Less Adversarial Trials

The proceedings are conducted by the Judge in a more informal manner and some of the technical rules of evidence will not be applied except as the Judge may otherwise direct for special reasons.

Evidence, written and verbal, provided to the Court will be admissible and the Judge will be the one to decide the weight each piece of evidence should be given. For more details about application of the rules of evidence in a less adversarial trial, it is best to ask for legal advice particularly on Section 69ZT of the Family Law Act 1975.

Twenty-eight days before the first day of trial a party is required to file and serve a Parenting Questionnaire and an Undertaking as to Disclosure. Parties may be required to provide additional information at least two days before the trial. The form Case Information found in the Family Court website form section will help a party in preparing the information needed.

A family report may be ordered by the Judge if the case involves children. A family report is a written report that is prepared by a court family consultant or court appointed expert and it will form part of the evidence in the trial. The family consultant or expert will conduct interviews with the parents, children and other relevant people in the children’s lives.

Recommendations will then be made by the family consultant or expert about the children’s living arrangements, how much time should be spent with each other and other matters that are related to parental responsibilities.

The parties will be furnished copies of the family report and they have the right to cross-examine the family consultant or expert during trial. If a party desires to cross-examine the family consultant or expert on the contents of his report, he must inform the manager child dispute services in writing at least 14 days before the court appearance of the family consultant or expert. The pertinent provisions on family report are found in Section 62G of the Family Law Act 1975.

The Registrar is tasked with dealing with aspects of the preparation for the trial which includes:

  • Disclosure;
  • Subpoenas; and
  • Review of compliance with orders.

During the first day of trial, the Judge will determine the issues in dispute and will decide what evidence is required to be presented. The Judge may then order a continuance of the trial hearing or may decide that the hearing will not be conducted in court but in chambers and/or by telephone. Finally, the Judge will then decide the case and issue orders. The Judge may then refer the parties to a post orders review and refer them to a family consultant.