Home > The Court Process > Preparation for Contested Hearings: A Checklist

Preparation for Contested Hearings: A Checklist

By: Elizabeth Mugan BA/BSc, PGDipLaw, BVC, CIArb - Updated: 26 Nov 2017 |
 
Preparation Contested Hearing Checklist

If you find yourself in a disagreement which goes before the court, you may need to attend a contested hearing.

What happens at a contested hearing?

During the hearing, each party gets the chance to argue their position and present their case in front of a judge. The judge will then make a decision at that hearing or shortly afterwards and will then issue a court order. This court order is binding on both parties, unless one party makes an appeal to a higher court.

An example of a contested hearing is where one parent contests an interim contact order, regulating contact between the other parent and child.

Directions hearing

Before the contested hearing, there will usually be a directions hearing where the judge will direct a number of points such as the timetable for when documents must be served, what documents should be served, the timetable for hearings etc. The court may also serve notices in writing to all parties as to when documents must be served and dates for any hearings.

If you are a party to a contested hearing you must adhere to the timetable set out by the court. Missing deadlines can have serious consequences and can even go against you. If there is a genuine reason why you will fail to make a date, such as, because you have been in hospital, or you are waiting for a report which is highly relevant to your case, then you must contact the court and ask permission for an extension from the judge.

You should ask the judge to direct, during the directions hearing, that the court bundle be agreed between the parties and the timescales for doing so. If you cannot agree the court bundle with the other side or their representatives then you should submit your own, providing the reasons for why you are doing so.

You should also think about whom you would like to attend the hearing and who you would like to cross-examine. If a CAFCASS officer or other caseworker was involved in your case and you would like to question them, you should ask the judge for their attendance. Similarly, if a person has entered statements in support of either yourself or your ex, then you may want to question them.

One of the things that a judge normally directs to be submitted during the directions hearing is a court bundle.

What should be included in a court bundle?

The bundle should contain all of the evidence that you wish to rely on in the contested hearing. It can contain the following documents, though these are not mandatory unless the court directs so:

  • An index, so that the bundle can be easily followed
  • A chronology. This is a timeline of key dates and leading events, so that the judge understands the background of the events leading up to the hearing
  • A statement of the issues. This is literally a list of the main issues in the case
  • A position statement. This is exactly what it says – a brief statement which sets out your position
  • A summary.
It is important that you check the court bundle is accurate before submission. If there are inaccuracies, it may look as though you cannot tell the story straight. It is also important for you to check whether your ex, or the other side, has submitted any new evidence.

Again, if you are responsible for preparing and submitting the bundle, you must ensure that it is served by the correct date.

Submissions

You will need to prepare a number of submissions in advance of the hearing. These are skeleton arguments, opening and closing submissions, examination-in-chief and cross-examination.

A skeleton argument is a document that should briefly set out the agreed matters, the nature of the disagreed matters and your main arguments. It need not be more than 6 or 7 pages. Arguments should be brief and concise, with reference to any evidence and case law to back up your point. Remember that this is just to give the judge an idea of your arguments, as you will be presenting the case in full at the hearing.

A skeleton argument is usually submitted to the judge a few days before the contested hearing. When you get there on the day, check that the judge has received a copy.

Opening and closing submissions open and close your case. Opening submissions should contain a brief summary of the facts and arguments. The closing submissions should sum up your arguments. It is advisable to prepare both of these in advance of the hearing. The closing submission may change, depending on what has come out during the hearing from both sides. It is important that submissions be persuasive.

Examination-in-chief is where you get to present your case to the judge. In the hearing, go through each point followed by the evidence or supporting law relied upon. When you have a copy of the court bundle, you may find it helpful to note the page numbers of the bundle which are useful and/or which you would like to rely on. That way, you can easily refer the judge.

Cross-examination is where you get to question the other side, your ex, CAFCASS Officers, support workers or other parties who have made a statement, should you feel the need to question some of them. Keep questions short and only ask one question at a time. Only include relevant questions that support your case.

Remember...

If you have never been in court before, or even if you have, it is perfectly normal to be nervous. If you think you will forget something read your submissions and/or questions directly from paper. Write down your main points beforehand and even take someone along for moral support.

