All too often we hear client’s say to us “what does that mean” or “can you simplify it for me”. Our client’s may have never experienced a legal application before or feel overwhelmed by all the new words they’re hearing. As a Solicitor, it is easy to use acronyms to advise on next steps but that isn’t always the best step for the client.
It’s important that we take a step back when discussing with clients next steps – whether this is through a telephone conversation, in person meeting or through email. We need to ensure that the information we are providing to the clients is clear and understandable, that the client is not going to receive our email or telephone call and go into a spiral or panic because they do not understand the contents. The contents and topic of the correspondence is usually difficult enough, the confusion of wording shouldn’t add to that.
For client’s going through any kind of court proceedings, especially Children proceedings, emotions are already heightened. The client may not be thinking clearly therefore, it is for us to ensure they do not feel alienated by the use of acronyms. Afterall, we are working together to reach a resolution.
Common acronyms used during Court proceedings involving children can be:
This is the very first hearing once an application has been made and usually involves a Judge considering all of the papers and deciding what the best course of action is. The matter might then be listed for a FHDRA and a safeguarding report may be ordered.
- Safeguarding Report
Once the Court has received the initial application, they will likely request Cafcass become involved. This allows the Court to determine what Cafcass’ concerns and recommendations are and follow those, to ensure the child(ren)’s best interests are dealt with first.
This means First Hearing and Dispute Resolution Appointment. This is the first Court hearing in a Children Law Application and allows a Judge to consider what further directions are needed. The reason for this hearing is to assist the Court in identifying the issues between the parties at an early stage and to see if the parties are able to reach agreement. It is often at this stage that the concerns of clients are raised because it’s the first opportunity they’ve had to see/hear the other party and air their issues. If it is clear to the Court that parties are unable to reach agreement, the Court may direct for further investigations and further evidence to be submitted to enable them to make a final order. The matter may then be listed for a DRA.
This means a Dispute Resolution Appointment. The Court will list an application for a Dispute Resolution Appointment following the preparation of a Section 7 Report or other expert report if it is considered to be in the interest of the child(ren). The Court will need to identify the key issues and to what extent those issues can be resolved or narrowed and whether the DRA can be used as a final hearing. If the Court is unable to identify or narrow the issues then further filing of evidence will be required. This may include filing of statements/witness statements/Police evidence/GP records etc. The Court will then list the matter for a fact finding hearing.
- Fact Finding Hearing
This is where the court will consider the evidence surrounding each allegation brought by either party and any expert evidence filed. The court will make a decision as to whether the alleged incident did or did not happen. Evidence is usually heard from the parties therefore it is likely they will be cross-examined. After the Judge has heard evidence from both parties, they will consider on the balance of probabilities whether the allegations are true or not. Findings of fact will be made on each allegation/issue.
- s7 Report
Once the Court has determined what the issues are, if Cafcass recommended a report in their safeguarding report, a s7 Report will be directed. A s7 Report will compromise of discussions with both parents to determine concerns, what is working well and what is not working well. If the child(ren) are of a reasonable age and understanding, CAFCASS may also wish to speak to them to ascertain their wishes and feelings and what they would like to happen. Once CAFCASS have made these enquiries they will write up a report advising the Court on what they think should happen. In most cases, the Report will be provided prior to the next court hearing.
CAFCASS stands for Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. CAFCASS represent any child(ren) in family court cases. CAFCASS will advise the court about what is safe for the child(ren) and what is in their best interests. CAFCASS will put the needs, wishes and feelings of the child(ren) first, ensuring that the child(ren)s voices are heard in Court. It is vital that CAFCASS are able to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child(ren) when the Court is making critical decisions about their futures.
CAFCASS will usually become involved during Private Law proceedings where parents or carers cannot agree on arrangements for their child(ren) and Care proceedings often called “Public Law proceedings” where Social Services have serious concerns about the safety or welfare of a child.
It is crucial for any parent or carer working with CAFCASS and Social Services to work openly and honestly at all times.
Here at Ringrose Law, the Team is always on hand to have discussions with you about your case. It is important to us that you do not feel overwhelmed or alienated within the proceedings due to the “legal jargon” that is often used.
Should you require any assistance with Contact Arrangements, Domestic Violence or Care Proceedings, we can help.
Contact us today at one of our offices in Lincoln, Boston, Grantham, Sleaford or Newark to speak to one of our trained Legal Advisors to assist you further. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.