The great majority of family cases proceed through the County Court and 95% of all divorce cases.
The cases are dealt with by designated family Judges who will either be a District judge or a Circuit judge.
Again the majority of family cases are heard in private (in Chambers).
The District Judge deals with the great majority of matters that involve matters of procedure and directions. However over the last few years more and more types of cases have been passed into their hands. They are usually Solicitors. Deputy District Judges sit part time and continue to practice. They cannot sit in the area they practice.
District Judges Chambers
These are the private meeting rooms that the cases are heard in and also the DJ’s office.
Most Chambers will have a long table with the DJ at one end and the Solicitors or party (if representing himself) sit at the other end, with the client sitting behind.
Some DJ’s like to personalise their chambers which helps to give the impression that they are human.
Outside the DJ’s chambers will be the waiting area in which will sit the Usher.
This is where you book yourself in for your case.
Your case will be listed at say 10.30am but you should get there at least half an hour beforehand so that you have time to discuss matters with your Lawyers or with your opponent if you are representing yourself. Also be prepared for a wait as lists generally do not run on time.
These will be the Senior Judges for your local area and will sit at a number of Courts although they will be based at one particular Court. Again only Judges with "a family ticket" can hear certain family cases.
They tend to deal with matters that require a lengthy hearing and tend not to deal with Financial hearings such as maintenance or property except on appeal from a decision of the District Judge.
Again they will sit in chambers, this can be either their private rooms or in an actual Court room where the public cannot enter.
The Judge is assisted by a clerk who books people in for their cases and sits with the Judge while the case is heard, taking notes and calling in witnesses etc.
The Courts Charter
John Major’s Government introduced the Charter mark for public authorities and The Court Service has a charter which sets out the minimum standards you should expect from the service.
Most Family Proceedings and County Courts will have
- Disabled Access & Lift
- Children's play area
- Toilet & nappy changing facilities.
The Court Office
The Court offices are open from Monday to Friday (except public holidays) 10am to 4pm.
There will be a dedicated Family/Divorce section where you will go to issue and file any family related documents. The court staff cannot give legal advice but will be able to help with procedural matters and form filling.
You can also get any leaflets or forms you may need for free.