26 Mar Writing a Position Statement for the Family Courts
Facing a Family Court hearing can be a daunting prospect for anyone, let alone if you’re representing yourself in court. There is often a lot of emotion and tension involved, and you might find it hard to concentrate on the practical aspects of preparing for your hearing.
Knowing what documents you need to prepare and how to complete them correctly might be a particular challenge. It’s wise to get some support from a legal professional with the documentation side of things so you know you’re doing things properly and maximising the chance of getting the outcome you want. However, if you’re self-representing in court due to the expense of hiring a solicitor, this might not be an option or you.
One thing in particular you might be wondering is how to write a Position Statement which effectively outlines your circumstances and what action you’d like the court to take in a concise and logical manner. You might also have heard about a Section 7 Report if there are children involved in your case and be wondering what that entails.
To give you the advice you need and help you make sense of these important documents, read on for some advice on how to write a Position Statement and what you need to include, as well as understanding and interpreting a Section 7 Report.
What is a Position Statement?
When you go into court, the judge needs to know what you want the court to do and why. They will want various other details too, such as why the application was made. Because being in court can be intimidating and you are likely to be nervous or unsure what to say, writing a Position Statement before the hearing gives you an opportunity to have a good think about your position and your desired outcome. If you don’t write a Position Statement in advance of your hearing, trying to explain things off the cuff might mean important things are overlooked and lead to you rambling about unimportant elements. A good Position Statement sets out your situation and circumstances, and what you want the court to do. It should be logical and clear, and cover important points the judge will want to know about.
Writing a Position Statement in good time enables you to think about things, as well as get comments from friends or family (or a legal professional) to make sure you haven’t missed anything important. Having the time to choose the right wording, reflect on what you have written, and make any changes to reinforce your arguments is useful.
You’re going into court to ask the Judge to help you. Asking for the right things properly, and with some justification and a bit of a plan, is better than trying to think on your feet and miss things.Writing an effective Position Statement is a golden opportunity to make progress in your case. Having it to refer to once you’re actually standing up in the courtroom will also be invaluable.
What you should include when writing a Position Statement
Explain the background to your situation and what has led up to this point – detail the sequence of events that has resulted in your case coming to court. If you’re writing a Position Statement for a Second or Third Hearing, you’ll also want to explain what has happened since the last hearing.
If there are children involved, it’s important to refer to the Welfare Checklist when writing a Position Statement and ensure you’re covering the points included in the checklist. This will help the judge make a decision on any Orders involving children. You should end your Position Statement with a summary of what action you’d like the court to take. Your aim should be to make your statement sound as objective as possible, so it’s a good idea to run it past a friend or family member, or someone else who can look at it impartially, before you submit it to the court
Tips for formatting an effective Position Statement
- Include the case number, names of involved parties and the name of the court you’re attending at the top of the statement. Also include a title which references which hearing the Position Statement is for, i.e. ‘Position Statement for First Hearing.’
- Use plain English and avoid unnecessarily complicated language, whilst also keeping sentences and paragraphs short and succinct.
- Consider using bullet points or numbered lists so that the content is easily digestible and scannable.
- Number pages and paragraphs for ease of reference.
- Use an easy to read font with double spacing. Make sure there’s plenty of white space so the page doesn’t look too cluttered.
What is a Section 7 Report
When there are concerns about parents’ abilities to care for their children, and/or disputes about what the children want, the court will usually order CAFCASS (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) to prepare a Section 7 Report. As part of the process of writing the report interviews will be held with both parties as well as the children (depending on their ages).
CAFCASS may also speak to other people such as family members, teachers or health workers, and carry out safeguarding checks if a concern has been raised on that front. They will then make a recommendation to the court.
How can I prepare for being interviewed by CAFCASS?
You might find the prospect of being interviewed very nerve-wracking; unfortunately people can often make their situation worse by not handling their interview well, or taking certain steps to ‘defend’ themselves which can actually be perceived differently to what they intended.
It’s important to focus on your child’s needs above your own desires, and avoid saying negative things about your ex partner unless necessary, especially where there is a high level of conflict in your separation. Try to rise above any emotions you might be feeling and be conscious of how you’re coming across. You want to appear reasonable and calm, rather than aggressive or agitated, so speak calmly and clearly.
Outline your plans for caring for your child to show that you’ve been considering the practicalities and have made preparations. Once again it’s worth keeping in mind the Welfare Checklist which will help the judge make a decision. Make sure you tell the truth rather than making false allegations or exaggerating certain aspects.
It can be hard to ignore any emotion you’re feeling, but it’s important for CAFCASS to be able to make an objective assessment of the situation, and letting emotions get the better of you won’t help your case.
Further support with Position Statements and Section 7 Reports
There’s a lot more that goes into writing a good Position Statement than what I’ve outlined, but hopefully this will give you a good start. If you can’t afford to get advice on your Position Statement or preparing for a Section 7 Report from a legal professional you might be interested in my online course.
The Position Statements and Section 7 Reports course goes into these documents in a lot more detail and explains how to write a Position Statement which will maximise the chances of getting your preferred outcome.
It also covers the Section 7 Reports process, and how you can and prepare for and interpret your report. You’ll also learn how to challenge CAFCASS’s recommendation if it’s not the one you hoped for.
The course will help you understand both these important documents in a lot more depth, and how you can use them to your advantage. For much less than the cost of getting advice from a solicitor, you’ll gain all the knowledge you need to confidently represent yourself in court.
I’ve put all my knowledge and experience from 18 years in the Family Courts into this course, so you can be assured that you’ll be receiving up to date and valuable information from someone who knows what they’re talking about. You’ll also get access to a private members group just for course attendees, so you can talk to others who might be in a similar position to you.
And if you’re not sure about investing in a course just yet, I’ve got a FREE webinar on the topic of Position Statements and Section 7 Reports you might like to watch.
The webinar covers the typical court process when you’re self-representing in court, and goes into the documents in detail, including how to prepare for them in a way which influences your case.
Let me know if you found this blog post helpful and feel free to share it with anyone you know who might need the advice.
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