Leave to removeThe Court Process

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How the court process works

1) The parent who wishes to relocate the children abroad issues an application for Leave to Remove (Form C100) in the Family Court:

a) The Court will list the matter for a First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment ("FHDRA") in 4 to 6 weeks time; The usual reasons for wanting to relocate abroad

b) The Court sends the application to CAFCASS: a CAFCASS officer contacts both parents to make initial enquiries, limited to safeguarding issues.

2) The other parent files an Acknowledgement indicating whether or not he objects to the relocation plan and may also file his own application for:

a) A Prohibited Steps Order, where there is a real risk of the relocating parent taking matters into her own hands and leaving the jurisdiction with the children, without the other parent's consent or leave of the Court.

b) A Child Arrangements Order that the child should move to live with him (if he is able to offer a home to the child and become the child's main carer) or that the child spend time with both parents (shared care/increased contact).

3) The First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment ("FHDRA") which will be attended by the judge, the parents and a CAFCASS officer. If matters cannot be agreed the Court will give directions for the future conduct of the case and fix the Court timetable, which includes some or all of the following:

a) Filing of evidence: filing of statements: the parent applying for Leave to Remove must usually file a statement in support of her application within 28 days, followed by a statement by the parent opposing in a further 28 days time and sometimes a brief statement in reply from the parent applying for relocation.

b) Statements from other parties involved with the children, e.g. new partners or spouses, grandparents, carers etc.

c) Expert evidence (e.g. where the application to remove is to a non-Hague Convention country).

d) A Report from CAFCASS or sometimes an Independent Social Worker (who may be able to prepare a more detailed report than CAFCASS in a shorter timeframe) - this will have to be paid for by the parents.

e) Fixing a date for a Pre Hearing Review before the Final Hearing, to make sure the case is ready and all the directions have been complied with.

f) A date will be fixed for the Final Hearing. The whole process usually takes between 6 to 12 months from start to finish, assuming the matter goes to Final Hearing, as many of these cases do.

4) The Final Hearing:

a) At the Final Hearing both parents will have to give evidence and be cross-examined.

b) The CAFCASS officer, any expert witnesses and any other witnesses on either side will also have to give evidence.

c) The judge will make a decision and give a detailed judgment, giving his or her reasons for the decision, which may be given on the last day of the hearing or reserved to a later date.

d) The Final Hearing will usually take between 3 to 5 days.

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