Short overview of how the Court might deal with a Private Law Child matter and the Fee Structure:
The process that the court goes through where there’s an application for Child Contact:
Before you can make an application to court for an order relating to children, you must by law organise a meeting with a mediator. This is usually known as: MIAM
Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting [MIAM]. In some urgent cases, if there are domestic abuse or child protection issues, or if you have tried mediation but it has not been successful, you may be exempt from attending a MIAM.
The mediator will sign the Court application form known as a C100 to show that you have fulfilled the requirement for a MIAM.
There is a court fee payable when the application is filed at court. The court will set a date for the first hearing in your case. This is usually at the nearest Court to where the children reside. The hearing is known as the 'First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment' (“FHDRA”), which both parties must attend.
The hearing may be in front of the lay justices [up to three persons] in the family court, or a District Judge sitting alone. higher levels of Judge may get involved if the issues are particularly difficult and or complex.
The court’s aim at this hearing is to identify the areas of dispute, outline the issues on both sides and to decide what evidence needs to be collected before the outcome can be decided.
For example, a report from CAFCASS who are specially trained children’s court social workers may be filled. This report is important as it reports on information about the children and their wishes and feelings. The Court will also need statements from both parents too. In some cases, reports from other experts may be ordered to assist the court in its decision.
You or your legal Representative will be expected to speak to the judge or lay justices at this hearing and explain what you want to happen and why.
The court will sometimes make an interim contact order at this hearing and put in place certain arrangements that will continue until the next hearing.
At this hearing, it is usual for the court to set the date for the next hearing. The matter may go straight to final hearing or a 'Fact-Finding' hearing. this will depend on the circumstances of the matter.
If the matter is sent to Final Hearing, all parties then give evidence, first the applicant and then the respondent, and then anyone else involved, including the CAFCASS officer who will have prepared a Report.
If listed for a 'Fact-Finding' Hearing, both parties to the proceedings and their witnesses will give evidence.
Before giving evidence, each witness must swear an oath or affirm. When you give evidence your barrister will ask you and the other party questions. The representative for the other party will also ask questions. In addition, The judge may asks questions too. Finally, the court will make its decisions, based on the law and the evidence put before it.
NOTES ON COSTS: In Family Law, each side will pay their own costs. If one party has tried to mislead the court or conducts the litigation in an inappropriate way, the court might order that person to pay all or part of the other person’s costs. However, the latter is unusual.
Average Fee structure: In Children matters: Ranges of fixed fees [estimates]
Preliminary Conference from one hour to four hours: £200- £1,500
Preparation of case, including meetings with you and assistance with drafting of any Court documents.The fixed fee would be calculated at the hourly for Counsel. This multiplied by the number of hours work required.The applicable range of hourly rates are £250 per hour.
First Dispute Resolution Appointment [first court hearing where the court will identify and attempt to resolve the issues in the case, sometimes with the assistance of a Cafcass officer] £750 - £1,500
Dispute Resolution Appointment [second court hearing once the evidence has been filed and / or a report has been received from Cafcass and / or social services] £1,200 - £3000 depending on the complexity of the case
1 Day Final Hearing [if no agreement has been reached and the court is asked to decide the issues] £1,500 - £5,000 Depending on the complexity of the case.
Fees quoted above do not include VAT [where applicable] or Travel and accommodation