Directions hearings

A directions hearing is a hearing where a VCAT member decides how a case should be managed and how much time it will take.

Directions hearings are not required for every case.

How to ask for a directions hearing

We can decide to hold a directions hearing or a party in the case can ask for one. Apply for a directions hearing using the Application for directions hearing or orders. Check first, as some Lists - for example Review and Regulation - do not always require you to apply using this form. 

What happens at a directions hearing

At the directions hearing, the VCAT member may:

  • clarify any issues in the application
  • tell you that documents and other materials must to be sent to VCAT and the other parties by certain dates
  • decide whether there should be a mediation or compulsory conferences
  • find out how many witnesses might appear and order parties to prepare witness statements
  • find out whether expert witnesses might appear and if so, order parties to prepare expert reports. Expert reports must comply with VCAT practice note PNVCAT2 - Expert Evidence
  • set a timetable for the case
  • set the date and location for the final hearing
  • talk to the parties about whether they can resolve the dispute themselves at the directions hearing
  • answer questions about process
  • make orders about other possible applications which may need to be made and decided before the final hearing such as joinder applications
  • set a directions hearing for the hearing of any application for joinder, or any other application which needs to be decided before the final hearing
  • where appropriate, make final orders.

How to prepare

If you are prepared your case is likely to run more smoothly.

  • Become familiar with how VCAT works, especially for your type of case
  • Be ready to answer questions about your application or your response to an application
  • Make a list of the documents you will use as evidence to support your case and the documents you need from the other party
  • Write down your witnesses and their availability
  • Decide whether you need an expert witness
  • Write down what you would like VCAT to do or decide for this case.

Be ready to take notes during the hearing. If you plan to use a laptop or other electronic device to take notes, see Photography, recording, mobile phones and electronic devices.

We may allow a family member or friend to help you during a directions hearing. You can also ask at a directions hearing to have a professional represent you throughout the case, such as a lawyer, real estate agent or a planner. In some cases, VCAT must first approve having someone represent you at the directions hearing. Learn more about professional representation at VCAT.

Apply to attend by telephone or video

If it is difficult for you or your representative to come to a hearing in person, you can apply to attend remotely.

For example, you may be able to attend by phone or video conference if you:

  • live in the country or interstate
  • have a disability that means you cannot come to VCAT
  • to ensure your safety.

Apply to use technology at least a week before your hearing. See all available technology options at VCAT.

Practice note for directions hearings

There is more information about directions hearings in the VCAT practice note PNVCAT 5 - Directions Hearings and Urgent Hearings.

Case types

Some details of the steps to follow during a VCAT case vary for different case types.
Choose a case type to see any case type specific variations.