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case management.  We recommend the introduction of a Practice Direction governing case management in the Family Court.  Such a Direction would encourage more effective case management on an ongoing basis, and would encourage the diversion of cases from contested hearings to mediation.  We do not think it is necessary at this juncture to decide the precise terms of such a Direction.  However, the Construction List checklist and its associated Practice Direction form a useful model  for the Family List.  

12.39We recommend that there should be a requirement that a pre-trial checklist be completed at the Summons for Directions stage of any case involving a dispute in relation to children.  Time limits should be imposed for the delivery of any affidavits associated with the case in order to minimize delay. We also recommend that judges should be given more control to reduce the costs and delay in the system.  Failure to conduct cases economically should result in appropriate orders for costs, including wasted costs orders.

Issues conference

12.40The New Zealand Boshier report recommended the introduction of an issues conference at an appropriately early time which would order relevant reports, make appropriate orders and directions and define the issues.1193  The parties would in advance have clearly defined the issues and the relief sought in a memorandum filed in court.1194  An issues conference could be organised once it was clear that the respondent had filed an Answer contesting the proceedings.  

Family settlement conference

12.41Under the New Zealand proposals, when a report was available a settlement conference would be organised.  The purpose of a family settlement conference would be: “to permit a judge to explore settlement options, and if no settlement seems possible to set down for hearing on terms which are appropriate to the case.”1195  It would be convened when all relevant materials were before the court. 1196

12.42Issues and settlement conferences are designed to enable the judge to explore the nature of the dispute and to assist litigants in identifying options for resolution.1197  In Hong Kong, the pressure on the court lists is such that the judges would not have the time to engage in settlement conferences, even if provision was made for such conferences in the rules.  Even if the Hartmann Working Group recommendations on the first private call-over are implemented, this will not have much impact unless sufficient time is allocated to each case.  In England, the final report of Lord Woolf1198 suggested that the presence of clients at case management conferences, when past costs and future estimates are considered, “will be a powerful incentive to adopt a realistic approach.”

1193 “New Zealand Family Law Report” summarised in an article of that name in Family and Conciliation Courts Review, vol 33, No. 2, April 1995 (182-193).

1194 Ibid at paragraph 6.5.7.

1195Ibid at paragraph 6.5.8.

1196Ibid at paragraph 6.5.9.

1197 Boshier report at 7.2.8.

1198 Access to Justice, 26 July 1996 at pages 82-86.

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