Going To Court – Etiquette And Tips

Which Court am I in?

Matters listed for hearing in Wauchope are all before the Federal Circuit Court. You can find out more about the Federal Magistrates Court at their website www.federalcircuitcourt.gov.au.  This fact sheet refers to matters before the Federal Circuit Court.

If you are representing yourself in the Court, you are still bound by the same obligations as someone who has a lawyer. The Judge and Court Registrar are not able to give you legal advice about what you should do or how you should run your case.

Who’s who?

Judicial Officers and Court staff

At the front of the court sits the Judge. He or she is the judicial officer who will decide your case. The Judge has control over the proceedings of the court.

In front of the Judge sits the Judges Associate. This person helps the Judge and keeps a record of what the Judge says and does during the case.

There will be a Court Security Officer in the courtroom.

Legal Representatives

If any of the other parties in your matter have a legal representative, they will be present at Court.

If your matter involves children, the Court may have appointed an Independent Children’s Lawyer  (the “ICL”).  The role of the ICL is to help the Court reach a decision which is in the best interests of your child or children.  You can find out more about the ICL on the Legal Aid  factsheet  “Independent Children’s Lawyer – for parents”.

Applicant and Respondent

The applicant is the adult family member who brings the initial family law application to the court. The respondent is the other adult family member in the relationship. Both the applicant and respondent are referred to as “parties” before the Court.

The applicant and the respondent sit at a “bar table” in front of the court officer, facing the Judge. If the applicant or respondent have legal representation, they will sit at the table with the person they are representing.


Members of the public can come in and watch proceedings of the Court. In some situations, the Magistrate may order a closed hearing, and ask the public to leave. If that happens, everyone leaves the courtroom until the Judge allows them back in. Children under 18 are NOT allowed in the Wauchope circuit court without previous approval from the Judge.  It is generally not appropriate to bring children into court.

Preparing for Court

If you are planning to self-represent in the Family Court, it may be worth considering taking some time to go and watch a matter that is before the court already. This will help you feel familiar with the process and the way in which people behave in front of the Court. You can find out the court’s sitting days by looking at the website of the Federal Circuit Court.   www.federalcircuitcourt.gov.au . Click on the link to “Circuits” and then “New South Wales”. Scroll down to find Port Macquarie/Wauchope dates.   Useful information is contained in the Federal Circuit Court’s fact sheet “The first Court event – helpful information and the Family Law Court’s fact sheet “Going to Court – tips for your Court hearing” which deals with other types of Court events.


See the Family Law Courts factsheet “Applying to the Court for Orders” which sets out which documents you need to file. Refer to the Family Law Court fact sheet “affidavits” for more information on how to prepare and submit affidavits.


It’s important to have all your paperwork organised and ready in case you need it at Court.   This includes copies of everything that you have already filed with the Court.

Personal Safety

If there are any existing or interim family violence orders relating to you, you must, by law, inform the court of these before you attend.

On the day

Make sure you have a pen and notepad with you in the courtroom. You can take notes of what the Judge orders and write down anything that you have questions about for later.

It is important to show respect to the Court and its staff. When you come into the Court, you should make sure your mobile phone is off and you remove sunglasses (including from off the top of your head!) or hats. People coming into the court will pause inside the courtroom and bow to the Judge. They also do this before the leave the courtroom.

You should speak to the Magistrate by calling him or her “Your Honour”.

Some things to avoid:

  • Commenting to other people in the Courtroom
  • Pointing, using abusive or derogatory language
  • Raising your voice or shouting
  • Interrupting the other party with an objection – unless it is about a matter of law. If you do have an objection on a matter of law, you may stand up and tell the Magistrate about your objection.

Where can I find more information?

Family Law Courts websites


NSW Legal Aid website


NSW State Library


Please note:  This factsheet contains general information only. It does not constitute legal advice. If you need legal advice please contact a solicitor.