Family Court of Western Australia

Case Assessment Conference

A Case Assessment Conference is conducted by a Family Consultant. The Judicial Officer will often make an order for a Case Assessment Conferences at the first hearing.

You may be given a date for the Case Assessment Conference when you are in court. Otherwise, you, or your lawyer (if you have one), will be contacted by the Court to advise you of the date.

Case Assessment Conferences are scheduled to take two hours.

What happens at a Case Assessment Conference

The Family Consultant will conduct separate interviews with you and the other party. Other significant people, such as a new partner or grandparents, are not usually interviewed. The family consultant will speak to each party separately to gain an understanding of the issues in the case, identify any risks and work out what may be the best next steps in the matter.

The Family Consultant may suggest speaking to parties together, but this will only happen if everyone agrees. Then, if appropriate to do so, both parties meet with the Family Consultant to discuss their concerns regarding the children, to see what each party wants to happen.

The main purpose of the conference is to conduct a preliminary assessment, but there is often an opportunity to attempt to negotiate any or all of the issues if time permits. The aim of the conference is to:

  • assess the current and potential risks relating to family violence, child abuse, substance abuse, mental health, and parenting capacity to determine how the Court might best assist you and your family
  • give you an opportunity to negotiate with the other party, if appropriate to do so
  • consider appropriate case management options, and
  • clarify the issues in dispute.

How do I prepare for a case assessment conference

Before the Case Assessment Conference, you should have complied with the orders made at the first hearing, and exchanged all relevant documents with the other party.

The Family Consultant has access to all documents filed by both parties. You do not need to bring any other documents to the conference. To prepare for the conference, you should think about the options to resolve your dispute, as well as consider the impact of the dispute on your children and their best interests.

After the conference

At the end of the conference the Family Consultant will prepare a case assessment report for the Court.

The Family Consultant may recommend that another conference is held which includes the children. This may be appropriate if your children are more mature, and both parties have shown there are specific issues they would like to hear the children's views on.

Remember that everything said to a Family Consultant is admissible in Court, and is not confidential.

The case assessment report

The case assessment report contains the Family Consultant’s recommendations, with a focus on the children’s needs. The report will include advice about what arrangements or processes will most likely help the Court resolve your dispute, and what arrangements may best meet your children’s care, welfare and developmental needs in the short-term. The report will also record any issues you came to an agreement on, and the issues you identified as being the main issues in dispute.

The report will be considered by the Judicial Officer at the next court event.

You or your lawyer (if you have one), will receive a copy of the report before the next hearing. It is possible (and not uncommon) for parties to reach an agreement based on what is contained in the report.

The case assessment report is admissible in court as evidence in your matter. It cannot be shown to anyone other than the parties to the matter and their legal representatives. It cannot be shown to other people, such as other family members, without the Court’s permission.

What if I don’t agree with the case assessment report?

The Court considers a range of information when making decisions about your case. The Court is not bound by any advice given by the Family Consultant. You should raise any concerns with your lawyer if you have one, or in Court if you do not.

Next steps

If you are able to reach an agreement and submit signed consent orders to the Court you may not have to come back to Court. The Court encourages this and will provide assistance if you need it. Please inform the Court immediately (if you have a lawyer they can do this for you) if you reach an agreement outside of court.

If no agreement is reached you’ll go back to Court for another hearing, to discuss the outcome of the case assessment conference with the same Judicial Officer who conducted the first hearing.

Last updated: 16-Nov-2023

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