Matters rarely reach a final hearing in court. Most cases resolve outside of the court by settlement or after Interim Orders have been made at an “Interim Hearing”.
Interim hearings are small hearings that focus on discreet issues, usually only one or two issues at a time. These hearings often allow for practical steps to be undertaken before a case going to a final trial.
What are “Interim Orders”?
Interim orders are orders made at interim hearings. They are usually valid until the court makes them a final order or makes a new order and discharges the old interim order.
Interim orders are enforceable court orders, and as such, if they are breached, consequences apply.
How long are interim orders valid?
The time between each court date can be months, and getting to the final hearing stage could even take years. Accordingly, the interim orders you first apply for could be in place for a long time, and it is crucial to take the time to get them right.
Types of Interim Orders
A judge’s powers regarding the orders they can make in the interim do not differ from the types of things they can make orders about at a final trial. The only difference between what can be ordered in the interim and what can be ordered on a final basis is the judge’s information when determining the orders.
Property Interim Orders
In relationships where one party habitually withholds financial information from the other party or has financial power over the other party, it is often necessary to consider whether they should seek orders at an early stage in the ‘interim’ to help the other party.
These orders might be:
- to disclose information
- pay spousal maintenance
- distribute funds early
Parenting Interim Orders
A judge has vast powers to make orders in parenting interim hearings. The most common is responsible for making important decisions about the child’s health, education, religion before the final hearing, and who the child lives spends time with.
Usually, interim orders deal with more urgent issues. They are a good way to ensure that property matters are being progressed and the child’s best interest is being treated as paramount.
Why can’t the judge make final orders straight away?
Until a final hearing, a judge is unable to make findings of fact. What this means is, until trial, a judge cannot make a decision either way as to whether or not something did or did not occur; they can merely make a decision that takes into account the possibility that something did or not did occur and/or what the best interest of the child/ren are in those circumstances.
Do interim hearings really matter in the scheme of things?
Since interim orders can be in place for long periods until a final trial occurs, changing those temporary orders on an absolute basis may not be in the child’s best interests if they have become reliant on the existing arrangements. Because of this, parents must realise the importance of seeking interim parenting orders in appropriate circumstances and investing the proper time, care and effort into preparing and presenting the case well at the interim hearing.
It’s important to properly prepare for interim hearings.