Child Custody Law: Interim Hearing Process

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You can apply to the court for child custody or parenting arrangement orders by consent. This is when you and your former partner can agree on arrangements. Alternatively, the court can decide based on the children’s best interests at a Final Hearing. A Final Hearing is the final determination of the case by a Judge.

However, the court can conduct an Interim Hearing if urgent matters cannot wait until a Final Hearing. Preliminary or ‘short-term’ orders can be made at an Interim Hearing Family Court. These preliminary orders generally stay in place until the court decides (after a Final Hearing).

An Interim Hearing is held in parenting matters to ensure suitable arrangements for the children until the Final Hearing. The Final Hearing may occur months after the Interim Hearing.

Interim Hearings are shorter than Final Hearings. The judge decides using written affidavits and oral submissions from witnesses, the party, or their legal representative. The court will consider:

  • any risks posed to the children
  • what were the arrangements for the children during the parents’ relationship
  • the current circumstances of the parents.

After an Interim Hearing is conducted, the court will hand down its decision (usually, but not always, on the same day) and will make Interim Orders.

Interim Orders usually stay in place until all parties agree on Final Orders, or the family court conducts a Final Hearing (whichever comes first).

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What to expect at an Interim Hearing

Prior to the Interim Hearing – before the Interim Hearing can occur both parties are required to file an application for the hearing. It is essential to ensure you seek legal advice before filing an application.

At the Interim Hearing – your legal representative will deliver an opening statement outlining what you hope to achieve. A list of objections will also be presented. This is a critical part of the process, ensuring the judge understands what you are seeking.

Parties will be invited to present their documents, such as financial statements, affidavits and evidence. Oral submissions can be made to clarify your position and request specific orders.
An interim Hearing does not allow cross-examination, a key difference from a Final Hearing. The judge relies purely on the documents and submissions made. This is why seeking legal advice before filing an application is essential.

Judge’s decision—After the hearing, the judge will consider the submissions made, bearing in mind any urgency relating to the matters presented. The judge will issue an Interim Order, which could affect child custody and child support arrangements.

Post Hearing – both parties must comply with the orders made by the judge. Any failure to comply could negatively impact the outcome of the Final Hearing.

For a free face-to-face or over the phone consultation and to protect your interests, contact our divorce lawyers today.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does an Interim Order take?

Interim orders are typically heard around six to eight weeks after they have been filed. However, this depends on the individual circumstances so times may vary. In circumstances of urgency the court may consider the application soon after it has been filed.

What is included in an Interim Order?

The court can issue a temporary order to determine child custody and visitation schedules. This court order determines which parent is responsible for the children and how much time they spend with each parent.

An Interim Order will also consider:

  • frequency of communication between each parent and the child/ren
  • a request for a family report from a consultant
  • restraints from certain actions (e.g. interstate travel with kids)
  • drug testing
  • a post-separation parenting program.

Are interim orders enforceable?

A court will hand down its decision at the Interim Hearing and make an interim order, which is enforceable. If the interim order is breached, there can be serious consequences.

Do I need a lawyer for an Interim Hearing?

Interim Hearings can have long-lasting effects, especially if the Court takes a while to schedule a final hearing. The decisions made at the hearing can also impact the outcome of your case. We strongly recommend seeking legal advice from a Child Custody Law expert.

Do I need to be present for an Interim Hearing?

All parties must attend and participate in the Interim Hearing unless the court requests otherwise. Non-attendance may lead to the court making orders in the absence of one party without proper consideration of their evidence.

Will I have to speak at an Interim Hearing?

The Judge will typically read your evidence beforehand rather than requiring you to speak in person. The Judge may also require oral or written submissions at the hearing. Sometimes, the judge may want either party or other witnesses to give limited evidence in the witness box, but this doesn’t happen as standard.

Usually, the hearing outcome is determined based on the written, mainly Affidavit evidence before the Court at the time. You should seek legal advice on filing your court material before your hearing.

What happens if I want to move town or state?

A Court will typically deal with a relocation issue (except in urgent circumstances) on a final basis which means you could be waiting up to 12 months for a determination.

In most cases equal shared parental responsibility is assumed and therefore moving town or state is not usually part of the Interim Orders.

In some circumstances, and if it is in the child’s interests, the Court may allow the child to relocate to a different town or state on rare occasions.

If you are seeking to relocate with your child, we recommend you talk to our team of family lawyers.

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