What is a case assessment conference?
A case assessment conference (CAC) is a Court date that provides an opportunity for you and the other people involved in your matter to resolve some or all of the issues in relation to your children. The CAC also provides the Court with information about the important issues for your family so that the Court can determine how best to assist.
A CAC is usually held after the first Court appearance for child related proceedings (CRP). If the magistrate, in consultation with a family consultant, thinks it is necessary they will give you a CAC listing date as well as a second CRP Court date after the CAC.
Who is involved in a CAC?
The CAC will be attended by all people involved in the case (who are also known as the parties to the case), their lawyers and a person called a family consultant. A family consultant is a trained psychologist or social worker. Their role is to try to assist you and the other parties to negotiate toward an agreement and also to work out the issues in the case to present to the Court. After the CAC the family consultant will prepare a written report for the Court setting out the main issues in your matter.
What happens at the CAC?
The family consultant will first speak with each party separately. This is an opportunity for you to say what issues you want the Court to deal with in relation to your children. The family consultant will also ask you about things such as family violence, drug and alcohol use, mental health issues, child abuse and any concerns that you or the other party or parties may have about parenting capacity.
If the parties agree and the family consultant thinks it is appropriate, the family consultant will bring the parties together to talk directly and try to reach agreement on some or all of the issues.
Is what I say confidential?
No, everything that is said to the family consultant in a CAC is not confidential and it can (and likely will) form part of the written report the family consultant makes to the magistrate prior to your next Court date. If you have any queries or concerns about anything contained in the report, you should seek legal advice.
How long will the case assessment conference take?
A CAC can sometimes go for a few hours so you should plan to be at Court for either a full morning or afternoon.
Do I have to attend the case assessment conference?
Yes, it is compulsory to attend your CAC. If you are unable to attend in person, it is possible to attend a CAC via telephone or video link. You will need to ask the Court's permission to do this by submitting a Request to attend by electronic means. If you do not attend, the family consultant will note this in their report to the Court and you will not necessarily be given another opportunity to attend a CAC. If you are unable to attend your CAC, seek legal advice.
What if I am worried about my safety around the other person?
The Family Court of WA takes family violence and the safety of people attending the Court very seriously. If you have concerns about your safety you should contact the Court before your Court date. The Court can make arrangements to ensure your safety while you are there. You do not have to be in the same room as the other person during the CAC. Fore more information about family violence, see Family violence and family law.
What should I take with me?
You should take a copy of all Court documents you have filed or been served with in relation to the case. Served means that you have been given papers by other people involved in your case, such as your former partner. You should also take notes with you on what you think are the main issues and any ideas you have for reaching agreement.
You may also find it useful to take with you any letters that you sent to the other people involved in your case when trying to resolve the matter.
If there is a violence restraining order (VRO) in place or a current application for a VRO, then you should also take a copy of the VRO or the application for a VRO.
What happens after the case assessment conference?
After the CAC, the family consultant will prepare a written report for the Court which will set out the issues in your case. The family consultant may also make recommendations to the Court. The Court does not have to do what the family consultant says, but will take their views very seriously.
If an agreement was reached during the CAC, at the second CRP listing the Court can make orders in line with your agreement. This may be an interim (temporary) agreement or a final agreement. If no agreement was reached at the CAC, the Court may make interim orders as to arrangements for the children. The Court may also make procedural orders or directions about the next steps in your matter.
Refer also to How does the Family Court deal with a children's case.
If we do not reach agreement at the case assessment conference can we still go to dispute resolution to try to work things out?
At any time during the Court process, you and the other people involved in the case can go to a dispute resolution service to try to come to an agreement. The Court will encourage you to try to reach your own agreement where possible. The majority of people who start proceedings in the Family Court end up making their own agreement before reaching the stage of going to trial. See Family dispute resolution and Other ways to resolve a family law dispute.
Where can I get more information?
Last reviewed: 02/11/2012