A position statement is a useful document which you may choose to write (it is not obligatory unless ordered by the court) in preparation for a court hearing. As the name implies, it is a written statement setting out your ´position´, which at a first directions hearing, should briefly setting out what it is you want the court to do, and why. At later hearings, position statements can also be useful to give both the court and the other party to proceedings pre-warning of any change in your ´position´ (e.g. what you want to happen).
Position statements are useful for the court, in that they give the court a brief outline of your position in advance of the hearing. For yourself, they ensure there is a written record of your ´position´ at that time, ensuring points don´t get forgotten in the stress of proceedings. They may help bring a case to an early conclusion if the other party accepts your position. It can be used to give you a brief plan of what you want to achieve at the hearing. They can be used to provide a written record of your response to things such as welfare report findings by CAFCASS.
We say it again further on, but it is worth stating it here... ´A position statement should be brief!´ Ideally, no more than a couple of pages long.
If the court asks you to prepare a statement, this is likely to be longer and more detailed (please refer to our guide on Statements).
One important point: do not assume your position statement has been read by the judge when you walk into court. Paperwork gets mislaid, and time pressures may mean the judge has had little or no opportunity to read the paperwork. In a hearing, you should verbally set out your ´position´ (and a written position statement helps you ensure important points do not get forgotten under the stress of being in court).
Technically, a judge should tell you when a statement is required, and the date by which it should be ´filed and served´. That said, people often write a position statement without such an instruction (and with no criticism for doing so without having been told to). Filing means delivering or posting a copy of the statement to the court, while serving means delivering or posting a copy of your position statement to the other party or their solicitor if they are legally represented.
You do not have to prepare a position statement (unless a judge tells you to), and only file one if your ´position´ has changed, or if there is something important which you wish to comment on (such as the findings of a CAFCASS Report etc).
Some people have a worry that giving people advance knowledge of what you intend to say in court gives them an advantage. Our view is that making clear your position is more important, and so long as it is reasonable, practical and child focused, nothing is lost in giving the opportunity for people to think about it, rather than risk them missing those points, or your points being lost due to your not having the opportunity to express them in court, proceedings being rushed due to limited court time, or simply due to your feeling stressed when in the court room.
A position statement should be brief. Two to three pages is plenty. As with any statement, we recommend you keep content:
Consider what do you want to achieve at THIS hearing when writing your position statement. If a half hour hearing is listed, you want to ensure that the most important matter to you comes first on your position statement. If you are not seeing your children, do not leave the request for interim contact buried on the second or third page. State that you wish an interim contact order to be made, and why it is in your children´s best interests.
Other tips include:
Again, if you are not currently seeing your children, you should ask for an interim contact order. It may be many months before a final order is made by the court which decides residence and/or contact. If you are not seeing your children currently, you will want to ask the court to put in place temporary contact arrangements until such time as the final order is made. See also our webpage on case law, and especially the section on Interim and Supervised Contact Case Law.
If not already involved in proceedings, consider whether you want the court to have any investigations carried out and asking for this in your position statement, either to be conducted by CAFCASS Officers (or similar), or experts such as psychologists. You should only be asking for CAFCASS involvement if there are serious welfare concerns, since their involvement is likely to delay a final order by months. You are likely to need evidence to confirm the need for expert involvement, and again, any investigation and reporting back to the court will delay your proceedings considerably.
If they are the applicant (the person applying to the court), you can refer to them as ´the Applicant´. If they are responding to your application to the court, you can refer to them as ´the Respondent´. Personally, I would refer to them by name, which is clearer and less ´clinical´. Mrs XXX will do.
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Michael Robinson © 2014
Family law information for parents whose children are resident in England and Wales
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