Property Conciliation Conference
A conciliation conference provides an opportunity for both parties to make a genuine effort to settle their dispute. Each party at a conciliation conference must make a genuine effort to reach agreement on the matters in issue between them. Reaching an agreement with your former partner will save time and the need for further court events, including a hearing.
It is usually the next step after a case assessment conference or procedural hearing and occurs where there are financial issues in dispute. Sometimes parenting issues can be considered as well.
Attendance at a conference is usually compulsory for anyone involved in property proceedings. You and your former partner can be seen separately if you have personal safety concerns.
Armstrong Legal has a team of highly specialised family law solicitors. We can assist you to understand your legal rights and responsibilities and explain how the law applies to your case. Armstrong legal can also assist you reach an agreement with your former partner without going to court saving you time and legal costs.
What Must I Do Before The Conciliation Conference?
To make the best possible use of the conference both parties must exchange information with each other and provide information to the Court before the conference.
- In a case about financial issues, each party must have exchanged copies of relevant financial documents with the other parties at least two days before the case assessment conference. If the following documents were not exchanged prior to that conference, you must ensure they are exchanged before the conciliation conference.
- The party’s three most recent taxation returns and assessments
- Any superannuation documents for each of the party’s superannuation interests, including.
- The completed Superannuation Information Form
- The trust deed and the last three financial statements for a self-managed superannuation fund
- For a corporation, trust or partnership where the party has a duty of disclosure, financial statements for each corporation, trust or partnership (including balance sheets, profit and loss accounts, depreciation schedules and taxation returns) for each of the last three financial years
- For the party or a corporation, trust or partnership where the party has a duty of disclosure, any business activity statements for the 12 months ending immediately before the first court date
- For any corporation, its most recent annual return listing directors and shareholders, and the corporation’s constitution
- For any trust, the trust deed
- For any partnership, the partnership agreement
- A market appraisal of any item of property in which a party has an interest.
- At the case assessment conference, the Court will give you instructions about what must be before the conciliation conference. The instructions include that, within 28 days after the conference, each party must, exchange documents relevant to the financial issues as the registrar orders. The documents required may include documents which should have been exchanged prior to the case assessment conference but have not yet been exchanged and any other documents required containing evidence about.
- The financial matters outlined in your and the other party’s financial statement
- Financial contributions made when the parties began living together
- Any inheritances, gifts or compensation payments received after the parties began living together
- Any purchase or disposal of property in the 12 months prior to and since the separation and any increase or reduction of liabilities since separation
- The value of any superannuation interest of a party, including the basis on which the value has been calculated and any documents used to work out that value.
- You must:
- File and serve a financial questionnaire (link) within 21 days after the case assessment conference
- Prepare with the other party and file a balance sheet as follows – in summary.
- The applicant must prepare and send to the respondent an initial balancesheet within 28 days (it may be sent electronically)
- The respondent must prepare and send an amended balance sheet within 21 days after receiving the initial draft
- The applicant must then complete the balance sheet and file it with the Court within a further 14 days.
Note – It is important that you disclose all facts and documents relevant to your application. Failure to do so can delay a settlement, result in increased costs or an order for you to pay the other party’s costs. It may also lead to the Court making a greater order for a property settlement in favour of the other party.
What Can I Expect At The Conciliation Conference?
A conciliation conference is a mediation forum conducted by a Registrar of the Court dealing with financial matters. Generally, a couple of hours are allocated for the conciliation conference to allow negotiations to be pursued fully.
Different Registrars have different ways of conducting their conferences, but usually he/she speaks first with the legal representatives to get a brief outline of what the case is about, or more precisely, what is in dispute. Both parties are required to file documents setting out their respective offers to settle the dispute and the grounds on which their offer is made. The Registrar has the benefit of reading the court documents filed by each party before the conference begins. The Registrar then conducts discussions in an attempt to get the parties reach a settlement of all issues. Often, the Registrar will meet with the parties directly, without the legal representatives present.
If either party has any concerns about being in the same room as the other party, they should advise their solicitor to ensure that the Registrar is aware of those concerns. Discussions in conciliation conferences are generally referred to as being confidential – they cannot be referred to in any later Court hearings if a settlement is not reached.
Prior to attending a conciliation conference, it is important that you have considered your position with the support and advice of your solicitor so that negotiations can be undertaken productively.
The team at Armstrong Legal can assist you with any legal questions.
The conciliation conference involves three stages.
Stage 1 – Introduction
Usually both parties and your lawyer will be present at the conference (unless the conference is done separately). The registrar will explain what will happen and a short discussion will take place about the issues in dispute.
The registrar will then tell you how the settlement discussions will proceed. The process adopted will depend on factors such as the need for separate interviews and the complexity of the financial circumstances of your case.
Stage 2 – Settlement Discussions
During this stage, the registrar will assist both parties in discussing ways to settle your dispute.
Stage 3 – Conclusion
The registrar will sum up what has happened, highlighting the agreements reached. If you have reached agreement on all issues, your Armstrong Legal Family Law solicitor will prepare terms of settlement for you to sign so that the Court can make consent orders.
If you have not reached final agreement, the registrar will conduct a Procedural Hearing and make procedural orders about what will happen next.
The Procedural hearing will take place immediately after the conciliation conference. At this hearing, the registrar will make procedural orders about what will happen. These may include any of the following matters.
- Disclosure of documents
- Listing the case for hearing including.
- Payment of the hearing fee
- Filing of undertakings as to disclosure
- Allocating a date for a compliance check approximately 21 days before the first day before the judge
- Allocating the first day of hearing before the judge
- Clarification of disputed items in the balance sheet
- Clarification of any issue arising out of a statement made by a party in a financial questionnaire
- If the case also involves parenting issues.
- Referring parties to family counselling, family dispute resolution and other family services
- Appointment of an independent children’s lawyer
- Completion and filing by each party of a parenting questionnaire.
Want to know more or to book an appointment, please contact Armstrong Legal and talk to one of our specialist family law solicitors on 02 9261 4555.
WHERE TO NEXT?
Taking the next step and contacting a family lawyer can be scary. Our lawyers will make you feel comfortable so you can talk about your situation. But first, ask yourself, Do I really need a lawyer?