Written by Shabana Wayalat

Shabana is an Honorary Legal Advisor at the High Court’s Principal Registry of the Family Division where she offers pro bono advice on a regular basis for those who qualify. She is an SRA -Accredited Specialist Family Lawyer.

Fact-Finding Hearings are usually ordered by the Court within the context of children proceedings, for example, when a father has applied for contact with his child/ren but the mother has raised several allegations of violence/aggressive behaviour towards her and/or the child/ren. Before any contact can be ordered/agreed a fact finding hearing will take place when each party will have an opportunity to put forward their evidence in the form of a written Statement, expert reports, police and medical reports, as well as oral evidence. The allegations are particularised in a Schedule and the onus is on the party raising the allegations to prove them on the balance of probabilities, a lesser burden of proof than the Criminal Court. It is an expensive and stressful affair, but one that is essential to ascertain the truth.

Many parents welcome a Fact-Finding Hearing as, once and for all, lies can be laid to rest and the interests of the child/ren safeguarded.

If the allegations are found to be true, then the perpetrator will need to attend counselling, domestic violence courses, or seek therapy before full contact can be ordered. If the allegations are not proved, then the Judge could find that the reason they were raised was due to implacable hostility, giving rise to serious concern as to how positive contact can be promoted in light of such a toxic atmosphere at home. The Judge does have a duty to promote contact through an Order as this is in the interests of the child/ren, and to advise the parent who has raised the false allegations that any Order made needs to be adhered to, otherwise he or she could be held to be in contempt of Court, which can carry serious consequences such as fines, imprisonment, and even, if matters escalate and Orders are disobeyed time and time again, change of residence.

Many parents welcome a Fact-Finding Hearing as, once and for all, lies can be laid to rest and the interests of the child/ren safeguarded.

If one has been ordered in your case, then please do seek expert family advice as the hearing will affect the outcome of your application in the children proceedings.

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