Lead Forensics
Prettys Solicitors Ipswich

Family law

Attending Court

Here is a guide from the family solicitors team at Prettys of Ipswich and Chelmsford on what to do if you are attending court for a family hearing.

What should I do?

Firstly, ensure you know where you are going, where you can park and leave plenty of time to arrive so that you are not flustered or stressed.  Make sure you take the court telephone number and the court case number with you (found on the top right corner of court documents) so that you can phone ahead if you are delayed.  Upon arrival you will go through security and you should then find the court usher in the waiting room on the relevant floor and make yourself known.

What should I wear?

You do not have to wear a suit, but be clean, tidy and smart – it helps if you look as if you have dressed to take the proceedings seriously.

I have seen courtrooms on TV – will it be like that?

Highly unlikely, these are used for dramatic effect.  If you have a case in front of a District Judge, you are likely to go into his chambers.  This is a small room that looks similar to an office and it will have a desk at which the District Judge sits and a larger table around which you and the other party sit.  If you are in a magistrates’ court, you may be in a larger room with the three magistrates sitting together behind a long table or bench.

What do I call the District Judge?

Sir or Madam.  If you are before a Circuit Judge (more senior than a District Judge, and you will be in a formal courtroom) you should address him or her as Your Honour.  If you are unsure of the status of the Judge, ask the usher beforehand.  Magistrates should be addressed as Sir or Madam. 

Will the hearing be recorded?

You should be aware that all hearings are tape-recorded for the District Judge’s benefit and in case there should be any queries or appeals in the future.  Speak clearly so that the recording can pick up what you say.

Will the media be there?

Unlikely.  You should be aware however that cases that are of interest to journalists, because details about them have become publicly known, may encourage media interest.  The media is able to sit in unless the judge orders otherwise.  If you are concerned about this, you need to raise it with the judge at the beginning of your hearing, or ideally with the usher in advance.  The judge will then deal with your concerns as necessary. Cases involving children often have reporting restrictions in any event, but if you are worried raise those concerns immediately.

Will there be other members of the public present?

Generally, in Family hearings, only the parties and their legal representatives or McKenzie friends (also known as litigation friends) are allowed in.  If you particularly want to take someone in with you who is not a McKenzie friend, you will need to tell the usher so that she can discuss it with the judge. 

What is a McKenzie / litigation friend?

This is someone you can take with you into the hearing to take notes for you and assist you.  S/he should not be speaking for you (it is after all your case) but they can help you with your notes and quietly confer with you.  You will need to let the usher know if you intend to take a McKenzie friend or litigation friend with you.

Will the court send me a record of the hearing?

The court do not send records of the hearings but will send you a court Order confirming what is to happen next, and the date and times of any further hearings.

Can I get instruct a solicitor before the hearing?

Yes – you can instruct a family law solicitor at any time.  Make sure you keep your file of papers in one place as the solicitor will need to look through all of these, particularly the court papers, to understand how the case has progressed. Your notes alone will not be enough.  Ensure you instruct a solicitor with enough time for them to consider the papers and assist you. Contact us at our offices in Chelmsford or Ipswich if you need help.

What is a barrister and will I need one?

A barrister is a specialist who advocates (speaks) in court regularly presenting and arguing cases.  The differences between a solicitor and a barrister are similar to that of a GP and a surgeon – one gives advice and guidance; one provides more specialist and expert representation if and when needed. Not everyone has, or needs to have, a barrister but we would recommend that you give it careful consideration if something important to you is at stake.  You only get one substantive court hearing to get your point across, so make it count. 

What should I do next?

Contact the Family Team on 01473 232121, request a call back here from our family solicitors based in Ipswich and Chelmsford or e-mail us here

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