Factual hearings – Private law proceedings


What is a fact-finding hearing?
A fact-finding hearing is a separate hearing, under Children’s Act proceedings and deals with a situation where there is a dispute as to the facts of an incident (usually more than one), or if one party makes allegations that are denied by the other party and often where cross allegations are then made. The judge will consider whether there should be a fact-finding hearing based on the facts and allegations made by each side that need to be decided before things can move forward.

The importance of fact-finding hearings
The reason why fact-finding hearings are held is for the judge to determine whether the allegations are true or false or whether or not an incident has taken place. These types of hearings are important because the outcome will affect any decision the judge is asked to make regarding child accommodation orders or restraining orders such as non-molestation and occupation orders.

Where serious allegations are made by one party which are denied by the other party, the court will only hold an investigative hearing if those allegations are considered relevant, for example allegations about how a parent can care of a child while in his care. are important when asking a court to make a settlement order for the children.

Cafcass Report – Section 7 of the Children Act 1989
Cafcass stands for Child and Family Courts Advisory Service and is an independent organization. The court will appoint a Cafcass officer if there are concerns about a child’s protection and how their needs are being met by one or both parents. The role of the CAFCASS is to remain objective, and their priority is the well-being of the children. The report, known as a section 7 report, will be prepared under the direction of the court and will contain relevant information about the children, their parents and their relationship. This report will include information obtained from surveys of crèches, children’s health, the general practitioner and the police if necessary. Agent Cafcass will also speak with the children to find out their wishes and feelings. A Section 7 report will set out the recommendations that CAFCASS makes regarding future arrangements for children. The judge will consider (and usually follow) the recommendations when making decisions about what is in the best interests of the children.

How long will an Article 7 report take?
A CAFCASS report typically takes around 12 weeks to complete. The Court will set a date and time for sending the report to the Court and the parties.

What will happen before a fact-finding hearing is held?
The Court will ask all parties to provide a list (known as the Scott Schedule) of all the allegations on which they seek to rely. This list should be a detailed and clear record of events with dates, times and locations, with all supporting documents, including relevant police reports or disclosures. In addition to this document, there are usually witness statements that are prepared to state the case of the parties.

What happens at an investigative hearing?
The party that raised the allegations is the plaintiff and they present their case first. They are summoned and sworn in to testify orally. They are first questioned by their own lawyer, then by the other party’s lawyer (called the respondent). the judge may also ask questions. This is called cross-examination. As part of the case, witnesses may be called to testify in support of a party’s case. Depending on the circumstances and the nature of the allegations at issue, expert witnesses may be required. For example, they may be medical practitioners or experts in a particular type of injury, or psychiatrists dealing with children. Permission for witnesses and expert testimony must be obtained from the Court at the outset of the case. The Respondent is then called to testify and to be cross-examined by counsel for the Applicant. Closing speeches (called submissions) providing a summary of the party’s case, including all relevant points of cross-examination and key points of the case are provided orally to the Court.

How long does a fact-finding hearing last?
This will depend on the circumstances of the case. If there are a number of issues, complexities and multiple witnesses, these hearings can last longer than 5 days.

Judicial continuity
Having the same judge is important for managing the case throughout the court process, especially when a party has made allegations of domestic violence. ensure the right result.

The judge must decide whether, on a balance of probabilities, the allegations made by each party are true or false. If an allegation is not proven by the party making the allegation, it will be recorded as false. Conclusions must be based on evidence.

The judge can give judgment at the end of a case or ask that judgment be given at another date when all parties must appear in court.

Final hearing
A fact-finding hearing is not a final hearing, but it is crucial if findings of fact are made against either party, as this will impact the final decisions the judge makes. and determine what is in the best interests and welfare of the children in a final. audience.

It is important that anyone faced with alleged incidents or disputed allegations of domestic violence and involved in a family arrangement process for children remains calm and focused.

Making sure you have the right legal representation is important in these cases because failure to do so can seriously affect the outcome. The facts must be presented to the Court and all evidence reviewed and challenged if necessary. If the judge concludes that a fact is not proven, it could have a significant impact on the final decisions that a judge could make.

Having the right guidance and advice through such a difficult and emotional time is vital. During these procedures decisions will be made that may impact your time with your children and their future arrangements. It is important to ask an experienced specialist lawyer to ensure that your case is properly prepared.

If you would like to know more about these types of procedures or if you need advice about your children or their future arrangements, please contact our Kids Team.

Speak to our family law specialists

Reena Vadera is a senior associate within the Family team and can be contacted on 01895 207 819 or reena.vadera @ibblaw.co.uk.

To contact the team, send an e-mail familylaw@ibblaw.co.uk or call 03456 381 381.

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