By Family Law Solicitor, Julia Sacco
If the matters concerning the child are agreed on by all those with parental responsibility, then it may not be necessary to go to Court. However, if the arrangement cannot be agreed upon then it may need to go before the Courts in order to be resolved. In addition, if an Order (such as a Child Arrangement Order) is needed, then this will always need to go to Court.
What Types of Children Matters Go To Court?
Essentially, if a matter involving children cannot be agreed upon between the people involved, this can result in an application being made to Court to resolve the matter. In addition to this, anything that requires the Court's approval – such as parental responsibility, consent orders, changing a child's surname, etc. – will always need to go to Court.
If you have an issue concerning a child, it is always best to check with a Family Law Solicitor whether an application to the Court is needed.
If a matter is agreed, but an Order is needed (such as in a parental responsibility matter) the hearing can be quite informal. If a matter is heavily contested, there may be a number of hearings required and various individuals may need to become involved.
What Types of Hearings Are There?
There is no set number of hearings for children matters and therefore the types of hearings can vary widely. Children matters usually start off in the Family Court, in front of three Magistrates and a Legal Advisor. The matter may stay with Magistrates if it does not involve complex issues, but may move up to a District Judge if it becomes more complex.
Sometimes, where matters are extremely acrimonious and there are serious allegations being made, the Court may decide that it is important that a decision is made concerning each allegation. The purpose of this is to decide whether the allegation is a fact that needs to be considered, or merely an allegation that can dismissed. In these circumstances, a Fact Finding Hearing will be required. These are sometimes referred to as 'Re L hearings.'
The usual directions are put on hold until this hearing has taken place. Once a "finding" has been made, the main children proceedings continue on the basis of the outcome of the Fact Finding hearing.
Why Do I Need a Solicitor?
Children matters can escalate very quickly and due to the emotional nature of these matters, it can be hard for those involved to remain objective and assess the best course of action. It can also be difficult for everyone to stick to the information that is necessary and relevant to their case in order to maintain the Court's interest in their main points.
A Family Law Solicitor can assess and collate information and present it to the Court in the best possible way. They can also advise clients at each stage what it likely to happen and enable clients to be prepared for better or worst case scenarios. They can also advise clients during ongoing issues outside of Court to prevent clients from damaging their case.
When Do the Hearings come to an End?
If an agreement is reached during proceedings, this can be expressed to the Court and an Order can be made to reflect the agreement that has been reached. If no agreement has been reached throughout the proceedings, the Court may need to make the final decision. A final hearing will be listed and all those involved will be required to give evidence in the form of statements and through cross examination (being questioned by the opposition).
Children matters can be very lengthy and are highly emotive. There are many deadlines to be adhered to and evidence will need to be obtained and set out in a format that reflects the case accurately to the Court, and also sets out what is required by the Court.
It is always best to instruct a Solicitor trained in Family Law to ensure that the case is handled in the correct manner and to ensure the best possible outcome. A Solicitor can also use their experience to provide you with possible outcomes and manage expectations throughout the case.