The family courts UK deal with all family matters and is divided across 43 local centres. For each court there is a designated Family judge as well as specialist trained magistrates who normally sits in court as a trio. Procedures are very different to i.e., criminal courts with two types of cases relating to children set out in private and public law. The latter is the responsibility of local authorities concerning care orders, supervision, and emergency protection orders. Appropriate level of judiciary will be allocated for these types of cases, and it is not uncommon to be reallocated depending on how the proceedings develop. Private law are cases brought to the courts by private individuals who is seeking orders relating to parental responsibility and financial applications.
Due to the Covid pandemic, most Family courts have moved out of their historical buildings and instead operating from an online platform. This means that you will need to attend any hearings virtually. You can file your applications online and the administrative court office will allocate your case to the nearest court.
For London there are 3 designated family courts; the Central Family Court along with East London Family Court and Family Court West London. The latter is based in Feltham at Gloucester House. As 80% of cases do involve a party who is not represented by a solicitor or barrister. The Family Court West London offers a new charitable service which aims to support Litigants In Person. The charity is called Support through Court Support and claims to have 20-30 volunteers who consists of retired barristers to those with no legal qualifications at all. When you are looking for someone to support you in court such as a Mckenzie Friend, the most important qualities are compassion, good people skills and common sense. It is however crucial for a Mckezie friend supporting you in the Family Court West London and all the other courts, to have a good understanding of the family law procedures and court process.
Personally, at CourtTogether, we tend to recommend the Central Family Court (First avenue House) if you are within the boundaries of Greater London. I remember when going through my own divorce a solicitor made the same recommendation to me saying something along the lines of ‘They tend to be more pro-mothers…’ . I do not think today this statement rings true necessarily, but they are used to hearing more high-profile cases that concerns finances as well as custody matters which may have an influence on how they view specific matters more globally. It is worrying however when looking at google reviews for courts in West London (including magistrates dealing with minor offences not just Family law). Overall, they tend t receive poor reviews. One review says, ‘It is inhuman how the Family Court West London treats people’. At CourtTogether we are here to help you make your court experience a better one, so you emerge from the process knowing you have presented your case in the best possible light. We know how to manoeuver through the court system leaving you feeling better regardless of the outcome.