The procedural hearing is an important step in a family law case because through this process the parties and the court will be able to identify issues and negotiate.
It is part of the court process whenever confronted with family law cases. It is a hearing that is conducted during the early onset of the case. It does not consist of trial wherein parties are required to present evidence. Rather, the procedural hearing is one of those pre-trial processes that will facilitate a smoother and faster resolution of the case.
The main purpose of conducting a procedural hearing is to identify the relevant issues in the case. The issues in contention will be trimmed down to those that are only relevant and appropriate for the court to decide. The judicial officer, together with the parties and their counsels, will determine how to proceed with the case.
During the hearing the parties can expect that the judicial officer will make inquiries as to whether they have already complied with the duty of disclosure. Relevant documents will be enumerated and checked whether copies of these have been submitted to the court and supplied to the other party.
The court, together with the parties, will define the issues that need to be resolved and remedied with the order being sought. Parties will be asked what issues they have been able to resolve so far before going to court.
In line with the aim of resolving the case in a fast, efficient and economical manner, the parties will be asked questions whether they have already undergone negotiation and what steps they have taken to make a genuine effort at settling the case. Even at this stage, parties can still negotiate with each other and come up with a settlement upon which the court can issue a consent order. Failure to reach an agreement will lead to a referral to conciliation conference.
It depends on the application. If it is an application for a parenting order or if the case concerns children, the procedural hearing will be held after the first case assessment conference. With respect to financial matters, it will be conducted as the first hearing in court which is prior to trial proper. Finally, in cases where there is an application for interim orders, the latter will be dealt with first and the procedural hearing will be held next. Interim orders are usually urgent in nature that’s why they will be given priority.
Parties may be ordered to produce certain documents for inspection, submission and copying prior to the referral to conciliation conference. During the hearing it might be discovered that there are other parties-in-interest whose inclusion will be ordered by the court in order to protect these persons’ interests.