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Preparing a Statement

What is a statement?

A statement is part of your evidence for the court. It is a document which sets out your views, opinions and evidence, why you are in court, and what court orders and arrangements you want to court to put in place. Your statement can have other documentary evidence attached to it, which supports your position and your requests to the court.

When should I write a statement?

A judge will tell you when a statement is required, and the date by which it should be ´filed and served´. Filing means delivering or posting a copy of the statement to the court, while serving means delivering a copy of your statement to the other party or their solicitor if they are legally represented (or to the other party if not). The court is also likely to direct you to provide a copy of your statement to CAFCASS if they are involved in your case.

The court may direct both parties to ´file and serve´ statements on the same date, or for one to file and serve their statement first, and the other to consider this and then file their own statement in response.

Tips about content

It is essential when preparing a statement for Court that it is well structured. The content of your statement should be both fair and accurate and you should be able to justify any comments/opinions you make. Where you give opinion, it is helpful if you can provide evidence which is supportive of the points that you wish to raise.

If you cannot provide evidence to support your opinion, consider leaving it out (e.g. if you believe your ex is mentally ill, unless they have a diagnosis and history of medical treatment, you are unlikely to get very far making this allegation - far better to describe the behaviour that causes you concern, and where it impacts on the children, rather than attempting unqualified diagnosis... but again, confrontational/accusatory positions are rarely helpul).

The following content (and approach when presenting your arguments) is invariably helpful and well received:

  1. Fair and Accurate: What you write in your statement must be true, fair and accurate. It should include the wording (either at the start or at the end) ´I [Type in your name] of [Type in your address] make this statement believing the contents to be true and knowing that it will be put before the court and that I may be examined on the contents.´

  2. Simple: Your statement should be easy to understand.

  3. Timely: File and serve your statement on time and do not leave starting it (or finishing it for that matter) until the last minute. Nerves, stress and depression can make you ´put it off´ until tomorrow. Don´t! Get it done early to reduce your stress.

  4. Length: Don´t make the statement so long that the important points get lost. Judges may get little opportunity to read your statement before a hearing, sometimes only a few minutes before they walk into court. I have seen exceptionally good statements which were no more than 5 pages, but succinct and to the point.

  5. Audience: Think of who you are writing for! Wording which is aggressive, confrontational, overly emotional and unnecessarily accusatory is not going to assist your children, your case or you. Recognising your ex-partner´s good points as a parent does not weaken your case for your continued involvement in the children´s lives. It presents you as fair-minded. Think about the impression your statement makes. As an example, if the other party is making false allegations about you, it is less aggressive to say ´What they say is untrue´ rather than ´X is a liar´. Write about facts, not what you perceive as motive.

  6. Child Focused: Keep your statement child focussed. Your statement and reasons for being in court should relate to your relationship with your child, not your past relationship with your ex-partner. The court should consider ´the welfare checklist´ when making a decision concerning children. You should also consider the welfare checklist and how it applies to your own children´s circumstances, your and your ex-partner´s arguments to the court. The welfare checklist is a list of matters related to child welfare, including:

    1. The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in light of his/her age and understanding);

    2. His/her physical, emotional and/or educational needs;

    3. The likely effect on him/her of any change in his circumstances;

    4. His/her age, sex, background and any characteristics of his/hers, which the court considers relevant;

    5. Any harm which he/she has suffered or is at risk of suffering.

    6. How capable each of his/her parents and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his/her needs;

    7. The range of powers available to the court (under the Children Act of 1989) in the proceedings in question.

  7. Reason your Requests: Be clear in the arrangements you are asking the court to make, and give your reasoning behind the requests. As an example, if applying for contact or shared residence, state what days you want your children to be with you, and then go on to explain the type of things you and your children do (or will do) in that time. What is ´family life´ for you? Describe the activities you and your children get up to, including helping with homework, supporting any extra-curricular activities, visiting grandparents etc. Explain why it is in your children´s best interests that the court grants your application. Note: your children´s best interests, not yours!

  8. A Picture tells 1000 words: Consider including some photographs of yourself with your children within your statement. It is simple enough to import a photograph or two into the body of the statement (do not go overboard... one or two will do). I suggest you do not include ´posed´ photographs, but instead choose ´natural´ photos e.g. showing the children and you playing or relaxing at home. Photographs help you ´show´ the judge your children´s life with you.

  9. Be sure to make YOUR points: Remember it is your statement and why you are writing it. I have seen too many statements which focus mainly (or entirely) on criticising the other parent´s position or defending against their allegations. It is important to consider the balance of the overall document to ensure that your own arguments, your requests to the court and your reasoning is prominent.

