FHDRA, DRA and Family Court Fact Finding Hearings Manchester and Stockport
Facing court proceedings can be daunting especially when they involve your family. Clifford Johnston has a team of sympathetic legal professionals who will help find the best solution for everyone involved, from First Hearing and Dispute Resolution Appointments (FHDRA) to Final Hearings, our family law solicitors will offer the support and assurance you need.
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Clifford Johnston is a team of highly knowledgeable and experienced family law solicitors. We provide clear and straightforward advice and will support you throughout your case. We handle all our cases with empathy and will work closely with you to ensure you have the practical solutions you need.
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Family courts hearings for a child arrangements order
You may have to attend the family court when you are involved in a family law case resulting from a relationship breakdown. In England, the Family Courts make decisions about children if you have been unable to reach agreement on what these arrangements should be.
When you can’t agree on how children will be brought up, every effort will be made to settle out of court through alternative forms of dispute resolution such as mediation. However, when a resolution can’t be found then court proceedings will be initiated through the family courts. The family court will make the decision based on the interests of all parties, but priority is given to the interests of the children involved.
First hearing dispute resolution appointment
First Hearing and Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA) is the first court hearing which allows you to present your case and is intended to solve any early disputes.
Accompanied by the judge and your legal representative, a CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) officer may attend to give recommendations to the court. You can specify your case in a Position Statement, this document is useful but not obligatory unless it has been ordered by the court. It gives the court an outline of your position ahead of the hearing and can be helpful to bring a case to an early conclusion when the other party agrees to it. The statement is also used for giving a brief plan of what you wish to happen at the hearing.
The judge (or magistrates) and the CAFCASS Officer assist the parties to reach an agreement. Before the hearing CAFCASS prepares a Safeguarding Letter’ which is shared to both parties (unless it causes either party or the children to be at risk or contains sensitive information which the other party is unaware of).
The Safeguarding Letter includes background checks on the parties, who the parents are, and who the children live with. If the case relates to contact, residence, and/or serious allegations the judge may not permit contact until matters are examined in further detail. This doesn’t indicate that the court has come to a final decision. The court might order contact straightaway subject to a final order at a further hearing (following investigations and evidence submitted and heard).
If an agreement is settled, a court order will set out the details, when matters are not settled, further hearings are needed.
Dispute resolution appointment
This subsequent hearing also attempts to resolve any ongoing issues and will examine all new or additional information, such as a report from the CAFCASS officer. If a solution is still not found, a final hearing will be scheduled by the judge where the court will decide and issue the appropriate order detailing the arrangements that need to be made.
The Fact-Finding hearing is a court hearing that deliberates the evidence around allegations. Evidence is heard and parties are cross-examined. The court then decides whether alleged incidents happened or not.
This procedure is not used in all cases but they are fairly common in cases where allegations of domestic abuse have been made, such as neglect, emotional/physical harm, and violence. The person making the allegations has to prove they are true. The judge considers the allegations made by each party and decides from the evidence presented if the allegations are true.
The person who the allegations are against will be asked to respond within a specific timeframe. They need to respond to each allegation and set an account of the incident or state the allegation is denied. Both parties are asked to create written statements based on evidence demonstrating what they wish the court to say. With the court’s permission witnesses can also give evidence.
It is sometimes the case that the court will not request a CAFCASS officer to prepare a report and recommendations until after a fact finding hearing has taken place. The findings of the court on the allegations will be given to CAFCASS and will be taken into account in the writing of the report.
During the Final Hearing the judge considers all information available, this includes evidence from the parties, relevant CAFCASS reports, any relevant information provided from the Local Authority and, if there has been one, the facts found in the finding of facts hearing.
The judge assesses all the information and a decision is made guided by the child’s welfare. Judges make decisions based on the child’s best interest, they use the evidence in conjunction with the ‘welfare checklist’. Judges may not make an order or may decide that a Child Arrangements Order stating residence and/or contact arrangements are needed.
Generally speaking, the court starts with a presumption that children should have a relationship with both parents, but this presumption may not be followed if the court thinks that in doing so the child is likely to suffer harm. The presumption also does not imply that the court will necessarily make shared parenting orders whereby the children will spend equal time with each parent.
Attendance of parties at court
Although attendance at court hearings is strongly encouraged it is not compulsory. The Family courts can continue a court hearing without you being in attendance, but it may harm your Case if the court cannot hear from you in person.
What if I am unable to attend court and I want to adjourn?
We aim to resolve everything before court proceedings are necessary but in the event of a family court hearing, it is recommended you attend, so you can put your case forward.
Your solicitor will be on hand throughout to offer support and present your case to bring proceedings to a swift conclusion. If you can’t attend the hearing, solely at the judge’s discretion it is possible to adjourn. The courts are urged to deal with cases quickly and efficiently and it is usual for the court to want to avoid any delays to minimise upset to all involved, especially the children. Any delays can have a detrimental impact on all parties.
When other parties haven’t consented to the adjournment, the court will establish their views to make sure no one is disadvantaged by the court’s decision. It is unlikely that adjournments will be granted unless there are quite compelling reasons to do so. It should never be assumed that your opponent or the court will agree to an adjournment unless it will be in the interests of justice to do so, balancing a range of considerations including, but not necessarily limited to, the reason why an adjournment is requested.
Contact our Child Law Solicitors today
Our experienced team regularly helps families with all matters relating to child custody and parental responsibility so for professional, confidential advice contact us today.
Our friendly team will deal with your enquiry sensitively and with understanding, so contact us today for helpful and supportive advice.
With offices in Stockport (Heaton Moor) & Manchester (Burnage), our expert family solicitors are easily accessible. We represent clients not only locally and throughout Stockport, Cheshire, Lancashire & Manchester but also across the United Kingdom. You can count on us to help and guide you whatever your challenge or circumstance.