I am not a lawyer. These are my observations and interpretation of Family Law and contains some of the frequently asked questions (FAQ) about family law. Nothing written her should be considered as legal advice.
The content of this site/page relates only to the courts in England & Wales. Other countries and jurisdiction have other rules.
What is Family Law ?
What is a Circuit Judge ?
What is a District Judge ?
What is a Deputy District Judge ?
Are you allowed to email a judge?
Yes – There is nothing in law to stop you but they may not like it as it.
What is the email format of a judicial email address ?
As an example, Deputy District Judge Mills is firstname.lastname@example.org
How do you find Court Listings ?
Courtserve is free and a highly recommended source of all published listings.
What is case law ?
In England and Wales, case law refers to the body of legal precedents established by the decisions of higher courts, such as the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. Case law is based on the principle of stare decisis, which means that lower courts are bound to follow the decisions of higher courts on similar legal issues.
When a higher court makes a ruling on a case, that ruling becomes a legal precedent that can be relied upon by lower courts in future cases. This means that judges in lower courts are obligated to follow the principles established in previous cases, unless they can distinguish the facts of their case from those of the earlier cases, or unless the earlier case was overruled by a higher court.
Case law is an important part of the legal system, as it helps to ensure consistency and predictability in legal decision-making. By following established precedents, judges can apply the law in a fair and consistent manner, and parties to a case can have a better understanding of the likely outcome.
In addition to the precedents established by higher courts, there is also a body of case law established by lower courts and tribunals. While these decisions do not have the same level of authority as those of higher courts, they can still be persuasive and may be relied upon in future cases.
Overall, case law plays a critical role in the development and interpretation of the law in England and Wales. It helps to ensure consistency and predictability in legal decision-making, and provides guidance and direction for judges and legal practitioners alike.
Where can you find case law ?
View and download judgments and tribunal decisions from 2003 at the National Archive
Use BAILII, based at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, where you can find British and Irish case law & legislation, European Union case law, Law Commission reports, and other law-related British and Irish material.
What is a Practice Direction ?
A Practice Direction is a document that provides guidance on how to interpret and apply the rules and procedures of a particular court or tribunal. Practice Directions are issued by senior judges or court officials and are intended to help ensure that court procedures are followed consistently and fairly. They are usually published on the court’s website and can be cited in court as authoritative guidance on how the court expects particular matters to be handled.
Practice Directions can cover a wide range of topics, including the procedures for starting and defending a claim, the disclosure of evidence, the use of expert witnesses, the conduct of hearings, and the management of cases. They are often updated to reflect changes in the law or to respond to feedback from court users. Practice Directions are not legally binding in themselves, but they can be used by courts to interpret and apply the relevant rules and procedures in individual cases.
What is a Procedure Rule ?
A procedural rule is a legal rule that sets out the steps or procedures that must be followed in a particular legal process or court proceeding. Procedural rules are often created by the courts or by a governing body, such as a professional regulatory body or a government agency, and they are intended to ensure that legal processes are conducted in a fair and consistent manner.
Procedural rules can cover a wide range of topics, such as how to initiate a legal claim, the deadlines for submitting documents or evidence, the procedures for conducting hearings or trials, and the criteria for granting appeals or other forms of review. Procedural rules can be found in legislation, court rules, and regulations, and they can be enforced by the court or other relevant authority.
Procedural rules are important because they help to ensure that legal proceedings are conducted in a fair and efficient manner, and that the rights of all parties are respected. Failure to follow procedural rules can result in serious consequences, such as dismissal of a claim or application, or sanctions for a party or their legal representative. Therefore, it is important to understand and comply with the relevant procedural rules when engaging in legal proceedings.
What is an Court Order ?
In England and Wales, a court order is a legally binding document issued by a court or a judge that requires a person or entity to take a particular action or refrain from taking a particular action. Court orders can be issued in a wide range of legal proceedings, including family law cases, civil cases, criminal cases, and administrative proceedings.
