Preparing for court
This information relates to laws in Victoria, Australia.
Taking court action to sort out a legal issue should normally be a last resort. But if you have to go to court for a civil or criminal case, it is a good idea to know what to expect.
We have information here that helps you through the process.
There are good reasons why you should try to sort out your legal problem without going to court:
- court action is stressful and time-consuming
- going to court can be expensive even if you win
- there may be simpler, cheaper and faster ways of resolving a legal problem. See Mediation
If you can’t avoid going to court it is a good idea to seek advice from a lawyer and get them to represent you. Having a lawyer may seem like an expensive option but it is likely to get you the best result. If you are going to use a lawyer you should get one as soon as possible.
It is possible to represent yourself, prepare your own case and speak in court. But it is complicated and it can be stressful. Losing a case can also be very serious. For example, if you are found guilty of a crime you can be given a jail sentence. This is why it is a good idea to have a lawyer represent you.
It is important to understand the process of going to court and what to expect on the day. Victoria Legal Aid’s website provides information about going to court for a range of civil and criminal issues.
It is also a good idea to find out about the court you are attending. Some courts and tribunals have virtual tours to help you:
- Magistrates' Court of Victoria
- The Neighbourhood Justice Centre Court
- Children's Court of Victoria
- Coroners Court of Victoria
Different cases will be heard in different courts or tribunals – also known as jurisdictions. The types of cases that each court or
tribunal hears depends on a range of factors, including the area of law, the seriousness of the crime or the amount of money involved in the dispute. We explain what each court and tribunal does and link you to court websites.
Visit courts and tribunals
If you go to court without getting legal advice you might be able to get some help at court on the day through Victoria Legal Aid. But the help this service can offer is limited.
Victoria Legal Aid
Victoria Legal Aid has lawyers on duty inside many of Victoria’s courts and tribunals. But duty lawyers do not represent everyone, so it is always best to call Victoria Legal Aid's Legal Help service on 1300 792 387 before going to court.
Each court has its own support services to help people going to court, but they cannot provide legal advice for your particular circumstances. Services include dispute resolution and mediation services, interpreters and personal support. It is always best to seek legal advice before attending court.
For more information:
Supreme Court of Victoria – support services
County Court of Victoria – support services
Magistrates' Court of Victoria – support services
Children’s Court of Victoria – support services
Coroners Court of Victoria – support services
Neighbourhood Justice Centre – support services
VCAT – support services
Court Network is a volunteer court support service that offers information, support and referral services, either in person or by telephone, about going to court. It does not provide legal advice.
1800 681 614 (free call)
Victims of Crime support services
The Victims of Crime website explains to victims giving evidence what will happen in court and how to prepare. The Victims of Crime helpline offers support to help victims recover from a crime. It can guide victims through the legal process.
1800 819 817 (call or text)