Fact-finding hearings and child contact cases

Fact-finding hearings and child contact cases

Teertha Gupta QC of 4 Paper Buildings discusses Re A (A child: Wardship: Fact Finding: Domestic Violence), the shift in how and when fact-finding hearings are carried out, cultural issues in children cases, and the requirements of Practice Direction 12J.

Original news

Re A (A child: Wardship: Fact finding: Domestic Violence) [2015] EWHC 1598 (Fam), [2015] All ER (D) 94 (Jun)

In the context of wardship proceedings brought by the father in respect of the child, A, the court embarked on a fact-finding exercise in the light of the disputed allegations made by the mother as to serious domestic violence as well as abusive behaviour towards the child himself. Taking into account the factors set out in the Family Procedure Rules 2010, PD 12J (FPR 2010), as to the making of a child arrangements order in cases where domestic violence isalleged, the Family Division held that, on the evidence, A had suffered the trauma of witnessing events of considerable violence between his parents. There had not been treatment of A of the kind that would merit the term physical abuse. The court was certain that from early on in the marriage, as the mother claimed, there was real unhappiness caused by the father's actual violence. Whether it would be in A's best interests to seek to rebuild some kind of relationship with his father would depend on the father's reaction to the judgment.

What was the significance of FPR, PD 12J in this case, and how would the courts generally approach the requirements of that?

This isthe new breed of fact-finding hearing--in recent years there has been a shift away from 'automatic' fact-finding hearings to a separate forensic analysis of allegations only where it meets the relevance, necessity and proportionality criteria. In view of the overriding objective and the courts' responsibilities to other cases, discrete fact-finding hearings are now only used in cases where the allegations are serious and where findings will have a definite impact on future

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About the author:

Geraldine is Head of LexisPSL Family. She was admitted as a solicitor in 1992 and was in practice for 15 years, most recently as a partner and head of the family team at Hart Brown, a large Surrey firm.

Geraldine writes for Butterworths Family Law Service and is a past editor of the Resolution Review. She has been published in the New Law Journal, the Law Society Gazette and the District Judges’ Bulletin as well as in the national press including the Times and the Telegraph.

When in practice she was a member of the Law Society Family and Children Panels, and an accredited Resolution Specialist with a focus on advanced financial provision and pensions. A past Resolution regional secretary and press officer, Geraldine also contributed chapters to the Resolution publications, International Aspects of Family Law (3rd Edition 2009) and The Modern Family (2012).