Is an Interim Hearing (or interlocutory in other jurisdictions) a simple straightforward process , with very little at stake in consideration of the overall issues to be decided at final hearing? Alternatively, does an Interim Hearing often decide issues that may have a major influence on the orders made on a final basis? What is expected of a practitioner at an Interim Hearing? How to achieve the best outcome for your client at an Interim Hearing?
I was recently briefed to appear at an Interim Hearing for family law proceedings, in the Federal Circuit Court by a very capable, efficient, ethical and practical family lawyer. This is the type of lawyer that I love to work side by side with….its was true teamwork in action for the best outcome of the client!
When proceedings are initiated, its helpful to keep in mind that an Interim Hearing may be conducted and draft documents accordingly. Once the matter is set down for an Interim Hearing, a timetable will usually be provided to file and serve updating material.
What are some practical tips to assist prepare documentation, for a possible Interim Hearing, at the commencement phase:
- Identify the power the court will rely on to make the orders you are seeking for your client? If there is no power to support your orders, then the orders require amendment.
- Prepare your clients evidence to support the legislative frame work (i.e. ss 60CC or 79(4) and 75(2) factors etc)
- Be selective in the evidence that forms part of the case, don’t include everything a client says to form the basis of your evidence, use your professional judgment as to what is relevant and what isn’t.
- Have a case theory in mind from the beginning of the matter, as the proposed orders and the way the case is conducted will be applied and considered against the case theory.
- Its preferable to seek Counsel’s advice to settle court documents, as Counsel will usually be the one who advocates on the prepared documents and evidence at interim and/or final hearing (or both) and will provide another set of eyes to ensure all bases are covered.
Once the matter has been set down for an Interim Hearing, what is required:
- Make sure you comply with the Interim Hearing timetable for filing and serving of evidence
- Prepare your client and manage their expectations surrounding an Interim Hearing
- Understand an Interim Hearing can be a very important hearing and influence and impact on the final orders. Don’t underestimate the purpose and orders made at an Interim Hearing and their long term effects.
- Decide whether Counsel is required. If Counsel is briefed, Counsel will usually prepare an objective chronology and case outline and reference the chronology to the evidence.
- Thorough preparation prior to the hearing is essential and proper preparation can’t be over emphasised.
5 tips to conduct an Interim Hearing as the Court will oftentimes be faced with conflicting facts and little helpful evidence, so how can lawyers assist the court and their clients get the best results:
- Familiarise yourself with Goode & Goode  at paragraph  which identifies how interim proceedings should be conducted in family law proceedings relating to children
- Make “housekeeping submissions” as necessary
- Don’t make submissions on what you think or believe, base your submissions on more!
- Each judge has their own way of conducting interim hearings so be flexible in your approach