How long does it take to get an outcome in the Family Courts?

, How long does it take to get an outcome in the Family Courts?, Merridy Elphick Lawyers

How long does it take to get an outcome in the Family Courts?

After you separate it is possible that you may need to consider the sorts of arrangements you want for your children or for your property going forward.

An agreement with your spouse can be achieved in a number of ways, including:

1. Negotiation directly with your spouse without the Court’s involvement;

2. Solicitor assisted negotiations; or

3. Mediation.

If you and your spouse agree on arrangements you can formalise these arrangements by entering into:

1. A parenting plan (for children’s arrangements); or

2. Lodging and Application for Consent Orders with the Family Court (in relation to both
parenting and property matters); or

3. Entering into an agreement concerning Spousal Maintenance.

In the unfortunate event you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement, you might choose to attend mediation. If your matter still fails to settle, you are then faced with the prospect of applying to a Court for Orders.

Once an agreement is reached it is normally a matter of a matter of a few weeks to have that agreement drafted, signed and filed with the Court.

At Merridy Elphick Lawyers we understand that most people prefer to avoid court and instead they attempt to negotiate an amicable and equitable resolution. These negotiations often occur through lawyer to lawyer correspondence or in lawyer assisted mediation. There are benefits of settling a matter outside of Court but, unfortunately there are also circumstances where filing an application to commence proceedings is necessary.

Generally, if you commence proceedings the Court process is as follows:

Step 1: Filing an Initiating Application – this will commence proceedings and your first Court dated will usually be listed on a date 6 to 8 weeks after the date of filing.

Step 2: If you are served with an Initiating Application you are required to file your documents in Response 14 days prior to the first return date.

Step 3: First Return Date – this is the first time that you matter comes before the Court where the Judge will make Directions as to how your matter will proceed.  At this time the following Directions may be made:

  • Whether you are to attend a Child Inclusive Conference or a Child Dispute Conference;
  • Whether it is necessary to appoint an Independent Children’s Lawyer;
  • And any specific directions sought by the parties such as drug testing or medical reports or valuation reports;
  • That you and your spouse attend a Conciliation Conference or private mediation with regard to property issues; and/or
  • That you exchange information about your assets and liabilities.


The time at Court on this first Court date can be anywhere from 2 to 6 hours.

Step 4: Throughout the course of your matter you might attend one or two directions hearings that are held to ensure that the evidence in the matter is being complied with.

Step 5: Final Hearing/Trial – in the event that your matter does not resolve by direct negotiations, at a conciliation conference or by way of private mediation, your matter will be set down for trial. The trial date is typically 18 to 24 months after the initiating application has been filed.

At the trial you, your lawyers and your witnesses will attend Court. After hearing all the evidence, the Judge will make a decision.

Whilst our Family Law solicitors are experienced at litigation, we will often recommend that client’s make all attempts to resolve their matters through Alternative Dispute Resolution options in the first instance.

If you have questions about how your matter can be resolved outside of Court, please contact one of our experienced Family Law solicitors at Merridy Elphick Lawyers.