This is a collaborative post
If a family disagreement has reached the stage of going to a family court, it’s possible that things have escalated quite far. Tensions will be high, and you’ll likely be at least a little concerned about what’s going to happen during that first hearing.
If you’re looking for further clarification, you’ve come to the right place; below, we take a closer look at what the early stages of the court process will look like, to help you prepare both practically and emotionally.
The FHDRA (First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment)
There’s actually a name for the first hearing – it’s called an FHDRA (First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment) and you can generally know what to expect with a fair degree of accuracy from this first court date.
Essentially, this initial meeting exists so that the judge can then organise the rest of the case. After that initial hearing, you should be told what you need to prepare for the next court session, which will normally happen a few weeks after. If you aren’t 100% clear on what you need to prepare, then it’s important that you seek further clarity, either from the judge or from your solicitor.
What happens next?
Depending on the severity of the case, there will likely be a series of future court hearings. The judge should inform you of what you need to do between each hearing, however, you may need a solicitor to help you prepare the relevant information in an appropriate manner.
Fact finding hearings
If the court finds that there are allegations that, if true, would mean that the child in question would be at risk, then there may need to be a fact-finding hearing. These allegations would need to be relatively serious – they could include drug abuse, emotional abuse, or other forms of coercive behaviour.
The standard of proof is more similar to that in civil law than criminal law – it will be judged on the balance of probabilities, rather than beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that if the court believes that it is likely that the accusation is true, then they will consider it to be fact.
In certain circumstances, at the end of the court case, it’s possible that the court will deem it necessary to intervene in order to ensure the ongoing well being of the child or children in question. CAFASS or local authorities may be required to write up a Section 7 report, which will aim to assess the situation that the children find themselves in, to help the judge come to a final decision.
The stakes of a family court case are often very high, and it’s important that your side of the story is portrayed as accurately as possible.
Hopefully, this article will have provided some clarification on what you can expect from your first family court hearing – it’s important that you prepare the right information, to ensure that you’re treated in a just manner by the courts. It will likely be necessary to seek advice from a qualified legal professional, and the sooner you do so, the better the results.
Disclosure: This is a collaborative post