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The perils of self representation in family court

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  • By:emarkets
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We often receive instructions after family court orders have been made, making it harder
to provide the legal help clients need.

We set out some detail about a matter we recently encountered to illustrate how tough it
can be.

The matter revolved around the residence and care of the young daughter of our client.
The biological mother was unfortunately unable to take care of the child as she suffers
from serious mental illness, and shortly after the birth of the child admitted herself into
psychiatric care.

Our client had been living with his girlfriend (not the biological mother) from the period
shortly after the birth of the child, and in October 2013, after a breakdown in the
relationship, the girlfriend disappeared with our client’s daughter, with no communication
whatsoever until our client was served with an Interim Family Violence Intervention
Order from the Police, which included our client’s daughter as a protected person. On
this same day an envelope was left on the front door step of our client’s home containing
an application for custody filled out by our client’s girlfriend in relation to his daughter.
Our client made multiple attempts at settling this matter himself and appeared in court
himself without legal representation and without filing any court documents.
Unfortunately, the ex-girlfriend was legally represented and due to lack of court
documents from the father and/or representation, Interim Orders were made for the
continuation of the status-quo in terms of residence of the child and the matter was
adjourned.

The client appointed RRR Lawyers the day before it was to be heard in court. We
needed time to properly prepare his matter and could not then produce any responding
material before the Court date and unfortunately the Judge was unwilling to reverse the
Orders regarding residence.

Following this, we spent a significant amount of time conferring with our client and his
current partner to prepare and file a number of documents supporting his case.
The matter returned to Court and through a long negotiation process with the other side
we were able to secure 6 days a fortnight for the child to spend with her father, 6 days
spent with the ex-girlfriend, and 2 days a fortnight with the mother under supervision on
an interim basis until the matter is concluded by the Court in the final hearing.

As it now stands with legal representation our client is in a much stronger position
because we were also able to secure a much earlier final hearing date, and have every
confidence that on this date we will be able to return the child to her father on a full-time
basis, as set out in our supporting evidence.

We set this out as we often receive instructions in family court matters after they have
commenced and in circumstances where court decisions have been made, often making
it much harder to reverse those current orders.

It is much better to seek advice before the first court date so your legal position is not
compromised. If you know someone in need of family law help encourage them to give
us a call and just have a chat, it could make all the difference.
Call us on 03 9387 2424 or email info@rrrlawyers.com.au today and see how we can
help.

Posted in: Family Law