In a recent article in New Law Journal Kim Beatson and Victoria Brown provide an overview on Fact-finding hearings in private children proceedings.

A 'fact-finding hearing' (FFH) is the first limb of a split hearing which is a hearing divided in to two parts. In the first half the court makes findings of fact on issues identified by the parties or the court and recorded in a Scott Schedule (precedents available from us if needed). During the second part the court decides the case based on the findings. Often there will be a clear and stark issue such as sexual or serious physical abuse or serious mental abuse such as controlling or coercive behaviour. However, this is not always the case. More recently, coercive and controlling behaviour has been deemed suitable for determination at a FFH. However, case law on this is still relatively limited. The CPS guidance gives 25 examples of what the police might investigate as part of coercive control allegations. Controlling and coercive does not fit comfortably within the format of a Scott Schedule given that it will usually be necessary to establish a pattern of behaviour, which may span a long period of time and involve more subtle behaviours which in isolation may not appear relevant. Practitioners acting for clients in cases involving allegations of domestic abuse must be familiar with Practice Direction 12J of the Family Procedure Rules 2010. Pursuant to this, the courts are required at the earliest possible stage in proceedings to identify whether there are issues of domestic abuse and to apply the requirements of the practice direction to the management of the case.

The full article was published on 24 July 2020 and can be found here.

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