What is a First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment in children proceedings?

When parents are unable to resolve a dispute over arrangements for their children then one of them may apply to the Family Court for the court to decide the matter.

The Family Court proceedings will follow a procedure laid down by the rules. The first step in the procedure, once the application has been issued, is called the First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment, or ‘FHDRA’ for short.

Both parents must attend the FHDRA, and a Cafcass (court welfare) officer will also attend.

So what exactly is a FHDRA?

As the name suggests, the aim of the FHDRA is to provide an opportunity for the parents to be helped to an understanding of the issues that divide them, and to reach agreement.

At the FHDRA the judge, working with the Cafcass Officer, will seek to assist the parents in conciliation, and in resolution of all or any of the issues between them. Any issues that cannot be resolved will be identified, and the Cafcass Officer will advise the court of any recommended means of resolving these issues.

If the parents are able to reach a full agreement then the court may make an order reflecting the terms of the agreement.

If the parents are not able to reach a full agreement then the court will give directions as to how the case should proceed.

Typically, the court will direct that Cafcass investigate the case and prepare a report for the court, usually containing a recommendation as to what final order the court should make.

The court may also direct that a ‘fact-finding’ hearing take place, for the court to decide the truth of any allegations made by either party, for example allegations of domestic abuse.

Lastly, the court will fix a date for the next hearing, assuming there is no fact-finding hearing. This will usually be a ‘Dispute Resolution Appointment’, the purpose of which is to see if the case can be settled by agreement, before a final hearing takes place.

The FHDRA plays a very important role in any children application. In fact, it is arguable that it is the most important hearing in the application – when the future progress of the application, and even its outcome, can be decided.

It is therefore essential that you take expert legal advice before attending a FHDRA. We can find you an expert that works with you on our digital platform. For more information, call us on 020 3904 0506, or click here, and fill in the form.

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Family Law Café offers a modern, agile and compassionate approach to family law, giving you a helping hand when you need it and guiding you through the complexities of this difficult and stressful area. Family Law Cafe is your start-point for getting matters sorted with strategy, support and security.

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