How to write a character reference for court for a family member

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Writing a character reference for court, to support a family member during legal proceedings.
Australia Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration
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Writing a character reference for court can significantly impact a legal case, especially in family law matters.

These references offer a personal insight into a person's character, which can influence the court's decisions.

In this article, our family and divorce lawyers in Sydney aim to help you understand how to write an effective character reference for court, ensuring it serves its purpose in supporting your family member during their legal proceedings.

What is a character reference for court in Australia?

In Australia, a character reference for court is a written statement that provides an assessment of a person's character from someone who knows them well.

These references are used in various courts, including the Supreme Court, Magistrates Court, and District Court, to offer a personal perspective on the individual's character and behaviour.

In family law contexts, a character reference letter can play a crucial role in influencing the court's perception and decisions in cases such as custody disputes, divorce proceedings, and applications for restraining orders.

A character reference should be truthful and objective and highlight the positive qualities of the individual. It should also provide examples of their good character and demonstrate their contributions to the community. This personal insight helps the court understand the person beyond the legal charges or disputes they are involved in.

When can a character reference be used?

Character references can be used in a variety of family law scenarios to provide the court with a broader perspective on the individual involved. Some common situations where character references might be useful include:

  • Custody battles: In custody disputes, a character reference can highlight a parent's positive attributes, such as their nurturing nature, commitment to the child's well-being, and ability to provide a stable and supportive environment. This can be crucial in influencing the court's decision on custody arrangements, especially in cases involving family law for mums and family law for dads.
  • Divorce proceedings: During divorce proceedings, a character reference can provide insight into a spouse's behaviour and character throughout the marriage. This can include their role as a supportive partner, their honesty, and their contributions to the family unit. Such references can help the court understand the individual's character beyond the conflicts that led to the divorce.
  • Property settlements: Character references can also be useful in property settlement disputes, providing insights into how an individual has handled financial responsibilities and their overall trustworthiness. This can be important in determining the fair distribution of assets.

Each of these scenarios requires a character reference that is tailored to the specific circumstances and highlights the most relevant aspects of the person's character and behaviour.

Elements of a character reference for court

A well-structured character reference for court should include the following key elements to ensure it is effective and persuasive:

1. Introduction

Introduce yourself, providing your full name, occupation, and relationship to the person. Also use this area to explain how and how long you have known the person. This helps to establish your credibility to speak about their character.

2. Purpose of the letter

Clearly state the purpose of the character reference and the type of case (e.g., custody battle, divorce proceedings). In this section, it's a good idea to address the letter to the appropriate court or presiding judge/magistrate, including court location and case number if available.

3. Character assessment

Highlight the person's positive attributes with specific examples. For instance, if they are a dedicated parent, provide examples demonstrating this. You can also share personal stories that give deeper insight into the person's character, such as their involvement in voluntary work or community activities.

4. Behavioural examples

When giving examples of their behaviour, try to ensure that they are relevant to the case type, such as in a custody dispute, discuss their parenting skills. Also, ensure that you describe how their actions positively impact others.

5. Conclusion

Summarise your overall opinion of the person's character and express confidence in their good character.

6. Contact information

Provide your full contact information, including address, phone number, and email address for verification purposes.

Each of these elements can greatly assist the court in understanding the person's character and making informed decisions.

Examples of character reference for court

To help illustrate the above, here are a few examples of character reference letters that may help you when writing your own. These examples demonstrate how to effectively highlight a person's character and provide the court with valuable insights.

Example 1: Custody case


To the Presiding Magistrate,

My name is [Your Name], and I am writing this character reference in support of [Person's Name], who is currently involved in a custody dispute in your court. I have known [Person's Name] for [number] years as a [describe your relationship, e.g., friend, colleague, neighbour].

During the time I have known [Person's Name], I have been consistently impressed by their dedication and love for their children. They are a nurturing and attentive parent who always puts their children's needs first. I have witnessed numerous instances where [Person's Name] has gone above and beyond to ensure their children's well-being, from participating in school activities to spending quality time with them on weekends.

One particular example that stands out is when [Person's Name] organised a community event to raise funds for the local school's sports program. This event not only showcased their organisational skills but also their commitment to creating a positive environment for their children and other kids in the community.

I firmly believe that [Person's Name] provides a stable, loving, and supportive home for their children. Their ability to balance work, community involvement, and parenting responsibilities is commendable and speaks volumes about their character.

Please feel free to contact me at [phone number] or [email address] if you require any further information.

[Your Name]

[Your Address]
[City, State, Postcode]
[Email Address]
[Phone Number]

Example 2: Divorce proceeding


To the Presiding Judge,

I am writing this character reference on behalf of [Person's Name], who is currently going through divorce proceedings in your court. My name is [Your Name], and I have known [Person's Name] for [number] years in my capacity as [describe your relationship, e.g., friend, coworker, family friend].

Throughout our relationship, I have come to know [Person's Name] as a person of integrity and kindness. During their marriage, [Person's Name] has been a devoted and supportive partner. They have always shown respect and consideration for their spouse, and I have never witnessed any behaviour that would suggest otherwise.

For example, I remember [Person's Name] caring for their spouse during a prolonged illness, managing household responsibilities, and ensuring that their spouse received the best medical care available. This level of commitment and compassion is a testament to [Person's Name]'s character and their dedication to their family.

In light of these qualities, I am confident that [Person's Name] will continue to be a person of good character and integrity, regardless of the outcome of these proceedings. Please do not hesitate to contact me at [phone number] or [email address] if you need any further information.

[Your Name]

[Your Address]
[City, State, Postcode]
[Email Address]
[Phone Number]

Common mistakes to avoid

We understand that it can be difficult to get started on a reference, so here are some common mistakes to avoid and tips of what you should do instead:

1. Being overly emotional or biased

  • Ensure your reference is factual and objective.
  • Acknowledge any issues but focus on positive steps taken.

2. Including irrelevant information

  • Focus on qualities pertinent to the case.
  • Include relevant details like community involvement.

3. Using generalisations

  • Provide specific instances that illustrate positive traits.
  • Use concrete examples to support your claims.

4. Failing to follow guidelines

  • Follow any court-provided guidelines.
  • Use an official letterhead if possible.

5. Writing a disorganised letter

  • Organise your letter with a clear introduction, body, and conclusion.
  • Present your points logically and coherently.

6. Ignoring proofreading

  • Proofread to eliminate spelling and grammatical errors.
  • Ensure your language is clear and concise.

By avoiding these mistakes, you can create a character reference that effectively supports your family member and provides valuable insight to the court.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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