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What Happens at Family Court?

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 28 May 2020 |
 
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]
@bill337.it will be only (extreme )if they turn up at my (funeral or ever come near me)I have let or go I just don’t want (dogs)near me or at my funeral .if you new the circumstances you would totally agree.they did the (unspeakable )never to be (forgiven )I am no child anymore and will never surround myself with (dogs)as a men .
C.laurie - 28-May-20 @ 2:22 AM
@c.laurie, that is very extreme. its unhealthy to be that bitter and have so much hatred. try to let it go.
bill337 - 27-May-20 @ 10:44 PM
And I have also stated that( gordon watson, penny watson and none of the johnsonsbig Tyson bree laurie sam bournes are not welcome at my funeral).and will have people on the (door) if they show up and I told them to (fight) if they show up I made them (promise) because I am a f ing( laurie) we will fight at your wedding funeral or anywhere .And they would do me proud if they fought at my funeral if those bastards so up .to have those bastards at my funeral would be a insult to my character.
C.laurie - 23-May-20 @ 10:32 PM
I won’t be going to court for rights ,the child in question is 16 now .i got everything of my (chest )what I wanted to say .now i realise I will pass before ever seeing the child that’s gods truth .now if her (stupid mother) reads this they are (not f ing welcome at my funeral and same for her daughter )she is 16 and She made her choice she picked her (mother and step father so f her two) .and if they do show up my brothers will kick them out that’s (gods truth ).i have stated to my family they are not welcome .(and while I am still alive they best keep they distance ).
C.laurie - 23-May-20 @ 9:57 PM
@Worldsbestaunt - usually a court will change residency of kids for serious reasons. for example if the resident parent has been neglecting child, like hardly taking him/her to school. child is at physical risk of harm/abuse etc. how old is the child?
bill337 - 23-May-20 @ 12:10 PM
@Dee. have you spoken to Cafcass officer during court hearings? has a section 7 report been done? if I were you I would hire a barrister for your hearing, and challenge this silly idea of only sending cards and gifts to child.
bill337 - 23-May-20 @ 12:05 PM
@Hayley - your ex is being silly and unreasonable. I have court order and I have to return kids at 5pm. I would like it to be later, like 7pm, but ex not interested. there is a chance this may be settled at the first court hearing, if both of you agree. if you don't agree, then it will go to round 2 and possible 3! generally the court process can last about 4-6 months.
bill337 - 23-May-20 @ 12:03 PM
Can some one help me, I was seeing my kids every other week and then the mother stoped it for no reason, I had my interim hearing and the court made a order were I can only send them letter and gift, I wasn’t happy about it just because the mum said the kids don’t want any contact which was false now I’ve got a another hearing in 5 week which is long, Does any body know what will happen in the next hearing as I want to see my kids??
Dee - 11-May-20 @ 8:02 PM
Hi all, Could you please tell me how to register on the forum. I tried twice but haven't received confirmation email. Any idea how to resolve that?
Chris1983 - 24-Apr-20 @ 12:17 PM
My partner has recently decided he wants to take me to court as he doesn't agree with the time which he bringing the children back, I work shifts. I have never stopped his contact he was having an affair and currently lives with the woman the only thing I have asked is that he doesn't introduce the kids until it is a serious relationship of 6 months or more is this to much ask? The return time of the children is 19:30 he keeps just turning up as and when he pleases. Has anyone else been in this situation? My kids are only 3 and 8 months old and I'm worried about how long this process will take because my 8 months old by the end won't know who he is? Can anyone give me any advice. Thanks
Hayley - 23-Apr-20 @ 12:46 PM
My wi submitted pitition in family court under sectio ?? a after month I find some paper which is written by hir ownhand writtingand so many squasingfoundin pitition
Pawan - 17-Mar-20 @ 3:26 PM
Violence,squashed nose, all cartlidge replaced.3 big ops. Damaged hip, ? I wasn't allowed,,my opinion on I was thinking keep our home . He had loadsa affairs for over twenty years. I wasn't allowed money.7 weeks beore he left he coerced me into signing to take out Equity to,pay of the mortgage.All planned. He left to move in with a widow . House paid o Off. He is £600.00 better off a month, it's taken 70 grand away from the settlement. All coerced and planed. X Pq
Hinge - 24-Jan-20 @ 11:22 PM
What happens? Well, if you're a father, the court and cafcass enable your ex to legally kidnap your children. I've seen my son a week in the last year, my daughter two days in the last two months. No criminal record, no abuse, no violence. I've endured over ten years of hearings. I've got evidence of corrupt judges, evidence of unlicenced social workers who lie on oath as a matter of course. They'll give you an order that means nothing, that they themselves admit they won't enforce. It is a huge money and misery-go-round. They will ruin your life and they will damage your children. If you haven't started yet, walk away before they drive you to suicide.
one who knows - 5-Sep-19 @ 8:42 AM
I neex some advice on how to start off a final statement. I'm fighting for my granddaughter through courts as the LA want her up for adoption, I have failed my iva. But I have been given party status for this case & not to sure what I'm supposed to be putting in final statement. Thank you
Charlie - 24-Aug-19 @ 11:39 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 @ 8:51 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
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