Louise McCallum, Barrister, Parklane Plowden Chambers
This article considers the Family Court’s evolving approach to decisions as to whether to direct fact-finding hearings in private law cases, following the pivotal decision in Re H-N and subsequent High Court decisions, most recently in K v K  EWCA Civ 468. The article also reflects on the likely impact of the most recent Guidance published by the President of the Family Division, ‘Fact-Finding hearings and domestic abuse in Private Law proceedings.’ The article considers the Court’s ongoing efforts to achieve the best balance between giving appropriate recognition to the impact of domestic abuse, whilst ensuring that fact finding hearings are directed only in cases where this is necessary and proportionate. The recent Guidance emphasises that the fundamentals to the decision as to whether to direct a fact-find hearing are “relevance, purpose and proportionality.” The article also considers the developing approach of the Family Court to case management where there are allegations of domestic abuse and coercive control and how such cases should now be best presented to the Court. It is anticipated that advocates can expect to see an increased and scrupulous focus upon whether a fact-finding hearing is indeed required on the facts of their particular case, accompanied by rigorous case management.
The full article will be published in the July issue of Family Law.