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What Happens at Family Court?

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 22 Apr 2019 |
 
Family Court Lawyer Hearing Case Person

The Family Court is essentially a specialist court in which family matters are decided. These range from adoption, contact with and residence of children and the taking of children into care. Although it is still a court environment, it is less formal than other types of courts. Barristers are not in wigs and gowns, and the whole hearing may be conducted around a large table – rather like a company meeting. In other cases, the courtroom might look more like a traditional court.

That said, it is always wise to be respectful to everyone you meet and to behave in a dignified fashion – regardless of how churned up you might feel inside. Those that remain calm are always seen more favourably by the courts than people who shout, are rude, or cause disruption to proceedings.

When to Get There

You should ensure you arrive at court in good time. If the court is sitting at 10.30am, you should aim to be there by 9.45am or earlier if your solicitor advises you to. When you arrive at court, don’t be surprised if there are a number of other people there, too. The court often operates in ‘lists’, which means that cases get called on in a specific order, or are called on as and when they are ‘ready’ to go on. This means that you may have a long wait until your case is called on, so take something to read.

You should make yourself known to the ‘usher’, who is usually a person wearing a black robe and holding a clipboard. If you have a solicitor, or if you’re being represented by a barrister (read our article Does Having a Good Lawyer Help? on this site), the usher should also be able to tell you if they have arrived yet and where they are.

What Happens in Court

It is very unlikely that your case will be dealt with at the first hearing. You are likely to have to go back to the Family Court on two or more occasions. At the first hearing, the court may make directions as to the filing of statements of case, or evidence, and give deadlines for when these things need to be filed. All family court proceedings are currently held in private, and will not be publicly reported – although there are changes on the way that will allow accredited journalists to be present in court hearings and report on them. It is not possible, in these circumstances, for the media to name the parties or anyone involved in the case.

Hearings

When your hearing is effective, the applicant – i.e. the person who is making the application – will speak first. If you are represented by a solicitor, they will do this on your behalf. This opening statement basically sets out what your application is and why you are making it. Then the other side will be invited to reply and to explain why they oppose the application. The judges or magistrates will ask questions of either party to clarify certain matters, if appropriate. You may be called to give evidence, which means that you will talk about any statement you have made under oath. The other side’s lawyer will ask you questions, and the judge or magistrates may also ask you questions as well.

Attendance and Bringing Friends For Support

You should always attend Family Court hearings unless you have specifically been excused from doing so, e.g. if it is simply a directions hearing that both solicitors need to attend. You can always take a Friend or relative along with you to help you, but you must obtain the permission of the court to do this. It is worth remembering, however, that if the friend or relative that you bring to court is also a witness in your case, they will not be able to sit in on the proceedings until after they have given evidence.

