What is a Fact-Finding Hearing?
In private law cases, if one of the parties involved in a case puts forward an allegation or allegations, the family court can order a special hearing to look into the truth.
An allegation refers to an accusation against a person or an incident. It may or may not be truthful. The court will have to prove its truthfulness based on the pieces of evidence and witnesses available.
An allegation can happen under different circumstances. Some of them are:
Family Law Cases (Children Matters)
Domestic violence (physical or emotional abuse) cases
The family court will look into the pieces of evidence. They will form a conclusion based on the information available to them.
The concerned judge will conduct a cross-examination of the two parties and evaluate both sides. The court does it to assist them in finding the facts or the truth associated with the allegation.
When you make an allegation, you will have to share a list. It will facilitate all the necessary details required to look into the case. Here you will have to sign with the date and numbering. Apart from that, you have to explain the situation, what, and where it happened. You will need to furnish all the dates associated with the allegation. If there are any witnesses or involvement of health care services or police forces, you need to elucidate that. Here, you will have to declare that your statement is true.
Based on the details you provided to the authorities, the family court will offer you a time duration to respond. When you do so, you have to reply to each one of them. You can also present a witness with the court's permission.
What are the circumstances under which a court orders a Fact Finding Hearing?
There are different conditions under which a court might order a Fact Finding Hearing.
If the Court thinks that the allegation will have an impact on the court's final verdict. Under such circumstances, the court can opt for a Fact Finding Hearing.
Whereas on the other hand, a Criminal Court states that the concerned person is guilty of the accusation you have made. Here, the family court will not have to conduct a separate Fact Finding Hearing. Instead, they can come to a final decision based on the Criminal Court's verdict. They will consider the allegation as the truth.
Apart from that, there are different scenarios where there can and cannot be a Fact Finding Hearing. They include:
If there is enough clear proof to substantiate the allegation as the truth, the court may not require a separate fact finding hearing and may progress to a final verdict.
For instance, a respondent parent states that there was physical or emotional violence in their relationship and does not wish to agree to the direct contact in the Child Arrangement Order. The court may have to order a fact finding hearing to find of the stated facts are true on the basis of the balance of probabilities.
If a parent requests direct contact while the other parents allege welfare issues and other allegations of the applicant father parent being an alcoholic/ drug addict. There is a high probability that the court may order a Fact Finding Hearing as well as a Hair Strand Test.
For a case on Child Arrangement Order, the court will consider the best interests of the child. Here, the judge will look into the impact of the allegations on the child. If it affects the child adversely, the court will consider the option of a Fact finding hearing.
Similarly, whenever there are any requests for adjournment, the court will consider the child's welfare and how the delay would impact the child. Based on that, other relevant factors, the legislation and the case law, the court may or may not proceed with the Fact Finding Hearing.
You have to remember that it is always the judge's discretion to conduct a Fact Finding Hearing. If a judge decides to proceed with the same, they will have to offer details on the hearing date. The court generally instructs a Scotts Schedule also known as a Schedule Of Allegations, Suppose you have received such an order. You will need to obtain a thorough understanding before moving forward with the Fact Finding Hearing. You can always reach out to us. You can read our reviews on https://www.incourt.co.uk/reviews
How can you prepare for a Fact Finding Hearing?
Once there is an allegation raised in the court, the court can order for a Scott Schedule also known as Schedule Of Allegations. It is a list that contains the details of the allegations. Here, the party that puts forward the accusations will have to come up with a Scott Schedule. The opposite party will have to provide their response based on the allegations.
Suppose your partner comes up with an allegation in court, and the court motions a Fact Finding Hearing. Your partner will need to furnish a Scott Schedule, and you will have to offer your response. It can be the opposite way as well where you make an allegation and the other parent (or some one else with Parental responsibility) may need to respond to the allegations that the court finds it needs to investigate . Under such circumstances, it is pertinent to have a good support of writing or responding to a Scott Schedule or a Schedule Of Allegations. If you need help in writing or responding to the Schedule of Allegations our team (Team CHL) can assist.
How to respond to a Scotts Schedule?
Here are the steps involved in preparing it.
Generally there is a tabular format that is provided the court for the allegations to be made in and responses to be provided on. You fill the relevant section of the tab;e with the details.
You may to provide a heading and mention the number of allegations you have.
Next, you need to note down the date when the incident occurred. If there is more than one single date, you will have to mention that as well.
Present your allegations in a precise and factual manner.
Once you write them down, you will have to elaborate on the same, with any references you may have that support your statement.
In the scotts schedule there is space for the other party to add their response. After you present your Scott Schedule, the opposing party will have to respond. Here, the person can admit, deny, or partially accept the allegations.
You will have to leave space for the judge to provide their findings.
In the end, you need to sign with your name and date.
As part of the preparation, you can also collect any professional evidence that would substantiate your allegation. You can also request in front of the court to offer you the opportunity to present witnesses to present their statement.
What are the things that happen prior to a Fact Finding Hearing?
