The Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (now the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (‘FCFCOA’) was one of the first courts to recognise self-represented litigants as a permanent and significant client group. Research indicates that around one in five Family law cases involve a party who is self-represented at some point.

Do I Need a Lawyer For Family Court?

While technically, you may not need a lawyer to instigate or respond to proceedings in the FCFCOA, it is important to weigh up the pros and cons and the benefits of using a lawyer. The consequences of filing incorrect documents or filing them out of time can have significantly adverse effects on your family law matter. Many self-represented individuals in the court system are unfamiliar with court processes and can become particularly anxious or flustered during a cross-examination. This is where the person is asked questions by other parties (or their representative) to test the evidence they are presenting. This can be a very daunting process, particularly for those without legal representation.

How the Family Court can help

The Court has gone to considerable lengths to streamline the process for self-represented litigants at court, providing them with increased support by simplifying its procedures to encourage the early resolution of disputes, and to make the court system more user-friendly. There are do-it-yourself kits for guidance and assistance for completing some of the most common forms, including consent orders, financial statements, and affidavits of service.

In addition, and where possible, the Court provides a duty registrar to assist self-represented litigants with Court processes and procedural advice. They cannot, however, provide legal advice.

Things to consider about the court process when a party is self-represented

  • Where one or more of the parties is self-represented, the effect on the judicial officer is usually to increase the time spent on the case, both before and during the trial and may include more delays than is usual and more adjournments. Court staff and court officers while not being able to give legal advice, are required to explain the court processes and procedures to the litigant.
  • Self-represented litigants may fail to identify a known cause of action in their case.
  • Situations frequently arise, particularly in the family law or domestic relationships jurisdictions, where self-represented litigants use the court proceedings as an opportunity to embarrass or harass their former partner. This may or may not be deliberate, but it is not acceptable.


We have found that many people who are in the process of representing themselves in the FCFCOA or who have already completed a matter could have had better outcomes had they engaged a family lawyer. Some matters require immediate legal advice from an experienced family lawyer and there are many practical issues that your lawyer can advise you about, that don’t appear in a DIY separation or divorce kit.

What many people who attempt a DIY divorce, property settlement, and/or parenting matter don’t know is how much they don’t know. Self-represented litigants often have difficulty identifying and their case, which may result in more court attendances and confusing and lengthier court proceedings.

An experienced family lawyer will first identify the relevant issues, advise you on your options, negotiate and advocate on your behalf and present your matter to obtain an outcome. While money can be a major issue in family law proceedings, there are things you can do to help keep your legal costs down.

If you or someone you know wants more information or needs help or advice, please contact us on 02 6230 0199 or email [email protected].