Your case will only go to a less adversarial Trial if you have not been able to reach agreement using dispute resolution in a Family Relationship Centre, other community-based organisation or at the Court. If this is your situation, you may need a judge to decide, or help you decide, what is best for your children.
Before being referred for a Less Adversarial Trial in the Family Court, you will have attended at least one court event or meeting, such as a Case Assessment Conference (which involves a meeting with a family consultant) or possibly an interim hearing.
If you are asking the court to make orders only about the children and you filed your original application after 1 July 2006, the Family Law Act requires the proceedings that deal with these applications to be conducted in a less adversarial way.
However, you will need to consent to the trial of your case being heard in this way if:
- you filed your original application before 1 July 2006 and it relates only to children.
- you filed your application after 1 July 2006, and ◦you are asking the Court to make orders about financial matters as well as about the children. Your consent is required to include the financial matters only.
- you are asking the Court to make orders only about financial matters.
What are ‘less adversarial trials’?
The Family Law Act 1975 mandates a less adversarial approach (Division 12A of Part VII). This means that in the Family Court a trial:
- is flexible so that it can meet the needs of your particular situation.
- is inclusive in so far as your involvement in the process.
- anticipated to be less costly than traditional trials (hearings) and will save you time in court.
- may be less formal than is usually the case in a court.
The judge, rather than the parties or their lawyers, decides what information is put before the Court and how the trial is run.
Preparing your case in a Less Adversarial Trial
After your last dispute resolution meeting with the family consultant, when it is clear your case may need to go to a trial before a judge, you and the other parent will be given a parenting questionnaire by a registrar listing your case for the first day of trial. Answer the questionnaire as best you can. You will need to file and serve a Parenting questionnaire at least 28 days before the first day before the judge. The front page of the questionnaire tells you what needs to be done. Your case will not begin before the judge until the completed questionnaires have been returned. Try to answer the questionnaire in your own words, although you can get advice about your answers from your lawyer if you have one.
Once you and the other parent have exchanged questionnaires and given them to the Court, you will receive a trial date at the earliest date a judge is available.
You may not file any affidavit or issue any subpoena without an order from the judge hearing the trial.