Home > The Court Process > What Happens at Family Court?

What Happens at Family Court?

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 7 Dec 2017 |
 
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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[Add a Comment]
@Beehive bun- if you want to make sure you get a fair hearing then yes, otherwise the court can decide without you.
TaBV - 7-Dec-17 @ 3:42 PM
Hi I know of a court date that has been set for a hearing for access to my children, I am representing myself but as off yet I haven't received any direction from the court to attend. Do I have to attend because I can't get the day off work!?
Beehive bun - 7-Dec-17 @ 12:58 PM
Hi I'm asking this question on behalf of my son he and his expartner are due to appear this comming Monday in court for an appeal however his ex partner is trying to delay this by saying she is unable to attend court as she is unwell with all the stress of the proceedings and my son has been told that he will still have to pay his barristers cost of £1800 if the court needs to postpone can the appeal still go ahead with one party attending
Paul - 5-Dec-17 @ 3:14 PM
@DARREN - can you put your caps-lock off when you ask a question. You'll have to attend mediation first before you'll be allowed to apply to court. If your ex turns you down then you can apply to court. You're doing the right thing. The court will then decide whether you can see the kids, she'll have no say.
MattR - 31-Oct-17 @ 3:08 PM
Hi I'm in the process of getting my parental responsibility for my beautiful daughter who I've not seen now for four months, she's five months old, I got acquitted for domestic violence but I've got a non molestation order against me for the same reasons as her original statement, I didn't have the funds to fight this in court because I wanted to use my money to fight for a residence or contact order in court, now my question is can my ex use the same tactics in court and bring up the charges of domestic violence against me or will the court dismisse them??? I've done nothing wrong and I just want to be with my daughter
Frankie - 30-Oct-17 @ 10:21 PM
HOPING FOR SOME HELP. I HAVE HAD REGULAR ACCESS TO MY TWINS (BOY & GIRL) AGED 6, ALTERNATE SUNDAY,AT THERE RESIDENCE DURING THE DAY WITH NO FREEDOM TO SPEND QUALITY TIME AWAY FROM THERE HOME UNTIL RECENTLY. IM ALLOWED TO TAKE THEM IN THE LOCAL AREA IE THE PARK,PLAY GYM. THIS HAS BEEN THE "ARRANGEMENT" FOR 3 YEARS NOW AND I ASKED TODAY FOR MORE ACCESS AND WORLD WAR 3 ERUPTED,INC HER FAMILY. UPSETTING THE CHILDREN SO I LEFT TO PROTECT THEM. THE MOTHER REPEATEDLY TELLS THE CHILDREN LIES TO INFLUENCE THEM INC. MY OTHER CHILDREN ARE NO RELATION TO THEM, THEY ARE NOT SIBLINGS, THAT WHEN THE RELATIONSHIP ENDED " YOU CHOSE TO LEAVE US", "ITS ALL YOUR FAULT".ALL I WISH IS TO SEE MY CHILDREN ON A REGULAR BASIS AT MY HOME WITH NO MALICE BETWEEN US AS PARENTS FOR THE CHILDREN TO HAVE BOTH OF US TO BE AMICABLE FOR THERE SAKE. I AM APPLYING TO THE COURT TOMORROW TO ACCEPT A CONTACT ORDER AND DOING AS MUCH RESEARCH AS POSSIBLE TO PROVIDE WHAT THEY NEED TO MAKE THE APPLICATION. THERES NO ORDERS, NO REASONS FOR THIS ORDER NOT TO BE GRANTED.THE ONLY WORRY I HAVE IS THE MOTHER IS BITTER AND DOESNT LIKE THE FACT I MOVED ON.
DARREN - 29-Oct-17 @ 8:46 PM
Hi my ex stopped me from seeing my daughter the last time I saw her was the 29 June 2017 I tried going for mediation she contacted the centre then nothing was heard from her, so I had to get a solicitor and start things rolling this was on the 24 July 2017. I live in England my ex in Scotland so I contacted a solicitor in Perth I went to my solicitors for the first meeting, now everything is done by email and phone calls I've filled all the forms I'm gettinglegally aid my solicitor mentioned it would cost around £2000 I've talked to my solicitor four times by phone and she's talked to my niece ( who used to babysit for my daughter )once, and have had 3 emails the first phone call from my solicitorwent ok but at the end she mentioned that this will probably cost around £10,000. I've never been in this position before or used solicitors but I find this strange. It's now the 23 October 2017 I've had no word from my solicitor or any body. I've not seen my daughter for 4 months now I used to have regular contact and id have her overnight since she was born she is 3 in November . I don't know what's going on and I'm worried about phoning my solicitor and don't seem like I'm hassle information her any advise would be appreciated Thanks
Clint - 23-Oct-17 @ 10:22 PM
My sister has been taken to court by her ex partner 2 times now and he is taking her to court again in November. He hasn’t abided by any of the rules that was given to him. How many chances does he get? He don’t pay anything to the child and he was stated he had to see him in a contact centre, any advice please
Lucyhannah95 - 18-Oct-17 @ 11:16 AM
deee - Your Question:
My partner threatens me that he will take my children to court to state (PR) parental responsibility if I don't stay with him, he is disabled and suffers with a few conditions. I on the other hand am stable and a loving mother and no longer deal with the threats Can someone answer my question? What will happen if this matter was taken to family courts.

