Child Custody Law: Interim Hearing Process

Once you have made an application to the court seeking child custody orders, or orders relating to parenting arrangements, the court can make orders by consent. This is when you and your former partner can agree on arrangements. Alternatively, the court can form a decision based on  the best interests of the children at a Final Hearing. A Final Hearing is the final determination of the case by a Judge.

However, if there are urgent matters that cannot wait until a Final Hearing, the court can conduct an Interim Hearing. At an Interim Hearing, the court can make preliminary or ‘short-term’ orders. These preliminary orders generally stay in place until the court makes a final decision (after a Final Hearing). The purpose of an Interim Hearing in parenting matters is to ensure that there are adequate arrangements in place for the children pending the Final Hearing (which can be many months later).

Interim Hearings are shorter than Final Hearings. The judge will usually make a decision based on written material (affidavits) filed by witnesses and on oral submissions made by the party (or their lawyer or barrister if they are legally represented).

The court will consider:

  • any risks posed to the children
  • what the arrangements were 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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Frequently Asked Questions

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.

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.

The outcomes of an Interim Hearing can last a long time, particularly if there is significant delay in the Court allocating a final hearing. The decisions made at the hearing can also impact the outcome of your case. Seeking legal advice from a family law expert is strongly recommended.

All parties are required to attend and participate at 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.

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. In some circumstances 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 outcome of the hearing is determined based on the written, mainly Affidavit evidence before the Court at the time. It is recommend that you seek legal advice on filing your court material before your hearing.

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