What I need to do before the trial

Before your case goes to trial there are pre-trial steps that you will need to take to make sure your case is ready for trial.

This page provides information about the types of court hearings you will have before you get to trial.

The pre-trial process starts when a person defending the case files a notice of appearance. This step lets the court know that your case is defended. An administrative mention notice will be sent from the court to all parties setting a date for when you and the other party will need to file timetabling orders.

An administrative mention is a process where the court makes consent timetabling orders (which are orders made by agreement of the parties). You do not need to come to court on the administrative mention date.

Consent timetabling orders set out the trial date and direct you and the other party to complete steps to prepare and ready your case before the trial date. The orders will set dates by which you and the other party will need to file and serve documents and when other important steps need to be taken, such as discovery, issuing subpoenas, mediation, and payment of hearing fees.

Communicating with the Court

Communication with the Judge can only take place in the courtroom. If writing to the Court, do not address correspondence directly to the Judge. Address correspondence either to the Registrar of the County Court, 250 William St, Melbourne, Victoria, 3000 or if the matter is listed in a court outside of Melbourne, to the Registrar of that Court. Visit our Contacts page for more information.

All emailed communication with the Court must copy in (CC) the other party(s) to the proceedings.

How do I prepare consent timetabling orders?

Parties are expected to make contact with each other before the administrative mention date to agree on consent timetabling orders. If consent is reached, timetabling orders are drafted, signed by all parties and filed with the Court.

The timetabling order templates are available on the Common Law Division Registry and Commercial Division Registry pages. All parties complete and sign the timetabling order template, making the consent orders. The consent timetabling orders are then sent to Court, on or before the administrative mention date, by fax, post or email.

The appropriate list and division email address will depend on which division of the court your case is listed in. The email addresses of the divisions are:

The appropriate List Division Judge will then consider the consent timetabling orders provided by the parties and, if appropriate, will make the orders the parties are asking for.

What happens if we cannot agree on the timetable orders?

If the parties cannot agree or require more time, a request for a subsequent administrative mention may be made. This request can be made by either party by contacting by email the appropriate division of the court explaining why consent to the timetable has not been reached.

If consent will not be achieved with extra time, you should email a request to the appropriate division of the court that the matter be listed for a directions hearing. The request should explain the issues in dispute, the steps taken to try and obtain consent, and request a directions hearing. You will need to include the other party(s) in your email to the court. If appropriate, the Judge will order a directions hearing to be listed.

Directions hearings

A directions hearing often involves setting time frames for steps to be completed, such as when you need to file and serve a document or when you will have to participate in mediation. It may also be when direction is required from a judge in situations where the parties are unable to come to an agreement.

Before attending a directions hearing you should clarify:

  • the documents you are seeking from the other side to assist you with your case. Make a list to assist you
  • the witnesses you will be calling and their availability for the following six months
  • whether there is any other person you wish to join to the case
  • whether you will have a lawyer representing you at trial.

If you cause a hearing to be postponed you may have to pay costs.

What to expect when you come to court for a directions hearing

The Judge may give directions about how the directions hearing will be conducted. However, as a general rule the following applies

  • you should tell the associate or tipstaff who you are and that you are representing yourself
  • you should sit in the front row nearest the bar table
  • the tipstaff or associate will ask everyone to stand when the Judge enters the courtroom
  • the name of the case will be announced
  • the barrister(s) representing the other party(s) will tell the Judge their name and who they represent
  • the Judge will ask your name and confirm you are representing yourself. You may be asked to sit at the bar table with the other representatives, however you should not sit there until requested to do so by the Judge.

Orders that can be made at a directions hearing

After the Judge hears from all parties, orders may be made addressing any of the following:

  • the date the trial will start and how long it might take
  • times for the parties to complete pleadings. This could include statement of claim, defence, counterclaim, defence to counterclaim and other documents
  • when lists of documents, or the documents themselves will need to be provided to the other parties (discovery)
  • parties to attend mediation
  • when fees for trial are to be paid and by whom
  • any other orders to ensure the trial runs smoothly and on time.

If you do not comply with orders the Judge makes at a directions hearing the court may order that you pay costs or your case might be dismissed.

Once the trial date is scheduled, the parties need to be ready to proceed on that date.

Settling a dispute before the trial

The court process can be expensive and lengthy. You may be able to resolve your dispute in a faster and cheaper way, such as through mediation.

A dispute may settle at any time up to, or even during, a trial. This is where the parties come to an agreement without the need for a court to make a final decision. Did you know that approximately 85% of Common Law cases and 95% of Commercial cases settle before the trial date.

It can be beneficial to both parties to try to come to an agreement and resolve the case at the earliest possible opportunity. Visit I need help for a list of places that may help you reach an agreement.

If you reach agreement and want to settle your case you will need to provide consent orders signed by both parties explaining that the case has been resolved to the relevant division of the court.

The Registrar will ‘seal’ the order and the court will dismiss the case.

The information on this page relates to proceedings in the Commercial or Common Law Divisions. If your matter is in the Criminal Division, visit our Criminal Division page.

For an explanation of common legal terms and phrases, please see our glossary.

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Page last updated: 20 September 2018