For most of our clients, when faced with a family law matter, often it is the first time they have had to deal with the Court Process. Family law covers all aspects of family relationships – breakdown, divorce, care of children, financial support of children and former partners, and property division – and as such can be a daunting process to go through depending on your situation.
Because of the nature of the different aspects of family law that are heard in Court, there are different ways of dealing with each of these aspects. For example, a property division matter will be dealt with differently to a parenting matter. The evidence that gets adduced and the manner of attempting to come to a resolution are also different. The procedure in the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, which hears family law matters, are also different.
Where possible, we advise our clients to resolve their matter outside of Court and that going to Court is a last resort. In fact, in both parenting and property matters, family dispute resolution methods, such as mediation, are obligatory.
If you cannot find a resolution to the issues, then you can file an Application for specific Orders that you would like the Court to make in the Federal Circuit Court or Family Court of Australia. Matters that are more complex are heard in the Family Court. The majority of matters we deal with are heard in the Federal Circuit Court. When the Application is filed, a date is given for the first return date. Before this first return date, the Respondent is to file their responding material.
At the first return date, matters are discussed, and if the parties cannot reach some Interim Orders, an Interim Hearing takes place, in which the Judge decides. This could be for matters such as spousal maintenance or Orders for where the children live and how much time they spend with the non-resident parent in the interim.
The Orders may also include submitting reports by experts and valuations for property. In the interim, it is not uncommon for mediations and conciliations to take place to try and resolve the matter. It a resolution can’t be found, the Court would set down the matter for a Trial Directions Hearing, where directions are given as to when final Affidavit material must be filed and the trial date which could be 18 months down the track.
The trial is run over a day or more and at the conclusion the Judge will either make an Order or will reserve (hold over) a decision about your case to another day. This decision is normally given within three months.
The Court process is a long and expensive journey. Having an expert family lawyer on your side means that they will explore every avenue to settle the matter as soon as possible. This could save you time and money.