Preparing a statement for the family court can be a daunting process. However, when your statement is put in front of the Judge it should help your case, instead of hindering it, so it is important to get it right. Let’s look at the example of a statement submitted for contact in a Children Act case.
- Do not start your statement the night before it is due to be filed. Make sure you sleep on it several times before submitting it to the court. Don’t write it under the influence of drink or drugs. It will seem like your best work; how wrong you will be.
- Start off by writing a bullet point plan of what you want to tell the Judge. You can go in chronological order (often helpful when you are trying to tell a story) or divide what you want to say into sections; “The contact since the last hearing”; ” The bond between me and my son”; “Why I don’t think my son is settled with the Applicant” etc.
- Each new point in time, or each new section, should have a heading . This is because it makes the whole thing much more readable for a Judge. They can skip backwards and forwards in their mind thinking”Now what did he say about the bond between them again?” with ease.
- Write each point you want to make once . Repeating yourself in writing just make you look as if you may do it in real life.
- Capital letters and red writing and underlining all give the people reading your statement a sensation they are being SHOUTED at. This does not help your case.
- Keep each sentence as short as you can. It gives your writing more impact. One thought, one sentence. One topic one paragraph.
- Put some space in the text. This can be achieved by the use of paragraphs, sub headings and 1.5 line spacing. This makes the whole thing more readable.
- How much is too much? Well, you need to say everything you want to say, because technically, a Judge can insist that only your written statement stands as your evidence (usually they like to hear you speak a little about your own case, but don’t count on it). But many cases can be dealt with in five to ten pages. If you are not repeating yourself then perhaps you can make your sentences more concise?
- Exhibits: An exhibit is when you refer in your statement to a piece of physical evidence and then show that evidence by attaching it to your statement. Let’s say your name is Alf Bennett and you want to draw the Judge’s attention to the Respondent being mean about you to her friends on Facebook, which may be seen by your child. The best way to deal with this is to say eg “I have noticed the Respondent denigrating me on Facebook, attached at Exhibit AB1 “- then, behind your statement you have a front cover, with “AB1” on it and behind the cover is the print out of Facebook page you are talking about. Each separate piece of evidence should have a separate cover.
- Procedural points: your statement will need to be numbered and on single sides of A4 paper. You may want to look at Part 22 and Practice Direction 22A to see further details about statements and evidence. When you file your statement at the court , don’t forget to send a copy to the other side and to Cafcass if that is what has been ordered.
Hopefully, the above should see you on your way to preparing a statement for the family court; but if you find you still struggling why not make a £50 fixed fee appointment to see if we can help? Call us on 0333 444 0003 our lo-call number wherever you are.