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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Wondering if someone can give me some advice on the behalf of my brother who is the father to two children. My brother and his baby mother are in a dispute regarding residency of the children. My brother tried to go to mediation but she failed to turn up and proceeded with court. As far is I’m aware mediation is mandatory by law unless there are special circumstances for example abuse, but there was none of that in the relationship. Before the dispute my brother had his children from Friday afternoon untill Monday evening and then during the day either wed/thurs. On the evening the children were supposed to go back to their mothers there was a dispute. She told my brother that he would never see his children again so on that date he chose to keep them. The dispute happened In March and since she hasn’t contacted to see her children nor ask about them to this date. My brother would like residency of the children as she admits to struggling and not being able to give both children attention and he feels like he is the more nurturing one of both parents. My brother has proof that she she has stated this and also has proof that he hasn’t refused access. The court date is coming up soon and I think my brother could do with some advice from someone who’s been in a similar situation. Am I correct in thinking that the dispute may not be resolved that same day and that unless social services feel that the children aren’t safe (which they don’t), the cannot remove the children from my brothers care?
Worldsbestaunt - 15-Apr-19 @ 8:51 PM
Wondering if someone can give me some advice on the behalf of my brother who is the father to two children. My brother and his baby mother are in a dispute regarding residency of the children. My brother tried to go to mediation but she failed to turn up and proceeded with court. As far is I’m aware mediation is mandatory by law unless there are special circumstances for example abuse, but there was none of that in the relationship. Before the dispute my brother had his children from Friday afternoon untill Monday evening and then during the day either wed/thurs. On the evening the children were supposed to go back to their mothers there was a dispute. She told my brother that he would never see his children again so on that date he chose to keep them. The dispute happened In March and since she hasn’t contacted to see her children nor ask about them to this date. My brother would like residency of the children as she admits to struggling and not being able to give both children attention and he feels like he is the more nurturing one of both parents. My brother has proof that she she has stated this and also has proof that he hasn’t refused access. The court date is coming up soon and I think my brother could do with some advice from someone who’s been in a similar situation. Am I correct in thinking that the dispute may not be resolved that same day and that unless social services feel that the children aren’t safe (which they don’t), the cannot remove the children from my brothers care?
Worldsbestaunt - 15-Apr-19 @ 8:19 PM
@john.the mother off my child was having affairs they come out and told me (.i new all a long ).its put me in a (difficult situation )when I was younger I was a fighter or thought I was .now I try and stay (out off trouble ).when I made contact with the mother to try and sort out meeting my daughter it didn’t go to (plan) .now only path left is court but she is (14 )and I was advised bye a legal representative in a meeting that it’s a bit late .so it’s difficult the mother wants to (play hard ball) so I am walking away .
Doe - 17-Mar-19 @ 5:03 PM
My ex through me out of our home as she had an affair and wanted him. I moved out but I before was father and my mother to my boy. I moved back to parents where our son at 18 lived with us for 2 years 4 to 5 times a week. Moving on. I saw him every weekend till he was 5. She was very vindictive and constantly had boyfriends living with her. I had my son every holiday every weekend my days off holidays ect. 6 was ago she called me screaming down phone she didn’t want him. His bags were packed come get him which I recorded. So few days of my son so upset she filed in court I stole him. I have a lawyer been to court as defendants twice but with know one listening to my truthful side. I have now only got my son once a month till judge says I won’t keep him and to build up trust. She gave me him told lies and my boy who is a daddy’s boy is suffering. Why the courts not listening to me ????
John - 17-Mar-19 @ 2:16 PM
My ex have split 6 weeks and already she has met someone else and he has met all her kids (she has kids to 3 different men) anyways she has restricted me to seeing my child once a week which is beyond a joke so I'm currently trying to set up a court hearing.
Decker - 4-Mar-19 @ 10:18 PM
I had to take my ex to court. We have been split for 6 years and when she isn’t happy in her own personal life, she prevents me from seeing my kids. I am now engaged to me married, and it’s gotten worse. I took my ex wife to court July last year, and have done everything I promised, to cut a long story short, she is calling / emailing me to do nothing other than cause trouble for me and no new partner, this has resulted again her stopping access, even though we have a court order? She stopped me this Boxing Day, and I was meant to have them until New Year’s Day. My two daughters aren’t allowed to ring me from the mobiles as if my ex finds out has told them they be confiscated from them? I am having to go back to court as I went Boxing Day and the weekend after that (which would be my regular weekend) and still no contact, this is the second time my ex has broken order and I just don’t think she thinks it is serious, I have filled all the papers and don’t have a solicitor as I can’t afford one, as I struggle up even pay the court fees to get this order looked at again, I suppose my question is, will this be took seriously? As I am losing faith in the order already. Any advice would be greatly appreciated , I hand 3 kids and miss them dearly and have a loving stable home for them and just want them to be happy and the point of me going to court in first place was to prevent the obstruction of access to my kids. Thank you for your time in advance, Lee.
Lee - 9-Jan-19 @ 3:40 PM
I had to take my ex to court. We have been split for 6 years and when she isn’t happy in her own personal life, she prevents me from seeing my kids. I am now engaged to me married, and it’s gotten worse. I took my ex wife to court July last year, and have done everything I promised, to cut a long story short, she is calling / emailing me to do nothing other than cause trouble for me and no new partner, this has resulted again her stopping access, even though we have a court order? She stopped me this Boxing Day, and I was meant to have them until New Year’s Day. My two daughters aren’t allowed to ring me from the mobiles as if my ex finds out has told them they be confiscated from them? I am having to go back to court as I went Boxing Day and the weekend after that (which would be my regular weekend) and still no contact, this is the second time my ex has broken order and I just don’t think she thinks it is serious, I have filled all the papers and don’t have a solicitor as I can’t afford one, as I struggle up even pay the court fees to get this order looked at again, I suppose my question is, will this be took seriously? As I am losing faith in the order already. Any advice would be greatly appreciated , I hand 3 kids and miss them dearly and have a loving stable home for them and just want them to be happy and the point of me going to court in first place was to prevent the obstruction of access to my kids. Thank you for your time in advance, Lee.
Lee - 9-Jan-19 @ 3:39 PM
Hoping someone might be able to advise - my partner is goi g through family courts and his ex wants me to move out of our home if he wants his kids overnight every third weekend. Thought it was strange but even the judge asked was it a possibility anyone ever heard of this or anyone ever been through this he has final hearing on Friday anyone with experience of this or anyone have any tips and advice they have now both submitted very similar arrangements but his ex wants me out of the house I find it very confusing
Confised18 - 11-Dec-18 @ 9:23 PM
I am dieing from leukaemia I have roughly 8months to live make wish foundation that operates for children suffering from the same illness is tracking down my daughter for me .hopely they find her because I am on my last legs so to speak and then it will be good night Irene off to glory been a hellrasier in my youth so I might go to hell 50 50 chance been saying my Hail Marys lately don’t want to miss out on a technicality when I at the pearly gates .
Hughie - 6-Dec-18 @ 3:10 AM
Hi. Me and my ex are butting heads over access to our 7 year daughter. Cut a long story short he cheated with his now girlfriend. At first I was saying our child wasn't allowed no where near his new g.f but then I realised I was being unfair on our daughter so we came to agreement once they had been together 3 months they could meet and our child could start going to their house. She has been going now for 8 weeks but is not being cared for appropriately left alone she's been left with the new g.f not being monitored when eating so coming home starving. I said I'm not happy for her to be going to their house and mentioned court so now dad is refusing contact completely untill court. I'm nervous as hell about court who is allowed in? Is his g.f or family members? As we all don't get a long
Libby34 - 2-Dec-18 @ 12:37 AM
I have 2 wonderful kids who mean the world to me and since my split from my ex in may 16 I had the kids every weekend and I paid her every month without fail for the kids and they stay 36miles away from me.. In Oct 17 I got into a relationship so I decided to take kids every weekend apart from 1 weekend a month so I can have a bit of time for myself and she started accusing me of not wanting to spend time with the kids and she even went to CSA but CSA cut her money in half and now accuses me of not providing and now lawyers are involved and an agreement was drawn up but I have a feeling she will.reject it and i f she does will.it go to court?
Paddy - 10-Nov-18 @ 2:19 PM
@duffy.its f ing difficult situation when you said the child won't leave the car because she is 12 .my daughter is 14 and i haven't seen her sense she was 5 so could imagine she would feel the same who is this[ guy }.i should have went legal years ago when i first broke up with my daughters mother .now its just weird been to long .plus i am no one to her now and i am making trouble for myself and upsetting my daughters routine with her family .when she is a adult will be great time to meet .i [forgive myself] i did the [honourable thing] and tried my daughter would realise that it was her decision not to reply so[ i will respect her wishers ]because off the time frame .i feel better for it i did the right thing .as the mother did the right thing not wanting child support after she f my whole family and i thought she loved me ha ha she just used my house as a brothel free rent for her and her offspring .
chriso - 8-Nov-18 @ 9:18 PM
@con.yeah it’s time to go legal .i didn’t want to the mother of my daughter leaves me no other option .it was never my intention to hurt my daughters mother and play dirty tricks when we have a bad past and it could have excalated into something serous I didn’t want that but I just wanted to see my daughter alone with no interference from the mother her partner and family.
Artist - 5-Oct-18 @ 8:33 PM
Hi, I am currently attempting to go through mediation with my ex as she has been extremely difficult to deal with and is not allowing me to have any contact. There is a high chance she will not respond to the meditation. If she choses not to respond will it definitely then proceed to court? If it does go to court what would happen if my ex chose not to show up?
Con - 5-Oct-18 @ 1:09 PM
Ab - Your Question:
I got a letter from my ex who has his sons overnight two weekends out of four and sees them for 3 hours every Tuesday and Thursday saying he wants 50/50 residency. I have offered mediation but he said its 5050 or court. The kids have been seetled with this routine so I dont want to disrupt it. He said if we have to go to mediation it will only be for 50 50 and wont negotiate! What are my chances of it staying the way it is or do you think he will get 50/50 residency? Thanks

