Case Assessment Conferences
A Case Assessment Conference is usually held at the Family Court. It involves the parties and their lawyers (if any) meeting with a Family Consultant assigned to the case. The Family Consultant that is assigned to your case will be the same person from when you have the Case Assessment Conference, right up until the court makes final orders to end your case.
The purpose of a Case Assessment Conference is to identify what the issues are in your particular case, to help the court find a way an appropriate way to respond to your situation and come up with a case management plan that will hopefully give the best possible outcomes for your children. It can also give another opportunity to negotiate with the other parent about sorting out arrangements for your children.
This information will help you to understand how Case Assessment Conferences are used by the Family Court. Find out:
- what you need to do before a Case Assessment Conference
- what happens during the Conference, and
- what happens in a Case Assessment Hearing.
What do I need to do before a Case Assessment Conference?
You will need to give (serve) the other parent copies of any documents that you have filed with the court. These are usually:
- an Initiating Application (Form 1), or a Response to Initiating Application (Form 1A)
- a Financial Statement (Form 13), if there is a dispute about property or finances that the court needs to resolve,
- a FDR certificate or FDR exemption form, and
- a Case Information Affidavit from each of you.
You can find out more about what forms you must file and how to serve documents in the Family Court kits on Parenting cases and Service.
You must attend the Case Assessment Conference. If you will not be able to come to the courthouse, you will need to ask to participate by phone or video-link.
What happens in a Case Assessment Conference?
The Family Court of WA has produced the following video to explain what happens in a Case Assessment Conference.
The beginning of a Case Assessment Conference involves meeting with the Family Consultant without the other person being there. Your lawyer can be with you during the Conference. It is important to understand that what you say in a Case Assessment Conference is not confidential.
The Family Consultant will explain the process and answer any questions you might have about the Conference. The Family Consultant will then talk to you to get a sense of your views about parenting and the relationship you have with both your children and your former partner. The aim is to find out what issues are involved in your particular case (including things like family violence, child abuse, drug or alcohol use, mental health issues, and concerns about parenting skills). This information is later used by the court to work out how your case can move forward to get the best result for your children.
The Family Consultant will also look at whether it is suitable to try and negotiate with the other parent about some or all of the issues involved in the case, including any temporary orders that someone wants. Negotiations can happen on the day, or the Family Consultant can ask you to come back for a follow-up meeting with them on another day, or you might be referred to another agency for assistance (such as counselling or parenting courses for separated parents).
Can I bring other people with me to the Case Assessment Conference?
You can bring support people with you to court, but they cannot come into the Case Assessment Conference when you are speaking with the Family Consultant. Only you and your lawyer can take part in the Conference.
What happens after a Case Assessment Conference?
After you and the other parent have finished speaking with the Family Consultant, you will normally go into a Case Assessment Hearing with a magistrate. The Family Consultant also comes and tells the magistrate what has happened in the Conference (if there is a written summary given to the court, you will also get a copy). This includes explaining any issues that are special to your situation, what other services might be useful, what happened during negotiations, and if you were able to agree about any orders the court should make.
The magistrate can then make orders to give effect to what was agreed, as well as making their own decisions on what will be the best plan for your case. This can include:
- making temporary orders about the children
- ordering you and the other parent to go to mediation, family dispute resolution or other services
- asking the Family Consultant to prepare a Family Report
- appointing an Independent Children's Lawyer, and
- other procedural orders explaining what steps each of you need to follow to move the case along before you come back to court.
The next court hearing after your Case Assessment Conference will not be the final trial. It may be to decide on more interim orders, or to see how the case has progressed and make orders for the next steps in getting your case ready for trial.