Process for Family Court Instructions
Thinking of seeking to instruct us at family court?
Please read this guidance first:
Many families and their children experience difficulties. We can assist families who refer themselves to us privately or in tandem with a process overseen by child services or the family court.
We offer a range of attachment services for families, child services and family courts. We can also use technology to quickly ascertain child safety. Please see our Attachment for Courts page to evaluate which of our services matches your requirements.
All of our family law processes for court deploy state of the art attachment measures with evidence based reporting to eliminate bias and otherwise satisfy the court’s evidentiary requirements. Our processes identify problematic areas to be corrected via a Family Functional Formulation, perhaps leading to further work to achieve the optimal attachment outcome for children that is possible under the circumstances.
We would anticipate a two-staged process. Firstly, an intensive investigation of the family functioning and assessment of how that affects the children. Then, parent-child engagement in a program of resolution.
Our team uniquely combines a developmental psychologist and a psychotherapist using the same clinical attachment model to ensure resolutions are well informed. We have a proven track record of resolving some of the most complicated issues, including severe and longstanding resist/reject/refuse behaviours of teenage children unable to reunite with one parent without specialist help. We have successfully given effect to the intent of the family court in several of these difficult cases.
Process in private law cases
Please be informed that we do not employ reception staff to handle enquiries. We are extremely busy in practice and research so require legal professionals and litigant in person parents to adhere to our process of instruction. To reduce our administrative burden and enable us to spend best time on direct work, please read the following first and adhere to the numbered instructions below.
In private law cases at family court, we specialise in assessing, preventing and resolving resist / reject / refuse behaviours in children. These cases can be very problematic and tie up the resources of a considerable number of agencies, to no resolution, for a considerable time. This is a specialist area of work that most agencies do not have the expertise to resolve. The whole family, and extended families, can experience high levels of stress and long-term psychological issues. Our protocols are designed to work in conjunction with a court-led process that can move to resolving issues in 12 weeks. For most cases, AFS deploys a highly trained, multidisciplinary team: Part 25 provides for more than one expert or team member to work on a Single Joint Instruction. High Court guidance reflects the need for practitioners to consider the early instruction of suitable experts under Part 25.
Please follow the process below:
1. Please read the relevant law
If intending to instruct us in family court or High Court, Family Division, please read Part 25.1-20 of the Family Procedure Rules 2010, and
We feel you should make yourself as familiar with all of the Rules as Possible, especially the overall family court process of Part 12 (Child Arrangements Plan).
2. Are we right for you?
See the CV of the lead at AFS Ltd.
Amongst the strong points of our professional development are that are that our qualifications are specific to the task. Many experts have general qualifications designed for a career in mainstream clinical or forensic practice. The family court is a unique environment where traditional methods of assessment and resolution are sometimes not helpful to children or courts in resolving matters. That is accepted in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual version 5, which states that diagnostic evaluations are in themselves inadequate for forensic processes such as courts, that require clinical and forensic evidence. Also, there is growing acceptance that the diagnostic model does not extrapolate well enough to a full enough understanding of child developmental problems induced by family functioning. To this end, a psycho-bio-social means of assessment is proposed.
Leading clinical bodies of excellence such as the AFCC have accepted the need for more use and application of reliable attachment knowledge and practice in family law. Qualified expertise in attachment provides a firm and proven basis for all three elements of the psycho-bio-social model. The only way any practitioner can robustly report to court standards on attachment and apply the protocols of the AFCC is to be specifically qualified via at least a Master’s Degree or specialised Continued Professional Development; attachment is not an expertise adequately covered on most clinical courses to court standards. The application of attachment protocols within developmental psychology provides courts high-grade evidence from state of the art assessment, monitoring, reliable formulations, and delivery of resolution, within an overall program specifically designed to investigate family functioning whilst integrating with and assisting the court process.
Then, please see our range of services or consult your lawyer for which best suits your needs. Some legal firms have their own preferred expert witnesses. If so, we suggest you enquire as to how many cases have they resolved where a child presenting with severe resist/reject/refuse behaviours ended up with significant parenting time with both parents within a short period of time, and are the expert witnesses able to provide, or effectively signpost towards, proven services that effectively put any recommendation they make of child-parent reunification into practice.
3. Timeline, circumstances and service
The Family Procedure Rules 2010 express that applications to court under Part 25 can happen early in the case. However, whilst this would greatly assist and may prevent matters getting worse, we see the usual court process being for judges to first wait and see if they feel the instruction of a Guardian to represent the interests of children in the case under Family Procedure Rule 16.4 is necessary (see Part 16 here), and wait for the Guardian to assess and provide opinions as to whether they feel expert evidence is necessary.
The process of first getting a Guardian instructed under r16.4 and then waiting for their reports can take several months, with any children in the case not having their issues settled or assisted in the interim. If the problem is already serious i.e. there is ongoing separation between child and a parent, especially if resist / refuse / reject behaviours are already apparent in a child, it therefore seems good practice to also apply for the court to instruct a Guardian for the child under rule 16.4. You can make multiple applications on a single C100 or C2 Form (see below). Although the court has the authority to instruct a Part 25 expert without a Children’s Guardian first providing opinion, and swift instruction at the right time may well prevent matters for the child becoming far more serious, we have yet to see that happen. We would remind courts, legal professionals and parent-litigators of senior court acceptance that early intervention is crucial in some cases. We are able to conduct more thorough clinical and forensic evaluations than children’s Guardians and our work has successfully informed theirs.
