In this article, we’ll talk about how to prepare for family law court proceedings.
From receiving the notice to what can possibly happening on the final day, we’ve got you covered.
Resolving disputes through the family court system is an unfortunate reality for large numbers of people. While every effort will be made to resolve issues before court proceedings begin through mediation, negotiations between solicitors, and collaborative law, when a resolution cannot be found, then court proceedings may be inevitable.
While negotiations may be ongoing, once proceedings have been issued then it’s important to begin preparing for court. There may still be a possibility that court hearings can be avoided, but that cannot be taken for granted. Even if negotiations are still ongoing, you should begin preparations for court hearings in parallel so you understand what’s going to happen and what will be required of you. The better prepared you are, the less stressful the experience will be.
The court hearing process will begin when you receive a notice from the court.
Receiving the notice
Receiving a notice from the court with the date of your hearing can prompt a number of emotions. You may feel relief that a date has been set and the process is moving forward. Equally, you may feel anxious about what’s involved. While it’s perfectly natural to have a degree of apprehension, this can be addressed to some degree with the right preparation.
Once you receive the notice it’s crucial that you read it carefully. There are different types of family court hearings and these are dependent on the type of application. For instance, your notice may have your hearing listed as a directions hearing, a dispute resolution appointment or a fact finding hearing.
What is the purpose of the hearing?
It’s important to make sure that you have a full understanding of the purpose of the hearing. Your solicitor will be able to help with the process, and don’t be afraid to ask questions, particularly in relation to any confusing jargon. Your solicitor will outline the different stages of the hearing, and you should take time to familiarise yourself with the information you receive.
Get to know the material
Read through any evidence you have had to provide such as a financial disclosure or a witness statement and make sure you’re aware of what you’ve said, as well as any documents you’ve provided. The documents you’ve provided will reflect the purpose of the hearing and being familiar with them can help to make the process more efficient.
Check that all the relevant documents have been provided
It’s your solicitor’s job to make sure that the appropriate documents and paperwork are taken care of prior to the hearing. However, it’s important to check if any additional documents have been requested. If so, you should check that your solicitor is aware of the request.
If there have been any changes or anything that needs to be amended, your solicitor should be informed as soon as possible. They can then decide whether or not to share new information with the court and the other party.
Find where the court is located
Many pre-court anxieties revolve around physically getting to the court. Find its location, and make sure you have a clear idea about how you will reach it on the day and where any parking is available. Check the time of the hearing and estimate how long it will take to get there. Many people find it helpful to undertake a dry run a few days before to familiarise themselves with the route and location. Although this may feel a little strange, it can help to demystify the process and make it less daunting on the day.
If you can’t get to the court in person prior to the hearing you should be able to find a photo of the court by using the HM Court & Tribunal Service’s online court finder service. If you’re planning to use public transport on the day make sure you’re aware of the timetable. Your solicitor will usually agree to meet you somewhere prior to the hearing.
What to expect on the day
The day of the hearing may involve lots of waiting time, depending on the details of your case. During much of this time, legal representatives of both parties may be discussing some of the issues involved in the case. They may be looking at the details of the hearing or discussing the practical steps that they want the court to order. The aim of these discussions is to ensure that court time is used as efficiently as possible and that proceedings are directed towards finding an appropriate solution.
Your solicitor will be happy to explain what is being discussed and will usually await your instructions prior to making any agreements. It’s your solicitor’s job to ensure that you fully understand the details of the case and can make an informed decision.
It can be helpful to take someone supportive to court with you, such as a parent, sibling, or good friend. If you’re involved in divorce proceedings it may be unwise to take a new partner. A third party can often look at information with an objective eye, providing insight that hasn’t previously been considered.
What else should you consider?
It’s important to be comfortable in your choice of clothes for court. There is no formal dress code, and your solicitor will be able to advise what might or might not be appropriate. As a general rule of thumb, sober and understated is best, and what you wear will project an image to the court.
As you’ll be spending considerable time in court it’s important to make sure you’ve eaten enough. If you’re hungry and drained of energy it will have an impact on your decision-making process.
Many people feel embarrassed that they have to use the courts to resolve a personal or family issue. It’s a common experience and shouldn’t provoke feelings of shame. People are in court because they’ve made a sincere attempt to resolve an issue that hasn’t been successful.
For confidential advice about family, law court hearings call 01244 506 444 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.