Going to court for the first time

Each day the Sydney Morning Herald publishes lists for all courts sitting on that day so that you can look up the location and time of the listing of your case.  The information is restricted to the names of the parties and the suit number.  You will also find this listing published late afternoon of the individual court websites.  If there is no listing and you are expecting that the information should be available then you should telephone the list clerk of the court to make enquiries.  You will need to provide your name and if possible the suit number to identify the case.

What documents are used in court

courtSpecific documents are used in court proceedings.  Look on the Family Court website or the Federal Magistrates Court website to see the forms which are listed alphabetically.  For example, if you want to file for a divorce you will find divorce forms and kits available.  If you wish to represent yourself but cannot work out the forms then you may telephone the registry of the individual courts to discuss the issue.  The registry will not however provide legal advice.

Will my information be available to the general public?

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Do not worry that your family law personal information or your name will be published.  Privacy is very important and is respected by legislation.

Section 121 of the Family Law Act 1975 makes it an offence, except in very limited circumstances, to publish or distribute a report of a case or part of a case, including information contained in a Judgment, which identifies parties, related or associated persons, witnesses or others involved in the case. A breach of the section is a criminal offence. The section also sets out certain limited defences to criminal liability.

Exceptions to this rule include

  • the communication to persons concerned in proceedings in any court, or
  • to a body that grants assistance by way of legal aid for the purpose of facilitating the making of a decision as to whether assistance by way of legal aid should be granted or continued or provided in a particular case, or
  • the publishing of a notice or report in pursuance of the direction of a court, or
  • the publication by the court of lists of proceedings, or
  • the publishing of any publication bona fide intended primarily for use by the members of the legal profession, or
  • publication of accounts of proceedings including on the internet where those accounts have been approved by the court.

Can I access in the court my own case file?

Yes, if you are a party to the proceedings or have sufficient interest in the proceedings and the court gives permission for you to access the material in the file then you may apply to the court to look at the papers.  You will need to make application to the registry which holds the papers.  Generally you will only be able to view the court documents and not the correspondence on the file.

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