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What Happens at the Family Court?

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 8 Jul 2019 |
 
Court Family Expect Lawyer Hearing Case

All sorts of family hearings are heard at the family court, ranging from contact, residence, adoption and local authority care. Some family courts are heard in magistrates courts, others are in dedicated family courts centres (usually in larger towns and cities.) Family court hearings are generally less formal than, say criminal cases, in that the barristers are not wearing wigs and gowns, and the style of the hearing is less legalistic than other types of hearings. Of course, that does not mean that you should treat the family court with any less respect – it is still a court environment.

Getting To Court

Courts often sit at 10.00am or 10.30am. Either way, you should arrive in good time, especially if you are meeting your lawyer beforehand. Always attend your hearings, unless you have explicitly been excluded from having to go along, for example if it’s just a directions hearing that the lawyers need to attend.

On Arrival

When you get to the family court, do not be surprised to see other people sitting around waiting. You should make yourself known to the court usher, who is a man or woman usually wearing a gown and holding a clipboard. Tell them your name and they will mark you down as being in attendance. If your lawyer is already at court, they may introduce you to them if you haven’t met them before, or tell you where you can find them.

Your Case

Often the court will list several hearings which are called on in the order in which they are ready to proceed. Your first hearing is very unlikely to be your last – as normally you will have a preliminary hearing in which directions are given about evidence, statements of case, and deadlines for when documents need to be served.

The Media

All family court hearings are private. This means that although members of the press may be in court and report on hearings, they cannot name the parties in the case or anyone else involved in the proceedings.

Effective Hearings

If you are at court for your effective hearing, the applicant or their lawyer will open the case. The applicant is the person making the application, and the respondent is the person opposing it. At the beginning the applicant will make an opening statement about the case and why they are making the application. The respondent will then have a chance to tell the court why they oppose the application. The magistrates, or the judge, will then ask questions if they need to clarify anything and one or both sides may give evidence on their own behalf, and/or call witnesses.

Conduct In The Family Court

Regardless of whether you are represented or not, you should always treat court staff, lawyers and the tribunal hearing the case with respect. For those who are representing themselves in court, in particular, it can be a stressful and nerve-wracking experience. Without exception, though, if you are calm, polite, and controlled in the way that you approach the whole process you will undoubtedly command more respect and authority than someone who loses their temper. Yes, it can be hard if you’re fighting over your children, your livelihood or something else that you feel passionately about – but a calm exterior can do wonders for your case! It is possible to bring a friend or family member with you for support, but make sure that you have cleared this with the court first. You can ask your lawyer to do this for you, if you have one.

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Hi. My partner has to attend court soon as he is in the finacial negation stage of divorce. He suffered extreme emotional abuse during the marriage and she has now alienated his children from him aswell. He has changed his entire lifestyle to avoid this person and has not seen or spoke to her directly for a year so he is very worried about being in the court room with her as he is extremely intimidated. Can his solicitor who is dealing with his case represent him in court instead? If not, can his solicitor be present at least and speak for him?
Jenni - 29-Jun-19 @ 6:50 PM
Hi i would like some advice on changing my sons surname. His father has rarely seen him and pays very little child maintenance. I would like his name changed to mine so him and my daughter have the same surname throughout school. his father has refused consent. He is now leaving the country to immigrate to Australia. What should my next move be. I'm a single mother and cannot afford the court fees. And if it does get to family court what happens if the father doesn't turn up
Mcp - 6-Mar-19 @ 11:33 AM
Hi I’m looking for some advice I haven’t yet make any court proceedings against the father of my daughter however I’d like to know what I should do for the best we have been separated since she was around 2 weeks old he has been present in her life ever since to this date however I’ve become tiered of his ways towards he he doesn’t pay anything to support me with her when he would come visit he would be sat on his phone or watch tv barely acknowledging her presence only in the past few weeks has he agreed to come to my home to collect her take her out and then return her later in the day last week he did that for the first time and was gone no more than 45 minutes and only drove down the road to a local McDonald’s and could bring her home fast enough however he pays a substantial amount per month for his son on top of Amy money the mother asks to borrow he also provides anything else his son needs and spends full days and occasionally a full weekend with his son at the mothers house so I’m looking for advice on what I should do and if I take him to court what should I expect
Ifemi - 28-Jan-19 @ 8:13 PM
Hi I’m looking for some advice I haven’t yet make any court proceedings against the father of my daughter however I’d like to know what I should do for the best we have been separated since she was around 2 weeks old he has been present in her life ever since to this date however I’ve become tiered of his ways towards he he doesn’t pay anything to support me with her when he would come visit he would be sat on his phone or watch tv barely acknowledging her presence only in the past few weeks has he agreed to come to my home to collect her take her out and then return her later in the day last week he did that for the first time and was gone no more than 45 minutes and only drove down the road to a local McDonald’s and could bring her home fast enough however he pays a substantial amount per month for his son on top of Amy money the mother asks to borrow he also provides anything else his son needs and spends full days and occasionally a full weekend with his son at the mothers house so I’m looking for advice on what I should do and if I take him to court what should I expect
Ifemi - 28-Jan-19 @ 8:13 PM
Hi my son is going to court soon as his ex has breach the contact order any advise on what to say or do would be of great help. he has been advised by court staff to add us to the order as we had had contact until now Please help can not afford legal help and legal aid doesn't cover this
mad - 5-Mar-18 @ 3:38 PM
During my child arrangement order application I gave my statement. My son then gave his. I wasn't given an opportunity to respond to his statement, which I considered false. I tried but the magistrate told me I'd had my chance to speak. I was denied the application. Do I have a right to appeal?
Wendy - 21-Feb-18 @ 9:49 PM
Lou Lou- Your Question:
My husband and I divorced in 2012 and we separated in 2004. He has not paid any child maintenance or his share of the mortgage since 2010 and he has also run a debt of £12,500 on this house. I want to sell but he is demanding a substantial amount of the profits from this house with no mention of the debts child care etc. I have an email dated February 2012 where he has said that he would only claim on what the house was worth then and share the profit from that date. Is this legally binding - can I take him to court and represent myself? What's the procedure. Please help???

