How to run your family law case a do it yourself kit to help you prepare a family law case and represent yourself in court




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Responding to an application

Family Court


You need to file a ‘Response to an application for final orders’ (or ‘Response to an initiating application’ if the application was made using that form). You need to file this within 14 days of receiving it, along with a Financial statement if there is property included in your case. If the application is for interim orders, you need to file a ‘Response to an application in a case’. File these forms with an affidavit.

See Family Law Rules 4.19 and 9.02 for other documents you might need to file. All the documents and forms need to be served on the other party at least seven days before the first court date.


Federal Circuit Court


You need to file the ‘Response to an initiating application’ with an affidavit, financial statement (if there is property included) and any supporting documents. This needs to be served on the other party within 14 days of receiving the application.

For cases in either court, get legal advice before you respond and make sure you go to court on the court date. The date will be on the application you receive. Call the court well before, if you cannot go on that date.

If you do not come to court, orders may be made without you having a say.

Division 12A


Division 12A makes the family law courts’ processes shorter and more informal and flexible.

See s.67N for the principles of how children’s cases are to be run and s.69ZQ which sets out the duties and powers of the court in Division 12A cases.

Some of the main features of Division 12A processes are:


  • the judge tells you how the case is to run in court. It may be run as an orderly discussion or it might run more formally. They decide the issues that are looked at, the witnesses who will attend, and when and if reports are needed.

  • most rules of evidence do not apply, unless the judge says so

  • evidence begins on the first day of the hearing or trial. Anything said is part of the evidence.

  • most of the evidence comes from you and the other parent or party

  • the judge actively manages the case. They speak directly to you and you can say in your own words what you would like for the children or other issues.

  • the judge controls the case by focusing on what is best for the children. If it is a property or financial case, the court focus on what is just and equitable (fair) for each party.

  • the judge can make orders or decisions at any time during the case, not just at the end.

Division 12A is used in:

  • all children’s cases (parenting, child maintenance and parentage)

  • any property or financial case and both people agree to Division 12A being used

  • any case where both parties agree and the court grants ‘leave’ (permission).

In children’s cases, a family consultant helps you and the other party throughout the court process. They are sworn in as a witness on the first day of the trial in the Family Court and at any time during a hearing in the Federal Circuit Court.

For more information on family consultants see ‘Chapter four – Children’.

You can also find information on child-related proceedings and other cases using Division 12A on the courts’ website at www.familylawcourts.gov.au.

The court process


There are different steps throughout a court case between the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court. The family law courts’ website has information on each step of the process. Visit www.familylawcourts.gov.au and read in more detail before you start your court case.

Remember, you can sort out an agreement at any time during the court process by filing consent orders. These are orders which set out what you have agreed upon and which you file with the court to legally formalise your agreement.


Family Court

Children’s cases


A registrar lists the case to the Child Responsive Program, which involves a series of meetings with a family consultant and the parties involved. The family consultant helps you sort out the issues in dispute and any help you may need. They can also help you to talk with each other and work out possible arrangements for the children. The family consultant gives you a Parenting Questionnaire to complete which outlines your situation and the arrangements you would like in place.

Any agreement reached during these meetings may be made into legally enforceable orders later. You can also ask for interim orders to be made at this stage.

If no agreement is reached, a date is set for a procedural hearing or other pre-trial event in front of a judge or registrar.

Property cases


A case assessment conference is held with a registrar. The conference aims to help you reach agreement on issues. Any agreement reached may be made into legally enforceable orders. You can also ask for interim orders to be made.

You are given a financial Questionnaire and a Balance sheet to complete. A Balance sheet lists the parties’ assets, liabilities and financial resources.

The registrar may refer your case for dispute resolution. If no agreement is reached, a date is set for a procedural hearing or other pre-trial event in front of a judge or registrar.

Joint children’s and property cases


Children’s matters are usually looked at first and you may begin with several meetings with the family consultant. You may be referred to family dispute resolution for financial matters and/or have to go to a conciliation conference. The conference aims to help you reach agreement on issues. If an agreement cannot be reached, a date is set for a procedural hearing or other pre-trial event in front of a judge or registrar.

The trial


Not all cases have the same court events. The judge manages your case as they think appropriate, so things may happen differently.

You no longer get a trial notice under the new system. You may have a procedural hearing or a review by the registrar several weeks before the trial date. At these meetings the registrar checks to see that all documents have been prepared and filed and everything is ready for the trial to begin. If either party has not obeyed orders or directions, the registrar will want to know why.

You may attend a ‘call over’ in front of the judge and registrar. The judge wants to know details about all issues in dispute. It can take up to a few hours. The judge decides what evidence will be used. Make sure you are prepared.

For these meetings you should have a summary of the issues and a list of witnesses and documents you would like to use (and the reasons why). The Questionnaire (and Balance sheet if applicable) that you completed is considered by the judge. The judge sets a date for the trial to begin.

The family consultant and registrar speak to the judge and give their recommendations about your case.

The remaining days of the trial are called the ‘conclusion hearing’.



Remember, if you have an urgent issue that needs to be decided quickly, let the registrar or family consultant know. Interim orders can be made.

Questionnaires
The Questionnaire is a very important document for your court case. The Questionnaire asks about current arrangements and the orders you seek. You need to complete the Questionnaire carefully. Get legal advice and ask the lawyer to help you fill it in. Ask the court when you need to file this.

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