Every Family Law case is unique. However, there are certain things everyone needs to think carefully about before a court hearing. For example, you may wish to hire a solicitor. Perhaps you have accessibility needs that court staff should know about. Maybe you need the help of an interpreter.
It is always advisable to prepare well for your court hearing.
This will help get your case through the court system as smoothly as possible.
Some legal terms to keep in mind
Let's start with a few legal terms that may crop up on your way through this guide.
- The applicant is the person bringing the case or starting legal proceedings.
- The respondent is the person replying or responding to legal proceedings.
- A court date is the time, day, month and year when your case will be heard in court.
- A court hearing means the formal examination of the case by a judge in court.
- A case being heard 'in camera' does not mean it is filmed, videoed or recorded. It actually means that the case is heard in private. Only the applicant and respondent, their legal representatives, the judge, court officials, witnesses or any person permitted by the judge are allowed to be present. The parties are not allowed to share any details or discuss the case with any other person, apart from their legal representatives, unless the Judge allows it. This is to protect everyone's privacy.
Hiring a solicitor
Some Family Law issues are resolved without legal representation. However, we suggest that people get legal advice. A solicitor can help you by explaining court procedures and offering legal options. They can also attend the court hearing with you.
You can find a list of solicitors' contact details on the Law Society's website.
If you think that you cannot afford legal advice, contact the Legal Aid Board to see if you are eligible for legal aid. If so, you will be asked to pay a contribution towards legal costs.
Another service is Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC). They have offices across the country and offer free and confidential legal advice for all. However, they do not represent people in court.
- There are no fixed costs for private solicitors. So, always ask first about their costs before hiring them.
- You can change your mind at any time about representing yourself in court. You can then speak to a solicitor.
Be aware of the facilities available to you at the courthouse on the day of your case hearing. You may have specific needs such as a wheelchair ramp, accessible toilet or assistive hearing technology. Not all courthouses have these. Highlight any specific needs to the courthouse in advance to help make your visit as comfortable as possible.
If English or Irish are not your first languages, you can hire your own interpreter. You may also ask the court to provide one for you. A judge will decide this issue.
Frequently Asked Questions
What documentation do I need to submit before a court hearing?
This will vary depending on your unique case. Seek advice on this from your solicitor or legal representative. Alternatively, the Courts Service staff will be happy to advise.
What if I fear for my safety while in court?
If you fear for your safety in court, contact a member of the Courts Service before attending the courthouse. You may be able to wait in a separate area or a protective screen may be provided to prevent you being seen by other people involved in your case.
What other supports are available to me?
Check our supports section for more information on support services that can help you.