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When do I need to go to court?

There are a number of ways of dealing with family matters without having to make an application to court.

  • A divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership can only be granted by a court but this can be done without actually going to a hearing at court.
  • For many people, sorting out arrangements for children and agreeing how to split property and finances can be done without involving a court at all.

If you can’t work things out between you or have a family dispute, you will be expected to try to sort it out using mediation before going to court.

What if I do need to go to court?

Going to court should be a last resort. But if you do need to go to court, you will still need to show that you have either attended a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM) or you don’t need to attend a MIAM because of your circumstances. You need to do this by sending the relevant court form with your court papers.

The mediator can help you complete this at the first meeting or MIAM.

In some cases, where an exemption applies, you (or your solicitor if you have one) can fill in the relevant form for the court.

In some circumstances financial help to pay for legal advice is still available for family matters; it’s worth checking whether you’re eligible.

What if I’m planning to represent myself at court?

You can take your case to court yourself instead of using a lawyer (solicitor or barrister). For most people, the court and the way it works is unfamiliar. So make sure you are clear about the steps you need to take, including what the court will need to have before any hearing.

Court staff can’t give you advice but there are other ways to find out what you need to do. You could contact

Or you could have, a short session with a family lawyer  or look at helpful information from organisations such as the Bar Council.

When looking for advice and guidance, remember:

  • Get advice early if there are any concerns about safety of any party involved in the case.
  • Make sure you understand what the process of going through court might cost you.
  • The court will expect forms or other court documents to be properly prepared.and you’ll want to make sure you have a good case.
  • Courts are very busy places and there can be limited time to deal with things. The more prepared you are, the easier it will be for the Judge and court staff to help you. So make sure you get an understanding of how the court works.
  • If your ex is using a solicitor, then that solicitor may also contact you. In many cases, this is a helpful part of the process and may help to clarify or even resolve some of the issues before the court hearing. However, solicitors are bound by strict rules about client confidentiality so may not be able to provide all the information you ask for. They also have to check with their client as to whether, if, and how they should respond to any communication from you.