not be as simple as you originally thought.
2. Prepare Thoroughly
Court procedures are usually fairly complicated and meticulous preparations need to be made. That requires much research and submitting all the necessary documents on time, neatly filled in, and properly served to the opposing parties. Your affidavits must be clear, outlining all your arguments, and providing a full disclosure of facts, including information that may not be favourable to your case. Any seemingly irrelevant omission, may end up going against you.
Apart from preparing documents and filling in legal forms, you also need to be mentally prepared for what lies waiting for you inside the Court. You may need to cross-question witnesses or be cross-questioned yourself by a family lawyer. You therefore need to have all your documents to support your claims and have all your wits about you at all times.
Before deciding on representing yourself in Family Court, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I have the time and the means to prepare thoroughly?
- Am I familiar with all Court procedures?
- Can I stay calm under pressure, and have what it takes to get the outcome I would like?
- Am I giving myself the best chance of getting a favourable outcome?
If you’re unsure about just one of these questions, consider obtaining legal advice.
3. Know The Law
The Law can be complex at the best of times and although you are not a qualified lawyer, you will be expected to know the law, understand all the legal terminology and follow the same procedure as the lawyer(s) you’re up against.
Laws are often interpreted differently and as each case has its own unique circumstances, you need to know precisely how it may apply to your specific case. Judge’s or Magistrate’s decisions can be difficult to appeal against successfully.
4. Review The Family Court Handbooks
Fortunately, the Australian Family Law offers valuable information on law and Court procedures for people planning on representing themselves in Family Court. You can download such information by visiting their website here.
5. Understand Courtroom Etiquette
It is crucial for you to fully understand courtroom etiquette, before you even enter the building. Make sure you familiarise yourself with courtroom etiquette.
Some points worth mentioning are:
- Wear formal clothing and dress neatly.
- Ensure your phone is switched off.
- Address the Judge as “Your Honour” and refer to your ex-spouse as “the father” or “the mother”.
- Do not make accusations. Rather, point out to the Judge the page and paragraph number in your affidavit to which you want to draw their attention.
6. Be On Time
Nothing infuriates judges and opposing lawyers than someone not arriving on time. Be there at least half an hour before the scheduled time so you can find the right room and be ready to proceed as soon as your case is called.
7. Be Respectful
Being respectful is not negotiable. All emotions must and will be set aside and you are to address every person with respect, just as you’d like to be addressed yourself.
8. Answer Clearly & Concisely
When asked any questions, answer clearly and concisely. Keep strictly to the facts and have all documentary evidence as support if required.
9. Seek Legal Advice
To maximise your chances for a favourable outcome, it may be worth considering obtaining some legal advice from a family lawyer, who could explain what your legal rights and obligations are. They will also help you understand the law, and raise any potential issues you may not have thought of.