Entering a matter in the Family Court can be a daunting task. It is often an emotionally charged time and the thought of meeting deadlines and understanding legal jargon is likely to be the last thing you want to consider. Often, the best way forward is with the aid of some friendly advice.
The Family Court has a number of Judges, each of whom have their own cases that they (generally) hear from start to finish. You can usually expect to have the same Judge hear you at first instance and last.
The running of the Court is determined by the Family Court Rules 2004, a piece of legislation that sets out what the Court can and cannot do. This in turn offers consistency and accountability.
Documents and Proceedings
Every case will begin with an Initiating Application and Affidavit, and in property or maintenance cases a Financial Statement as well. In children’s matters, a Notice of Risk will be filed. This is to show the court the position of both parties and what the projection of the case may be (i.e., consented settlement, property or parenting orders or a trial).
When an application for final orders is made, there is a fee attached. The feel will range from $330 to $445. These are payable by the applicant directly to the Court hearing the matter, upon filing of the court application. In some cases, the applicant may be eligible to have the application fee waived, depending on their circumstances.
Service of Documents
These documents must then be served upon the other party to a matter. Service is generally required by hand, by someone other than the applicant who is over 18 years old. An affidavit of service will then be provided to the Court to show that service has occurred. Service can also be accepted by legal representatives if they have been engaged.
Upon filing, the matter will be given a first date before a judge. Hearings are reliant upon Judges’ availabilities and those of the parties and their legal representatives. There will be a first hearing, directions hearings and eventually the trial, which could take a number of days depending on the complexity of the orders sought. This process can take weeks, months or even years. The length of time and cost involved in Court fees is why negotiation and pre-trial settlement are so heavily encouraged. If there are special circumstances, the Court may move to expediate the process and bring it before a Judge more quickly.
After all evidence and witnesses have been heard, the judge will make orders with which the parties must abide. At this stage the matter will be considered finalised. Depending on the outcome, one of the parties may be required to pay for the legal costs of the other, or the judge may order each party to cover their own costs. There will also be determinations made on financial or parenting orders depending on the nature of the application.
Most importantly, always remember that you do not have to do any of this by yourself. Our helpful and understanding lawyers, here at Stanley & Co, are well experienced in family law matters. If you, or someone you know, is going through a separation, feel free to contact our offices for a free consultation.