The prospect of attending court can often be daunting. It helps to be prepared in the first place and to have an understanding of what to expect. Once litigation proceedings are instituted, the first appearance in court is most likely to be a “directions hearing”.
What is a Directions Hearing?
A directions hearing is usually the first step of the formal court process. A directions hearing is a brief appearance before a Judge or Registrar of the court. Typically, it will be triggered once a Defence has been filed with the court, whereby the Court will alert and notify the parties of the time and date of the directions hearing. A directions hearing will also be listed in circumstances where the parties have been unable to resolve the next steps in the dispute between themselves.
A directions hearing is scheduled to examine the direction that the matter is heading in the court and to discuss with the parties their options to resolve the matter. The purpose is to ascertain the position of each party and determine whether there is any possibility of settling any live issues.
What happens at a Directions Hearing?
At the first directions hearing, it is likely that, at the very least, the court will make orders in relation to the filing and service of pleadings.
If the matter cannot be settled, factors that are considered by the Court before making further orders are:
- identifying the key issues in dispute;
- considering whether alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation, is a viable option;
- considering how evidence should be prepared, such by way of affidavit, witness statement or oral evidence;
- leave to file and serve pleadings or evidence if the deadline for it to be filed and served has expired
- whether a later date to hear an interlocutory dispute is to be set;
- agreeing on a date for a further directions hearing; and
- possibly, setting a final hearing date.
Preparing for a Directions Hearing
It helps to be thoroughly prepared for a directions hearing as the submissions made can help to clarify the issues in dispute as much as possible for the Judge or Registrar. Some of the questions asked may relate to the number of witnesses who will appear on your behalf or the requirement of expert evidence or reports to support a claim for example.
It is important to be ready to answer any questions made about the documents you have filed and to jot down notes during the directions hearing.
What happens if I cannot attend a Directions Hearing?
If there is a genuine reason for not being able to attend a directions hearing, it is possible to postpone the directions hearing to another date. Ideally, an adjournment should be sought as early as possible and prior to the directions hearing.
An adjournment can ordinarily be made in writing to the Judge’s Associate or Registrar. If possible, it is sensible to try and obtain consent of the other party to the adjournment prior to approaching the court. The Judge or Registrar will consider whether the adjournment ought to be granted and if successful, a new time and date of the directions hearing will be scheduled.
How Sharrock Pitman Legal can help?
If you are at the directions hearing stage of a proceeding and you would like to discuss any prospective court orders or seek guidance on what to expect, you may wish to have a lawyer advise you on your legal position.
At Sharrock Pitman Legal, our Litigation team provides considered, realistic advice and is experienced in steering matters through Courts and Tribunals. If we can assist you please contact us by email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1300 205 506.
The information contained in this article is intended to be of a general nature only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Any legal matters should be discussed specifically with one of our lawyers.
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