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What is a fact finding hearing?

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A fact finding hearing is a type of Court hearing at which a judge will consider allegations and disputed issues to determine whether an alleged incident took place or not. A fact finding hearing usually takes place following the making of allegations by one or both parties and prior to a final hearing in the family court.

What cases are fact finding hearings used for?

Fact finding hearings are common in cases involving children. However, they can also be used in divorce matters, domestic abuse injunctions, and financial matters to determine particular issues.

What is the purpose of a fact finding hearing?

Fact finding hearings are most prominent in applications concerning children.  Due to the importance placed on the welfare of the child by the Court it is important for the Court to consider allegations of harm before determining with whom a child should live or what time a child should spend with a non resident parent.  Where allegations of harm are made the court may need to determine whether the allegations and incidents are true and have taken place.  This is necessary to ensure that a child is not placed at risk of harm in spending time with one or other parent.

What type of allegations are considered at a Fact finding hearing?

Typically these involve domestic violence, sexual abuse against adults or children, controlling and manipulative behaviour, but the list is not exhaustive.

Will there be a fact finding hearing in every case where an allegation is made?

No, the court will only consider a fact finding hearing if it is satisfied that such a hearing is required to determine the issues in the case and not just because allegations have been made by one or both parties.  The Court will also consider any views that Cafcass may have in this regard. 

What evidence will the Court consider?

Witness statements, witness oral evidence, any police and medical records, if appropriate, copies of text messages, emails and photographs can all be presented as evidence for the purposes of a fact finding hearing.

What happens before a fact finding hearing?

The parent making allegations will be asked to provide a list of those allegations and this will be supported by a witness statement setting out those allegations in more detail and providing any documentary evidence in support of such allegations.  In addition they may also be asked to submit statements from any witnesses to the allegations. 

The parent who has allegations made against them will be asked to provide a statement responding to the allegations again with any witness evidence that they may have.  

What happens at the fact finding hearing?

Both parents and any witnesses will be asked questions by the legal representatives for each parent, known as cross examination.   The judge will then consider all of the written and oral evidence presented including any police, medical or other evidence.  The burden is on the party making the allegation to prove that the allegation is true and this must be proved on the balance of probabilities.

What happens after a fact finding hearing?

The court will make decide whether each allegation is proven as a fact.  If an allegation is found proven then it can be used at a final hearing.  If an allegation is not proven then it will be dismissed and not considered further.  After a fact finding hearing the Court will usually list the matter for a final hearing.

The outcome of fact finding hearings are crucial in child arrangement cases to both parents.  Due to the potential consequences of allegations being found proven it is vital that early expert legal advice is sought. 

For more information please contact our Family Law Solicitors on 0345 20 73 72 8 or email info@thursfields.co.uk

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