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Family Law Court. One free reason why you must attend!

By May 12, 2024No Comments

Family Law CourtIs it necessary for you to physically attend your family law court events?  Is it possible to appear by telephone or video? Let’s take a look.

Under the Family Law Rules 2004, there is a requirement that you attend your family law court events in person and physically appear before a judge or judicial registrar, no matter where you live, unless you make a request to appear by electronic means and it is approved.

Impact of Covid on family law court system

Covid-19 disrupted the way our family law court system works and now, requests to appear by electronic means are common, though such requests are by no means automatically granted.  This is because, during the pandemic, courts were revamped to be able to fully take advantage of technology to conduct cases through teleconferencing and videoconferencing, and most court events were directed by the courts to be conducted virtually.  And now, although the online court protocols are quietly being rolled back from the extreme measures necessary during the pandemic, it seems a hybrid model of in-person appearances and virtual appearances appears to be the new norm.

The ability to attend family law court hearings by virtual means often greatly benefits people who would have difficulty physically attending court, for instance remote-based litigants without easy access to courtrooms, or single parents unable to arrange care for their children, or those who are fearful of or intimidated by the other party (such as where family violence is a factor).

Electronic hearings are regarded as the same as a formal in-person court event.  All the Rules of Court and procedures, courtesies and formalities will still apply if you are approved to attend by virtual means.

Making a request to appear electronically

If you decide to make such a request, you’ll need to first ask the other party whether they agree or object to your intended use of electronic communication at your court event, as that information will be incorporated into your request form.

Bear in mind that you need to submit your request form at least five business days before your court event, or if the court event is a trial, at least 28 days before the date fixed for the beginning of the trial.  Try to get your request in as soon as you can, because there’s no guarantee it will be approved, and if you leave it till the last minute, it could affect your ability to make travel plans.

In your request, you’ll fill out the facts in support of your request, and give details of how you have given notice to the other party as well as whether or not they object.

What does the court look at when deciding on a request to appear by electronic means?

In determining whether to grant a request, the court will consider things like the distance between your residence and the court, any difficulty you would have in attending due to illness or disability, expenses associated with attending, any expenses or savings to be made by the use of electronic communication, whether there are concerns about security (such as family violence), whether the other party objects to your request, and the nature of the hearing.  Ultimately, the court will determine whether or not your request is a reasonable one.

Note, however, that for certain court events you’ll always need to attend in person (for instance, for meetings in preparation of a Family Assessment Report).

Can I have a barrister or lawyer attend without me?

It depends.  Some judges are quite content with a lawyer and/or barrister attending court events on behalf of their client, especially if the client lives a long way from the court.  Other judges will make orders that you personally attend the court event with your lawyer or barrister.

However, remember that your lawyer or barrister will likely still need to obtain your instructions during the court event, so it is a very good idea to ensure you are available to them by telephone while your court event is on.

If you are unsure of how best to proceed, make sure you speak with your family lawyer and get some advice on your attendance at court events.  Whatever you do, don’t simply fail to attend your hearing at all.  There are very negative consequences to having a matter proceed on an “undefended” basis, with orders able to be made in your absence, applications dismissed, and even orders for costs made against you.

Finally, don’t forget that another way to avoid going to court altogether is to try to resolve your issues with your ex using Alternative Dispute Resolution processes (such as mediation and collaboration).

If you would like advice in relation to family law court procedures or any other family law matter, please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.

Please note our blogs are not legal advice.  For information on how to receive the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Family Law.

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