What to Expect on Your First Court Date

What to Expect on Your First Court Date

You have filed parenting and/or property proceedings in either the Federal Circuit Court or the Family Court and your first court date is coming up. What can you expect?

Well, let's just say it won't be like an episode of Suits. These episodes usually show Harvey Spector making a dramatic submission to the Judge who then decides on the whole matter in one go. This simply will not happen on the first court date.

People commonly think that the first court date will be their chance to tell the Judge their life story, and have the Judge make a decision about their matter. The Judge's list is usually very busy and the Judge may have lots of matters to deal with, including yours. The only instance where a decision may be made by the Judge is where you have sought Interim Orders in your Application or Response. If the Judge has time on the day, the Judge may be in a position to hear the interim application.

Generally, however, the first court date is procedural in nature only. What does this mean? The first court date is your or your lawyer's opportunity to inform the Judge of the circumstances of your case, and why proceedings were commenced. The Judge will want to know what you consider should happen next in the case. The Judge will then make procedural orders to move the matter forward.

Procedural orders that may be made on the first court date include things such as:

  1. That the Respondent file their documents in response if they have not done so already;
  2. That you and the Respondent attend a Child Inclusive or Child Dispute Conference or enter into the Child Responsive Program if it is a Parenting matter;
  3. That you and the Respondent exchange disclosure material if it is a Property matter;
  4. That you and the Respondent attend mediation either privately or with the Law Society of NSW; and
  5. That an Independent Children's Lawyer be appointed to the matter if applicable.

You should make sure that you turn up at least 15 minutes prior to the listing time of your matter, and that you are dressed appropriately. Smart casual clothing is required; think office attire. Don't forget to bow toward the Judge as you enter the courtroom, and stand while the Judge is entering or exiting the courtroom. Switch off your mobile phone. No eating or drinking, and keep quiet even if you do not agree with the other party’s lawyer is saying.

Our dedicated team of family lawyers are experienced in appearing in both the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and the Family Court of Australia. If you require our assistance, please call our office on (02) 9440 1202.