Who's Who In The Family Court
Posted on 22nd December 2022
Who's Who In The Family Court
1. The Judge
A judge is the person who presides over the proceedings. In the Family Court, there are three levels of judges who are likely to hear your case. These are:
- District Judge: These are the judges who hear the most family law cases
- Circuit Judge: These judges are allocated cases which may be more complicated that a regular case. They can also deal with appeal cases.
- Magistrates: Magistrates are people from the community who have been recruited and trained to hear cases. They will not usually have a legal background, and will receive support from Legal Advisers who advise them on the law and procedure.
Occasionally, you will find a High Court Judge allocated to a family court case, if that case is very complex.
A legal professional who is instructed by a party to represent that person. They can advise on your legal status and rights, draft and send documents on your behalf, negotiate for you, and represent you in court.
They are also able to attend meetings and hearings on your behalf. They will charge you a significant fee for completing all this work. They tend to be not so common in family court, working mainly in criminal court. These are the people in the gowns and the wigs.
This is a legal professional who is instructed by a person to provide legal services. They can advise on the law and can take action on behalf of their client. They can also represent in court. They complete a lot of their work outside of court, working to make a smoother hearing once proceedings begin. Again, they charge a hefty fee, but not quite as much as a barrister.
4. Children's Guardian
The role of a children’s guardian is to act on behalf of a child in Family Court proceedings with the duty of safeguarding the interests of the child. The court will make a decision about whether a children’s guardian should be appointed and if so, CAFCASS will allocate one of its ocers to the role of children’s guardian. They are independent of the courts, Children’s Services and any other person involved in the case.
5. McKenzie Friend
A McKenzie Friend is a person who you wish to take into the court hearings with you for moral support. They can help you get your documents in order, take notes for you or quietly give you advice on the proceedings, but they cannot speak to the Judge on your behalf unless they have permission to do so. They can be a family member or a friend. There are also professional McKenzie Friends (that's us!), who you can pay to assist you. There are striking similarities in the work they will do for you to that a solicitor will complete, but the fees will be significantly less. The term 'McKenzie Friend' is unregulated, so you do not need any qualifications or experience to describe yourself as such, which is why the courts will often warn against instructing a professional McKenzie Friend. Do not worry, however, we at McKenzie Picave have many years of legal experience, as well as a few qualifications, so this is not a concern that needs to keep you up at night. You have the right to bring a McKenzie Friend with you to a hearing but you should remember to inform the judge that you are doing so. Judges usually only refuse a McKenzie Friend if there is an exceptional reason to do so, but this is very rare.
6. Court Clerk
This is an officer of the court whose responsibilities include maintaining records of the proceedings. This is the person that reads the oaths and rules of engagement at the start of the hearing. They are also sometimes responsible for facilitating communication between parties, particularly in video hearings.
If we can help you in your Family Court case, get in touch today.
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