Feburary 9th, 2018
Fact finding hearings are listed within private law children proceedings. These are proceedings relating to the arrangements for a child. The hearings are listed when there is a dispute of facts. Often the disputes involve allegations of harm to a child made by one parent to the other which are denied. The court needs to determine what the truth is.
Why is there a Fact-Finding Hearing?
When the court is considering an application made under s8 Children Act 1989 (for example an application for a Child Arrangements Order, a Prohibited Steps Order or a Specific Issues Order), the court’s paramount consideration is the child’s welfare. When considering the child’s welfare, the court must have regard to the welfare checklist. The checklist includes the following:-
When there is a dispute regarding facts, it is difficult for the court to apply the above factors without making a decision on what the truth is. This is where the Fact-Finding Hearing comes in. The court will hear evidence from both parents and will ultimately decide what occurred. The test applied is the balance of probabilities. Is it more likely than not that the event occurred? The burden of proof lies with the person who is making the allegations.
A Fact-Finding hearing should only be listed if it is absolutely necessary, as it can deteriorate the relationship between the parents even further. The facts in dispute must be relevant to the application. Fact Finding hearings also carry heavy legal fees.
What happens on the day?
Both parents will be required to give oral evidence in court and will be cross-examined. This means that they will be asked questions by their own representative, the representative for the other parent and sometimes the Judge/Magistrates. These questions should be relevant to the facts in dispute and should always relatable to the application made.
In addition, where third party evidence has been relied upon, it may also be necessary for other witnesses to give evidence as well. This can include, but is not limited to, CAFCASS Officers, grandparents, anyone who witnessed any incidents in dispute, experts etc. Often these hearings can go on for several days.
Ultimately the Judge (or Magistrates) will make findings on what facts they believe to be true on the balance of probabilities. Often the case will then be listed for a Final Hearing for a final decision to be made regarding the application that has been issued.
If you are in the midst of children proceedings and what to obtain any further information regarding Fact Finding hearings, or any other type of hearings, then please do give one of our solicitors a call on 01908 262680.
Having obtained her A Levels from the Royal Latin School in Buckingham, Rebecca Stewart went on to obtain a Legal Secretary Diploma through Pitmans Training and immediately following qualification secured a role at Hawkins Family Law. Following that she discovered her true ambition lay in becoming a Legal Executive specialising in Family Law.In 2012 Rebecca enrolled at Cilex Law School and by 2015 had completed all her level 3 exams, achieving distinctions in 3 of these modules, and is now an Associate Member of Cilex. Rebecca is now working towards her level 6 qualifications and is now able to act as a trainee Legal Executive under the supervision of the Directors of Hawkins Family Law.
Hawkins Family Law fields 'a very professional team that delivers a high-class service and has strength-in-depth from senior to junior level'. Managing director and team head Jo Hawkins provides 'clear and accurate advice and moral support through often testing times for her clients; she focuses on deriving the best long-term outcome for her client and other parties'. The practice has particular strength financial matters, including divorce and ToLATA proceedings. Other key figures include Loraine Davenport, who has strong collaborative law expertise and handles complex children cases and high-net-worth ancillary relief matters; Annabel Hayward, who focuses on complex financial provision and co-habitation matters; and Stacey St Clair.
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What the team is known for
Boutique family law firm that punches above its weight in terms of high-value and complex matrimonial finance instructions relating to business assets, pensions and substantial property portfolios, including assisting with the handling of assets abroad. Also represents clients in the negotiation of wealth protection agreements and private law childcare arrangements. Fields a team trained in collaborative law and alternative dispute resolution.
An impressed client says: "The team's personal service and individual care is a great asset,"adding that the lawyers are "always available to assist and understand the occasional need for immediate advice and guidance, providing a very reassuring service."
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