Our Response:
Only if you cannot agree between you and/or if you cannot agree via mediation should you apply to court (as court will cost). However, if your ex has never paid child maintenance (you haven't explained why) and run up debt on the house and not contributed to the mortgage, then this should be factored in. Therefore, legal advice is recommended here is order to explore your full options.
CourtroomAdvice - 16-Jan-18 @ 10:13 AM
My husband and I divorced in 2012 and we separated in 2004.He has not paid any child maintenance or his share of the mortgage since 2010 and he has also run a debt of £12,500 on this house.I want to sell but he is demanding a substantial amount of the profits from this house with no mention of the debts child care etc.. I have an email dated February 2012 where he has said that he would only claim on what the house was worth then and share the profit from that date.Is this legally binding - can I take him to court and represent myself?What's the procedure.. Please help???
Lou Lou - 15-Jan-18 @ 3:46 PM
Lozz - Your Question:
Hi I've taken my ex husband to court a couple of years ago regarding our property we have together. I am currently living in the property and have paid all the mortgage etc since he left 9 years ago. I wanted him to come off the mortgage so the courts ordered me to pay him £7000 within a year or I would have to sell the property and give him 25% of the profit!!! After the court hearing I found out he had put 3 CCJs against the property. We discussed this and he agreed to arrange with the companies to pay the CCJs off then I would give him his money. I messaged him constantly asking if he had paid them and he kept telling me he was dealing with it! A year passed and he turned round and said "ha ha your year is up you have to sell the house now and give me 25%" I'm fuming with him cos I had the money for him but he obviously had planned this. Is there anyway I can take him back to court even though I'm now in breach of the court order.

Our Response:
Yes, you can apply to take the matter to court, if you have evidence of this agreement you made (even texts or emails). Any changes to a court order must be agreed by both parties. One party cannot unilaterally decide to change the order or apply additional terms. If they wish to do so, they will need to refer the matter back to the courts. However, if you both agreed and you can prove that your ex deliberately stalled, then you may have a case to answer. Further legal advice is needed here.
CourtroomAdvice - 11-Jan-18 @ 10:12 AM
Hi I've taken my ex husband to court a couple of years ago regarding our property we have together. I am currently living in the property and have paid all the mortgage etc since he left 9 years ago. I wanted him to come off the mortgage so the courts ordered me to pay him £7000 within a year or I would have to sell the property and give him 25% of the profit!!! After the court hearing I found out he had put 3 CCJs against the property. We discussed this and he agreed to arrange with the companies to pay the CCJs off then I would give him his money. I messaged him constantly asking if he had paid them and he kept telling me he was dealing with it! A year passed and he turned round and said "ha ha your year is up you have to sell the house now and give me 25%" I'm fuming with him cos I had the money for him but he obviously had planned this. Is there anyway I can take him back to court even though I'm now in breach of the court order.
Lozz - 10-Jan-18 @ 3:23 PM
A court hearing has been arranged for a date when I am working away. I'm self employed and can't afford to either lose the job or travel 300 miles home , and then go back. Can I get it put back a week or so?
Gillsteve - 8-Nov-17 @ 8:05 PM
Hi I've got a ongoing court case to try and get access to my daughter I have been accused off d.v But from what I understand they take her word as gospel how do I go about trying to disprove thatand if I can't what's the likely hood of me beingdenied access ?
Kk - 29-Oct-17 @ 5:30 PM
Anne - Your Question:
My partner went to court earlier this year as he wanted to maintain the 50/50 custody that he'd had for the previous two years. In court his ex said that she was changing her hours of work and the court decided to give her custody of the children during the week based on this as they were better off with mother than grandmother. She hasn't changed her hours and we believe she lied in court - is there anything that we can do about it?

