Family Court of Western Australia

First hearing

After making an application for parenting orders, you need to attend the first hearing.

The hearing will be in a child-related proceedings list, where a judicial officer will deal with a number of parenting cases that are at a similar stage as yours.

The hearing will take around 20 minutes, depending on how many issues are discussed. You should be as prepared as possible so that you can make your case efficiently and effectively.

During a child-related proceedings hearing, the parties and their lawyers may remain seated while talking to the Judicial Officer. The first hearing is less formal than other hearings.

What happens at the first hearing

Your Judicial Officer will:

  • ask you and the other party questions during Court appearances
  • invite you to consider ways in which your dispute can be resolved, and
  • make orders about the next steps in your case.

The Judicial Officer may:

  • appoint an Independent Children's Lawyer if they feel that it would be in the children's best interests.
  • order the production of a Family Report.
  • deal with any interim orders, unless they have already dealt with in a separate hearing.

A Family Consultant will be available in most instances at the first court event to assist the Court in determining the most appropriate process to develop safe and sustainable outcomes for the children.

Some parenting orders can be finalised at the first hearing, for example, an application for a passport or an urgent application for a recovery order. Most parenting order applications won't be finalised at the first hearing unless you request the Court to make consent orders.

If you have come to an agreement with the other party, you can let the judicial officer know, and your case can be resolved. Even if you don't resolve the whole dispute, some issues may be resolved with the assistance of the judicial officer, allowing for consent orders to be made on those issues.

How to prepare for the first 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 be prepared to advise the Judicial Officer of the main issues in dispute.

Parties need to exchange copies of relevant documents. The duty to disclose documents starts during family dispute resolution, and continues throughout your case. Examples of documents to exchange include: medical reports, school reports, letters, drawings, or photographs.

It’s important to remember that if the other party discloses a document, you can only use it for the purpose of resolving the Court dispute, and cannot be used for any other purpose.

There is no need to bring any witnesses to the first Court hearing. The hearing should only involve the parties and their lawyers (if they have one). You can bring someone for support but they cannot take part in the hearing, unless permitted to do so by the Judicial Officer. They can sit at the back of the courtroom.

Next steps

The Judicial Officer will make orders directing you to the next steps you need to take.

You may need to file additional documents, and many parenting cases proceed to a Case Assessment Conference.

Last updated: 16-Apr-2018

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