  10. Be practical: are the arrangements you want practical? If you want the children to be with you for half the holidays, can you get this amount of time off work? What support will you have for childcare if you or your child is ill? Are travel arrangements practical for your child (as well as both parents). Is the handover location sensible? Would a neutral location be better? Would it be less stressful for all if you collect from and drop off to school? What time will you want to pick your children up, and drop them back? If the other parent´s home is some distance from you, can both parents afford the travel costs?

  11. Evidence: Please note that the following documents can be referred to, but should not be attached to your statement without having sought the court's consent:

    1. correspondence (including letters of instruction to experts);
    2. medical records (including hospital, GP and health visitor records);
    3. bank and credit card statements and other financial records;
    4. notes of contact visits;
    5. foster carer logs;
    6. social services files (with the exception of any assessment being relied on by any of the parties);
    7. police disclosure records.
    8. That said, you might still wish to refer to the following, and ask the court's permission to submit these documents in evidence:

      1. School Reports: The most recent school reports from the time when you were involved in your children´s care which shows your children to be settled and doing well.
      2. OFSTED Reports: OFSTED reports on the school if you wish your child to stay at, or move to, a particular school (and highlight the positive points about the school in your statement while referencing the page of the comment in the report). OFSTED reports can be found online and are often linked on the school´s website.
      3. Employer support: If appropriate, a letter from your employer confirming your holiday entitlement or that your employer has agreed flexible working arrangements (see our separate guide on Flexible Working) so you can be involved in collection from school.
      4. Letters from third parties: confirming your ability as a parent. If these are from childcare professionals and neutral third parties who have witnessed you parenting your children will carry far more weight than letters from friends and family (who the court would expect to be partisan).
      5. Letters from close friends or family members who you can call on should you or your child be unwell to confirm your support network for childcare.

  12. Interim Contact: 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.

  13. Case Law: You may wish to provide details of case law where the courts have previously agreed to requests / arrangements similar (or ideally identical) to the ones you are asking for. Include the full case reference, as well as a quote directly from the case law/judgment itself (and the paragraph number from the judgment). See our Case Law Menu which includes many judgments, the full text of judgments, and copies you can print to take to court.
  14. If you refer to case law in your statement, it is sensible to include a copy with your statement (or at least have a copy with you in court, with the relevant passages highlighted). As an example of how case law may assist and be used/referred to, and using the example of one parent calling for the other parent´s contact time to be supervised, you might wish to include:

    "I am aware that Mrs Bloggs is asking the court not to allow me unsupervised contact. There are no genuine welfare concerns, and I refer the court to the case AR (A Child: Relocation) [2010] EWHC 1346 (Fam) in the High Court, and the Honourable Mr Justice Mostyn´s judgment that both a child and their parent have the right to a normal family life unless there is clear evidence why such arrangements would be inappropriate. HHJ Mostyn said: ´On the facts of this case it is clear to me that supervised contact would only have been appropriate if there was the clearest and most compelling evidence that in some way S's best interests would be jeopardised by unsupervised, normal contact. Given the terms of the Strasbourg jurisprudence to which I have referred, it is almost as if there is a presumption in favour of normal contact and it is for those who say it is inappropriate to prove by clear evidence why this is so.´
  15. Consider Structured Arrangements: If asking for holiday contact (or if you are applying for residence, and setting out when you want your child to reside with you), it may help you to ask for structured arrangements. As a example, if asking for half the holidays, suggesting the first week of Easter, Christmas week to alternate annually between the parents´ homes, half terms to alternate (or be split), and specifying the first two weeks of the Summer be with mum, the second fortnight with dad, then a week each, may help prevent returns to court. Structured arrangements can prevent the need for a return to court in the future. Do not forget to include arrangements for birthdays (yours and the children´s), father´s and mother´s days, etc if you think agreeing such things in the future with your ex-partner may be difficult.

  16. Consider Holidays Abroad: If applying for contact, and if the other parent can be difficult when it comes to agreeing arrangements, consider asking the court to make a specific issue order to grant permission for you to take the children abroad. If a residence order is made in favour of the other parent, you cannot take the children abroad without their (or the court´s) consent. If you are granted shared residence, either parent can take the children abroad for up to 28 days at a time.

  17. Experts and Welfare Officers: Consider whether you want the court to have any investigations carried out and asking for this in your 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.

  18. Re-draft if necessary: Read and re-read your statement once it is finished. Aside from checking spelling and grammar, consider:

    1. whether the points you wish to make are clear. Try not to have paragraphs be too long;

    2. whether each paragraph/point you raise is necessary. If it is not, then delete it. Do not risk your main points being obscured with ´fluff´, ´padding´ or repetition;

    3. whether language/ sentences/ paragraphs can be simplified to make them easier to understand;

    4. if what you have written could be misread or misinterpreted.

