Representing Yourself in the Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court in family law matters.
Due to financial circumstances or other reasons, you may be considering representing yourself in Court.
It is important to understand that Court is not the same as what you see on TV. Many of the TV shows depict court etiquette in the United States or other countries, not Australia.
Representing yourself has its difficulties (you are required to talk about your own family affairs in front of strangers, you have to follow a process you may not understand and the rules can be onerous).
We recommend speaking to a family lawyer before filing any documents on your own or before appearing in Court on your own to make sure you obtain preliminary advice about what your legal rights are and how to represent yourself in Court.
Many of you may find or will have already found that your time in Court can be very short and you often have a very short time period to let the Judge know what you are seeking and why. This is why it is extremely important to make sure your Court material is done correctly, to make sure Court understands what your position is, what evidence you are relying on and what the issues are (amongst many other things you should know).
The Court process can become frustrating, particularly if you do not understand what happened or what is going on. We have had people (who represented themselves in court) tell us that they feel like no one understands your family circumstances and issues, that the Court does not know what they want and the Judge made orders that no-one asked for.
When you are in Court, Judges try to assist to the best of their abilities (without providing you legal advice) but this can be difficult. We recommend that you speak to a lawyer before proceeding to Court. This way you are likely to have a better understanding of what to expect and what is expected of you.
There are also a number of forms that you may need to fill out when proceeding to Court. For example, if you have a parenting or custody matter, you may need an Affidavit of Non Filing of Family Dispute Resolution Certificate and Notice of Risk; and for property matters, you may need to fill in a Financial Statement and ensure it is filled in correctly as trying to “adjust” or “amend” these documents later in the Court process may prejudice your case.
Regardless if your matter is about parenting/custody and/or property/financial matters, you are likely to be required to prepare an affidavit. This is your story, your explanation of everything that is legally relevant for the Court to hear. There are very rules in Part 15.2 of the Family Law Rules 2004 and Division 15.4 of the Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001 that must be adhered to. If you are unsure about whether or not your affidavit meets the requirements or do not understand the legal jargon in those sections, it is important to speak to a lawyer and/or have your lawyer review your affidavit with you to ensure it is in the correct format, legally admissible and to ensure that you are not prejudicing your case by including information that that not relevant and could negatively impact your case. For example, people may want to include things in affidavits that are irrelevant (such as details of your personal view that the other party has a mental illness or that the other person cheated or that the other person is just trying to make your life difficult). It is important that your affidavit is succinct, relevant and properly laid out.
To get further information to ensure you can properly represent yourself in Court, please contact our firm for assistance. We can assist you no matter where you live in Australia.
Family Lawyers & FDRP/Mediators – Claire Naidu & Co, Lawyers and Mediators are available to assist.