children proceedings

Which Courts deal with children proceedings and which should you apply to?

This article is the third instalment of a series on Private Family Law, which aims to break down some of the misconceptions we often see in our work. The first two articles asked the questions, ‘what are private law proceedings?’ and ‘how do Courts make their decisions?’. This article will look at which Courts deal with children proceedings and which Court you should apply to.

Courts that deal with children proceedings

Prior to 2013, children proceedings were dealt with in individual court centres.

These primarily were the Family Proceedings Courts (Magistrates), the County Court and the Family Division of the High Court. This meant, when determining that a Children Act application needed to be issued, an individual court centre had to be identified dependent on the level of court required to deal with the case and the location of this. Whilst cases could be transferred from court to court, this led to delay and the following process could be disjointed.

Part 2 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 created the Family Court. The aim was to bring together particularly the Magistrates’ and County Courts and place them in a single seamless entity.

The intent was to enable cases to be transferred more easily between the varying levels of the judiciary, for example from Magistrates to judges for more complex questions and for cases to be transferred between geographical court centres.

It was intended that each court would now act in the same way and within the same rules and parameters.

Which court should an application be issued in?

A Google search should relatively easily identify the nearest family court centre to you (usually based in a County Court). As a preliminary starting point therefore, this would be potentially the most suitable court to instigate an application.

In children proceedings, the case should be heard in the nearest court to where the child is living. If the case was issued in the wrong court, or if a move took place, the court would also need to be moved to the court closest to where the child was living for a variety of reasons which include:

  1. The parent without the care of the children may be in a better position practically to travel for the purposes of attending at court hearings without the requirement to secure and provide for child care; and
  2. If within the proceedings an independent report is required and may assist the court, it is more straightforward for that reporting organisation to be within the area within which the children reside so that they can visit the child and be able more easily to attend court proceedings.

Whilst there is no certainty that a court would agree to a transfer of a case from one location to another, it is worth bearing this in mind as such a transfer would inevitably lead to some delay in the progression of the case. If you’re unsure about the process, please do get in touch.

This article is part of a series on Private Family Law and Children Law proceedings. If you would like to learn more about the rules around parental responsibility, contact, holidays and arrangements for separated parents, please click here for the full series.

The next article in the series will address common misconceptions and assumptions around “child custody” and “access”.

If you would like to discuss the different types of legal proceedings relating to children, please get in touch and we’d be happy to assist you.