Our Response:
Much depends upon the circumstances surrounding your ex's application. We cannot predict what a court may decide. As in all cases, the court’s main concern is the welfare of the children in question. The court will always put the children’s best interests first and this main issue will determine the outcome of any application for an order. If for instance you and your ex had recently separated and he was previously the main carer, then he would stand a better chance of being granted 50-50 care than if he was not a fully hands-on dad before the split and is taking the matter to court without having good reason to.
SeparatedDads - 17-Jul-18 @ 10:34 AM
I got a letter from my ex who has his sons overnighttwo weekends out of four and sees them for 3 hours every Tuesday and Thursday saying he wants 50/50 residency. I have offered mediation but he said its 5050 or court. The kids have been seetled with this routine so i dont want to disrupt it. He said if we have to go to mediation it will only be for 50 50 and wont negotiate! What are my chances of it staying the way it is or do you think he will get 50/50 residency? Thanks
Ab - 16-Jul-18 @ 11:05 AM
after 5 years no contact order. being jailed breaches of a nasty restrain order , self litigant, costs etc new application. now in at court awaiting new hearing date. why do women do this, deny access after cheating
muz - 14-Jul-18 @ 3:42 PM
I have two daughters i went to see my girls she refused .I have been accused of punching my ex wife in the head and jumping on her back and bashing her father he is cop in small town .i was arrested and beaten in the back room off station where there is no cameras.and i was sentenced to 6 months jail released after 3.5 months .the thing is I never did what they said .but it’s on record will this affect my chance of see my girls.
Timmy - 4-Jul-18 @ 1:25 AM
My partner has recently filed to the courts to see if he can have more time with his children. Over a 14 night period he has them 2 nights a week. He is hoping to be granted 3 nights a week as his children visit once every other night in the week for tea and he is hoping to have a consistent week night in order for him to allow the children to engage in social activities such as Brownies and Scouts. His children have told us however that Mommy has told them that she is going to win and Daddy is only going to see them once a week. His ex is also stating he was domestically violent towards her however up until the last couple of months they had an okish relationship... I am worried sick for my partner as I have read so many negative things. What do you think the likelihood is that he will lose a night with his children and has anyone else had an accusation of DV when it never happened? The whole thing is so sad, I don't honestly know how my partner is coping.
Pembrey - 3-Jul-18 @ 11:36 PM
I am not able to talk to my child and see him and I have been blocked from my sons mother as we are not married .the last time I met my child was in January 2017 and after that she’s changed her school and address and I don’t know where they live as my sons mother is on benefits and I have been given her maintainance also but last 10 months I don’t know where they are and I would like to meet my son and get my rights to see him .as I am willing to come to London as they live in London but I don’t know their address and I would like an advice regarding how much it will cost me if take legal services and how long it will take for courts proceedings to get to see my child
Vic - 11-Jun-18 @ 9:25 PM
Well I'm taking my ex to court for a declaration of parentage she left me after getting pregnantthe last thing she said wasim pregnant get a stir done and its over. She may of cheated and I've been fighting this for a year now and I'm scared of what vile lies she will say about.... It sucks that dad's have no rights and something must be done about this as I'm fed up with fathers having no rights and losing everything because if a vile woman
Alroy - 4-Jun-18 @ 12:51 PM
Stannaq - Your Question:
I broke up with my ex wife due to her alleging DV, I was charged & acquitted in court.3 yrs later after lengthy treatment for a medical condition I wanted a Child arrangement order to see my two children I was quoted £7000-£11000, which I couldn't afford. As I studied some Law in my first degree, I took on the case myself.The ex had a specialist solicitor & barristers, I went to court & the judge was very sympathetic towards me & gave me supervised access. She was pissed as was her solicitor.2yrs & 6 court hearing later, I have got a final order for unsupervised access & I put in for various other orders which I successfully argued and got as well.CAFCASS have been brilliant and the judge was always on my side. It goes to show Single dad's can win as well.