4. Consider the advantages and pitfalls of initial therapy
Please be informed that it may be counter-productive to go straight to therapeutic processes in private law matters where there are already issues of contact.
The legal/mental health interlock functions better for children where modern clinical processes of evaluation, prior to therapeutic routing, are followed.
- Child or parent therapy that is not fully informed by thorough evaluation may be wasteful and make things worse
- Traditional, dyadic therapy is contra-indicated for children so long as they are presenting with resist/reject/refuse behaviours
- Any attempt at therapy that has not worked in promoting significant parental change within six weeks is unlikely to, at least whilst the status quo is permitted to be maintained
- AFS will not engage in family therapy in resist/reject/refuse cases before a family’s circumstances have been adequately evaluated
- It may not be possible to conduct any evaluations or for any assessment of the child to be possible without a court order
Consider why it is necessary for the court to instruct us as independent experts to resolve the case (see our guidance on ‘necessity,’ below). Changes to the law mean the court is not able to instruct under Part 25 unless it is necessary to resolve the case.
There are three ways to represent your case to the court: litigant in person; with a solicitor; and Direct Access barristers.
If you are acting as a litigant in person, please consider reading this guidance. And read how judges are obliged to treat litigants in person fairly. This book, by a leading family lawyer, is designed for litigants in person. It is increasingly becoming clear, as now expressed by senior judicial figures, that the nature of the family courts is that sometimes, the adversarial process does not bring out the best in parents or child professionals. Professionals and campaign groups alike have endorsed this book that forewarns of some of the shortcomings of the family court system.
Solicitors: It is our experience that where cases are complicated and parents in private law cases can afford to pay for a solicitor, it is best to do so. If you already have a case where parenting time is being refused and/or there are resist/reject/refuse behaviors in a child, or indicators that a child may have been subject to parental manipulation, we suggest you select or change to a robust lawyer keen to expedite the case.
Direct Access: You can contact a barrister to represent you without a solicitor. This has advantages and disadvantages. You can save on solicitor’s costs but you will need to ensure that any direct access barrister is highly skilled and experienced in this particular line of child advocacy, and adequately briefed, to surmount the disadvantage of not being briefed by solicitors.
7. Contact us
Most parties to legal cases will not need to contact us until 1-6 above are completed.
Your Part 25 application requires us to provide:
– an outline of the work we can do; a timeline; our availability to start; length of process and dates to file reports; and our costs.
Please use email and keep contents very short. At this stage, we need to know little more than a very brief outline of the family problem and what service you wish to use. Use firstname.lastname@example.org or the ‘contact us’ box, which is limited to a manageable amount of text for us.
We need to know the date of any court hearing where a decision involving us may be made so we can plan our timetable and resources in the case.
Please be aware that we are unable to process and respond to long emails; we are anyway not entitled to know cases in detail until we are instructed by the court and provided what the court directs we are to see. For you to provide us more detail than is absolutely necessary at this stage potentially risks any perception of the neutrality we are legally required to uphold between parties.
All information from all parties to a case will be securely stored. Communications must be transparent to other parties unless otherwise directed by the court.
8. Make the Part 25 application
There seem 2 ways to apply:
The normal procedure is to fill out a C100 form if these are new proceedings. If proceedings are already underway, you need to fill out a C2 Form, file on the court and serve on the other parties. You can make more than one application per form. It may be advisable to apply under Rule 16.4 as well (see above). Where there are concerns over a child’s welfare, you may consider completing, filing and serving a C1a form as well.
Family judges have authority to direct under Part 25 without prior application where events at court suggest it prudent, such as where previously unknown issues arise and delay for a child is not appropriate. If judges are provided the option of Part 25 assessment and resolution and agree its necessity, they can instruct. They are more likely to do so where the parties consent. Where case management seems unlikely to be assisted in the best interests of children without timely expert assistance to the court, judges may direct immediately. However, expert instruction is a significant shift in proceedings that judges may prefer to ensure is procedurally correct. It has been seen that judges can direct a Part 25 application be filed and served within a short period of days (7 days is the quickest seen by us). Be aware that a judge may not agree to expert instruction at this time and either defer or dismiss the application. It would then fall to the applicant to accept or appeal the decision.
9. Inform us of the outcome
If the application is turned down or deferred, we are interested in a short email to know why.
If we are instructed, we are from that point working as independent experts for the court. We do not work for any of the parties to litigation: we work for the court, to assist the court in assessing and recommending the best action necessary to ensure the optimal attachment outcome possible for any children in the case. We must be provided with a copy of the sealed court order or other authorisation, and we also need the Letter of Instruction as soon as possible. The contents of any Letter of Instruction should be agreed by the parties or in default of agreement, directed by the court.
Our payment terms as provided within our contract must be adhered to at all times.
We operate on a first-instructed first-served basis. To avoid delay and ensure time allocated for your case is not lost, these documents such as court orders and Letters of Instruction should be sealed and issued promptly. We will then confirm the various dates of our mutual work.