A directions hearing is an informal court appearance. A directions hearing may be heard by a Magistrate or Registrar of the court. It will take place if you have not been able to resolve the dispute yourselves after the formal legal action has started. A directions hearing is held to look at the direction that the matter is heading in the courts and to discuss with the parties their options to resolve the matter. The purpose is to discover the position of each party and whether there is any possibility of settling any of the issues. If the matter cannot be settled, it may be set down for mediation or for a trial.
The court will post a notice to both parties with the date and time of the directions hearing once a defence has been filed with the court. The directions hearing will usually be held about three weeks after the defence has been filed.
It won’t cost you anything upfront to attend a directions hearing. However, if you are not successful in the end, you might have to pay the other party a small fee for the inconvenience of them attending court. This will be included in the costs of the other party that you will pay if they are successful.
Matters discussed at the hearing
The hearing will determine where each party stands in the action and whether there is any possibility of a resolution. The hearing will encourage both parties to come to an agreement and will provide some assistance to help this happen. If this doesn’t look like happening at the directions hearing, the matter can be sent to mediation if both parties agree to it or a date for a trial will be set. A directions hearing may be able to resolve some of the issues between the parties in order to limit the issues to argue about at the trial.
If a directions hearing is set, you must attend. If the person who brought the claim (applicant) doesn’t attend, the respondent may ask the court to dismiss the claim. If the respondent doesn’t attend, the applicant can ask the court to enter judgment against them and be awarded the amount they claimed plus any costs incurred.
If you have genuine problems in attending on that day contact the CourtSA Registry on 8204 2444 and they will be able to assist you in what steps you will need to take. It is very important that you call and let the court know if you won’t be able to attend to avoid having your claim dismissed or having judgment entered against you. Try to call as soon as you know that you won’t be able to attend and don’t wait until the morning of the hearing, if you know in advance. If you are ill, it is a good idea to obtain a medical certificate from a doctor in case the court wants to see proof as to why you didn’t attend.
Bring any documents to support your claim to the directions hearing. You don’t need to bring your witnesses to the hearing. It is a good idea to bring a pen and paper to make notes.
After the hearing
If you come to an agreement at the directions hearing, the matter will be resolved between the parties.
If you do not come to an agreement, the matter will be listed for mediation or for a trial. The arrangements for mediation or the trial will be made at the directions hearing and you will also receive a letter from the registry with the date in writing.