Children in the Family Court
This book explains how the family court decides disputes between parents who are unable to agree the arrangements for their children following divorce or breakup of their family. It explains the procedure which must be followed to obtain a court order relating to children and an outline of the law which will be applied.
Chapters are devoted to problems over contact with a non-resident parent and disputes over with whom a child will live. Other sections deal with parental responsibility, prohibited steps and specific issue orders and with changing a child’s name and removing a child from England and Wales.
The final section of the book contains a number of tips for those involved in a dispute over their children. It discusses the dirty tricks that can be played by some parents and how they can be overcome.
This is a comprehensive guide written in every day English for those caught up in a dispute over children in England and Wales. Its purpose is to help parents successfully navigate the family court system without a lawyer. The book is written by a former solicitor with over 20 years experience of dealing with family issues.
CHAPTER 1. THE FAMILY COURT SYSTEM
THE FAMILY COURTS
Just about all cases concerning children are dealt with in the family court. The only exception will be particularly complex cases and appeals which could be dealt with in the Family Division of the High Court. Cases are heard in family courts by either lay justices (magistrates) or judges. As the family court will not usually have a separate building, a case may take place in the magistrates’ court building, the County Court or even on occasions in the Crown Court.
Judges in the family court will either be a district judge or a circuit judge. Circuit judges are more senior, and will deal with more difficult cases and appeals from district judges and lay justices. Deputy district judges are part-time district judges, who have the same authority as a full-time district judge, and will usually be practising solicitors or barristers. Lay justices are members of the local community, who have received special training and sit part time to decide family disputes. Usually, they sit as a panel of 3, with a chairperson. They are not lawyers or legally qualified, but will have a legally qualified clerk sitting with them, who advises on the law. Straightforward procedural matters can be dealt with by this clerk.
It is usual for straightforward cases to be dealt with by lay justices, where there can be the advantage of greater informality and an earlier hearing date.
The Family Procedure Rules (FPR) are the rules which the court must follow when deciding a family case. However, there is no need for a litigant in person to get too bogged down with the procedural rules. Judges have considerable discretion over how a case is conducted and will always explain carefully to a litigant in person what needs to be done.
The FPRs have the overriding objective of requiring the court to deal with a case justly, and having regard to the welfare issues involved. This must be achieved by dealing with the case expeditiously and fairly, and in a way proportionate to the nature, importance and complexity of the issues. It is a requirement that the court must ensure that the parties are on an equal footing, and the court must save expense and allot to the case an appropriate share of the court’s resources, whilst taking into account the need to allot resources to other cases. Judges must be proactive in managing cases in order to make sure that these overriding objective are achieved, and everyone involved in the case must help the court with this.
You must therefore be mindful of your duty to assist the court to deal with your case
expeditiously and fairly. This means more than no dirty tricks (as if you would). You should give as much warning as possible to the court and other parties of steps you are planning to take. Always send copies of documents you intend to rely upon to the court and other parties in good time, and pay attention and comply with dates and deadlines in orders.
Respond to correspondence promptly fully and courteously. The Family procedure rules are available online for you to read if required.
CHAPTER 1. THE FAMILY COURT SYSTEM
The family courts
CHAPTER 3. APPLICATIONS TO THE COURT
The mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM)
Making your application
The application form
Dealing with your application
CHAPTER 4. ATTENDING COURT
The first hearing dispute resolution appointment (FHDRA)
Fact finding hearings
The final hearing
CHAPTER 5. DIRECTIONS
Cafcass Reports .
CHAPTER 6. THE LAW RELATING TO CHILDREN
Myths, presumptions and assumptions
Who can apply for a child arrangements or Section 8 order?
Restrictions on orders that can be made
The welfare checklist
CHAPTER 7. CHILD ARRANGEMENTS ORDERS
CHAPTER 8. ORDERS RELATING TO WITH WHOM A CHILD SHOULD SPEND TIME
Denial of contact
No opposition to the principle of contact
Amount of contact opposed
Principle of contact opposed
CHAPTER 9. APPLICATIONS RELATING TO WITH WHOM A CHILD SHOULD LIVE
Shared (or joint) residence
CHAPTER 10. NON-COMPLIANCE WITH A CHILD ARRANGEMENTS ORDER
Order to carry out unpaid work
Compensation for financial loss
Contact order directions
CHAPTER 11. PROHIBITED STEPS AND SPECIFIC ISSUES ORDERS
CHAPTER 12. PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY
Who has parental responsibility?
What does parental responsibility mean in practice?
CHAPTER 13. CHANGING A CHILD’S SURNAME
The considerations of the court on an application to change a surname
CHAPTER 14. REMOVING A CHILD FROM ENGLAND AND WALES
Considerations of the court
Established principles which will be applied
Opposing an application to remove
Removal within the UK
CHAPTER 15. APPEALS
CHAPTER 16. FAMILY MEDIATION
CHAPTER 17. TIPS AND TRICKS
Allegations of abuse
Allegations of domestic violence
CHAPTER 18. INSTRUCTING A SOLICITOR
CHAPTER 19. CASE STUDIES
APPENDIX: CHILD ARRANGEMENTS PROGRAMME FLOWCHART