A further change introduced on 22nd April 2014 was the introduction of single Family Court. Prior to this, the Family Proceedings Court and County Court separately managed cases.
When you apply to court, within 1 working day your application will be assessed by a 'Gatekeeper'. The Gatekeeper is either a Legal Adviser working for the courts or a nominated District Judge.
If mediation has not been attempted and one of the exemptions is claimed on the C100 application form, the Gatekeeper will decide whether or not the exemption is valid. If not, the Gatekeeper may direct that the parties attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (see our separate guide on Mediation before matters can more to a First Hearing and Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA) at court.
If the Gatekeeper considers the application is urgent, they may speed up the date for the FHDRA. In exceptional circumstances, the Gatekeeper may direct the filing of evidence in advance of the FHDRA.
A decision will also be made as to what level of judge hears the case and where the case should be heard. The President of the Family court has issued guidance concerning this:
Depending on the complexity of the case, it may be heard by Lay Justices (Magistrates), a Legal Adviser (essentially a legally trained clerk to the magistrate's court), a Distric Judge or a Circuit Judge.
It is possible to ask for a review of the decision as to what level of judge hears the case.
Wherever possible, there should be judicial continuity (e.g. the same judge should hear the case throughout proceedings).
Also see guidance on which level of judge should hear a case according to the court´s own guidance:Case Allocation Guidance
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Michael Robinson © 2014
Family law information for parents whose children are resident in England and Wales
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