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

What Happens at Family Court?

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 14 May 2018 |
 
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]
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
Goanna - Your Question:
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

Our Response:
If your child's guardians have stopped access and a court order is in place allowing you access, then you would have to refer the matter back to court (if the guardians will not resolve the issue between you or via mediation) 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 - 5-Mar-18 @ 1:58 PM
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
@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
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