The Court’s procedures in children’s cases try to minimise the legal formalities and technicalities and focus on the most appropriate way to resolve the issues regarding children.
After an application is filed, the Court process will generally be:
- A Case Assessment Conference conducted by a Family Consultant. You will be interviewed by the Family Consultant and then, if appropriate, both parties will continue discussions with the Family Consultant. The aim of the conference is to conduct a preliminary assessment of risk issues, identify competing proposals and issues in dispute, identify whether agreement may be possible, and formulate a case management plan. Everything that is said to the Family Consultant is reportable as evidence.
- A hearing before a Magistrate, normally commencing with the Family Consultant’s assessment being orally presented in Court. The Magistrate will then determine if the application will be dealt with by a Family Consultant, that Magistrate or a Judge. In many cases the same Judicial Officer and Family Consultant will manage your case until final orders are made.
- The initial hearing may be followed by a series of hearings designed to suit your case. Depending on the circumstances and the issues in dispute, your case may be listed for a trial for the Judicial Officer to make final orders to resolve your case.
If at any time an agreement is reached you can file this agreement at the Court and seek orders by consent. At all times, right up until final orders are made by the Judicial Officer, you can end the proceedings by coming to an agreement with the other party. You can file a Minute of Consent Orders. Permission from the Court is needed to file any application, affidavit or subpoena.
At each stage in the Court process, procedural orders (sometimes referred to as directions) will be made to help you proceed with your matter. Procedural orders aim to get you and the other side ready to reach an agreement or proceed to the final resolution of your case.
You must comply with all procedural orders.
Your failure to comply with procedural orders may result in a disadvantage to your case.
For example, a costs order may be made against you, the hearing of your case may be delayed, or your application(s) may be struck out or dismissed.
Procedural orders will be made setting the date by which you must file your documents.
The consequence for filing a document late is that the document is of no effect (as if it does not exist) and may not be taken into account by the Court. However, a party may request permission from the Judicial Officer to have late documents taken into account.