If you are involved in family court proceedings of any sort the chances are that at some point in the proceedings you will be required to prepare a written statement in support of your case.
Obviously, a statement is an important document. It sets out the evidence that you intend to rely on and, as such, will have a huge bearing upon the outcome of the case.
But there are right and wrong ways to prepare a statement, and it is essential that your statement is prepared the right way.
Last week the President of the Family Division published a memorandum setting out how such statements should be prepared. The memorandum was aimed at lawyers preparing statements for their clients, but much of what it contains could equally apply to the person actually making the statement.
The President began by explaining what a statement should and should not contain.
Amongst the things that a statement should not do is seek to argue the case, and set out opinions of the person making the statement. These are common errors in many statements.
The only things that a statement should contain are matters of fact, and matters of information and belief.
Matters of fact include past facts (i.e. events which have happened) and future facts (i.e. events which are expected to happen).
However, and this is another issue with many statements, a statement may state only those matters of fact of which the person making the statement has personal knowledge, and which are relevant to the case. All too often statements contain facts of which the person does not have knowledge, and facts that are simply irrelevant
Further, the statement must indicate the source of any matters of information and belief. Evidence about proposed child arrangements or, in a financial remedy case, about the financial needs of a party, will be matters of information and belief. Accordingly, where such evidence of such information and belief is given, the source or basis for that belief must be stated.
The other big lesson that everyone making a statement should take from the President’s memorandum is that a statement must be as concise as possible, whilst not omitting anything of significance.
It is easy to think that the longer the statement, the better it is for your case. This is not true – the judge will not want to read through a long statement, much of which is likely to be irrelevant. As a general standard, said the President, a witness statement should not exceed 15 pages in length (and very often it does not need to be nearly as long as that).
A statement is an important part of preparing a case. It therefore needs to be done properly, preferably with the help of an expert family lawyer. We can find you an expert lawyer 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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