Take your time. Speak loudly, clearly and slowly and finally, remember those important dates.

Check out the Separated Dads Forum... It's a great resource where you can ask for advice on topics including Child Access, Maintenance, CAFCASS, Fathers Rights, Court, Behaviour or simply to have a chat with other dads.

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[Add a Comment]
Hi! I have a child order made by me in central family court ( contact order) and now the court made a order for mother being represented on last hearing by a lawyer to do a bundle .now the mother is not represented anymore by her lawyer . My question is ,, who is responsable for bundle now? If her lawyer is not her represent her ? Thank u! (I represent my self)
Lars - 26-Nov-17 @ 1:48 PM
There is no such thing as a 'main carer' if both parents are fit, well, actively engaged and have parental responsibility for their child. The basis of law is what is just and right which means both parents have equal rights and responsibilities. Anything else is discrimination. Sadly, it is commonplace for one parent (usually the mother) to assume a primary role and deny the other parent contact. The courts often fail to address this problem. Remember to support equal shared parenting and reject this bias. Times are changing. We need to stand together and demand a fair system for future generations.
truth - 5-Mar-17 @ 5:20 PM
Cilantro - Your Question:
Hello there,I'm a separated dad, I cannot afford a solicitor and I cannot get legal aid,My wife has 2 court orders against me,I've a contested hearing next month,I don't know anything, I'm a bit frustrated, there's a prohibited steps order which I didn't respond to as I didn't know that I have to fill forms back (form C100, C1A)NMO as well is in place,I sent my statements to court though as per Judge's orders in 2 hearings,All what I want is to be able to see my child regularly,I cannot afford to apply for a child arrangement order (215 pounds) and I'm desperate for any advice,Please help Please Please, I didn't see my child for 3+ months !

Our Response:
If you’re on a low income, or if you’re on certain benefits and don’t have much in savings, you might be able to get money off your court or tribunal fee, please see gov.uk link here . Likewise, if you cannot afford legal representation you can self-litigate, please see link here.
SeparatedDads - 19-Dec-16 @ 2:37 PM
Hello there, I'm a separated dad, I cannot afford a solicitor and I cannot get legal aid, My wife has 2 court orders against me, I've a contested hearing next month, I don't know anything, I'm a bit frustrated, there's a prohibited steps order which I didn't respond to as I didn't know that I have to fill forms back (form C100, C1A) NMO as well is in place, I sent my statements to court though as per Judge's orders in 2 hearings, All what i want is to be able to see my child regularly, I cannot afford to apply for a child arrangement order (215 pounds) and I'm desperate for any advice, Please help Please Please, I didn't see my child for 3+ months !
Cilantro - 18-Dec-16 @ 3:34 PM
Ed2009 - Your Question:
Hey, just trying to get some advice. I went to court 2 years ago, I got a contact order due to past mistakes, ordered to be supervised in till I had done a alcohol course and anger management course, I past my drugs test and done all my courses my ex moved 400 miles away so I travelled up and saw him all supervised now I have done everything asked of me my ex is saying I'm still not seeing our son unsupervised and I'd be lucky I even see him again, this was after I paid for our hotel and 4 days prior to me going up!! I told her things aren't working and there's nothing more I can do to prove myself and she's saying the court left it all in her choice weather she felt it was safe for me to see my son so that's what she's doing, I told her I'd have no choice but to go back to court and she says I can't do that as the order has been made apparently I can only take the court back to court and not her? I have done my research and found out I can actually take her back to court but what can I do about this any advice would be great? Surely court would be easier and more straight forward this time? And what do I do about her being 400 miles away do I apply to my court or her courts? Any advice would be fantastic, thank you ??

