This can be a difficult question to answer – there are many factors that can affect how the case progresses.- but the first phase is usually seven to nine weeks.
This is based on getting a MIAM before you can issue a court application. That can easily take three to four weeks before you get the paperwork you need to go to court. Once the application is sent to the court office you can expect an initial hearing in about four to five weeks’ time. It gets more difficult to predict from this point forward.
Some cases settle at the first hearing. If the fact of court proceedings has brought about a change of heart or the court is able to persuade a party to soften their position, then a final order can be made by consent at that hearing and the case ends. Not many cases settle at the first hearing though. More likely, having identified the issues the court will make directions (“orders”) about what is to happen next.
How long will the next steps take?
From here, timescales depend on your circumstances. The court might be able to make an order by agreement that some arrangements be put in force but have concerns about whether things will work out, so could adjourn for a short period (maybe two to three months) to see how things develop. Alternatively, if the court can see that things won’t be resolved and there are issues that need investigating the court is likely to order a CAFCASS report . At present, CAFCASS are taking about 12 weeks to prepare their reports so the next hearing is likely to be listed 14-16 weeks ahead.
The second hearing can see an end to the matter. In the first scenario in the paragraph above, if the compromise has worked out well, then a final order is likely to be made. If not, a court might then consider involving CAFCASS and ask them to prepare a report before listing a further court appointment. If CAFCASS have already prepared their report then there is a good chance the matter will settle and a final order can be made.
However, if one parent or the other doesn’t accept the conclusions of the CAFCASS report the matter will be listed for a final hearing. That is likely to be a further three months or so away but the matter will conclude at that hearing. If needed, both parties will give evidence on oath, be cross-examined and the court will make a decision that is binding.
Stephen Root is one of Yorkshire’s leading family lawyers. Highly praised by industry guides Chambers and Partners and Legal500, he has been supporting divorcing couples for over 30 years.
Berwins' dedicated and friendly team is here to help. If you have a matter you would like to discuss with Stephen and the team, please get in touch by calling (01423) 509000 or use our contact form online and we will get back to you as soon as possible.