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 one looks at which Courts deal with children proceedings and which Courts to apply to.

Courts that deal with children proceedings

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

These primarily were the Family Proceedings Courts (Magistrates), 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, the level of court required to deal with the case and the specific location of the same.

Whilst cases could be transferred, this led to delay and the following process could be disjointed. Consequently, in 2013 the Family Courts Part 2 Crime and Courts Act was introduced which created the entity of 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 allow for cases to be transferred more easily between the varying levels of the judiciary, for example from Magistrates to County Court for more complex questions and then if necessary the transfer back to the Magistrates and for transfer between geographical court centres.

It was intended that each court therefore 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.

However, in circumstances where the children may be residing at a considerable distance from the applicant, for example: a father in Cornwall and mother in Kent with children, if the application were issued in Cornwall there may be a subsequent application to transfer the proceedings to Kent where the children reside for variety of reasons. This includes:

  1. The parent without the care of the children may be in a better position practically to travel for the purposes of attendance at court hearings without the requirement to secure and provide for child care; and
  2. If within the proceedings it is determined that 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 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 does 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.