Pre-hearing conferences are usually run by a registrar of the Children’s Court. They are mediation style conferences.
The registrar will meet with all parties and discuss the issues in the case.
The aim of a pre-hearing conference is to try to reach an agreement between everyone. They can also help to narrow down the issues in dispute if an agreement is not possible.
Pre-hearing conferences are confidential. This means that things discussed in the conference cannot be brought up later in the court case.
This rule is to encourage everyone to talk openly about the situation. Any agreements will be carefully documented by the court and are not confidential.
The format of each pre-hearing conference is slightly different. It depends on the needs of each case. A common format is as follows:
- The registrar meets with each party, one-on-one, for separate sessions.
- Then the registrar will arrange a group meeting with all parties involved. If it is safe and appropriate to do so.
- The registrar will summarise what each party had to say in their separate session. That will outline the topics to be discussed.
- The topics are discussed between everyone involved. Any agreements reached are documented by the court.
- The next steps for the case are also discussed and worked out.
Pre-hearing conferences usually take about 90 minutes, that is one and a half hours. Although can sometimes take longer.
You must make sure that you have set this time aside to take part in the conference. There is the chance to take breaks when needed.
People at the conferences
- Department of Communities
- Child representative
- Any other party to the proceedings.
Preparing for the conference
In preparation for a conference, the Department of Communities will:
- Review the current protection concerns.
- Consider the steps has the family taken to address the protection concerns.
- Consider what further steps should be taken.
- Think about whether they agree with any of the protection concerns.
- Consider the steps they have taken, or intend to take, to address the protection concerns.
Amongst other things, it is helpful if everyone thinks about:
- The best interest of the child and what the situation has been like for them.
- The families’ strengths.
- Any complicating factors or practical consideration.
- Contact and placement arrangements.
- The Written Proposal and Cultural Support Plan.
- Different options for resolving the case.
If the matter cannot be resolved, the parties discuss and work out the next steps in the case.
That might include whether the matter should go to a trial.
Last updated: 22 February 2023