Resolve Private Child Law Disputes with Duncan Lewis
When couples or caregivers separate, they may be able to agree the future arrangements for the child, such as where the child is going to reside and when and where the child will have contact with the other parent/ caregiver, also known as the non-resident parent/ caregiver.
If however a situation arises whereby the parents or the caregivers of the child cannot agree the arrangements, they will need to seek the support of professionals.
The first stage of the process is the parties engaging in mediation (unless you are exempt from the same, for reasons such as domestic violence). If mediation is not successful or not available, the parents/ caregivers can apply to the courts for the court to make a decision on the arrangements for the child. The Court will always view this as a last resort and will want to be satisfied that all efforts have been made to reach an agreement before issuing proceedings.
A Private Children Law matter is considered as any matter, which falls under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989.
Once an Application has been filed with the Court, the procedure below will be adopted
- The matter will be listed for a First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA). CAFCASS will usually be directed to file a safeguarding letter with the Court in advance of this hearing which sets out their recommendations as to how matters should proceed. CAFCASS will speak with both parents, usually on the telephone, and will undertake background checks with relevant authorities such as the police or social services. The Hearing will assist the court to identify the issues between the parties at the earliest opportunity and to see if there is any possibility for the parties to reach an agreement. If an agreement can be reached then a final order will be made. If an agreement cannot be reached than the court will seek to determine the areas of disagreement and the reasons why. Directions to assist with the management of the case will be ordered up until the next hearing.
- The matter will then be listed for a Dispute Resolution Hearing (DRA), following the receipt of any Section 7 Report (if ordered). The main aim of the Hearing will be to resolve and narrow the issues in the case in advance of the Final Hearing and identify evidence to be heard at the Final Hearing. Many cases conclude at this stage if the parties can come to an agreement, however if they cannot, the matter will proceed to a final hearing.
- The matter will then be listed for a Fact Finding Hearing if one is required, due to allegations of violence or harm being raised by any of the parties involved.
- The matter will then be listed for a Final Hearing, when the Court will make any Final Orders.