I’ve been Served with Family Court Documents – What Happens Now?
So you’ve been served with Family Court Documents – it may be for something to do with your children, or a property settlement, or both. What happens next?
The court arena can seem pretty daunting at first, but we can help break down the first steps to make it seem less scary.
The first court date is important and if you ignore it, it will not just go away – quite the opposite, if you have been served but you choose not to go, the court can make Orders without you there based on the other person’s evidence.
That is why it is important to get the first steps right.
1. Write down the Court Date
The first thing you should do after you have read through the documents is check the court date and write it down. Everywhere.
You need to make sure that you or at least your lawyer will be at that date.
Not available? Ask for time off work now, or if you will be away, you can ask the court to appear by telephone. The court rarely moves court dates, so just assume that the day can’t be moved.
2. See a Lawyer
Your first court date is important because it sets up the rest of your matter.
Each family law matter is different and is decided on its individual merit, so all the googling in the world can’t compare to personalised advice.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to use the lawyer for your whole matter, but at the very least, a one off appointment can give you a push in the right direction.
3. Draft your Response Documents
Whether you get a lawyer to do this, or do it yourself, you need to try and have your Response documents filed with the court before the first court date.
You should be filing your Response documents within 28 days of receiving the court documents, but more commonly, Response documents are filed within a week of the first court date.
It is important to have any documents filed two clear business days before the court date, or the court may not allow you to rely on the documents.
4. Go to Court
Now your first court date will probably be a duty day, meaning that there will probably be around 20 or more other matters on that day. The court will be busy, there will be little room to sit, you’ll spend most of your time waiting outside the court, and there will be lawyers running all around the place.
The judge isn’t going to decide your matter on a final basis on this day. Most (if not all) of the orders made on this day will be Interim Orders, meaning they are just for the interim until a Final Order is made.
It is quite common for parties to come to an agreement by consent at the first court date, and then hand up the signed agreement to the judge to sign off on.
If you have no luck coming to an agreement, then your matter will be heard by the judge. There is no cross examination at the first court date and the judge will make his decision based on oral submissions (meaning what you or your lawyer says to the judge in court) or on the papers (meaning the documents you have filed).
Where to from here?
You are probably in one of three head spaces right now:
You liked the information, you found it interesting - but that’s all you wanted for now.
This blog post resonated with you but you are just not ready yet to do anything and just want to look at more information about Family Law – I suggest you look at the other Free Information we have on our website which includes FAQ's as well as Helpful Links and Contacts that may come in handy.
You are wanting more information about what you need to know after separation or you are ready to do something about your problem right now. If that is the case, then book an appointment with one of our Family Law solicitors by clicking here to make an online booking or why not start online!