Our Response:
In the first instance you should request mediation in order to try to resolve the matter out of court given her hours have not changed. If your partner's ex refuses, then your partner would have to take the matter back to court. Alternatively, a carefully worded solicitor's letter also may also prompt your partner's ex into revising the arrangement back to the previous order if the ruling was based purely on the change of hours.
CourtroomAdvice - 3-Aug-17 @ 2:55 PM
My partner went to court earlier this year as he wanted to maintain the 50/50 custody that he'd had for the previous two years.In court his ex said that she was changing her hours of work and the court decided to give her custody of the children during the week based on this as they were better off with mother than grandmother. She hasn't changed her hours and we believe she lied in court - is there anything that we can do about it?
Anne - 2-Aug-17 @ 9:11 PM
I have just had a Final Hearing in my divorce financial remedy. Are. My husband has not complied throughout the proceedings. The judge was favourable to me. My husband did not show up at Final Hearing and is now requesting to appeal. He has also broken several aspects of the order. What should I ask the court to do? It's the County Court or do I ask after I find out if he is allowed to appeal?
Elaine - 14-Jun-17 @ 10:34 PM
I am going to family court in may due to disputing allegations made with what what stated on the divorce papers. It would have been simple for my x to have stated we have been apart for a considerable time but he did not. My health has been poor since his departure 4 years ago. He left just after our 4th ivf was meant to commence and also did not tell me he had a vasectomy before entering our marriage. I really could not cope if we brought his new partner with him to court as I believe he left me for her. Ideally I do not wish to see either of them due to not being strong enough to cope?
H - 1-Apr-17 @ 10:42 AM
Benny - Your Question:
Hi I have a child arrangements order made in my favour to safeguard my 15 year old son He keeps running back to his mother whom he was removed from for abuse and neglect.Now he and his mother have concocted a lie accusing my wife of 15 years of assaulting him in order for him to stay awayThe police and social services are investigating the allegations and the police officer informed us it won't go anywhere However the police or social services will not help in returning him home He's currently been gone 3 weeks and now social services are telling me I'm in breach of the order as I'm not safeguarding him.I explained we are trying but we can't keep him safe if they won't return him but they aren't interested.This whole situation is causing massive amounts of stress on myself and the rest of my family including 2 other kids 1 of whom has brain damage.Please help

