What happens in a Family Court Hearing?
There are a range of different types of hearing, but the most common and probably the first hearing you will come across is an application having been made for an arrangement to spend time with your child/ren.
There are steps that take place before the hearing such as mediation and making the application, but assuming that you are asking this question because you are at the point of attending court, here is an explanation of what will generally take place.
You will have been given a time and date to attend. Usually about 2 weeks before then, you will receive a phone call from CAFCASS, who are in many respects the eyes and ears of the Judge. They will ask about the application, about your ex and what you see as the problems that the court will need to deal with. They will speak to your ex and ask the same questions. They will ask about drugs, alcohol and parenting abilities and any other potential issues from the relationship.
They then prepare a short report (not to be confused with a Section 7 Report which most people refer to as a CAFCASS Report. This short report is called a Safeguarding letter. It should also include mention of any Police involvement from your Police records.
On the day of your hearing, you attend court at the allotted time and you will be called in to speak to CAFCASS. It is usually a different officer than the one you spoke to by telephone. They will have the Safeguarding Letter and they will ask you about anything that may be relevant to the court, and they will attempt where possible to broker a deal between you and your ex. You may even both be called in together to arrange a deal. The ideal situation for the court is to deal with the case by both of you reaching agreement.
Following this meeting you will then wait to be called into court.
Usually nowadays you will find your case dealt with by Magistrates, unless the situation is more complex. You will discuss the situation and the Magistrates will have to consider how best to progress the case to a conclusion. Do they need drug or alcohol testing, do they need to see Police disclosure, do they need any other expert advice or evidence. Can they safely make some interim arrangements for you to see your child/ren before another hearing takes place, or is it possible to reach an agreement there and then.
The court at this stage are unable to impose things on you that you are unhappy about as they need to hear both sides of the story first. They may be able to gently probe the edges of any disagreement and point out obvious flaws in objections, but a lot depends on the quality of the Magistrates which in my experience is often medium to poor. It is rare to find a confident hard talking Magistrate that can plough their way through an intransigent parent.
Once the case has been discussed and can go no further, an order will be written explaining each step necessary, times and dates of time to spend with your child/ren and the date for the next hearing. (Unless a full agreement has been reached in which case a similar order is written setting out times and dates only.)
Obviously, this explanation can only be a general view as each case will have its own peculiarities which may go off on a tangent and change the direction of things.
If you are attending your first hearing, it would be a wise move to book a consultation with Simon Walland to explain things more closely related to your situation.
In addition, a Position Statement is in 99% of cases a very good idea so that you are able to make everything clear in a logical way and use your words more effectively to persuade the court to lean your way.
Simon Walland has been dealing with Family Court cases for 19 years and will be able to point you in the right direction via a telephone consultation, or to assist in preparing your paperwork for each hearing.
Self-representation is not impossible with the right guidance, and Simon Walland will provide that so that you can approach your hearings with confidence and knowledge of what is likely to happen and what you need to do to help things go in the direction that you want them to.