Family Court of Western Australia

Parenting Cases

After participating in family dispute resolution and making your application, the next step will be to attend the first hearing. Unless you come to an agreement with the other party, it's likely you will have to attend court several times before the Court is ready to make a final order.

First hearing

The Judicial Officer will determine what your case is about and how to deal with the key issues.

At the first hearing, the Judicial Officer will assess the best way for your dispute to be resolved, and make orders to move your case forward. The Judicial Officer's main concern will be managing the case in the best interests of the children.

If you requested interim orders, there may be a hearing to address them before the hearing on the final orders.

There is usually a Family Consultant at the first hearing who will assist the Judicial Officer. Family Consultants are psychologists and social workers who specialise in child and family issues after separation and divorce. A Family Consultant appointed to your case will assess the issues and risks in your case, help you negotiate with the other party and help the Court find the best possible outcome for the children.

After the hearing, you will be told what the next step in your case is, and what you have to do next. You may need to exchange more documents with the other party, file documents with the Court or attend family dispute resolution.

Read more about the first hearing.

Case Assessment Conference

The Case Assessment Conference is run by your Family Consultant, and is usually the first time you will meet with the Family Consultant. The purpose of a Case Assessment 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.

The Family Consultant will prepare a case assessment report for the Court to consider. It will include an assessment of the risks and issues in your case, any agreements reached or issues clarified as well as recommendations for how your dispute should be resolved. The report will be considered by the Judicial Officer at the next hearing.

Everything said to a Family Consultant is admissible in Court, and is not confidential.

In most cases you will usually return to Court for a procedural hearing to discuss the outcome of the case assessment conference with the same judicial officer who conducted the first hearing.

You may also be required to attend other assessment, treatment or therapeutic services between Court events.

Read more about Case Assessment Conferences.

Procedural hearing

At the procedural hearing, the Judicial Officer will consider the Family Consultant’s recommendations and the concerns of both parties, then make further case management orders.

You will have the opportunity to speak directly to the Judicial Officer and this will be the case whether you are represented by a lawyer or not.

The Judicial Officer’s primary focus will be on potential risks to the children and parents and what is in the best interests of the children. The Judicial Officer is likely to:

  • discuss the outcomes of the Case Assessment Conference and any family reports
  • talk to you about the children and the issues that are important to you, and
  • make orders, which won't be the final orders unless everyone agrees to them.

The Judicial Officer may have you and the other party sworn in, so that everything said in court is sworn evidence.

If the dispute is going to proceed to a hearing, the Judicial Officer will discuss who may be called as a witness and on which issues. The Judicial Officer may reject proposed witnesses if the evidence they can give is not, in his or her view, relevant or of significant importance. Also the Judicial Officer must approve any subpoenas for people to give evidence in court or provide documents.

Next steps

The next steps will be discussed with you at each stage of the process.

If you come to an agreement with the other party, you can let the Court know at any court hearing or file a minute of consent orders. Almost all matters are resolved without going to trial.

If the first hearing, case assessment conference and any other hearings did not resolve your dispute, the next step is to go to trial.

More information

These resources have more information on the process: 

Last updated: 26-Apr-2024

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