cambridgeshire magistrates

funded by the Cambridgeshire Branch of the Magistrates' Association


Family Courts

Family courts deal with:

  • disputes involving parents about their children (private law)
  • cases where local councils take action to remove children from their parents' care (public law).

In both public and private law cases, the welfare of the children concerned is the court's paramount consideration.

Family courts also deal with adoptions and with some issues relating to payment of maintenance for children, including Child Support Agency work.

The interests of children are best served when families avoid disputes. But if disputes do arise in private law cases, the family justice system aims to enable families to resolve them quickly and with the minimum of distress to everyone involved.

Families are encouraged to resolve their disputes out of court if they possibly can - for example through mediation. Those involved are more likely to stick to any agreement if they themselves have had a role in formulating it.  Click here to see further information about the family mediation service. In some types of case, attempting mediation before applying to court is compulsory.

When disputes do come to the courts, the cases are dealt with by magistrates and legal advisers specially trained to deal with issues affecting families. These issues often involve very difficult circumstances, for example relationship breakdown or arrangements for contact between children and their parents. Magistrates work to make the circumstances of family disputes less confrontational. Hearings are usually quite informal with everyone sitting around a table.

Family court hearings are in private and only those who are involved can attend, though the press do have a right to attend, but what they can report is limited.

Depending on the type of work concerned, family courts may be advised by the Children and Family Court Advisory Services (CAFCASS). To view the CAFCASS site click here.

If you and your family become involved in family court proceedings, particularly in public law cases, you may wish to consider seeking specialist legal representation. For help in choosing a solicitor click here.