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The importance of presenting evidence in the Family Court

A recent case, Mother v Father [2022] EWHC 3107 (Fam), highlights the difficulties that parents can encounter when self-representing in the Family Court and the importance of getting the evidence right first time.

Family Court

Bradie Pell, partner and head of the family team.

We know that it is better for everyone to resolve family law cases outside the court arena, but it isn’t always possible.  Sometimes a court application is necessary.

If an agreement cannot be reached outside court, a court can impose a decision on the parties concerned.  This happens at a contested hearing.

At a contested hearing, each party produces a witness statement setting out their case.  This statement is the person’s evidence. It should fully, but concisely, give details of the issues that the judge will need to consider so that a decision can be made. It is vital that this evidence is as accurate as possible as there may not be an opportunity to amend it later, or to cross-examine the other party, so a decision can be made without any further input from you.

In the case of Mother v Father [2022] EWHC 3107 (Fam), the eight-year-old daughter lived with her father and went to school close to her father’s home.  Her mother filed an application for the daughter to live with her and to change schools so that she went to a school where the mother lived.  The father filed a cross-application for the daughter to remain living with him and to continue to go to the school close to him.

At the contested hearing, the mother did not agree with some of the father’s evidence and wanted to dispute this, but it was decided that neither party could cross-examine the other.  The case was adjourned as the mother wanted to appeal the decision not to be able to cross-examine the father. The appeal was not allowed, and the Appeal Court judge found that the original court had properly exercised its powers.

Courts can make a decision based on written evidence only and are guided by various Family Procedure Rules which set out how they should proceed.  Contested hearings can be complex, as well as emotional and nerve-wracking.  It is vital that you gather all the relevant information to demonstrate your case before putting your statement/evidence to the court, and that you present it in the best way possible in the first instance. Any delay in reaching a final decision can be damaging for the whole family – especially any children.

Graysons’ family law experts have a wealth of experience and can help you to build and present your case effectively.  Contact our team now to find out how we can help you.

Author: Bradie Pell, partner and head of Graysons’ family team.

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