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Dispute Resolution Appointment (DRA)

Dispute Resolution Hearings follow the preparation of a child welfare report (typically a section 7 prepared by CAFCASS or Social Services) or other expert report, or the parents having attended a Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP or WT4C in Wales), if this is considered likely to be helpful and in the interests of the child.

Where the hearing follows the preparation of a section 7 report by CAFCASS (and investigation into the child's welfare), the author of the section 7 report will only attend this hearing if directed to do so by the Court. See more on CAFCASS on our CAFCASS page:


At the DRA the Court will:

  1. Identify the key issue(s) (if any) to be determined and the extent to which those issues can be resolved or narrowed at the Dispute Resolution Appointment (DRA);
  2. Consider whether the DRA can be used as a final hearing;
  3. Resolve or narrow the issues by hearing evidence;
  4. Identify the evidence to be heard on the issues which remain to be resolved at the final hearing;
  5. Give final case management directions including:
    1. Filing of further evidence;
    2. Filing of a statement of facts/issues remaining to be determined;
    3. Filing of a witness template (see below) and / or skeleton arguments (see our guide to Skeleton Arguments below)
    4. Skeleton Arguments
    5. Ensuring Compliance with Practice Direction 27A (the Bundles Practice Direction - see our guide on Court Bundles below)
    6. Court Bundles
    7. Listing the Final Hearing (listing means setting the date, time and location for the final hearing)

The Witness Template

A witness template sets down which witnesses are to be called to appear in court, how long each party estimates they will want to cross-examine the witnesses. The parties too may be called to be cross-examined (or if not represented by a solicitor or barrister will want to put forward their evidence in lieu of being questioned by the own solicitor/barrister.

Below you can download a blank Witness Template (as a Microsoft Word document) if you're required to produced one by the court. Complete all fields in brackets. Where not applicable, simply delete text. The Witness Template sets out the witnesses to be called by the Applicant and Respondent to support their evidence. The Witness column lists the name of the witness, and in the adjacent columns the parties not down an estimate for the time cross-examination will take. Where not represented, the litigant-in-person may include themselves in the witness list with a time estimate for presenting their evidence to the court.

Witness Template

Other Time to be Estimated

Parties to proceedings or their solicitors/counsel (if legally represented) should also be prepared to provide the court with time estimates for presentation of submissions (orally setting out their case) and time estimates for how long the judge will need to read relevant paperwork before the hearing.

Recommended Reading List

Parties too may be asked to provide a recommended reading list, and if case law is to be relied upon to support evidence, hard copies of the judgments should be included within the court bundle. Where in the public domain, you can print case law in a PDF format via our case law section:

Case Law Menu

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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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