FHDRA Hearing

A FHDRA hearing arises from private child law proceedings and is usually the first hearing where the court will determine whether an agreement can be reached or directions to be set down.

The courts can direct for many hearings to take place in cases of child law issues. Some of which include an urgent application hearing, directions hearings and FHDRA hearing, dispute resolution hearing, a fact finding hearing and a final hearing.

Our family law specialists provide you with all the information you need on a FHDRA hearing below, through their years of experience in dealing with and specialising in child law matters. This is to ensure you feel comfortable in your proceedings and are aware as to what you can expect at your initial hearing and involvement with the family court.

Article Contents

What does FHDRA mean?

A FHDRA hearing stands for a First Hearing Dispute Resolutions Appointment. The purpose of an FHDRA hearing is for the courts to identify the issues between the parties involved in the proceedings at an early stage to assess the possibility of reaching an early agreement where possible.

What happens before the FHDRA

Before the court lists the matter for a First Dispute Resolutions Appointment, one party would have made an application to the family court for child custody or child arrangements. The application may have been made by completing a C100 and submitting this to the family court together with the relevant court fee. The C100 is used to apply for a court order to decide for a child or to resolve a dispute regarding a child’s upbringing or any other important issue which needs to be considered.

Prior to submitting a child application form to the court, the applicant must also attend a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM) unless you are exempt. Your application will need to be served on the other parent or the party to the proceeding. The family court will usually direct for Cafcass to commence safeguarding checks.

What is involved in Cafcass safeguarding checks?

Cafcass is the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. Cafcass advise the family courts regarding the safety, welfare, and best interests of a child. A case worker form Cafcass will send out a schedule 2 letter detailing that they will be carrying out initial investigations and enquiries into safeguarding. A Cafcass officer will contact you and the other parent or party to the proceedings to obtain your views and discuss any concerns you may have. The initial enquiries will only deal with matters of safety and no further issues at this stage until the initial court hearing has taken place.

Cafcass will also liaise with the police and social services to carry out initial checks. Following these enquiries Cafcass will produce a safeguarding letter which will be provided to the court and will include details of their findings together with any initial recommendations they are able to make.

Get early legal advice before the FHDRA hearing on Cafcass Safeguarding letter

Prior to an FHDRA hearing the courts will usually direct for Cafcass to carry out safeguarding checks. Cafcass will usually complete these checks by contacting and communicating with the parents and the parties involved. They will usually ask questions about the children and details of any concerns one parent may have when considering the safety and welfare of the child.

Safeguarding checks with parents will usually be carried out by way of a telephone interview. The findings of these interviews will be provided to the court in the form of a safeguarding letter. The safeguarding letter will usually be submitted to the family court at least 3 days before the FHDRA hearing takes place.

Parents will often not be aware of what is involved within a safeguarding call and may not be prepared to express the issues they wish to be considered by Cafcass and courts. Failing to express the issues and address your concerns effectively could prejudice your case. Prior to your safeguarding call you should consider seeking legal advice and assistance. Family lawyers can often assist you in ensuring you understand the purpose of the safeguarding interview and provide you with tips and guidance on how to approach this initial interview.

What happens at a FHDRA hearing?

A FHDRA court hearing will usually take place 4-6 weeks after an application for a child matter has been submitted to the court. The reason for this delay is to allow time for the safeguarding checks to be carried out. The First Hearing Dispute Resolutions Appointment is the initial court hearing which the courts list to look at the matter, together with the issues at hand and determine how the case should be progressed.

The courts will utilise an FHDRA hearing to try and see whether an agreement can be reached. The family court will therefore invite the parents and the parties involved to provide their ideas as to what they believe should happen in terms of child arrangements and child custody.

At an FHDRA court hearing the court will listen to both parents but will not necessarily consider any evidence at this stage.

If the courts, feel an agreement between the parents or the parties cannot be reached they will make directions on how the case will proceed. This may involve directions for order the relevant evidence to be adduced and gathered as well as directions for Cafcass to carry out further investigative works to prepare a report.

The courts will usually consider making the following directions:

  • Direct parties to file statements setting out details of their case and any concerns they have
  • Parties to file letters from professionals such as GP’s or the Police if there are issues regarding criminal activities or health issues
  • Cafcass or the Local Authority to prepare a section 7 report
  • Where there are issues in dispute or serious allegations, the courts can direct for a Fact Finding Hearing to take place to consider these issues
  • Listing the matter for a Dispute Resolution or a final hearing.

Attempting to reach an agreement at the FHDRA Hearing?

