What to expect from a First Children Appointment

  • Matters that you are likely to consider urgent (such as not seeing your child) are not given urgent hearing dates, so you may wait around 4 weeks for a first hearing.
  • Before the hearing, you should receive a call from a CAFCASS officer who will ask you about your reasons for making the application, or your thoughts on the application made by the other parent. They will also be carrying out checks on both of you with the police and social services.
  • You will be asked by the Court to attend at least 30 minutes before the hearing time. This is for you or your solicitor to try and discuss matters with the other parent (through their representative if they have one).  You may be able to reduce the issues that have to be considered by the Judge or magistrates if you do this.
  • In the Cambridge Hearing Centre, there is often a volunteer mediator available for the first Children Hearing who will speak to you and the other parent ideally in the same room, without any solicitors, to see if an agreement can be reached. If the Judge or magistrates suggest this, it will be because they believe you will both be safe in that conversation and that it may be productive.  This service is free.
  • The Judge or magistrate will rarely look at any evidence you bring to the first hearing although it is usual to file a position statement. This briefly summarises what you want the Judge or magistrates to order, and why.
  • In Court the Judge sits alone and will speak directly to each of you, or your solicitors. He will have the safeguarding report provided by CAFCASS from their telephone discussions with each parent.  He will be trying to see if a resolution can be reached through compromise, to avoid the case continuing.
  • If your case is before magistrates, everyone is introduced by the clerk who sits to one side. If the magistrates have to make a decision, they will often leave the room to consider this and you will be asked to leave for a period and be brought back into Court later. Where the magistrates make a decision, their reasons will be confirmed in writing later.
  • If the case is to continue, an order will be made setting out who has to do what by set dates and will give the date of the next hearing. You will be sent this through the post or your solicitor will provide it to you.

Initial Fixed Fee Consultation

Come and talk to us. You’ll find us empathetic, keen to help and with a wealth of experience. We offer a fixed fee consultation of £120 for the first appointment. You will be advised on the options open to you and the possible outcomes. Our priority is to ensure that you have a clear understanding of the path ahead and the challenges involved in achieving your goals.

Disclaimer: This guide contains general information only and does not constitute legal advice.  You need to consult a suitably qualified lawyer from the firm on any specific legal issue.