  19. Closure: When it is finished and you are happy with it, put it away until the date when the statement should be filed and served. Read it again the day before you are next due in court!

Tips about structure

  1. Paragraphs: The statement should have numbered paragraphs. Again, try not to have any paragraph be too long. If you need sub-paragraphs, include letters:

    1. Like this

  2. Font and size: Times New Roman 12 is ideal.

  3. Line spacing: Set line spacing at 1.5 times which makes the statement easier to read.

  4. Margins: Set the left hand margin to at least 2.5cm. Later, your statement is likely to be included in a court bundle (a file containing all the case paperwork which either you, your solicitor or the solicitor acting for the other parent will need to provide for the court´s use).

  5. Page Numbering: Include page numbers in the bottom right hand corner of each page. It will be helpful if you carry on the page numbering on any pages of evidence you attach to your statement.

  6. Template: Refer to our MSWord template (included) which also shows the correct headings for the statement e.g. including the court name and location, the case number, the date, the children´s names and dates of birth and the parties´ names and whether they are the applicant (party applying to court) or the respondent (party replying to an application).

  7. Evidence - References and Index: If you are including documentary evidence to support points you make in your statement, provide an index for those documents. This index should follow after the final page of your statement. For each item of evidence, give a unique reference made up of the initials of your name, and a number for the piece of evidence itself. If your name is Joe Bloggs, the reference number would be [JB1], then [JB2] for the next item of evidence, and so on. Write this reference on the top right hand side of the evidence, and within your statement, include the reference at the end of the sentence in which you refer to it (in bold and within square brackets).
  8. As an example: if the third piece of evidence in your statement was a letter from your employer, and your name was Joe Bloggs, the referencing within the statement would appear as follows:

    "My employer, The Original Tile Company, has agreed to flexible working arrangements which will allow me to pick up Todd and Wendy from school. [JB3]"

    The numbering of evidence should be sequential and include an index for your evidence at the end of your statement, including index numbers and a description.

  9. Sub headings: Use sub headings so that the statement has some structure to make it easier to understand including:

    1. History: Include the following details, giving a separate numbered paragraph for each: whether you and your ex-partner were married and if so, when; your children´s names and their ages; when you separated from your ex-partner; any previous applications you have made to court concerning your children and the case numbers and include details of any orders made; the extent of your involvement in your children´s day-to-day care (if this assists you). Matters to include might be the extra-curricular activities you have supported your children in (dance classes, music, sports, etc), your past financial commitment and support, activities which you and the children have enjoyed together etc.

    2. Request to the Court: Set out what orders you want the court to make. If relevant, set out the contact that you are asking the court to grant. Some parents prefer to use the term ´parenting time´.

    3. Current Situation: Include what contact you are currently having with your children. If any serious allegations have been made against you, answer them here. You may also wish to include any activities you currently support your children in, and how you support your children in maintaining their relationships with other family members such as grandparents. If you have any concerns, again raise them in this section, but be factual and ideally include evidence which supports your concerns. Make sure you consider the Welfare Checklist, both in terms of your proposals and your reasons for asking the court to grant them.

    4. Other Party´s Position (e.g. Mother´s Position or Father´s Position depending on the circumstances): You may want to include a section on the other party´s position/wishes, and your own views as top these. Again, try to keep your opinion objective and based on fact. If you disagree with what the other parent wishes, again, give clear, objective reasons why, and based on the children´s needs rather than your own wishes.

    5. Summary: Unless your statement is particularly short, include a brief summary so the court is in no doubt as to what you are asking for e.g.:

      1. I ask the court to grant a shared residence order with the following pattern of parenting time:

        1. That Todd and Wendy should reside with me on Wednesday evenings, with collection from school and drop off to school on the Thursday mornings;

        2. That the children reside with me on alternate weekends from Friday night to Monday morning, with collection from/drop off to school;

        3. etc...

        4. and should reside with their mother (or father) at all other times.

      2. I believe these arrangements best suit the children´s welfare needs.

      3. Until a final order is made, I ask the court to grant an interim contact order, setting out that the children should have staying contact with me on Wednesday nights, and on alternate weekends from Friday to Monday.

    6. Sign and date your statement.

How should I refer to the other parent in my statement?

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.

The Statement of Truth

Within your statement, and normally at the start, you should include a statement of truth. The correct wording is provided below:

"I [insert your full name] of [insert your home address] make this statement knowing that it will be placed before the court, and I confirm that to the best of my knowledge and belief its contents are true."

Failure to include a statement of truth within your statement could lead to it being struck out by the judge.

Michael Robinson © 2014

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

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