Q: How early should I get to court before my court hearing?
A: Sometimes the court will order you to be there an hour before a hearing and we would usually ask our clients to arrive at court at least 30 minutes prior to the hearing start time so that we can make sure that we are aware of any new information as well as to help calm and reassure clients who are nervous. You will also need time to book in with the court staff and to have discussions with the other party if appropriate.
Q: Who do I tell at court to let them know that I have arrived for my hearing?
A: There is usually a reception desk where the ushers sit. Here, you will need to book in by giving your name and if you have it, the case number. You can then sit in the waiting area until your name is called once your case is ready.
Q: Can I take a family member or a friend to court with me for support?
A: You can take someone to court with you for support and they will be allowed to sit in the waiting area with you. They would not usually be able to go into the court room with you if you have a lawyer, but it would be up to an individual judge to make the decision on the day. If you are representing yourself (known as a litigant in person) then you are usually allowed to be accompanied by what is known as a ‘McKenzie Friend’ who can support you during the hearing to take notes but who is not usually allowed to speak on your behalf.
Q: Do I have to see my ex-partner in court?
A: Usually, yes because both parties will be in court at the same time. However, special measures can be taken if there has been domestic abuse, including arranging for separate waiting areas.
Q: Can anyone attend and watch?
A: There isn’t a public gallery for family cases, so they are usually private. There is also at the present time very little court reporting, however the courts are trying to be more transparent by allowing more of this, including publishing of judgments.
Q: How should I prepare for going to court?
A: If you are not represented by a lawyer it is a good idea to write out what you would like to say to the judge beforehand. Whether you are represented by a lawyer or not, it is also very useful to speak to a family lawyer before attending court to run through the types of things that you are likely to be asked, so that you are able to answer the judge’s questions clearly.
Q: What do I call the judge?
A: This depends on the level of judge. Magistrates and district judges are usually called Sir or Madam; Circuit judges are usually called Your Honour, and High Court judges My Lord or Lady. However if you are representing yourself the judges will understand that you do not know how to refer to different judges and will accept you referring to them in a polite form.
Q: Can I bring my children with me to court?
A: It is not a good idea to bring children to court, as court waiting areas tend to be very busy with a variety of different cases taking place. If you cannot make other arrangements for childcare then you can bring them to court but depending on their age and whether the case involves them or not, they may not be allowed into the court room with you.
Q: How many times will I have to go to court?
A: This will depend upon your case and in some cases it can be more than once. If you can reach an agreement on your case on the first time at court, then your case can come to an end. However, if an agreement can’t be reached it is likely to be timetabled through to a contested hearing and potentially other hearings after that.
Q: Do I have to have a solicitor?
A: Whilst many people do use family lawyers to represent them at court, you are able to represent yourself, which is becoming more common following a significant reduction of legal aid. However, court can be a daunting place and we would recommend that you at least take advice from a family lawyer before going to court so that you feel well prepared and are able to better understand the court process.
Q: What should I wear to court?
A: There are no official requirements for non-lawyers attire at court but we would generally advise you to be dressed in a smart and business-like way. Very casual clothing like shorts, flip flops and clothing with rude slogans may be considered inappropriate.
Advice about family law cases
If you are considering going to court for a family law case and would like some advice from a family law expert, call us for a free initial conversation over the phone and we will help as much as we can. If it is that you would like to come and see us (or if we aren’t able to answer your questions because we need more time and detail) then we have a fixed fee price for a 1 hour meeting with any of our expert family lawyers.
Bray & Bray have three main offices across Leicestershire, feel free to phone or pop in to talk to our solicitors.