Our Response:
If you have a residency order for your son, then you can get the police involved to have him returned. However, if the police are refusing this, there is little you can do if an investigation is taking place. If social services are conflicting this by accusing you of not safeguarding your son, you can complain, please see CAB link here.
CourtroomAdvice - 21-Dec-16 @ 12:26 PM
Hi I have a child arrangements order made in my favour to safeguard my 15 year old son He keeps running back to his mother whom he was removed from for abuse and neglect. Now he and his mother have concocted a lie accusing my wife of 15 years of assaulting him in order for him to stay away The police and social services are investigating the allegations and the police officer informed us it won't go anywhere However the police or social services will not help in returning him home He's currently been gone 3 weeks and now social services are telling me I'm in breach of the order as I'm not safeguarding him . I explained we are trying but we can't keep him safe if they won't return him but they aren't interested. This whole situation is causing massive amounts of stress on myself and the rest of my family including 2 other kids 1 of whom has brain damage. Please help
Benny - 20-Dec-16 @ 7:03 PM
Hi I have a court hearing in the nest fe days. On the previous occasion 3 years ago I was unable to have direct contact with our child, the court agreed non direct contact - via letter, presents cards on special occasions. This was due to my child saying they did not want contact, at the time the child was 10 and heavily influenced by mum. The child is now 14, Initially did not take my letters but has been doing over the past 2 years. Mum is not aware that th child is taking my letters as Cafcass told me mum says she doesn't take the letters. My child is being manipulated and I'm so worried as they are unable to speak there mind or independently make a decision without upsetting mum. After the last hearing I did not pursue and further for direct contact as I felt it would be too distressing for the child. Please advice. Thank you
Jay - 21-Nov-16 @ 2:57 PM
My ex partner (with whom my daughter lives) says she intends to change the court order and reducie weekend and holiday contact. Can I apply for Enforcement Procedure (c79) now or do I have to wait for the first breach to take place? She has clearly stated her intention to reduce contact
Peter - 12-Nov-16 @ 6:58 AM
I had court hearing on 2nd of august and judge said tht she will let us know within three weeks but its nearly nine weeks after court hearing n we didnt receive anything from judgecan anyoneplz tell us how long it takes to know abt judge issuing decisions
T.k - 7-Oct-16 @ 10:50 PM
Hi, Following on from your earlier advice (really useful & good to know) it has brought something else to light in recent days. My partner still is having no luck trying to see her son for the court ordered 3 weekends in 4 that she is entitled to by the contact order. She received a reply to her most recent message which said "I believe in the best interest of him that he spend every other weekend at home" - Now things make a bit more sense. If my partner returns this to court for breach of the order then he will try to have the order amended to alternatate weekends. Can the court effectively penalise my partner by reducing the number of weekends she sees her son on the back of her application for enforcement? Or will he need to make his own application for an amendment to the order and prove that it is in their sons best interests to switch to every other weekend? Seems highly unfair that my partner will pay for application fee for the enforcement order she seeks only to potentially be punished further as a result. Like I said in my previous message - everything about this case has let her down from start to finish and nothing has followed what you might call 'proper process'. She has no faith in the courts and if there is even the slightest chance she could come out of this worse off then there is no way she will take this matter further. Thanking you once again for your help in advance. Neil
Neil - 27-Sep-16 @ 11:15 PM
Concerned parent- Your Question:
Hi. I am going to court next week as my sons father is filing for child arrangements order for access. I oppose the order for many reasons but manly as my son does not wish for see his father and has told him many times why. I have sent a stately to court but only just realised I was meant to send a copy to the other parent also. I did not keep a copy of my statement so the wording if I was to send it now would be slightly different. Would this be a problem at the first hearing? And if so what might happen please?

Our Response:
I'm afraid we can't advice on this as it's outside our remit. Your legal representative (if you have one) will be able to advise. Otherwise, you may wish to contact the courts directly.
CourtroomAdvice - 16-Sep-16 @ 10:41 AM
Hi. I am going to court next week as my sons father is filing for child arrangements order for access. I oppose the order for many reasons but manly as my son does not wish for see his father and has told him many times why. I have sent a stately to court but only just realised I was meant to send a copy to the other parent also. I did not keep a copy of my statement so the wording if I was to send it now would be slightly different. Would this be a problem at the first hearing? And if so what might happen please?
Concerned parent - 15-Sep-16 @ 11:46 AM
hi can you help my brother rang court to check date was miss informed of date so all previous actions took have been dismissed by court and he isn't allowed access is this fair as he has had to fight to take to court and pay legal fees to be told he can no longer take any more action as he missed court date ,
Kerry - 6-May-16 @ 11:12 PM
I did not turn up for family court today either did my ex what happens now
Dmack - 15-Apr-16 @ 5:27 AM
Hi does anyone know what will happen, I've just moved house, ss being idiots stopping my partner from seeing our daughters. I have a hearing soon what can happen if i don't go?
Jen - 8-Apr-16 @ 10:43 PM
Hi at a directions hearing the court decided that the new baby of the parents gets returned but under an order !! my grandaughter lives with me an court says she should stay where she is and so have social services will this be the case at the final hearing please
Flatfish - 1-Apr-16 @ 10:40 PM
I have seen this asked before but I havent seen a formal response. What happens if the Mother does not attend the First Hearing Dispute Resolution. I understand it will be held against her but what is the next step.Will Cafcass go on to contact her to interview her etc or will the Judge summons her to court? Thanks in advance for any advice.
JAM - 30-Mar-16 @ 9:28 PM
Hi I've been in court the last yrs or so for custody of my son and his dad is not allowed access. We are having a contested hearing in April and I've just received my bundle from my previous solicitor would I be able to get a new solicitor this soon
Jue1 - 22-Mar-16 @ 5:25 PM
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