Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Family Law Myth #1 : The Jury

Raymond Burr as Perry Mason
This is the first in a series of debunking myths that are held about the practice of family law in Australia. Many of these myths come about from watching courtroom dramas, typically American shows such as Law and Order, Boston Legal, or older programs such as Perry Mason.

The first myth is the use of the jury. I have had a number of clients ask over the years whether or not they would have a jury in their case. Some have been quite keen to ensure that they had a jury and were disappointed when they learnt that they did not have one.

This is an easy one to debunk. If you have pretty well any type of family law case, you will not have a jury. You will have a judge alone. The only exception would be the rare type of case where you might sue your former spouse for defaming you, or there are serious criminal proceedings. But those types of cases, although they might involve former spouses are not family law cases.

Divorces, property settlements, spousal and child maintenance and parenting matters are typically heard in the Family or Federal Magistrates Courts. They are heard by judges (or registrars or magistrates) and judges alone. No juries.
Applications for protection orders, AVO's, intervention orders and the like are typically heard in Magistrates or Local Courts- before magistrates alone. No juries.

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