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The family court deals wtih both public and private law proceedings concerning the welfare of the child(ren). Private law proceedings are applications made by private individuals, such as parents and grand parents, and may include applications regarding who a child should live with following the breakdown of a relationship, the payment of maintenance for the child or who the child should they see and how often. Public law proceedings are where the Crown takes action to protect a child that they believe may be at risk of serious harm.

When trying to resolve questions about the welfare of the child(ren), going to court should always be the last resort. There are many other ways of reaching an agreement on what should happen to the children of the family and the court will try to help parents to agree a positive, joint approach to looking after their children. However, it is always best if parents can reach their own agreements rather than the court having to decide on their behalf.

What the court may order will depend on the details of each case, which are different for each family and each child. The court will always put the child[ren]'s best interests first and do what it considers is best for them, even if this is not what the parent's want.

The Children Ordinance 2014 determines the types of orders that the court can make. Below is a list of some of the more common applications before the family court. These include:

In public law

  • Contact Order (who the child sees and how often)
  • Residence Order (who the child lives with)
  • Specific Issue Order (order to resolve any specific issue relating to the child)
  • Parental Responsibility Order (awards all the rights and responsibilities of being a parent to the applicant)
  • Financial relief in relation to the child (payment of lump sum or regular payments in relation to the child)
  • Prohibited Steps Order (prevents someone from taking a certain action in relation to the child, such as taking them out of the country)
  • Adoption

In private law

  • Care order (places the child in the care of the Crown)
  • Supervision order (places the child under the supervision of the Crown)
  • Adoption
  • Emergency Protection Order (uses emergency powers to remove the child to the care of the Crown due to the significant risk of harm)

In the Summary Court the family court is known as the Family Proceedings Court (FPC) and holds similar jurisidction to the Magistrate's Court, in that it can deal with all questions relating to both public and private law proceedings. The FPC comprises of specially trained Justices of the Peace who deal with family cases. However, family cases are ordinarily dealt with by the Magistrate's Court. This is due to their often complex nature and the length of time that hearing such cases can sometimes take. The Justices of the Peace therefore deal with hearings if the Senior Magistrate is not available.

The practice and procedure in the FPC is governed by the Family Procedure Rules 2010. Where an adoption is applied for in the Summary Court the Magistrates' Courts (adoption) Rules 1984 apply.

Links to the forms for applications to the Court may be found on the Magistrate's Court (Family) page, which may be accessed from the drop down menu or via this link. All forms are available in hard copy from the court office. Please note forms are all headed "Magistrate's Court (Family)" as this is the court in which proceedings will be issued.

Please note - Court staff cannot assist you in determining what type of application you need to make; they can only provide you with advice on procedure. If you are unsure about the application you ought to make then you are advised to seek independent legal advice. You may be eligible for assistance under the Legal Aid Scheme.