Our Response:
Thanks for your comment. It is always good to hear when a non-resident parent makes a successful case. It can be a very emotional and stressful road, but if you think long term rather than short term then it help keeps things in perspective. It goes to show ' where there's a will, there is a way'. Best of luck.
SeparatedDads - 15-May-18 @ 9:55 AM
I broke up with my ex wife due to her alleging DV, I was charged & acquitted in court. 3 yrs later after lengthy treatment for a medical condition I wanted a Child arrangement order to see my two children I was quoted £7000-£11000, which I couldn't afford. As I studied some Law in my first degree, I took on the case myself. The ex had a specialist solicitor & barristers, I went to court & the judge was very sympathetic towards me & gave me supervised access. She was pissed as was her solicitor. 2yrs & 6 court hearing later, I have got a final order for unsupervised access & I put in for various other orders which I successfully argued and got as well. CAFCASS have been brilliant and the judge was always on my side. It goes to show Single dad's can win as well.
Stannaq - 14-May-18 @ 1:37 PM
I spilt up with kids mum 2014 end of She wanted me out of joint house so she could move in her bf she be cheating on me with which she told me andmy oldist son that he raped her which found out was a lie I took her court but court dont seem to listen to me only her even tho i stated it all about what kids want My oldist wants to c me100% as his my twin and were very very close but not seen him since jan last year for 20min when he explained how he got bruses on inner arms and inner cornersof lower knee caps
nick - 13-Apr-18 @ 10:45 PM
My husband wants a divorce we have a child together.Who is nearly 8 for the pass7and half years my husband has been in prison twice , mental health unit three times and rehab also coming back and forward when he wants from Birminghamas I live in London.Do not get on with his mother as she did not want us to get married.Also domestic violence, she dbeen on child protection and under safe. Got two other kids who he does not have contact with and a record as long as my two arms. Can I say he can see he in a contact centre not in birmingham.
Annie - 30-Mar-18 @ 6:53 AM
chris - Your Question:
I am going take your advise and see my doctor about counselling.to process my thoughts about my? X sleeping with my uncle ,brother,and others and not see my child.because I am not coping at all.Sorry for taking up so much space On your site over last few months.i realize now I am sick now.i will get professial help.sorry again

