What the family courts deal with
The family courts deal with a range of different matters relating to children, divorce and some aspects of domestic violence.
An adoption order, if granted by the court, removes the natural parents or guardian of their rights, duties and obligations towards the child and gives them to the adoptive parents. When adopted the child will therefore, for the purposes of the law, effectively become the child of the adoptive parents.
Family courts can end a marriage in two ways, either to deliver a decree absolute of divorce or grant a decree of nullity which will find that the marriage was not valid in the first place. This could be because the parties were under the age of 16, were already married or were within the prohibited degree of relationship, for example they were brother and sister.
- Domestic violence
Two types of order can be granted in cases of domestic violence, these are:
- Non-molestation order – which can prohibit particular behaviour or general molestation.
- Occupation order – which regulates the occupation of the family home.
- Court proceedings
Court proceedings are always private and only a select few, parents, lawyers and witnesses will be allowed in.
Most courts will see some sort of mediation or conciliation procedure with a court welfare officer from CAFCASS seeing the parties and the child before any disputes involving children. If the dispute can’t be sorted out then the court will set out a timetable for future hearings with most cases taking four to six months from the first “directions” appointment.
Court of Protection
The Court of Protection came about through the Mental Capacity Act 2005 which came into force two years later. It is a court which makes decisions on behalf of people who are not able to do so themselves. Among the roles the Court of Protection plays are.
- To assess whether a person has the mental capacity to decide matters for themselves.
- To make declarations, decisions or orders on matters of a financial or welfare nature for those people who lack the capacity to take such decisions for themselves.
- To appoint a deputy to make ongoing decisions for people who lack the capacity to make these sorts of decisions.
- To decide whether a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) or Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) is valid.
- Remove deputies or attorneys who fail to carry out their duties.
- To hear cases regarding objections to registering an LPA or EPA.
Cases in the Court of Protection will be heard by circuit, district and High Court judges at the central registry in London and throughout courts in England and Wales. Hearings are usually held in private, though the media may be allowed in on some cases.