Quite often parents may be able to reach an agreement at the FHDRA hearing. The courts aim is to try and see whether a resolution can be reached. The courts and the Cafcass officer will therefore attempt to assist the parents to reach an agreement. The courts also have mediators which the courts can refer parents, should there be a possibility that an agreement can be reached.

If the parents or the parties involved can reach an agreement at the FHDRA court hearing, the court will make a final order. This final order will detail what has been agreed between the parties. The courts will only assist the parties in reaching an agreement where it is the child’s best interests. However, where there are safeguarding concerns and concerns of a child suffering harm or likely to suffer harm then the courts may not assist the parties to reach an agreement.

FHDRA should not be underestimated

The First Hearing Dispute Resolutions Appointment should not be underestimated to treated lightly. The initial FHDRA court hearing is likely to set the tone for the rest of the proceedings. A lot of things can take place at the FHDRA and it is probably the most important hearing in your child law matter. Failure to address the hearing adequately, by being fully prepared could lead to you missing out important information which cause significant delays to your matter and could even seriously prejudice your matter.

You should seek legal advice and assistance prior to your FHDRA. At Kabir Family Law our family law specialists possess a vast amount of knowledge and experience in child proceedings.

Our child lawyers can assist you in understanding what to expect at an FHDRA hearing as well as providing you with your options and details of possible outcomes. We understand child act proceedings can be stressful and sensitive. We therefore provide a free initial telephone consultation to understand your concerns. From the very first consultation we will be able to provide you with tailored strategies to assist you in achieving your desired outcome. We will also aim to relieve some of the pressure you are facing and ensure your experience is smooth and not overwhelming or daunting. Contact us today to find out how we can assist you with your FHDRA court hearing.

What factors are taken into account by the court at a FHDRA Hearing?

The primary concern for the courts is the welfare and best interests of the child. The courts will undertake to identify any welfare issues from the outset to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the child is protected. The courts will also consider the nature of any allegations of domestic violence or abuse and how this could affect whether a child arrangement order can be made and in what terms.

Where domestic violence or abuse is involved the courts will ensure it protects the child and the parent with whom the child is living with to avoid the risk of further harm. The courts will also consider whether it is in the best interests of a child to have any contact at this stage with a parent who has caused the violence or abuse.

What happens after a First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment? 

The next steps following a first hearing dispute resolution appointment will depend on whether an agreement has been reached. Where the parties have managed to reach an agreement, the court will usually record this in a court order providing it is in the best interests of the child.

The court order will provide the arrangements for the child which have been agreed. The order will usually indicate who the child will live with and when they will see the other parent.

If an agreement has not been reached at the FHDRA or a further evidence is required to address the issues, then the courts will provide an order which set out details of the directions which parties need to comply with as well providing a date for the subsequent hearing. The courts may direct a section report to be prepared.

Where there are serious allegations or accusations that need to be considered, the court may consider ordering a fact-finding hearing to determine these allegations. During this period, the courts may not allow contact with the parents against whom there are concerns until the matters are investigated. Alternatively, the courts may provide interim contact by way of supervised contact or indirect contact.

Where there are no serious concerns the court may order immediate interim contact and provide an interim court order which must be followed until the investigations are carried out and a final order is prepared.

How should you prepare for a FHDRA court hearing?

Our family law specialists can assist you in preparing for your FHDRA hearing. We can provide you with general advice as to what you can expect at the hearing as well help you obtain representation to assist you at the hearing.  

Our family specialists have noted that position statements can help in preparing for a an FHDRA hearing. A position statement can be extremely helpful given that no evidence is usually seen by the court except a safeguarding letter. By preparing a position statement you will be able to give some information on your matter as well as providing your arguments and concerns in writing. This statement is not ordered by the court but can be used as a tool to assist you during your hearing. A position statement will provide the court of your position prior to the hearing. We can review your matter in detail with you to assist you in setting out your picture, raising your concerns and detailing what you should believe should happen at the hearing.

Contact Kabir Family today for an initial telephone consultation and for advice on FHDRA. 

At Kabir Family Law we deal with all types of family and child law matters. Should you be involved in child law proceedings and the courts have listed for a First Hearing Dispute Resolutions Appointment, we can assist you and provide you with more advice and information. We can also assist you in preparing you for your FHDRA hearing as well as your safeguarding interview which will be presented to the court prior to the hearing. Contact us today on 0330 094 5880 to discuss your options or let us call you back. Our family lawyers in Oxford as well as across the UK work around the clock and will be able to provide you with the advice and you need at a time to suit your needs.