2.12.2014

Which UK courts have jurisdiction over family matters? - Law

UK Magistrates' Courts have the jurisdiction to deal with simple criminal and civil law cases, including some family matters. The section of the Magistrates' Courts that deal with family matters is called the Family Proceedings Court (FPC). The FPC deals with simple private disputes about children, including maintenance disputes.

All care proceedings begin in the Magistrates' Courts. Magistrates' Courts are presided over by a district judge, who is a qualified legal professional, and two lay magistrates. Lay magistrates are local volunteers who have undergone extensive training in order to sit as magistrates in a magistrates' court. They give legal advice to the Magistrate regarding the case they are hearing.

County Courts also have the jurisdiction to deal with family law matters. Most divorce law proceedings are commenced in County Courts. They deal with all but the most simple and the most complex family law matters, including disputes regarding children. Adoption proceedings occur in the County Courts. They can hear family law matters on appeal from the Magistrates' Courts.

The High Court (HC) hears the most complex civil cases, including complex family law cases. The HC is divided into three different divisions to deal with the different areas of civil law. Family law cases are heard by the Divisional Court of the Family Division. The Divisional court of the Family Division has the jurisdiction to hear all family law matters. They will be the first court to hear complex case, and appeals from the lower courts. They deal with public and private children disputes, divorce, adoption, domestic violence, parentage, child contact, separation, dissolution of civil partnerships, and uncontested probate matters.

Appeals from the HC, and some County Court appeals, go to the Court of Appeal. In order for a family law matter to go to the Court of Appeal, the party must have permission from the court. Permission for an appeal will be granted if the appeal is based on a point of law, or a serious procedural irregularity. In addition, the court must believe the case has a real prospect of success, or there is another compelling reason to allow the appeal. A compelling reason could be that there is a public policy reason for allowing the appeal.

An appeal from the Court of Appeal on a family law matter will go to the Supreme Court, which replaced the House of Lords in 2009, and is now the highest court in the UK.





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