Some examples of court orders in England and Wales include:
A child arrangement order, which sets out the arrangements for where a child will live and how much time they will spend with each parent or caregiver.
A non-molestation order or injunction, which prohibits a person from engaging in certain behaviors or from coming into contact with another person or group of people.
A financial order, which orders one party to pay a sum of money to another party as compensation or to divide assets in a divorce or separation case.
A warrant of possession, which allows a landlord to take possession of a property from a tenant who has not complied with the terms of their tenancy agreement.
Court orders are legally binding and failure to comply with a court order can result in serious consequences, including fines or imprisonment. It is important to take court orders seriously and to seek legal advice if you are unsure of your obligations or rights under a court order.
What is perjury and are there any penalties ?
Perjury is the act of giving false or misleading information under oath or affirmation in a court of law or in other legal proceedings. In England and Wales, perjury is a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment.
Under the Perjury Act 1911, a person who is found guilty of perjury can face a maximum penalty of seven years in prison. The Act defines perjury as making a false statement under oath or affirmation in a judicial proceeding, whether or not the statement is made in open court. The offense of perjury can also be committed in other legal proceedings, such as arbitration, inquiries, or tribunals.
In addition to perjury, a person can also be charged with the offense of perjury by omission if they fail to disclose material information in legal proceedings, despite being under a legal obligation to do so. The offense of perjury by omission carries the same penalties as perjury.
Perjury is a serious offense and can have severe consequences, including imprisonment and a criminal record. It is important to be truthful and accurate in all legal proceedings, and to seek legal advice if you are unsure about what you should or should not say in court.
What is the Jurisdiction of the Court ?
The jurisdiction of the courts in England and Wales refers to the legal authority or power that they have to hear and determine certain types of legal cases. The jurisdiction of the courts is determined by a combination of legislation, legal precedent, and court rules.
In England and Wales, there are several levels of courts with varying degrees of jurisdiction. These include:
Magistrates’ Courts: These are the lowest level of courts in England and Wales and they have jurisdiction over a wide range of criminal offenses, such as minor assaults, theft, and driving offenses. They also have limited jurisdiction in civil cases, such as small claims and some family law matters.
County Courts: These courts have jurisdiction over a wider range of civil cases, including contract disputes, personal injury claims, and landlord-tenant disputes. They also have some limited jurisdiction in family law matters, such as divorce and child custody.
High Court: This is the highest level of court in England and Wales, and it has jurisdiction over the most complex civil and criminal cases. The High Court has several divisions, including the Family Division, the Chancery Division, and the Queen’s Bench Division.
The Supreme Court: This is the final court of appeal in the UK for civil cases, and for criminal cases from England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Crown Court: This court has jurisdiction over the most serious criminal offenses, such as murder, rape, and drug trafficking. It also has some limited jurisdiction over civil cases.
In addition to these courts, there are also specialist courts in England and Wales, such as the Employment Tribunal, the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal, and the Mental Health Tribunal, which have jurisdiction over specific areas of law.
It is important to understand the jurisdiction of the courts in England and Wales when bringing a legal case, as it determines which court has the power to hear and determine your case. It is advisable to seek legal advice if you are unsure about which court has jurisdiction over your case.
How do you address a judge or magistrate?
In England and Wales, it is important to show respect and courtesy when addressing a judge or a magistrate in court. Here are some general guidelines on how to address a judge or a magistrate in England and Wales:
Use the correct title: When addressing a judge or a magistrate, it is important to use the correct title. In most cases, judges are referred to as “Your Honor” or “My Lord/Lady,” while magistrates are referred to as “Sir” or “Madam.”
Stand up: When a judge or a magistrate enters or leaves the courtroom, it is customary to stand up as a sign of respect.
Speak clearly and respectfully: When addressing a judge or a magistrate, it is important to speak clearly and respectfully. Avoid using slang or informal language and always refer to the judge or magistrate in the third person.
