Fonseca Law Solicitors


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What should I expect at the family court?

Gavel and legal booksUnfortunately, family life isn't always plain sailing. It can prove extremely difficult at times with family members running into problems and relationships breaking down. Issues can often be resolved themselves, but other times families need assistance to ensure a safe and fair outcome is achieved for all involved. To help solve this problem, family courts may become involved with the situation.

It's important to recognise that a family court is very different from a criminal court. At a family court, the judge will take on board what everyone has to say, and if children are involved then their welfare will always be the paramount concern. Decisions in relation to children and finances, including the payment of child maintenance, remain a separate case. The family court generally has no power over child maintenance, as this is dealt with by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS).

First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA)

After an application has been submitted to the court, a first hearing is made to sort out any arrangements for children, and this is called a First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA). This may result in an order from the court for a child or children to either live with a party or spend a set amount of time with a party (Child Arrangement Order), prevent a party from exercising their parental responsibility in particular ways (Prohibited Steps Order), or an order to resolve a specific issue in dispute (Specific Issue Order). This hearing provides an opportunity to see if it's possible for parties to reach an agreement without the Court determining the same. The judge will assist both parties throughout the hearing in an attempt to reach an amicable agreement. If an agreement cannot be successfully agreed between the parties, then the court will decide what further information, if any, will be needed to make a final decision.

If parties involved are able to reach a sound agreement during the hearing, then a final order will be made providing there are no safeguarding concerns. This final order highlights the details of the agreement that has been reached and is binding upon the parties in the sense that is can be enforced. If an agreement cannot be reached, then the court will focus their attention on the areas of disagreement.

Dispute Resolution Appointment (DRA)

It is quite common for a second hearing to take place once all evidence is made available to the court in one final attempt to reach an agreement. This hearing is known as a Dispute Resolution Appointment (DRA). In some cases whereby an agreement has been reached or enough evidence is already available, the court may deem a DRA hearing as not necessary.

If the DRA heating does take place but an agreement still cannot be reached, or if this hearing is dispensed with, then a final hearing will be arranged.

Final Hearing

During a final hearing, the judge will consider all evidence that has been provided by both parties and will apply the appropriate law. Once the judge has made a final decision this will be binding upon the parties whether they agree to it or not.

It is a much better outcome if parties are able to reach an amicable agreement themselves during the First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment, rather than having a family court system impose one upon them during a Final Hearing.

If you find yourself in need of professional legal advice and assistance related to any family law matter, or would like to discuss any of the other legal services that we offer here at Fonseca Law, then don't hesitate to get in touch with our team of legal experts. Contact us by calling 01495 303124, e-mailing or by filling in the online contact form.