Our Response:
Your partner will not be able to apply directly to the family courts without applying to try to resolve any issues you have between you via mediation first. Mediation must be considered before the courts will allow any application for an order, please see link here .
SeparatedDads - 9-Oct-17 @ 2:22 PM
My partner threatens me that he will take my children to courtto state (PR) parental responsibility ifI don't stay with him, he is disabled and suffers with a few conditions. I on the other hand am stable and a loving mother and no longer deal with the threats Can someone answer my question? What will happen if this matter was taken to family courts.
deee - 8-Oct-17 @ 8:58 PM
Mama bear - Your Question:
My son is going to court as he hadn't seen his children since February he's tried everything. Supervised contact she didn't respond mediation she didn't respond and hes representing himself as we can't afford a solicitor. The date is this Friday 29/9/17 if she again doesn't turn up what will happen ? As paying out for court etc is expensive.

Our Response:
It's a tricky question to answer without knowing the full circumstances. However, as a rule, if the party who does not attend is the respondent, the court may proceed with the hearing in that parent's absence if it is satisfied that the respondent received reasonable notice of the hearing and if the circumstances of the case justify proceeding with the hearing. However, if the court cannot proceed with a hearing, it can penalise the respondent by ordering them to pay the other party's costs of the hearing and or order them to attend court at another date.
SeparatedDads - 28-Sep-17 @ 12:03 PM
My son is going to court as he hadn't seen his children since February he's tried everything . Supervised contact she didn't respond mediation she didn't respond and hes representing himself as we can't afford a solicitor.The date is this Friday 29/9/17 if she again doesn't turn up what will happen ? As paying out for court etc is expensive.
Mama bear - 27-Sep-17 @ 5:56 PM
Chez - Your Question:
My husband is telling me that if I carry on with divorce that he will be my sons main carer allowing me to see him but he will make all decisions.I have not be able to find another job as Family support worker since being made redundant.my main role has been mother and have just given up my lace at uni as he threatened to quit work and take over the job that I was doing at home. I feel it's emotional abuse. My husband works hard from 7 until7 own business and earns a great deal. I believe it's a case of financial control. I have no money but savings for my car and been told I can't claim benefits. I have done all appointments school runs holiday care and care for my son and am devastated but scared as he tried to stop his ex wife from having residence. His two children come here aged19 and 16 every other weekend I cook and clean for them they don't not speak to me for approx four years. Will the court remove my son from my care as he has all the finances job etc.

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. The court will not remove your child from your care if you do not have finances. If you are the day-to-day carer of your child, then it is more likely you would be awarded continued care of your son. You would also be awarded half or maybe more of the equity and finances you and your husband own through marriage. If you feel you are being emotionally bullied, then I suggest you ask for guidance and help through the likes of Woman's Aid, please see link here. However, please also be aware that as two people have parental responsible, they are both responsible for having equal care of the child, please see link here. As in all cases, the court’s main concern is the welfare of the child in question. The court will always put the child’s best interests first and this main issue will determine the outcome of any application for an order.
SeparatedDads - 11-Sep-17 @ 12:25 PM
My husband is telling me that if i carry on with divorce that he will be my sons main carer allowing me to see him but he will make all decisions.I have not be able to find another job as Family support worker since being made redundant.my main role has been mother and have just given up my lace at uni as he threatened to quit work and take over the job that I was doing at home . I feel it's emotional abuse. My husband works hard from 7 until7 own business and earns a great deal . I believe it's a case of financial control . I have no money but savings for my car and been told I can't claim benefits. I have done all appointments school runs holiday care and care for my son and am devastated but scared as he tried to stop his ex wife from having residence. His two children come here aged19and 16 every other weekend I cook and clean for them they don't not speak to me for approx four years. Will the court remove my son from my care as he has all the finances job etc.
Chez - 10-Sep-17 @ 12:15 PM
Georgia - Your Question:
My friends ex wants to take him to court to have his children every other weekend but he works every weekend as he is in hospitality. He has them 3 days a week already and will lose his job if he has to have them on the weekend. Can his ex take him to court about it and who would win? He is rather worried about not being able to provide and live if he has to have them every other weekend

