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At what level of court should cases be heard?

Guidance given below is taken from Schedule to the Allocation and Gatekeeping Guidance ‐ Private Law [April 2014].

When an application is made to court, a Judge will decide what level of court/judge considers the case based on complexity.

When, on allocation, Gatekeepers are considering specifically the issue of complexity, it is envisaged that they will allocate all relevant family applications to magistrates UNLESS they are of the type set out below.

Part 1

District Judge (unless in the opinion of the allocated District Judge, the particular characteristics of the individual case justify transfer to a Circuit Judge).

Part 2

Cases to be heard by a District Judge but may be by Circuit Judge (or at most serious level by High Court Judge):

Part 3: High Court and Inherent Jurisdiction

Cases to be heard by the High Court:

Gatekeeping in Enforcement Proceedings

It is important to be aware of statutory guidance in relation to case allocation where committal for non-compliance is being considered.

The Family Court (Composition and Distribution of Business) Rules 2014 at section 17(5) states:

(5) Any power of the family court to make an order for committal in respect of a breach of a judgment, order or undertaking to do or abstain from doing an act may only be made by a judge of the same level as, or of a higher level than, the judge who make the judgment or order, or who accepted the undertaking, as the case may be.

This rule applies to "applications in existing proceedings or in connection with proceedings that have concluded".

Also see our main guide on Case Allocation and Gatekeeping:

Case Allocation and Gatekeeping

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Michael Robinson © 2014

Family law information for parents whose children are resident in England and Wales

Crown Copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's printer for Scotland.

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