Follow the judge’s or magistrate’s instructions: If the judge or magistrate gives you any instructions or directions during the hearing, make sure to follow them carefully.
Do not interrupt: It is important to wait for the judge or magistrate to finish speaking before you start talking. Avoid interrupting the judge or magistrate, as this can be seen as disrespectful.
Remember, the judge or magistrate is responsible for maintaining order and fairness in the court, and it is important to show them respect and courtesy. If you have any questions about how to address a judge or magistrate, it is always best to seek legal advice.
What is an appeal ?
In England and Wales, an appeal is a legal process by which a person who is dissatisfied with a decision made by a lower court or tribunal can challenge that decision in a higher court. The purpose of an appeal is to give a person a second chance to have their case heard and to correct any errors or injustices that may have occurred in the lower court or tribunal.
An appeal can be made in both civil and criminal cases. The process and procedures for appealing a decision vary depending on the type of case and the court or tribunal involved. In general, the appellant (the person who is appealing the decision) must file a notice of appeal within a specified time frame, usually within 21 days of the decision being made. The appellant must also provide a written statement of the grounds for the appeal, explaining why they believe the decision was incorrect or unjust.
Once the appeal is filed, the case is transferred to a higher court, which will review the decision made by the lower court or tribunal. The higher court will consider the evidence and arguments presented by both sides and may either uphold the decision, reverse it, or send the case back to the lower court or tribunal for reconsideration.
Appeals can be a complex and time-consuming process, and it is important to seek legal advice if you are considering making an appeal. A qualified lawyer can help you understand your rights and options, and can assist you in preparing and presenting your case in court.
Are judges biased ?
No, judges in England and Wales are not allowed to be biased. The judicial oath requires judges to “do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of this realm, without fear or favor, affection or ill-will.” This means that judges are required to be impartial and to make decisions based solely on the facts and the law.
In addition, the Judicial Code of Conduct sets out strict ethical standards for judges, which require them to maintain impartiality and avoid any appearance of bias. Judges are also required to disclose any potential conflicts of interest or relationships that could affect their impartiality.
If a party to a case believes that a judge is biased, they can apply for the judge to recuse themselves from the case. This may be necessary if the judge has a personal interest in the outcome of the case, a relationship with one of the parties, or has made statements or taken actions that suggest a bias.
Overall, impartiality is a fundamental principle of the legal system in England and Wales, and judges are expected to uphold this principle at all times. Any suggestion of bias or impropriety is taken seriously and can have serious consequences for the judge and the legal system as a whole.
What is recusal ?
In England and Wales, recusal is the process by which a judge or a magistrate voluntarily steps down or is removed from a case due to a conflict of interest or bias that could affect their impartiality. Recusal is an important part of the legal system, as it helps to ensure that justice is served and that all parties receive a fair hearing.
There are several reasons why a judge or a magistrate may need to recuse themselves from a case. These include:
Personal interest or bias: If a judge or a magistrate has a personal interest in the outcome of a case or if they are biased in favor of one party, they may need to recuse themselves to avoid the appearance of impropriety.
Prior involvement: If a judge or a magistrate has had prior involvement in a case, such as through a personal relationship with one of the parties, they may need to recuse themselves to avoid any conflict of interest.
Professional conflicts: If a judge or a magistrate has a professional relationship with one of the parties, such as a lawyer-client relationship, they may need to recuse themselves to avoid any appearance of bias.
If a party to a case believes that a judge or a magistrate should recuse themselves, they can request that the judge or magistrate steps down. In some cases, the judge or magistrate may agree to recuse themselves voluntarily. In other cases, a formal application may need to be made to the court or tribunal for the judge or magistrate to be removed from the case.
Recusal is an important part of the legal system, as it helps to ensure that justice is served and that all parties receive a fair hearing. If you have concerns about a judge or a magistrate’s impartiality, it is important to seek legal advice to understand your rights and options.
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