For the majority of our clients, they are able to reach a settlement without having to go to a final hearing. For those that do require the Court to make a decision, the process can be daunting.
Today’s blog aims to give you an insight into what your first day at Court for a final hearing might look like for a family law matter.
Your Day in Court – Part 1
Your day in Court will probably start at 2:00am on the first day of the trial, usually a minimum of 18 months after you first saw your litigation lawyer. It will start this early because you probably won’t be able to sleep in anticipation of what the day will bring and how ‘the real truth’ (your truth) will play out before the Judge.
You meet your lawyer at 9:00am at their offices and you walk down to Court. You arrive and see that the Court is quite busy. Your lawyer tells you that there are a few matters listed to be heard by the Judge before yours is scheduled to start at 10:00am. You hope that your matter starts on time.
You meet with both your barrister and solicitor in a small conference room, coffees in hand, and they tell you that the Judge has over-listed the day. Your solicitor explains to you that the Judge tends to list (aka schedule) more than one matter for trial to be heard on the same day(s) at the same time, expecting that one or more of those matters that has been over listed will have settled or will need to be adjourned. Your solicitor has talked to you about this before, but you’re still worried that your matter might not be reached if the other matter gets priority and is heard by the Judge.
You think “What does that mean for me? Will my matter go to trial tomorrow? Or next week instead? Or next month? Do I have to pay for my barrister twice? What about all the time, money and energy that we have put in in preparing for my day in Court?”
Your solicitor tells you that if the trial is adjourned today, then the Court will need to allocate your matter to be heard at another time when the Court has capacity for the number of days required for your trial. This could be months away. Your barrister tells you that if your matter is adjourned, then they can maybe sort out some sort of fee arrangement.
Your solicitor goes over with you the information you’ve been talking about for months in the lead up to the hearing. He or she explains to you that if your matter gets heard today, you will get to hear everything that goes on in the Courtroom. At the time of giving evidence, you can’t speak to your legal team and you can’t speak about the case while it is ongoing with friends or family, in particular anyone who is a witness. Your solicitor tells you that any witnesses on your side of the case have to remain outside of the Courtroom until after they have given their evidence.
At 10:15am, you hear your and your former partner’s last names being called outside of the Courtroom. You, your solicitor and your barrister then walk into Court. You take a seat near the bar table and your solicitor and barrister set themselves up to sit at the bar table. Your former partner and their legal team walks in and set themselves up.
The Judge says that the Court will hear your matter over the other matter that has been listed for trial on the same day. You breathe a sigh of relief that you have not been adjourned, but now feel nervous about having to go into the witness box.
Siobhan Mullins is a family lawyer at Farrar Gesini Dunn. Siobhan works in litigation as well as Collaborative matters.