Court Procedures

If you’re going through a difficult family matter, whether a divorce, separation or child custody matter, obtaining advice from a specialist family law lawyer is vital. The earlier you make contact with a family law firm, the better. Without a clear understanding of your legal options, it is almost impossible to embark on meaningful negotiations to try and resolve issues.

If an agreement cannot be reached, court procedures may commence. There are many rules in place regarding this family law court process, and it should only be entered into with legal representation.

A Guide To Family Court Proceedings

Set out below is a brief outline of the events that occur once a matter is before the Court.

  1. Application
  2. Interim Hearing
  3. Case Assessment Conference
  4. Conciliation Conference
  5. Pre-Hearing Conference
  6. Independent Children’s Lawyer
  7. Final Hearing
  8. Consent Orders
  9. Financial Agreements


An Application can be filed in the Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court (formerly Federal Magistrates Court). If the Application is for property settlement it will proceed to a Case Assessment Conference and then to a Conciliation Conference and then (possibly) to a Final Hearing.

If the Application is for children’s arrangements it will proceed to an Interim Hearing and (possibly) then to a Final Hearing. At any stage of the Court process the parties are able to reach agreement. If an agreement is reached the parties should document it as “Terms of Consent Order”.

An Application can either seek Interim Orders and Final Orders or just Final Orders. There is a filing fee payable to the Court when filing an Application, or a Response. If Interim Orders are sought an Affidavit needs to be filed with the Application.

Interim Hearing

Interim Hearings usually relate to urgent issues and are intended to be of a short-term nature, i.e until the Court has an opportunity to conduct a Final Hearing. Interim Hearings have a maximum time limit (in Court) of 2 hours, they are based on Affidavits and do not provide (usually) for oral evidence.

Examples of matters that are considered at an Interim Hearing include:

  • Children’s living arrangements;
  • Occupation of the matrimonial home;
  • Interim spouse maintenance;
  • Injunctions to protect property.

Case Assessment Conference

The Case Assessment Conference is the first major event in Court. It may be conducted by a Registrar or Judge if a property matter or a Registrar and Family Consultant if a children’s matter. As the Case Assessment Conference provides an opportunity for the parties to reach an agreement with the help of the Court, it’s important to have a family law specialist by your side.

If an agreement cannot be reached, the Court will:

  • Assess the main issues and facts of the case;
  • Where appropriate, recommend other services that might help settle the dispute (for example further family dispute resolution or progression to a Hearing); and
  • Explain what will happen next.

If you have family law lawyers representing you, they will take part in the conference.

Conciliation Conference

A Conciliation Conference is a compulsory Court Ordered mediation that provides an opportunity for the parties to attempt to settle their dispute. The Conciliation Conference occurs after a Case Assessment Conference and are conducted by a Deputy Registrar of the Court.

Attendance of the parties and their lawyers is usually compulsory. Conferences are conducted on a ‘without prejudice’ basis. This means that except in very limited circumstances neither party can later give evidence about what was discussed at the Conference.

Pre-Hearing Conference

If a matter fails to resolve following an Interim Hearing (usually in relation to children’s issues) or at a Conciliation Conference (usually in relation to property settlement matters) it will be listed for a Pre-Hearing Conference.

In Brisbane Pre-Hearing Conferences in the Family Court usually occur approximately 12 months after the Interim Hearing or Conciliation Conference. In the Federal Circuit Court (formerly Federal Magistrates Court) they occur approximately 6-10 months later.

The Pre-Hearing Conference is conducted by a Registrar of the Court. The parties and their lawyers are required to attend. At the Conference a timetable is fixed for the filing of Court documentation including Affidavits and Reports and the matter is allocated a Pre-Trial Conference date when a Final Hearing date will be allocated.

Independent Children’s Lawyer

An Independent Children’s Lawyer is a Solicitor appointed by the Court to act on behalf of the children. Appointments may be made at any stage by the Court, if the Court is satisfied that there are appropriate reasons for the appointment.

The sorts of issues that the Court will look for in making such an appointment is where child abuse is an issue, where there are cultural or religious issues, where there is intractable conflict between the parties, where one of the parties is not a natural parent, where there is a proposal to separate siblings, where there are mental health issues etc.

Final Hearing

The Final Hearing is conducted before a Judge. At the Final Hearing the witnesses give evidence and are cross-examined. The Barristers make submissions to the Court summarising their client’s case.

Sometimes the Judge will give a Judgment immediately or the Court will reserve the Judgment and the decision will be handed down at a later date.

Consent Orders

Parties who reach agreement are advised to document their agreement in writing. This is usually achieved by way of a Consent Order. The Family Court has a standard form for Consent Orders and once the document is completed (and if both parties are legally represented and it has been signed by the parties and their Solicitors) it should be filed in Court. Only after the Court has accepted and issued the sealed Order is it enforceable.

Financial Agreements

In finalising a property settlement married or de facto couples (since 1 March 2009) are able to enter into a Financial Agreement. An FA can be entered into by parties (married or de facto, however, this is only applicable to de facto couples that have separated after the 1st of March 2009) either before marriage (a pre-nuptial agreement), during a marriage or after divorce. To be binding the FA must:

  • Be in writing and signed by both parties;
  • The original must be given to one party, with a copy given to the other;
  • It must specify the extent of any spouse maintenance provided and state that each party have received independent legal advice; and
  • Annex a certificate of independent legal advice signed by each Solicitor.

