S8 Children Act Cases – Contact (access), Residence (custody)

Clearly it is best for matters relating for children to be decided by their parents, but unfortunately it is not always possible to agree.

The Court has jurisdiction to make orders relating to children under the Children Act 1989.

When considering issues in relation to a child, such as where s/he lives, how much s/he sees a parent they don’t live with, which school they should attend or any other matter the court investigation will involve the following process:

a) The first directions appointment:
Once you, or the other parent, have issued an application the court will set a hearing to determine what evidence is required to be placed before the court in order for the court to decide the issue.

Very often the court will expect the parents to attend a meeting with the court welfare (now CAFCASS) officer before the hearing to see whether issues can be resolved by agreement, or whether any compromises can be reached.

Usually the court will direct that the child, and either or both parents, is seen by the CAFCASS officer who will then report back to the court.

In some cases the court will also direct that the parties file statements setting out their appraisal of what it is the child’s best interests.

The court may also direct that expert evidence is obtained.

The court may also make an interim order to settle arrangements until a final order can be made.

b) Review hearings:
In most cases the court will schedule a review hearing after the CAFCASS report has been filed.

In the best of circumstances the parties will be able to agree a resolution with the guidance provided by the CAFCASS officer, to enable the court to make a final order and end the case.

When a review hearing is held and a permanent resolution can’t be reached the court will set the application down for a fully contested hearing.

c) Final (contested) hearing:
When the parties haven’t been able to resolve the issues between them despite having guidance from CAFCASS a full trial of the issue is held by the court.

The court will hear oral evidence from the parties, who are cross-examined by the other parties’ representative, and in some instances from the CAFCASS officer or any other expert nominated by the court to file evidence.

Once the evidence and legal submissions have been heard the Judge will impose an order dealing with the application formally.

Whilst many parents are tempted to try to manage their applications without legal support doing so can be very dangerous. It is not necessary to have the full representation of a legal team, although it is well advised to do so, and we can provide a range of legal support. Please contact us for more information.