For many people, a courtroom is a strange place that they will never need to step into. For those that do, they tend to describe the experience as alien, confusing and often quite distressing. These descriptions often come about because the person attending court is not aware of the procedures and etiquette that the court follows. In this blog, our references are for the Federal Circuit Court and the Family Court of Australia.
The following is a simple guide for those who attend court either represented or unrepresented.
Checklist before going to court
Check when and where your matter is being heard
- If you have a lawyer they will advise you of the date and time of your hearing.
- In Australia you can contact the court by phone on 1300 352 000 (8:30 am to 5:00pm Monday to Friday AEST) to check the date and time of your matter.
- The court also publishes a list of the next day’s hearings on their website each weekday in the afternoon.
- Ensure that arrangements are made for the care of children as they are not allowed in the courtroom.
- If you have concerns for your safety when attending court it is recommended that you contact the court on 1300 352 000 to organise a secure room for you to attend during the hearing. If you have a lawyer raise this with them so they can organise the secure room for you.
What to do when attending court
- Your clothing should be neat. While you can chose to wear a suit it is not required. T-shirts, shorts and thongs are not appropriate.
- As a general rule of thumb you should allow enough travel time to be at court at least half an hour before your hearing is scheduled to start.
- It is common that prior to a hearing, lawyers take part in negotiations to progress the matter and in order for this to take place your lawyer will need you to be there.
- If you are self-represented check-in with the Associate when you arrive. They will generally be sitting inside the courtroom wearing a plain black robe without a purple strip.
What do to when in the courtroom
- Turn your mobile phone off immediately prior to entering the courtroom.
- If the court is in session bow to the Judge when entering. This is done as a sign of respect.
- Stand when any judicial officer (Justice, Judge or Registrar) enters and exits the room. The Associate will announce their entrance.
- Stand when addressing the court or being addressed by any judicial officer.
- When addressing the judicial officer:
Address a Justice or Judge as ‘Your Honour’
Address a Registrar as ‘Registrar’
- Do not talk over the presiding judicial officer or the other party.
Each party will have the chance to address the court.
- Behave respectfully at all times.
- If possible sit immediately behind your lawyer. This makes it easier for your lawyer to ask you any questions if required.
- Do not talk if you are sitting in the public seating area.
- Once the hearing has concluded the Associate will call the next matter on and you are then free to leave the courtroom.
The steps to take after your hearing
- Exit the courtroom with your lawyer.
- Bow to the front of the courtroom when exiting.
- Your lawyer will generally debrief you on what occurred and advise you of the immediate effects of any Orders that may have been made in your matter.
- Once formalised, a copy of your Orders will be forwarded to you by your lawyer or by the court if you are self-represented.
We recommend that you obtain advice from an experienced Family Law solicitor before attending court. At Andersons we can advise you of your rights and entitlements and represent you in all Family Law matters including property disputes and children’s proceedings.