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Settlement conferences pilot and evaluation

Information and guidance published

Some Designated Family Judge areas are piloting 'settlement conferences'. In a settlement conference, a family judge adopts an inquisitorial approach in order to encourage cooperation between parties with a view to helping them identify solutions and reaching an agreement that is in their children's best interests.

Settlement conferences take place with the consent of all the parties. The judge hearing a settlement conference will be different to that of the judge that may hear the final hearing. They will be specially trained in facilitating settlement conferences.

The judge will not impose any duress or pressure on any parties. Settlement implies that all parties will be in agreement to fully resolve some or all issues.

The judge will speak to each of the parties but anything said by the judge or the parties is privileged and confidential. Anything that is discussed during the settlement conference will not be admissible in evidence (except at the trial of a person for an offence committed at the conference or in the exceptional circumstances indicated in Re D (Minors) (Conciliation: Disclosure of Information) [1993] Fam 231). The judge hearing the settlement conference must have no further involvement with the case, other than to make a final order by agreement or a further directions order.

However, if it is discovered during the process of the settlement conference that a child is at risk of significant harm, the judge will immediately end the settlement conference and take the appropriate steps to protect the child.

Any questions in relation to the pilot should be addressed to  Maya Sooben ( )  and in relation to data collection and evaluation tor Irina Pehkonen ( ).

For information and guidance concerning the pilot, click here.