Our Response:
It is unlikely a court will let your friend's ex apply before mediation is explored first. Mediation is a way of trying to resolve such issues before the matter goes to court.
SeparatedDads - 7-Sep-17 @ 9:55 AM
My friends ex wants to take him to court to have his children every other weekend but he works every weekend as he is in hospitality. He has them 3 days a week already and will lose his job if he has to have them on the weekend. Can his ex take him to court about it and who would win? He is rather worried about not being able to provide and live if he has to have them every other weekend
Georgia - 6-Sep-17 @ 2:02 PM
My ex keeps trying to force me to court about Child Maintenance. What would happen if I just carried on with usual transfers and didn't show up to the audience?
Tom - 11-Aug-17 @ 8:37 PM
I've married in customary law,my husband lost a job recently and took his pension to spent with girlfriends, he Neva sleeps in our house anymore and I'm afraid we might be thrown out cos the bond wasn't paidup ,can I take him to court for me to have the share of his money to raise our two little kids age 10 n 7
MaB - 31-Jul-17 @ 11:33 AM
Ryanm- Your Question:
I have filed a court application to take my ex to court for proper arrangements with our two children. I attempted to set up mediation but she would not attend and has told me if I take her to court she simply won't show up. Will the courts do anything to ensure she must turn up?

Our Response:
If you have proof your ex has informed you she will not turn up, then you should present this to your solicitor or the court as evidence. The court may adjourn the case, but it can also decide to issue a contact order in her absence. The contact order will come with a warning that she has to keep to the order or she will be in contempt of court.
SeparatedDads - 7-Jul-17 @ 11:18 AM
I have filed a court application to take my ex to court for proper arrangements with our two children. I attempted to set up mediation but she would not attend and has told me if I take her to court she simply won't show up. Will the courts do anything to ensure she must turn up?
Ryanm - 6-Jul-17 @ 4:59 PM
seanp25 - Your Question:
I've separated with my ex last year she is refusing me contact as I smoke some cannabis most weekends it isn't anywhere near my home or my son ever, I work full time and have my own home I've never been violent never raised my hand, the break up was quite bad from both party's I've apologised tried to be as nice as possible but she still refused most likely it will go to court after her refusing mediation and contact centers, I know the cannabis wont help my case but it doesn't affect my day to day life or how I care for my child, I was just wondering what your opinion on my situation would be and if there's anything I could do?

Our Response:
You are correct when you say that smoking cannabis will not help your case. Attitudes to cannabis vary and occasional use may not be considered detrimental to a contact application but most judges do not ‘approve’ of any illegal drug use, especially hard drugs. This does not necessarily mean that the court will not order some form of contact and it can order drug testing where it deems appropriate. The 'anything I could do' would be to stop smoking cannabis so that it does not affect your relationship with your child and your application for contact. The court will always put what it thinks is in the best interests of your child first when making any decision with regards to contact or access. Before awarding access/contact, the court will also want to be sure that it thinks you as a parent does too.
SeparatedDads - 4-Jul-17 @ 11:19 AM
I've separated with my ex last year she is refusing me contact as I smoke some cannabis most weekends it isn't anywhere near my home or my son ever, i work full time and have my own home I've never been violent never raised my hand, the break up was quite bad from both party's I've apologised tried to be as nice as possible but she still refused most likely it will go to court after her refusing mediation and contact centers, i know the cannabis wont help my case but it doesn't affect my day to day life or how I care for my child, i was just wondering what your opinion on my situation would be and if there's anything I could do?
seanp25 - 3-Jul-17 @ 4:47 PM
Shell - Your Question:
Not a father but a mam, can I tske my 5 yr old daughters dad to court and force him to have Contact with her? He lets her down so many times and I cant temember the last time he seen her, must be at least 7 weeks. He arranged with me and our daughter that he would pick her up from school one time.and never.i had to run down there 20 mins after school finished to pick my heartbroken daughter up. He rings now and again and tells her he'll pivk her up and she can sleep at his house but never shows, thetes alwsys some excuse.

