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| 1 minute read

President issues guidance for judges and magistrates on the listing of fact finding hearings

The president of the family division has issued further guidance on the use of fact-finding hearings in children proceedings. A fact finding hearing is a separate hearing listed in children proceedings where there is a dispute of fact regarding an incident(s), or where one party makes an allegation that is denied by the other. The judge must make a decision, on the balance of probabilities, as to what happened and/or whether the allegations are true or false.

It is understood that following the Court of Appeal decision in Re HN last year, the family court has seen an increase in the number of cases being listed for a fact find which has not helped the ongoing issues of overburdened courts and judicial unavailability.  

The president is clear that such hearings should not be the default, and should only be listed where they are necessary in considering what child arrangements might be appropriate in the future. If the outcome of the fact find is not relevant to the future child arrangements then a fact finding hearing is going to be neither necessary nor proportionate.  

There will always be cases where it is necessary for the court to make a determination on what may or may not have taken place between two parties. However, it is hoped this guidance will help in making sure these difficult and complex hearings are only taking place when absolutely necessary.

To determine whether a fact-finding hearing is required, judges must consider the nature of the allegations and the extent to which those allegations are likely to be relevant to making a child arrangement order.


family law