As mentioned above, the family court will request to submit a Scott Schedule also called the Schedule Of Allegations to the parent pressing for the allegations. If you are that parent, you will have to provide the list of allegations. Along with that, you need to explain it in detail.
However, it might be hard for you to author the Scott Schedule. Under such circumstances, you can always take the support of a paralegal firm like us.
If you are someone receiving the allegations, you can also contact us to ensure that you can provide a response to Scott's Schedule or a Schedule Of Allegations statement that supports your cause and presents your side of the story in a capable manner.
Before a Fact Finding Hearing occurs, you have to be prepared. Through this, you will not find any difficulty in handling the situation. With the correct legal guidance, you can go through the process without any confusion.
What are the things that happen at a Fact Finding Hearing?
The family court gathers the required information based on the allegation and analyzes it during the hearing. The details that the court will look into include medical reports, police statements, and witness accounts as well as any other evidence from CAFCASS or social workers or non molestation orders finding made in the past or present. Both parties involved in the case have the right to provide essential documents to substantiate their points.
What is in the Scotts Schedule?
The Scott Schedule acts as a document that contains all the details of the allegation. The opposition also has the right to present their response based on the allegations. They can accept, partially deny, or completely deny them. After that, there may be a pre trial hearing in court. Here, the judge will look into the pieces of evidence. It would help the court in making the judgement.
Once the hearing is over, there will be a Fact Finding Hearing. It is similar to a final hearing procedure. Both sides and witnesses will have to answer the questions. They will also receive opportunities to present the case based on their perspective. There will also be a cross-examination of both sides. If the Fact Finding Hearing is focusing on a child, there can be evidence from the teachers, counsellors, and others closely associated with the child. After its completion, the judge will provide a judgement by looking into the Fact Finding Hearing. If the Judge reserves the matter to himself or herself then the same judge could appear in future hearings associated with the case. Whenever the judge makes a decision, he or she will consider the best interests of the child. The order from the Fact Finding Hearing will have a serious impact on the case.
Should I attend a Fact Finding Hearing?
Yes, generally it is pertinent that you take part in the Fact Finding Hearing. The primary reason behind this is that through this, you can present your evidence. If you fail to take part in it, you may or may not not receive another opportunity to convey your points.
The judge will be looking into the allegations and pieces of evidence during the Fact Finding Hearing. If you are absent during the process, it might impact your position in the case adversely.
The judge will decide after considering all facts and generally after listening to the cross-examination of both parties. If one of the parties is absent during the process, it will affect the case. In a Family Law hearing, the Judge will decide based on the Balance Of Probabilities and the evidence. There is interesting case law on this matter of Balance of Probabilities and evidence.
If you are the person who is putting forward an allegation or defending the allegations, it is recommended to attend the Fact-Finding Hearing in the family court. Through this, you can present your side.
If you cannot attend due to some unusual circumstances, you can inform the family court through a formal application. The court could help you under such conditions. However, it is always better to avoid taking such risks when it comes to Fact Finding Hearing.
What are the things that happen after a Fact Finding Hearing?
Upon completing the Fact Finding Hearing, the family court judges will decide based on the allegations. The judges will be looking into the pieces of evidence, witnesses and other documents to come to a verdict.
Can I request an Adjournment of a family law court hearing?
Sometimes an adjournment may be required and may be requested. An adjournment may be more easily granted when both parties request an adjournment, If the court decides to grant the adjournment than a new court date will be issued. The adjournment can be requested by a single party also. You will have to present the situation in front of the court along with a C2 form. The consent of both parties is helpful, but is not essential. The judge will make a final decision if the case needs an adjournment. However, the judges consider it pertinent to complete the proceedings swiftly. If there are no valid reasons, the court will not be granting permission for the adjournment.
The court will look into all the other documents and the allegations to derive a decision. If the court finds your allegations as true, the judge will consider the same while moving forward with the case.
Whereas on the other hand, if the court considers it false, the judge will dismiss it, and it will no longer impact the case. Whenever you undergo such a legal proceeding, it is always best to seek legal assistance from Family Law experts like us.
Is it necessary to conduct a Fact Finding Hearing?
It is the family court's decision whether it has to conduct a Fact Finding Hearing or not. The court concludes based on the allegations raised by one of the parties involved in the case. However, the court orders the Fact Finding Hearing only under certain circumstances. For instance, if it affects the verdict of the case.
However, if the Fact Finding Hearing does not impact the case, the court may not conduct it. Whereas on the other hand, if the other party accepts their guilt through the Scott Schedule or directly to the court, there will not be a Fact Finding Hearing.
The family court could find a person guilty based on a report from a criminal court. Under these circumstances, there will not be any Fact Finding Hearing. The court will consider the person guilty and proceed with the final hearing.
If you do need help in drafting a Scotts Schedule or Schedule of Allegations please contact us at https://www.incourt.co.uk/contact-us
Please do note that this article is NOT legal advice and should no be treated as legal advice.