When couples separate, obtaining advice from a specialist family lawyer is so important. The earlier you contact a specialist family lawyer, the sooner you will have a clear understanding of the legal processes, and can commence meaningful negotiations to try to resolve the matter without court intervention.
Sometimes however, agreement can’t be reached, and the court process need be commenced. Having experienced, specialist legal representation is important when commencing proceedings. At The Norton Law Group, we guide you along the Family Court pathway, and assist you in reaching the best outcome, whilst continuing to try and settle your matter prior to any final hearing.
Commencing the court process
An Application is first filed in the Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court setting out the orders (arrangements) you seek.
If the Application is for property settlement it will proceed to a Case Assessment Conference and then to a Conciliation Conference before any Final Hearing.
If the Application is for parenting arrangements it will proceed to an Interim Hearing and then to a Final Hearing. In between, parties see a family consultant (social worker) at the court, to prepare various reports to assist the judge in understanding your family dynamics and issues at hand.
At any stage of the Court process the parties are able to reach agreement. If agreement is reached, terms are drafted and forwarded to the Court to be made.
What if you require an interim hearing to resolve an urgent matter whilst waiting for final hearing?
Interim Hearings relate to urgent issues, and assist in putting arrangements in place until the Court has an opportunity to conduct a Final Hearing. Interim Hearings are based on Affidavit evidence and do not usually provide for any oral evidence (cross examination).
Examples of matters that are considered at an Interim Hearing include:
- Children’s living arrangements;
- Occupation of the matrimonial home;
- Interim spouse maintenance;
- Interim property settlement (release of funds);
- Injunctions to protect property.
What is a conciliation conference?
The Conciliation Conference is a compulsory Court ordered mediation that provides an opportunity for the parties to meet with a Registrar of the Court, and engage in meaningful negotiations to attempt to settle the matter prior to final hearing. The Conciliation Conference is, in our experience, very beneficial in settling matters, as parties’ have filed their evidence and have a clear understanding of the issues at hand.
Conferences are conducted on a ‘without prejudice’ basis. This means that except in very limited circumstances neither party can later give evidence in Court about what was discussed at the Conference.
What if my matter goes to final hearing?
At the Final Hearing Parties file updated, detailed Affidavit evidence. Affidavits are also filed by witnesses, who may have something relevant to add to your case. Reports are prepared in relation to parenting matters, and valuations are undertaken for any property.
At the hearing, parties’ give evidence and are cross-examined. The Barristers make submissions to the Court summarising their client’s case.
Judges will often reserve the Judgment and the decision will be handed down at a later date.
This is only a very brief summary of the Family Court process.
Want to know more? Contact our specialist family lawyers for a first free consultation.
Author: Gabriella Arvanitis, Associate Lawyer, Family Law
Service: Family Law