Court process after the application and response

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After an application is made and the other person has had a chance to respond, the judge has a range of options they can take.

In-chambers consideration

Before meeting you, the judge will look at the documents that have been filed and decide what steps your case needs to go through. This is called in-chambers.

If the other person didn’t respond to your application, the judge may make the Court Order based on your application. If the other person responded or the judge needs more information, they can:

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Case conference

At a case conference, you and the other parent or guardian meet with the judge to try and reach agreement. The judge leads the conference and will make sure everyone has a chance to have their say.

There are different kinds of case conference:

  • An issues conference helps the judge decide what issues need to be resolved and whether to hold a settlement conference or go straight to a hearing.
  • A settlement conference lets the judge try to help you and the other person resolve your disagreements. The judge may let you have a support person there. The judge may also let you have a lawyer with you. If you do agree about something, the judge will record a Consent Order. But if the judge sees you can’t agree, your case will go to a hearing.
  • A directions conference lets the judge make directions and Orders that will get your case ready for its hearing. You can have lawyers at a directions conference. At least 5 days before the conference, you and the other person or your lawyers have to prepare and file a document that gives the judge more information about your case. This is called a memorandum for directions conference [PDF, 865 KB]
    Sometimes – such as when the respondent doesn’t show up and doesn’t have a good reason – the judge can make final Orders at a directions conference, as if it was a hearing.
  • A pre-hearing conference takes place after a directions conference and before the hearing. If issues have come up since the directions conference or weren’t dealt with, then this lets judge be sure the case is ready for the hearing.
  • A case management conference can be held at any time for complex cases. It allows the judge to closely manage how the case is going.

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Hearings

The judge may also decide that the case will go to a hearing.

This is more formal than the conferences. It takes place in a court room before a judge.

If your case goes to a hearing, you are entitled to have a lawyer. If you can’t afford a lawyer you may be able to get:

Types of hearings

There are different types of hearing:

  • A formal proof hearing happens when the other person has decided not to defend the application. It lets the judge examine proof that the care and contact arrangements being sought are in the best interests of the child.
  • At a submissions-only hearing the judge will decide on the matters in dispute based on the evidence and affidavits filed before the hearing. The judge might also ask you and the other person questions, and talk to the lawyer for the child or any specialists who have provided reports.
  • At a defended hearing the evidence is tested and witnesses are cross-examined. The judge will make a decision at the end of the hearing or shortly after.

The judge can give directions that say what should happen at any stage in this process. If the judge does this, they will tell you what this means.

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Costs

If a lawyer for child has been appointed or the judge has asked for any specialist reports in your case, you and the other people involved in your case may have to pay some of the lawyer’s or specialists’ costs. This is called a Cost Contribution Order. You will be given information about this when your case is finished.

Find out more about Cost Contribution Orders

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Find out more about using a lawyer and getting help to pay for a lawyer

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