Procedure in cases about children

The Court procedure for applications that are made to resolve issues relating children is described below.

The procedure applies to married parents, civil partners, unmarried parents, grandparents and any other person who has obtained permission from the Court to make an application.

Application to the Court

Once the Court receives an application it will list the case for a : First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA), approximately one month later, which you and the other party will have to attend.

After issue of the application a Court Reporting Officer (*CAFCASS Officer) will carry out safety enquiries including checks of local authorities and police and conduct telephone risk identification interviews with you and the other party. [*Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service - CAFCASS].

A record of the outcome of the safety enquiries is made and sent to the Court in a report prior to the FHDRA so that this can be reviewed by a Judge on the day.

At the FHDRA, you and the other party will be asked to discuss the position in private with the  *CAFCASS Officer. This is to encourage an agreement if possible and, where this is not possible, to discuss other options for a resolution of the issues to include directions that will be sought from the Court on that day.

If an agreement can be reached then the Judge can make an order by consent provided the safety checks referred to above have been completed.

If you are unable to agree, the Court will consider whether a report by a CAFCASS Officer will be necessary.

Children's welfare

The Court must at all times consider the children’s welfare to be the paramount concern and have regard to the matters contained in the “welfare checklist” in The Children Act 1989 as follows:

  • The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child (considered in the light of his/her age and understanding.
  • The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs.
  • The likely effect on the child of any change in circumstances.
  • The child’s age, sex, background and any characteristics of his/her which the court considers relevant.
  • Any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering.
  • How capable each of the child’s parents (and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant) is of meeting his/her needs.

A CAFCASS report will deal with all these issues in detail.

Most cases regarding child related issues do settle by agreement either at the FHDRA or once the CAFCASS Officer has made his/her recommendations. Where settlement is not achieved, our solicitors will advise you on the next procedural steps so you are clear about what will happen and when.

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Key Contacts

Rayma Collins

Partner & Head of Family Law

Naomi Hayward

Partner & Collaborative Lawyer