What Happens at a Final Hearing in Family Court?Idnan Deen
A final hearing will take place to determine the final position on each of the issues regarding the child that have been put before the Court. If an agreement cannot be reached, a panel of 3 magistrates and a Legal Advisor or a Judge will hear the evidence and then impose a judgement.
When Will I have a Final Hearing?
In England and Wales there is no specific limit on the number of hearings that can happen in a children matter. This means that a final hearing can happen at any point. A hearing may become final if the issues are all resolved or narrowed enough for a final judgement to be made, or it may be that the hearing has specifically been listed as a final hearing.
The Court will encourage all those involved to reach an agreement throughout the proceedings, but if an agreement cannot be reached, the Court will have to hear evidence and impose a judgement. The hearing may be heard before a panel of 3 magistrates and a Legal Advisor or a Judge.
Why is it Needed?
A final hearing will need to decide what the final position is on each issue that has been put before the Court. There are a wide range of issues that may be in dispute, such as where the child shall live and how they will spend their time. There may also be issues surrounding parental responsibility and the child’s name.
How Long Will it Take?
If the matter has been specifically listed for a Final Hearing, this will usually mean that the issues have not been resolved at the previous hearings and that the Court have listed the matter for a ‘determination’ (which is the term used for the conclusion of a legal dispute).
The determination will usually take a full day or sometimes longer. This will give all involved a chance to give evidence and call witnesses. Each person will then each give a closing speech to summarise what the important elements of the case have been and ask for a judgment to be found in their favour.
When Will I know the Outcome?
The Judge will usually make their decision shortly after listening to the evidence, giving the reasons for their judgment in full. Sometimes they will reserve judgment and everyone has to come back on another day, usually a week or so later, where the judge will then give the judgment. Sometimes the judge sends out a written judgment if the case is particularly complex.
Often, the judgement will include an Order being made, but in some instances it may be found that it is better to make no Order.
If an Order is made relating to how the child’s time will be spent, a schedule will be detailed within the Order. This will need to be adhered to otherwise the non-compliant individual will be in contempt of Court. If this happens, the matter will need to be bought back before the Court for enforcement.
The Order will need to be kept in a safe place to provide to the relevant authorities whenever necessary. The most common example is to the school for issues surrounding drop offs and collection.