Our Response:
You cannot force an unwilling parent to have contact with their child, neither would a court attempt to force this.
SeparatedDads - 8-May-17 @ 2:51 PM
Not a father but a mam, can i tske my 5 yr old daughters dad to court and force him to have Contact with her? He lets her down so many times and i cant temember the last time he seen her, must be at least 7 weeks. He arranged with me and our daughter that he would pick her up from school one time...and never...i had to run down there 20 mins after school finished to pick my heartbroken daughter up. He rings now and again and tells her he'll pivk her up and she can sleep at his house but never shows, thetes alwsys some excuse.
Shell - 8-May-17 @ 12:17 AM
MissP - Your Question:
My son's child's mother passed away 4years ago. Every since the day of the funeral the maternal grandparent has been reluctant to allow my son to have a relationship with the child who will soon be 5. They live in another state. Our families are connected so on occasions they have come to our state. They don't stop? him from talking or holding the child but they keep close guard as if my son might take the child off. Which he might would but don't.Now the maternal grandmother has petition the court to have my son turn over his rights. According to reading if he doesn't have do so he's subject to pay for all the legal fees associated with their petition.We don't have money for a lawyer or any other legal representation but a family court date has been set for him to answer to the petition.What can we expect to take place and what is his rights.Thanks

Our Response:
I'm afraid US law is very different to UK family law. If you are based in the US, we cannot answer your question because UK laws don't apply.
SeparatedDads - 2-May-17 @ 12:50 PM
Mattblues90 - Your Question:
Looking for some advice please. My ex has stopped me from seeing my son. We have a very volatile past. I've never laid a finger on her but we've argued and the police have been called and me being charged with threatening behaviour. Anyhow that was a couple of years ago and things had been fine and we had moved forward with things. However my ex has met a new guy and informed me that I needed to contact courts in order to gain access to my son. She seemed to think that I wouldn't and I left her for a few weeks to calm down and tried talking to her but all of it fell on deaf ears. I've got a meeting with mediation on the it 8th of this month, she has no interest in turning up so what is the process after the meeting?

Our Response:
If your ex doesn't attend the meeting, then this will give you the green light to apply to court. If you have been seeing your son regularly up until recently and there have been no recent 'domestic; issues then the court is likely to reinstate access. Once the order is in place, both you and your ex will have to fully adhere to it.
SeparatedDads - 2-May-17 @ 12:12 PM
My son's child's mother passed away 4years ago. Every since the day of the funeral the maternal grandparent has been reluctant to allow my son to have a relationship with the child who will soon be 5. They live in another state. Our families are connected so on occasions they have come to our state. They don't stop? him from talking or holding the childbut they keep close guard as if my son might take the child off. Which he might would but don't. Now the maternal grandmother has petition the court to have my son turn over his rights. According to reading if he doesn't have do so he's subject to pay for all the legal fees associated with their petition. We don't have money for a lawyer or any other legal representation but a family court date has been set for him to answer to the petition. What can we expect to take place and what is his rights. Thanks
MissP - 1-May-17 @ 11:12 PM
Looking for some advice please. My ex has stopped me from seeing my son. We have a very volatile past. I've never laid a finger on her but we've argued and the police have been called and me being charged with threatening behaviour. Anyhow that was a couple of years ago and things had been fine and we had moved forward with things. However my ex has met a new guy and informed me that I needed to contact courts in order to gain access to my son. She seemed to think that I wouldn't and I left her for a few weeks to calm down and tried talking to her but all of it fell on deaf ears.I've got a meeting with mediation on the it 8th of this month, she has no interest in turning up so what is the process after the meeting?
Mattblues90 - 1-May-17 @ 7:35 PM
Went to court yesterday my ex wants to change my so surname amongst other things. Agreed too a few said no to others. Parental rights were never brought up before in any correspondents from either side so I never looked into it. I might add the represented myself incourt. Atthe interview before the court I was asked about giving up my parental rights, I asked what does that mean, she said that I would not be able to take my son out of school etc. So I said ok if it makes things easier. Will have to go back to court after my son is interviewed in 13 weeks. After I got home I looked up parental rights I was horrified to find out what I gave up. It's Saturday today as im writing this so can't do or call any solicitors until Monday. My question is does everything that happens in court naw in effect or can I go back to them and basically change my mind regarding parental rights. I have received any documents from the court after the hearing as yet. Help I don't now what is the right way out of the mess.
help - 4-Mar-17 @ 4:43 PM
Went to court yesterday my ex wants to change my so surname amongst other things. Agreed too a few said no to others. Parental rights were never brought up before in any correspondents from either side so I never looked into it. I might add the represented myself incourt. Atthe interview before the court I was asked about giving up my parental rights, I asked what does that mean, she said that I would not be able to take my son out of school etc. So I said ok if it makes things easier. Will have to go back to court after my son is interviewed in 13 weeks. After I got home I looked up parental rights I was horrified to find out what I gave up. It's Saturday today as im writing this so can't do or call any solicitors until Monday. My question is does everything that happens in court naw in effect or can I go back to them and basically change my mind regarding parental rights. I have received any documents from the court after the hearing as yet. Help I don't now what is the right way out of the mess.
help - 4-Mar-17 @ 4:41 PM
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