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Even though your case may be listed at a certain time, it is a good idea to try to get to court half an hour earlier so that you can find out what courtroom your case is in. If you think you are going to be late, you should ring the court registry and let them know. If you are not there the court can decide your case without you.
Before going to court make sure you have the phone number for the registry saved in your mobile phone.
There are often many cases listed on the same day and you may have to wait until your name is called. You can take a seat in the courtroom or, if the courtroom is full, you can wait outside.
Make sure you do not leave the court building and are close enough to the courtroom to hear your name called. If you are not there, the court can decide your case without you.
The Judge may close the courtroom for morning tea (usually around 11:30am) and lunch (usually from 1:00pm to 2:00pm). You will have to leave the courtroom during these breaks. The court officer or the registry can tell you what time the courtroom will reopen.
It is possible that you could be at court for a few hours, and sometimes for most of the day, so you should make arrangements with your work or child-care if necessary.
Don't forget to turn off your mobile phone before going into the courtroom.
At the hearing you should make sure that all your witnesses attend. If you don't know if they will attend, you should subpoena them. If your witnesses do not attend court their evidence may not be considered.
For more information about witnesses and gathering evidence, see Step by step guide: Preparing for the hearing.
If there are other cases listed at the same time, sit at the back of the court and wait for your case to be called.
Once your case is ready to be heard, you should sit at the bar table at the front of the courtroom. Get out your papers and arrange them so you can find things when you need them during the hearing. Only put items on the table that you need. Do not leave your bags on the bar table.
The hearing is your chance to tell your story and to convince the Judge that your version of events is true. Remember that the Judge is interested in the evidence that supports your case and this is what you should focus on.
For more information, see
You should refer to the Judge as 'Your Honour'. You should stand and bow when the Judge enters or leaves the courtroom. Refer to the other party or their lawyer as Mr/Ms and their surname.
For more information, see
Who's who in court.
Sometimes you or the respondent may need to ask the Court to postpone the hearing to another date. This is called an 'adjournment'. The Judge may not agree to this unless there is a good reason. There may be an adjournment if either you, the respondent, or an important witness, has a good reason for not being able to make it to the hearing.
If the Judge agrees to an adjournment, they may make a costs order against the party who needed the adjournment.
Once your case is called, and if everyone is ready to start the hearing, the Judge will first want to hear from you (because you made the application). They will want to know what your case is about and what your evidence is.
For more information on how to present your evidence, see
Arguing your case.
Sometimes, when there is a lot of evidence or there are many witnesses, the Judge will not be able to finish the hearing in the time allocated. If this happens, the Judge will have to postpone (adjourn) the hearing until the rest of the evidence can be heard. Depending on when the judge is next available, the adjournment may be for a few weeks or for a few months.
The Judge will give you and the respondent instructions on when to come back to court and who should come to court on that day. In some cases, your witnesses and the respondent's witnesses will all have to come back to court for the rest of the hearing.
If you forget to write down the Judge's instructions, you should call the Court and ask them to tell you what they were.
The Judge may give their decision straight after the hearing, or after a short break. Sometimes, the decision of the Judge will be 'reserved'. This means that a decision is not given on the day of the hearing and the court will contact you when the decision has been made.
The Judge will give reasons for his or her decision. For more information, see
If you lose the case, do not argue with the Judge. It may be possible to appeal the decision.
For more information about appeals, see
After the case.
For further information, see
Going to Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia - Frequently Asked Questions.