Our Response:
You can take the matter back to court (for a variation) due to the fact your ex moved 400 miles away once the order was implemented (she should have asked for your consent if you have parental responsibility). Plus, if you have completed all the courses, then you have done everything by the book, so to speak. We also have a Separated Dads Facebook page, I'll put an edited version of your question to our dads and ask them for some advice. Please refer to the page for your answers. Our dads are great at giving this sort of guidance, as many have been through similar issues before.
SeparatedDads - 15-Nov-16 @ 1:55 PM
Hey,just trying to get some advice. I went to court 2 years ago,I got a contact order due to past mistakes,ordered to be supervised in till I had done a alcohol course and anger management course,I past my drugs test and done all my courses my ex moved 400 miles away so I travelled up and saw him all supervised now I have done everything asked of me my ex is saying I'm still not seeing our son unsupervised and I'd be lucky I even see him again,this was after I paid for our hotel and 4 days prior to me going up!! I told her things aren't working and there's nothing more I can do to prove myself and she's saying the court left it all in her choice weather she felt it was safe for me to see my son so that's what she's doing,I told her I'd have no choice but to go back to court and she says I can't do that as the order has been made apparently I can only take the court back to court and not her? I have done my research and found out I can actually take her back to court but what can I do about this any advice would be great? Surely court would be easier and more straight forward this time? And what do I do about her being 400 miles away do I apply to my court or her courts? Any advice would be fantastic,thank you ??
Ed2009 - 14-Nov-16 @ 9:34 PM
I am a LIP re an APPEAL ofa REMO from the REP of IRELAD to the UK. Ex wife and i separated 20 yrs ago (1995) and i stayed in the uk. I had an ROI court order for £69 pw i could not personnaly represent myself as i was stationed in northern ireland and she placed all my details on the court forms.(placing me in danger). I payed for a brief but he agreed to everything. I went through 2yrs of payments/ contested vists/denied visits and a lot of pain. I stopped paying in 1997 after not being alowed to see my son as she kept moving solisitors to lose me. Nothing heard afterwards. I contacted her in 2003 through both of our solicitors re a civil devorce. She agreed. Then heard nothing till 2015 after i contacted myson who is now 20yo. This was a letter from BURY MAGS re a RECIPROCIAL MAINTENANCE ORDER from the REP OF IRELAND for £40k. I have appealed, ........ QUESTION :::;what points of law do i need to focus on as i cannot afford a solicitor Cheers dom
Dom - 7-Jul-15 @ 12:19 PM
my ex husband tooo me to court and we made an agreement then he's getting greedy after being very nice and giving extra contact including over night which the court said I didn't have to give him! Every time I don't agree to something he asks for or if our sons poorly he makes me out to be the bad person oh he's not poorly I'm telling court it will go against you in court and I'm getting fed up...
Cheryl42 - 26-Dec-14 @ 7:54 PM
I am a LIP petitioner/Applicant. FH on 2 and 3 December 2014 Q. Does my 4-yr old son with my new partner, born in and currently in Mauritius count as a child of the family. I am his registered father and I am British by naturalisation since 1980's? Thanks loads N Ragnuth
Mitty - 6-Nov-14 @ 3:53 PM
My daughter fell pregnant. Bf n bf mother wanted rid of the baby. Made life hard but my daughter went ahead with the pregnancy anyway. Beautiful daughter was born. Father never really interested. Now 3 years later and both natural parents are married, he has taken her to court for his pr and access. He has changed his religion makes out that he was denied access. His wife posts all manner of things that are not true on fb. Why disrupt everybody's life. In court access was agreed. Supervised contact in the town closer to my daughter.He applied unsupervised in the town closer to him. Because access for the FIRST time has now been denied my daughter is the bad one.Anyone got any idea what he is playing at
boo - 30-Aug-14 @ 11:33 AM
Hi, It sounds like you are the main career and have overall parental responsibility. I would phone the police and they can use their authority to get the child back.
help - 23-Dec-13 @ 9:56 AM
My husband left me six years ago. I have an 11 year child and he is the dad. I also have a 20 yer old at home too. I have always encouraged him to see his daughter regularly. I have never got in the way or tried to stop.every child has two parents.anyway at christmas he collected my daughter and has never returned her. I am at my wits.i am just over the threshold for legal aid and will have to pay for legal advice.i cant possibly afford to do that.i know shes my daughter but it could cost thousands that I just dont have or able to get. I need advice he has not allowed me to see her and I am now not allowed to speak to her on the telephone.he wont tell me why. I desperatly need some help. I know I need to go to court.can he get an residence order without my knowing.i dont even know where she is or where she goes to school.
jac - 26-Feb-13 @ 7:57 PM
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