The family courts in the UK deal with all family matters and are divided across 43 local centers.
For each court, there is a designated Family judge as well as specialist trained magistrates. They normally sit in court as a trio. Procedures are very different compared to i.e. criminal courts. Cases are relating to children set out in private and public law. The latter is the responsibility of local authorities concerning care orders, supervision, and emergency protection orders. The appropriate level of the judiciary will be allocated for these types of cases. It is not uncommon to be reallocated depending on how the proceedings develop. Private law is cases brought to the courts by individuals who are seeking child arrangement, variations, and financial orders.
Due to the Covid pandemic, most Family courts have moved out of their historical buildings. They are now by majority virtual operating from an online platform. This means that you will not need to travel to attend your hearing. You can file your applications online and the administrative court office will allocate your case to the nearest court.
For London, there are 3 designated family courts; the Central Family Court along with East London Family Court and Family Court West London. The latter is based in Feltham at Gloucester House. 80% of cases do involve a party who is not represented by a solicitor or barrister. The Family Court West London offers a new charitable service that aims to support Litigants In Person. The charity is called Support through Court Support. It claims to have 20-30 volunteers consisting of retired barristers to those with no legal qualifications at all.
When you are looking for a supportive Mckenzie Friend, the most important qualities are compassion, good people skills, and common sense. It is however crucial for a Mckenzie friend supporting you in the Family Court West London and all the other courts, to have a good understanding of the family law procedures and court process.
Personally, at CourtTogether, we tend to recommend the Central Family Court (First avenue House) if you are within the boundaries of Greater London. I remember, when going through divorce, my solicitor made the same recommendation stating; ‘They tend to be more pro-mothers…’. I do not think today this statement rings true necessarily, but they are used to hearing more high-profile cases that concern finances as well as custody matters which may influence how they view specific matters more globally.
It is worrying however when looking at google reviews for courts in West London (including magistrates dealing with minor offenses, not just Family law). Overall, they tend to receive poor reviews. One review says, ‘It is inhuman how the Family Court West London treats people’. At CourtTogether we are here to help you make your court experience a better one, so you emerge from the process knowing you have presented your case in the best possible light. We know how to manoeuver through the court system leaving you feeling better regardless of the outcome.