How to Run Your Family Law Case

Running a family law case could be a daunting and arduous task, let alone your own family’s case. Day in and day out, the looming stress of what if’s and what could be’s linger around your thoughts, making sleep a luxury you could hardly afford. There are several major and minor issues and disputes that cannot be solved over a private talk, so you have no other choice but to resort to the court. Now, the hassle of going to court, filing appeals, and all other lengthy processes are making you lose your sanity. We understand that you have all the reasons to lose your mind, but allow us to lend you a hand. 

Here are the necessary things you need to know for you to be successful with your family case:

Court Application 

This is the first and basic step. After having made up your mind and after having gathered all the possible data needed for the case, you can now apply to court. For you to either apply or respond to an application, it is crucial that you: utilize all the correct court documents, serve the documents to the different parties involved, and strictly follow all court processes. 

However, if your children are under someone else’s legal care, or are under the care of the Department of Child Safety, legal advice is needed before you could push through with the application. 

The party who first applies to the court is referred to as the applicant, while the party who is to file a response to the application is referred to as the respondent. Please note that being an applicant or respondent will not affect your case in any way. 

Furthermore, it must be stated in your case if you would want both interim and final orders, or merely either of the two. 

Court Documents

Before your application, you should already be familiar with the varying court documents. These are the documents needed for your case. 

First are the forms. There are two distinct types: a. Initiating Application form, and b. Response to an initiating application. The former is used for both interim and final orders, while the latter is used for the response to the orders. 

Second, are the other documents to be handed in together with the application. In applying for parenting orders, an S.601 certificate must be included, unless you have valid reasons not to secure one.

Additionally, a statement of truth at the end of the application form must be filled in. 

In the case of filing an initiating application form for both interim and final orders, a separate affidavit must be filed for the interim orders. 

Always keep in mind that each court has its distinct affidavit form which you could either get on their website or the court. 

The different forms and requirements could be changed anytime. Thus, make sure to check with your court before proceeding to anything else. 

Place of Filing

Upon the completion of your application or response, you must have them filed at the court, together with all necessary supporting documents. You have the option of posting your application or handing them to court yourself. 

It is important that you secure copies of the original files for the parties involved in the case, including yourself. The court keeps a file of all original documents and each file has its respective file number. Take note of your file number as you will need to quote it in other related documents. 

When all your documents have already been filed, the court, then, stamps the documents with its official seal. It is under your discretion to serve a sealed copy of the documents to the other parties. 

Court Fees

On top of all your other expenses, you still have the court fees to take care of. Here are the following court fees to note:

  • charge fee for the filing of your Initiating Application form or the Response form. 
  • charges for the interim applications that are filed separately after the Initiating Application or Response form. 

Exemptions from paying the filing fees could be granted under the condition of holding a government concession card. For some, reduced fees may be applied for divorce applications or decree of nullity given that financial hardship will be demonstrated. 

Arrangement of Court Documents Service

After the successful filing of your application and other documents, you are now ready to serve the sealed copy of your Application or Response to the involved parties. This must be done as quickly as possible if your application is in the Family Court. However, if your application is in the Federal Circuit Court, the following forms must be served at least 7 days before the first court date or at least 3 days before the hearing date for that application if the application is for orders after the court case has already started.

A sealed copy must be secured before serving them to the parties. A sealed copy of all documents served to the applicant or respondent must also be served to any other parties involved, including a children’s lawyer if there is one. Also, the response must be served 7 days before the court date. 

It is essential to note that you cannot serve the documents yourself. Someone over the age of 18 or an adult must be arranged to serve the documents for you. The server could be a hired process server, family member, or friend. It is all up to you.

The server could not be a person who is interested in the case or whose name is found on the application. 

Once you have chosen a server, you need to have him/her secure an ‘Acknowledgment of Service’ that is duly signed by the respondent. Then, the server ought to accomplish an ‘Affidavit of Service’. 

The aforementioned forms are downloadable via the family court’s website or you could opt to have it emailed to you through reaching the Family Court National Enquiry Line. 

In the case of failure to serve the other party, it is a must that you apply for substituted service or dispensation of service. The application for this must still be filed at the court. This will be done by completing an interim application with the support of an affidavit. Again, do not forget to keep copies of these documents. 

Furthermore, you must not only keep a copy of the formal documents needed for the case but a copy of all written letters that you have sent and will be sent to the opposing party and his/her lawyer as well, since these can be very useful for the case.

Moreover, if you hired an independent children’s lawyer, they must be served as well since they are a functional part of the case. Serving them grants them the opportunity to participate in the case without limitations. 

Application Response

If the tables were turned, and you are served an application from the other party, you can respond through several responses. Here is a list of what you could do: 

  • You could disagree with some, if not all, of the orders being given by the opposing party. Hence, file a response. 
  • You could agree to the orders, sign a consent order, and file a ‘notice of address for service’. 
  • You could do nothing, and wait for the court to decide.

Observe Another Case

Now, if you have completed all the necessary steps and your lawyer has already helped you in the preparation of your case summary documents, you can now ask the court for permission to observe another case. Observe how the case works and how the parties behave during the hearing. List down the dos and don’ts that could be of help to you.

Lastly, identify whether your hearing or trial would be done formally or informally–depending on which court you would be heard. Acquaint yourself with what happens during an informal and a formal hearing. Holistically prepare yourself for the actual day. 

We know for a fact that facing disputes which can no longer be dealt with apart from legal intervention can be grueling and stressful. However, with the support from the people around you, and with the knowledge of the basic steps to take, you will definitely make it out alive and strong. No matter how challenging things would get, always encourage yourself that you can make it. 

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