Our Response:
You are obviously struggling. Therefore, please seek professional help. It will help you to come to terms with your emotions and feelings. Please also see link here .
SeparatedDads - 5-Mar-18 @ 11:43 AM
I am going take your advise and see my doctor about counselling .to process my thoughts about my? X sleeping with my uncle ,brother,and others and not see my child .because i am not coping at all .Sorry for taking up so much space On your site over last few months .i realize now i am sick now .i will get professial help.sorry again
chris - 3-Mar-18 @ 4:15 PM
You honestly burnt the wrong man .you think I am like your other exs think again .think long hard about what you are doing .because what comes around goes around .if you think for minute I am anything like Gordon or whatever guy you with think again .i plans for you .
Chris - 3-Mar-18 @ 11:24 AM
3years ago my child was removed due to domestic violence for 2 yrs of that time I was denied contact with my daughter the only way was through the post mailman letting my daughter knowing I loved her my daughter is now residing with her paternal aunty on fathers side contact has been stopped again there was also an order put in place for contact what can I do
Goanna - 3-Mar-18 @ 2:51 AM
Hi I have just been to my first hearing at court to gain contact to be able to see my daughter. It got adjourned while I gather some information and reports of my dr and also organisations I am working with, I have also been asked to undertake a drugs test as in the past I have took drugs now and again and also smoke cannabis which I stopped last August. But the mother of my child doesn't believe that I have. I have looked about at costs for drugs tests which are out of my price range as not in work at the moment and also only have 3 weeks to gather the information. I was just wondering wether there is any other way to get it done or cheaper, even help with the costs. If any has any ideas I would be really grateful.
Dantheman - 12-Jan-18 @ 2:33 AM
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