09 Jun Court Process, what to expect
When you go to court for the first time it can be quite a daunting experience. You will need to dress appropriately and respectfully. When you enter the courtroom be aware that you cannot leave your sunglasses pushed up on your head and you must remove a hat if you wear one. You are also expected to remain silent during the court sitting unless the judge directly questions you about something. You should allow your solicitor to do the talking for you and do not engage them in conversation during the hearing or try to approach them at the bar table. The proper time and place to do this is prior to the court hearing and/or after you have left the court room. You need to be aware that your solicitor will not necessarily be able to devote all their attention to you as they need to negotiate with the other party or communicate with others including court staff.
You will notice that if the judge is sitting on the bench when you enter the courtroom everyone gives a little bow and you will need to do the same. If the judge has not yet entered the courtroom their Associate will let the courtroom know when the judge is ready to enter and as the judge enters the courtroom everyone must stand, bow to the judge and wait for the judge to sit before resuming their seats. Similarly, when the judge leaves the courtroom everyone must stand and bow or, if you leave the courtroom when the judge is still on the bench, you must bow at the door before leaving the court room.
If you are fearful of the other party in the proceedings, when you attend court you can speak to the security staff and ask to be placed in a secure room. They will arrange this for you, notify the court and notify your solicitor when they attend at court. Your solicitor is able to locate you in the secure room and speak to you before and after the hearing at court and sometimes, depending on whether the proceedings are adjourned to later that day for negotiations to take place, during the process. If you are fearful and require some emotional support at court you may bring a friend or a support worker with you and they are permitted to stay in the secure room with you.
You will need to be prepared to negotiate at court as this is often the case, particularly with children’s issues. Your solicitor will provide you with some background and the proposals made by the other party. You should also be aware that there are a limited number of procedures through the court system to allow you to settle the issues in contention but if this does not occur the matter will need to proceed to trial and there can be lengthy delays waiting for trial dates.
You are expected to engage in the process and not simply expect your solicitor to make all the decisions for you. Your solicitor is engaged to take instructions from you and will negotiate and argue on your behalf but they will guide you through the process and incorporate your wishes as far as practicable. Note that the progression of your proceedings is dependent on the other party’s response to your proposals. So it is not simply a matter of going to court and getting what you want. It is a process of negotiation and taking all factors into account on both sides. You should listen to your solicitor and take their advice as they are experienced in court procedures and what you can expect to achieve. This is particularly important if you are in receipt of legal aid as one of the conditions of your legal aid is that you must accept your solicitor’s advice.