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Accessible legal tips, know-how and news for anyone with a complaint or legal issue from Stephen Gold, author of The Return of Breaking Law, the book

Wednesday 8 November 2017

Vulnerable in a Family Case? New Rules

Involved in a family case  - may be about child welfare or matrimonial finances - as a party or witness and terrified that you will be harassed at court by the other party or their family or by other witnesses? I have just the thing for you. New procedures to protect you by courtesy of the Family Procedure (Amendment No 3) Rules 2017 SI 2017/1033 which come into force on 27 November 2017. A practice direction to supplement the new rules will come into force and be published on the same date.

The court will have to consider as soon as possible after the case has started whether a party or witness is vulnerable and, if so, what steps to take to protect them. Any concerns can be raised in the paperwork which commences the case or through a specific application which can be made at any later stage. The court may be prepared to direct that you give your evidence or otherwise participate in the proceedings from behind a screen in the court room, give your evidence via video link or give your evidence separately from everyone else at some earlier stage than the full final hearing. If you might have difficulty because of your vulnerability in giving evidence or understanding the questions then it will be open to the court to appoint another person to assist you in the witness box.The rules also provide for help for children and persons who lack the mental capacity to deal with evidence.

A welcome move. Family courts  have lagged behind the criminal courts in ordering measures of this kind.

For lots on how to cope with family cases and template pre-nuptial, cohabitation and no-sex agreements, see my book Breaking Law.