Fact-finding hearings

You’ve told the court that you or your child have experienced domestic abuse, but the other parent says it isn’t true.

A fact-finding hearing allows the court to get the information it needs to work out who’s more likely to be telling the truth.

This is important because if they think there has been domestic abuse, it may have a serious impact on the decisions they make about your child.

When will the court hold a fact-finding hearing?

The court will hold a fact-finding hearing if you or the other parent make allegations about each other, unless:

  • it’s already been shown that the other parent has abused you or your child – for example, they have a conviction or have admitted it
  • the allegation has no bearing on the case because it’s not relevant

If the court decides a fact-finding hearing isn’t needed, the judge should tell you why.

Otherwise, it will let you know the date of the hearing, what you need to do and by when.

Setting out what happened

Before the hearing, the court will ask you to set out what happened in a statement which describes your relationship with the other parent and the history of the abuse in detail. You may also be asked to make a list of incidents of abuse on a form called a Scott schedule.

You can add evidence from other people, such as:

  • the police
  • your doctor or GP
  • friends and neighbours

You can ask the judge to:

  • order the police to disclose any records that support your case
  • add statements from your doctor (for example, about treatment for injuries you had because of the abuse)
  • include witness statements from friends and neighbours

The other parent will have a chance to respond to what you’ve put down, and if they’ve said things about you, you’ll have an opportunity to respond to that too.

Telling your story at the hearing

Before the hearing, it’s a good idea to read through your statement and allegations, so everything’s clear in your mind.

At the hearing, the other side will ask you questions about what you said happened. This is called cross-examination. The judge may also have questions for you.

Listen carefully to the questions and take your time before answering.

What's decided at the hearing?

The judge will decide whether each allegation of abuse is likely to be true, false, or there’s not enough evidence to make a decision.

Anything found likely to be true will be taken into account in future decisions about your case. Everything else won’t be taken into account.

At the end, the judge will say what’s happening next in your case – for example:

  • whether the court needs more time or evidence to make a decision
  • what the date of the next hearing is
  • what the final decision about your case is

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