A Fact Find hearing is a separate hearing within existing proceedings which considers evidence surrounding allegations made. Simply, it is to decipher whether an incident occurred or not. It can last from a few hours to a few days, depending upon the amount of evidence and number of witnesses to be called.
When Are Fact Finds Used?
Fact Find hearings are used when proceedings are ongoing, but allegations have been raised that the Court needs to address and resolve before a final decision can be made. Often, the allegations will relate to abuse or neglect.
The party making the allegations will be required to put each allegation into a table with a brief description, and space for the person responding to the allegations to write their response. A judge will then give their findings for each allegation.
The allegations will be described in more detail within the supporting statements and exhibits supplied by each party. There may also be cross allegations raised.
There is then a review of what witnesses may be required for the Fact Find hearing and discussion surrounding whether any allegations are able to be conceded, in order to narrow the issues and the length of the hearing.
The Court will often list a ‘direction hearing’ ahead of the Fact Find hearing to go through what evidence has already been provided and what is still outstanding.
What happens at a Fact Find Hearing?
During the Fact Find hearing, each party will be questioned in depth about the allegations raised. Witnesses may be called, and evidence referred to. The Judge will listen to all the evidence given to make a final decision about each allegation. It may be that some allegations are found to be proven, and others are not.
The purpose is for the allegations that have not been proven to be removed from the main proceedings, and that the proven allegations are to be used to assist the Court in making a final decision.
What happens if I am frightened of seeing my abuser in Court
Family Courts and professionals have made every effort to ensure that parties are not intimidated during Court. These are referred to as ‘Special Measures’ and include separate waiting areas and privacy screens. There is security throughout the Court, and in some instances the Court can also arrange for separate entrance areas.
Many hearings are conducted via video link. In some circumstances and at the Court’s discretion, requests can be made to appear with the camera off. You may choose to have a friend or family member meet you outside, but they will not be allowed into the Court room or in meetings with your legal representative.
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