Settling your family law matter in the court system can be stressful, expensive, and most likely, a lengthy process. Understanding the timeline of court directions and procedure will help you prepare for the process.
This article provides the most important tips to help make the court process as smooth and productive as possible.
It is important to remember that court proceedings should be relied on as a last resort after all attempts made to negotiate a settlement.
We strongly recommend that you seek legal advice from an experienced family lawyer before commencing a court application.
Understanding the timeline for court hearings
In Western Australia, family law matters proceed through the Family Court of Western Australia (FCWA). There are four types of hearings that usually take place during family law proceedings in the court, these include:
- Direction Hearings;
- Interim Hearings;
- Readiness Hearings; and
- Final Hearings.
Learning about proceedings in the FCWA
They say knowledge is power, so we recommend you invest some time educating yourself about procedural issues and the law. If you have a family lawyer managing your matter, ask them to explain the process to you in simple language.
If your proceedings involve a property settlement, you should have a thorough understanding of the likely outcomes and property division. If your proceedings involve the care of children, you should ensure you understand the possible outcomes for orders and arrangements for your children.
If you are unable to pay for a lawyer to represent you, you can request an appointment for representation from a Legal Aid lawyer, or at the very least, seek legal advice in relation to hearings.
Identify the issues in dispute
It is imperative that you work out the legal issues you and your ex-partner cannot agree on. Clarify what you want to achieve from the hearing, and understand the other party’s wants.
When the differences between each party are clear, make a list of the strengths and weaknesses of your case. Plan how you will respond to any arguments made by the other party in relation to weaknesses in your matter.
Ensure that you:
- have relevant documents ready to hand to the Judge or in your sworn affidavit;
- have prepared written submissions to be handed up to the Judge;
- include a chronology of events, if appropriate;
- write out the orders you are seeking.
Doing the above, even if you have legal representation, will assist your lawyer preparing your case and may even save you costs in legal fees.
The court can only consider evidence that is relevant to your matter and ‘admissible’ (i.e., able to be used in court). Evidence is usually admissible if it supports a party’s argument, or helps to weaken the other party’s argument.
Be objective about the evidence required. The evidence must be directly linked to your argument.
Don’t use unnecessary evidence which may be distracting. At the same time, you must keep in mind your duty to disclose material relevant to the issues in dispute.
Sometimes evidence that might seem relevant can’t be used in court.
The rules surrounding evidence can be complex so we strongly recommend you seek legal advice in relation to the evidence you will be relying on.