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property case assessment conferences

Contact Armstrong Legal:
Canberra: (02) 6288 1100
Sydney: (02) 9261 4555
Melbourne: (03) 9620 2777
Brisbane: (07) 3229 4448

Kerry White

If you are seeking property orders, the first major event that you will attend in the Family Court is the case assessment conference. It is conducted by a registrar.

The case assessment conference is an opportunity for you and your former partner to reach an agreement, with the help of the registrar.

Reaching an agreement with your former partner at this point will save the need for further court events, including a hearing.

If you cannot reach an agreement, the registrar will:

  • Assess the main issues and facts of the case
  • Recommend, where appropriate, other services that may help settle the dispute
  • Explain what will happen next.

The Armstrong Legal Canberra team can assist you with through case assessment conference process.

What happens before the case assessment conference?

Step 1 - the applicant applies to the Court for orders

Either you or the other party starts a case in the Family Court, by filing an initial application, which can seek property or parenting orders.

At this point, the Armstrong Legal Canberra team will liaise with the Court to set a date for the case assessment conference.

All documents filed with the Court by the applicant must be served on the other party (the respondent) as soon as possible after filing.

Step 2 - the respondent replies

The respondent prepares, files at court and serves (on the applicant and any other parties) a written response to the served documents from the applicant. To do thi,s the respondent files the following:

  • Response to initiating application
  • Financial statement
  • If interim orders have been sought, a supporting affidavit.

This must be done as soon as possible after the respondent has been served with the original documents, and not less than seven days before the case assessment conference.

Step 3 - Duty of disclosure, exchange of documents

The Family Law Rules 2004 require parties to make full and frank disclosure about their circumstances before the case assessment conference. What is required varies depending on whether only property issues or property and parenting issues are in dispute.

A list of the financial documents required

The Family Law Rules 2004 provides that in a property matter, each party must exchange with all other parties copies of the following documents at least two days before the first court date:

  • The party's three most recent taxation returns and assessments
  • Any superannuation documents for each superannuation interest of the party, including the completed Superannuation Information Kit or for a self-managed superannuation fund, the trust deed and the last three financial statements
  • For a corporation (business), trust or partnership where the party has a duty of disclosure, financial statements for each (including balance sheets, profit and loss accounts, depreciation schedules and taxation returns) for each of the last three last financial years
  • For the party or a corporation, trust or partnership where the party has a duty of disclosure, any Business Activity Statements for the 12 months ending immediately before the first court date
  • For any corporation, its most recent annual return including a listing of directors and shareholders and the corporation's constitution
  • For any trust, the trust deed
  • For any partnership, the partnership agreement
  • A market appraisal of any item of property in which a party has an interest.

You should seek legal advice before deciding what to do. Armstrong Legal Canberra has a team of highly specialised solicitors to help you understand your legal rights and responsibilities, and explain how the law applies to your case. We can also help you reach an agreement with the other party without going to court, which will in turn save on time and costs for both parties.

What to expect at the case assessment conference

The case assessment conference will last approximately one hour and will involve three stages.

Stage 1 - assessment

This conference is run to suit your particular needs. It may be conducted with both parties together or separately. The registrar conducting the case assessment conference will:

  • Explain their role in the conference
  • The purpose of the conference
  • Answer any questions
  • Ask about issues of family violence and if either person is concerned about negotiating directly with the other person
  • Allow each person to outline the issues and discuss the current barriers to an agreement.

Stage 2 - negotiation

The case assessment conference looks at areas of disagreement. The discussions concentrate on the facts and background issues. These areas should be thought about when preparing for the conference. Your Armstrong Legal Canberra family law solicitor will help you understand the consequences of any proposals made, guiding you and the other party to see if a solution can be found.

At the end of the case assessment conference, the registrar will:

  • Provide a summary of the conference
  • State what the next steps are and how to prepare for these.

An agreement can only be reached with the consent of all the people involved. If you cannot reach an agreement, there are various options as to what will happen next. This may include family dispute resolution, a conciliation conference or your case might go before a judge. This means your case will move towards a hearing.

The settlement negotiations during the conference may be privileged and cannot be used in court later. There are some exceptions to this privilege. Please speak with Armstrong Legal Canberra to clarify what these exceptions are and whether they apply to you.

Stage 3 - the procedural hearing

The procedural hearing, conducted by the registrar, is usually held straight after the case assessment conference. At the procedural hearing either or both of the following may happen:

  • Agreements reached during the case assessment conference could be legally binding
  • Orders will be made setting out the next step and what must be done to prepare for this.

What can I expect at the end of the case assessment conference?

At the end of the first court event, you and the other party may leave with a temporary or final agreement reached through negotiation and dispute resolution on the day together with orders about the next steps in your case.

What happens if we haven't reached an agreement?

If you haven't reached an agreement at the case assessment conference you will now need to:

  • File and serve a financial questionnaire within 21 days after the case assessment conference
  • Prepare with the other party and file a balance sheet.

FAQs about case assessment conferences

Q. Does every case go to a case assessment conference?
A. No, cases that only involve parenting issues will go straight to a procedural hearing.

Q. Do I have to attend the case assessment conference in person?
A. In most cases, yes. With the court's permission, you might not have to attend in person. Permission must be sought at least seven days prior to the conference.

Q. If an agreement is not reached at the case assessment conference, how long will it take a judge to determine our case?
A. The time a case takes to be heard before a judge will vary depending upon the number of issues in dispute and the complexity of the case, however it could be about 12 months before a judge hears your case.

where to next?

Taking the next step and contacting a family lawyer can be scary. Our lawyers will make you feel comfortable so you can talk about your situation. But first, ask yourself, Do I really need a lawyer?

Why Choose Armstrong Legal?

Contact Armstrong Legal:
Canberra: (02) 6288 1100
Sydney: (02) 9261 4555
Melbourne: (03) 9620 2777
Brisbane: (07) 3229 4448

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