What is a directions hearing?

If you are involved in a legal dispute, there is a chance you will be called to court for a “directions hearing.” A directions hearing is only a very short court appearance where the judge or registrar will make orders about what needs to happen next in a case either to progress or resolve the dispute. Continue reading this Legal Kitz blog to find out more.

A judge banging a gavel at a directions hearing.

What is a directions hearing?

If this is the first time that your case is being moved to a court hearing then this is called a “first directions hearing.” At this hearing, the judge commonly aims to ensure that all parties are aware that the case has begun and will order the next steps for the parties to complete or attend. Usually, a recommendation will be made to try and resolve the matter through a form of mediation.

Mediation is an informal way of solving your dispute where a neutral person helps people come to an agreement, and is desirable for both parties. It also requires much more communication and involvement from each party to address all issues and emotions involved. This diverts the matter to a more cost-effective and mutually beneficial form of resolution rather than the time-consuming, win-loss and costly processes from the court.

What is the second directions hearing? 

Following at least one hearing, if your case requires another hearing it will be called a “further directions hearing.” This hearing will commonly take place after some progression or positive actions have been attempted by the parties, such as mediation or other dispute resolution conferences. It can also be listed for attendance if one of the parties to a dispute has failed to follow orders made by the Court in previous hearings.

In this further hearing, the Court will prepare a “short minutes of orders.” This will outline exactly what each party needs to do before a resolution in court can be made. The short minutes of orders is formed as a list and can include the following:

  • when and how the parties should attend further mediation;
  • when the case will be back in court for another directions hearing;
  • serving and filing points of claim or a Statement of Claim;
  • serving and filing evidence;
  • the making of admissions;
  • the filing of a list of documents and the supply of those documents to all other parties in the proceedings;
  • a timetable for the exchange of expert reports;
  • how evidence will be presented – either by affidavit, in person in court, or whether to use telephone or video conferencing facilities;
  • a date for a hearing; and
  • how much notice either party should give the court and the other party to bring the case back to court earlier if needed.
A lawyer preparing for a directions hearing.

Do I need to prepare anything for my directions hearing?

It is recommended that you take along a notepad and a pen so that you can take a record of the orders made by the court. In any circumstance, you should take all court documents you have filed or been given in the case. This may include:

  • your application and claim;
  • the Affidavit of Service; and
  • any short minutes of orders you recorded from previous directions hearings.

These documents may be clearly asked for and you may need engage legal advice to complete. For example, your case may require you to bring a Statement of Claim, which should explain your case and what you want to achieve in numbered paragraphs. Once completed, you will need to file it with at least two other copies at the court registry to be stamped and approved.

This is crucial as, for example, if no one from the other party shows up, the Judge may need you to prove that the application was served. One of your packed documents, the Affidavit of Service, is proof that you served the application.

A lawyer reading information for a directions hearing.

I have to go back to court again: what do I do to be more prepared?

To make sure that you are represented effectively at your next directions hearing, you will need to engage a solicitor to whom you can supply relevant information and documentation.

You should ensure that you communicate honestly with your solicitor and provide them with a comprehensive understanding of your position before a proceeding begins. Through sharing important information, your solicitor will formulate the best way to present your case to achieve orders that are desirable for your situation. You should also ensure that you seek this solicitor in a practicable time frame so that they have time to prepare your case and attend a hearing.

On the day of your hearing, it is recommended that you get to court as early as possible. At worst, this should be at least half an hour before the directions hearing is scheduled to start.

Once it is clear that your appointed courtroom has opened, you can enter and check if the Judge’s Associate is there. If they are, let them know your name and they will check a court list and note your attendance. After this, you may remain seated and wait to be called forward. You can expect to be spoken to at least once or twice during a hearing. To present yourself well, remember to stand when you are talking to the Judge and refer to the Judge as “your honour.”

Legal advice

Court hearings require many processes which can be confusing without legal advice. It is important that, in any dispute, you are able to present your needs and concerns in an effective way while also complying with court-ordered steps. If you require assistance in taking a matter to or preparing for court, you should seek legal advice. Legal Kitz can assist with ensuring that your matter in court is as time and cost-efficient as possible. Click here to book a FREE consultation with one of our highly experienced solicitors today, or contact us at info@legalkitz.com.au or by calling 1300 988 954.

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