First court date

The Court will allocate a first court date when you file your documents. This is usually referred to as a ‘duty list’. On this day, the Court may:

  • give directions
  • approve proposed consent orders
  • conduct an interim hearing
  • finalise the application
  • fix a date for an interim or final hearing.

The first court date also provides you with an opportunity to define the issues in dispute and, if possible, reach an agreement.

Directions – These orders will guide the conduct of the matter by ensuring you undertake certain tasks; for example, that you must file a document by a certain date.

Consent orders – If you reach an agreement on the day, you can present the signed agreement (proposed consent orders) to the judge and ask them to make the orders by consent. Consent orders can be interim (temporary) or final.

Interim hearing – The Court may conduct an interim hearing, time permitted, and make interim orders that are effective until the matter can be finally determined. The Court aims to limit the number of interim hearings in preference to giving a matter an early final hearing.

Finalise the application – The Court may hear some applications and make final orders; for example, an application for a passport or an urgent application for a recovery order. 

For more information about court orders visit the Court orders section.

Fix a final hearing date – Depending on the facts and case management procedures, the Court may fix a date for a final hearing.

You (and your lawyer, if you have one) must attend the first court date and have a good understanding of the case. You must also be familiar with all the documents filed and prepared to advise the judge of the main issues in dispute.

Note – The Court operates a docket system. This means that the application will usually be determined by the same judge from the first court date to the final hearing.

Final hearing

The length of the final hearing will depend on the facts of the case. At the final hearing, you must know the final outcome you want, and the facts you are relying on.

Note – Unless otherwise approved by the judge, you must present all evidence to the Court by affidavit.

Note – Unless otherwise approved by the judge, you must present all evidence to the Court by affidavit.

A final hearing is usually conducted in the following way:

Applicant’s evidence – you (or your lawyer) outlines your case. The respondent may cross-examine you or your witnesses. You may then re-examine your witnesses.

Respondent’s evidence – you (or your lawyer) outlines your case. The applicant may cross-examination you or your witnesses. You may then re-examine your witnesses.

Independent Children’s Lawyer – If there is an independent children’s lawyer appointed, they may also present evidence to the Court and cross-examine you or your witnesses.

Expert report – If a single expert, such as a family consultant, prepared a report you may cross-examine the expert.

Closing address – the Court gives you an opportunity to make any final comments in support of your case.

After hearing the case, the judge may make orders and give reasons for their decision. Alternatively, the judge may reserve the decision to another day, usually within three months. The Court will inform you of the date so you can attend and the Court will provide you with a copy of the decision. The decision will include the orders made and the reasons for the decision.

Note – Once an order is made, you must comply with it.

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