What happens after you apply for an Order

Once you apply, your case will be dealt with in one of the following ways (these are called 'tracks'):

  • Without notice (urgent) – if the case involves family violence or child abduction and you made a without notice application.The judge will look at the application and decide whether to make the Order straight away before the other person gets to have their say.
  • Simple – if you and your ex-partner agree on parenting or guardianship arrangements and want the Court to formalise it.
  • Standard – if your case isn't urgent, but you and your ex-partner can’t agree on parenting arrangements (after attending a Parenting Through Separation course and Family Dispute Resolution).

A judge can make a decision about an Order in three ways; in-chambers consideration, a case conference, or at a hearing. Below you'll find more information about these options and when they might use them. You'll also find out what you need to do to change an Order after the court has made it.

On this page:

In-chambers consideration

Before meeting you, the judge will look at the documents that have been filed and decide what steps your case needs to go through. This is called in-chambers.

If the other person didn’t respond to your application, the judge may make the Court Order based on your application. If the other person responded or the judge needs more information, they can:

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Case conferences

At a case conference, you and your ex-partner meet with the judge to try and reach agreement. The judge leads the conference and makes sure everyone has a chance to have their say.

There are different kinds of case conference:

  • An issues conference helps the judge decide what issues need resolving and whether to hold a settlement conference or go straight to a hearing.
  • At a settlement conference the judge tries to help you and your ex-partner settle your disagreements. The judge may let you have a support person and/or a lawyer with you. If you and your ex-partner do agree about something, the judge will make a Consent Order. But if the judge sees you can’t agree, your case will go to a hearing.
  • At a directions conference the judge makes directions and Orders that will get your case ready for its hearing. You can have lawyers at a directions conference. At least five days before the conference, you and the other person or your lawyers have to give the judge more information about your case by preparing and filing a memorandum for directions conference.  Sometimes – such as when the respondent doesn’t show up and doesn’t have a good reason for it – the judge can make final Orders at a directions conference, as if it was a hearing.
    Memorandum for directions conference [PDF, 865 KB]
  • A pre-hearing conference takes place after a directions conference and before the hearing. If issues have come up since the directions conference or weren’t dealt with, then this conference lets the judge be sure the case is ready for the hearing.
  • A case management conference can happen at any time for complex cases. Here the judge can closely manage how the case is going.

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Hearings

The judge may decide that the case will go to a hearing.

A hearing is more formal than a conference. It takes place in a court room with a judge.

If your case goes to a hearing, you can have a lawyer. If you can’t afford a lawyer, you may be able to get legal aid or free community legal help.

Types of hearings

There are different types of hearings.

  • A formal proof hearing happens when the other person has decided not to defend the application. Here the judge examines proof that the care and contact arrangements you're asking for are in the best interests of the child.
  • At a submissions-only hearing the judge will decide on the matters in dispute based on the evidence and affidavits filed before the hearing. The judge might also ask you and the other person questions, and talk to the lawyer for the child or any specialists who have provided reports.
  • At a defended hearing the evidence is tested and witnesses are cross-examined. The judge will make a decision at the end of the hearing or shortly after.

The judge can give directions that say what should happen at any stage in this process. If the judge does this, they'll tell you what this means.

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How to change or cancel an Order

You can apply to the court to change (vary) or cancel (discharge) a Parenting Order and an Order to Settle a Dispute between Guardians if it's no longer working or you don't need it anymore.

You must have a good reason to change or cancel the Order. For example, one of the parents might be moving to another city.

If the Order is less than two years old, you'll usually have to ask a judge’s permission before applying to have it changed or cancelled. This is called asking for leave to apply.

Contact your local court to ask for leave to apply

When you both agree with the change

If you already have a Parenting Order and you and your ex-partner agree to change it, you'll need to get a Consent Order. You can do this in one of the following ways:

Then you need to file your application. You'll need to do this yourself. You can’t get a lawyer to file an application for a Parenting Order or an Order to Settle a Dispute between Guardians.

Find out more about how to file documents

When you’re applying for a change on your own

Use this process if the Order is more than two years old and you want to change or cancel it, but your ex-partner hasn't agreed to this. You can also use this process if the Order is less than two years old and you want to ask the court for permission (leave) to apply to change or cancel it.

  1. Fill in one of these forms;
    • For a Parenting Order, fill in Parenting Order(external link). Select “Parenting Order” in the first box and “Change an existing Order” or “Remove an existing Order” in the second box.
      • For an Order to Settle a Dispute between Guardians, fill in Settle a Dispute between Guardians(external link) Select “Settle a dispute between guardians” in the first box and “Change an existing Order” or “Remove an existing Order” in the second box.
  2. Decide if you’re applying on notice or without notice. Choose without notice if violence is involved. Then a judge will look at the application and decide whether to make the Order straight away before the other person gets to have their say. If you apply on notice, the other person gets the chance to respond to your application before the court makes the Order. Find out more about urgent help and applying without notice
  3. File your application - you'll need to do this yourself. You can’t get a lawyer to file an application for a Parenting Order or an Order to Settle a Dispute between Guardians. Find out more about how to file documents

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Costs

If the judge has appointed a lawyer for the child or has asked for any specialist reports in your case, you and the other people involved in your case may have to pay some of the lawyer’s or specialists’ costs. This is called a Cost Contribution Order. You'll be given information about this when your case is finished.

Find out more about Cost Contribution Orders

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Find out more about using a lawyer and getting help to pay for a lawyer