A Financial Agreement is not registered with the Court however if it is completed correctly in accordance with the formal requirements it is binding.

An FA can only be set aside in very specific circumstances.

We hope this information is helpful. If you are unsure of your legal options, contact the family law specialists at Michael Lynch Family Lawyers for helpful advice by phoning (07) 3221 4300. We offer initial fixed-cost no-obligation appointments with our expert family law solicitors. We can meet with you in person in Brisbane City or discuss your case over the phone or by SKYPE or Zoom.

Client Testimonials

Your team’s communication with me was exceptional, I knew exactly what was happening.
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The professionalism and reliability delivered by Amy Honan was fantastic. I had an urgent matter around my property sale and Amy offered to provide assistance over a weekend if I required it – that’s above and beyond!
E.F., Nundah
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I really liked the personable service by Michael Lynch Family Lawyers, the simple plain language you adopt and everyone’s patience.

A.O., Kedron
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M.R., West End
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D.S., Coorparoo
Michael Lynch Family Lawyers have really listened to me. I felt confident my case was handled well. The law has changed recently, and I did not feel that a previous law practice I spoke to was suitably up-to-date.
P.B., Carindale

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S.S., Hamilton
Thank you for providing me with a professional yet empathetic approach to gain the best outcome for me. My solicitor was excellent in explaining the processes and in representing me in Court. You have great customer service!
T.V., Everton Park
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A.O., North Brisbane
I was impressed by my solicitor’s attention to detail and her concern for me, and that the process was explained to me and that I understood it at all times.
B.W., Chapel Hill
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A.A., Eatons Hill
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N.S., Mt Gravatt
Amy, thank you. You have been diligent, accurate and pro-active for the entire duration of my matter. I appreciate it.
R.P., Cleveland

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G.C., Clayfield
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N.R., Crows Nest

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T.S., Flinders
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D.T., Ferny Grove

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A.C., Helensvale
My family lawyer was very helpful in assisting me to combat a very ugly situation without stooping to the low levels that the other solicitor attempted to take us.
M.J., Manly
If I need a family lawyer in the future I’ll be heading to Michael Lynch Family Lawyers again.
C.W., Brookfield

I’m very glad ‘Michael Lynch Family Lawyers’ is my lawyer and not the other side’s solicitor.

S.S., Hamilton

Thank you, you kept me sane in a difficult situation and gave me the encouragement and the confidence to keep going. You made me feel extremely comfortable.

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At Michael Lynch Family Lawyers I got professional and ‘no-nonsense’ advice, costs were within quoted amounts and my matter was resolved quickly – well done!

L.R., Ascot
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J.K., Mansfield
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G.C., Southport
I like that my lawyer treated me like a friend and kept jargon to a minimum. She was easy to contact and kept me informed.
L.R., Samford
Thank you for your ongoing conciliatory approach in this matter and as always I appreciate your level headed advice. I certainly feel that I ended up with the right Solicitor.
S.C., Nundah
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S.S., Hamilton
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A.C., Morningside
Thank you for the outstanding legal advice you have provided and professionalism in which you conduct yourself. I am truly thankful that it was you who represented me.
M.T., Stafford
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J.O., Hawthorne

My lawyer was the most knowledgeable of all lawyers I spoke to when looking for a lawyer. Michael Lynch Family Lawyers showed professionalism.

R.R., Brighton

Thank you for being very personable, professional and always providing me with the most appropriate advice in my times of difficulty. The other party’s lawyers were extremely aggressive, while Michael Lynch Family Lawyers remained calm and professional.

S.D., Parkinson
Amy, thank you for all that you have done during this matter. You impressed me with your professionalism from our initial meeting, and you have proven beyond doubt, to have had the skills and knowledge required. You are a credit to the company, and I would highly recommend you to anyone in a similar situation.
R.P., Cleveland
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C.T., Bribie Island

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J.H., Wellington Point

Thank you for helping me through this difficult time. You have been caring, compassionate and efficient. Some of my divorcing friends have not been so fortunate. In my mind, you are the best family lawyer in Brisbane. If anyone I know needs a good family lawyer, I will tell them to speak to you. Thanks again.

B.T., Clayfield
I was guided through a really difficult time with expertise of Michael Lynch Family Lawyers. I am more than happy with the outcome of mediation.
J.H., Windaroo
Michael, thank you again for your presence here yesterday. We really appreciated the clarity and accessibility of your presentation. It is a rare thing to find somebody who not only has expertise, but also has a skill in communicating it.
J.S., Brisbane

I just wanted to get in touch to say thanks for helping me get through my custody and settlement. Thanks again to you and your staff. You have had a significant positive impact in my kids’ lives!

B.S., Brisbane

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R.B., Toowong

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C.M., Brisbane

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N.B., Brisbane

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J.H., Brisbane

After utilising the mediation services team recommended by your organisation, my ex-partner and I were able to reach some interim agreements about parenting. I am incredibly grateful for the advice provided by Debra Effeney; and found your firm’s services to be exceptionally professional. If we needed to consult a family lawyer in the future, we would have no hesitation in reconnecting with your firm.

K.M., Paddington