You must either post or take your application to the Court. If you post a document you should use first class post or other next-day service.
When the Court receives your forms it must send to CAFCASS within 24 hours, or 48 hours in courts where applications are first considered on paper,
· A copy of your application form C100 and Form C1A;
· Forms C6, C7 and C9;
· A blank Form C1A (CAFCASS may think there are welfare concerns even if you don’t);
· Information leaflets for the parties.
Under the terms of the Revised Private Law Programme the courts are expected to list the First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA) within 4 weeks of receipt of your application. If that is not possible a timetable must be drawn up between CAFCASS and the Courts Service.
The Court will return your C100 and C1A to you together with the Forms C6, C7 and C9. Under Family Procedure Rule 12.8 you must then ‘serve’ copies of the application and the forms C6 and C7 to all respondents in the case by the date the Court will have given you or not later than 21 days before the hearing. This is your responsibility and not the Court’s.
· Form C6 is the Notice of Proceedings, and the Court will have filled it in with the date, time and location of the hearing (you may also need to complete Form C6A which is given to anyone other than the respondent(s) who needs to attend proceedings);
· Form C7 is an Acknowledgement of Service which the respondent must return to the Court; and
· Form C9 is the Statement of Service which you complete and return to the Court only after you have served the other forms.
· Booklet CB3 will explain how to fill them out and what to do with them.
You should preferably serve the papers on the respondent -- or to their solicitor’s business address if requested – by first class or registered post; you must not serve the papers personally. Under Rule 6.23(d) of the Family Procedure Rules 2010 you can now serve papers (but not divorce applications) by fax or email with no hard copy if the party or their solicitor have agreed to this in writing.
If serving the papers fails – if, for example, no response is made to the Court within 14 days – then you can request a court bailiff to serve the papers. This is more expensive (see Court Fees), but the bailiff will then be able to provide a certificate of service that the papers were correctly served. You must complete Form D89 and provide evidence that service has not been successful, giving the address of the respondent. If the bailiff cannot serve the papers at that address you may request that they be served at an alternative address. If you are legally represented you will have to pay a process server to serve the papers.
If you don’t know the respondent’s current address you must take reasonable steps to ascertain it. Otherwise you must consider where else the papers may be served and request the Court to direct accordingly. Alternatively the Court may make an order to dispense with service.
If the respondent is a child (when a child is party to proceedings) the papers must be served to a parent, guardian or carer (other than the applicant). If the child is represented by a Children’s Guardian papers must be served on them and also on the solicitor where one has been appointed.
The application is deemed to have been served when the Acknowledgement of Service is returned to the Court. You will have to confirm to the Court that the signature on the Acknowledgement is indeed that of the respondent. If no Acknowledgement is filed the Court may still consider that the application has been served if there is evidence to that effect.
How you have served the papers must be entered on your Form C9. If the respondent then fails to turn up at Court you have evidence that they were appropriately informed and given the opportunity to present their case.
Full information on how to serve the papers is provided in the Practice Direction 6A – Service within the Jurisdiction, which also covers service to forces personnel who may be overseas. Practice Direction 6B covers service outside the jurisdiction, including Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Do not serve the forms earlier than the deadline given to you by the Court; this will normally be 14 days before the hearing, or 21 days if they live outside the jurisdiction in Northern Ireland, Scotland or a Hague Convention country within Europe, or 31 days if they live in a Hague country outside Europe. Give your ex and/or their solicitor the minimum notification they are entitled to have under the law; you don’t want to give the respondent any more time to prepare their case. For the same reason, serve them on your ex directly, not to the solicitor if there is one. If there is not a solicitor, they now have only 14 days to find one and to prepare for the hearing. This sounds underhand, but we repeat, you are now embarked on an adversarial course, there are only winners and losers, and you may need to play every dirty trick in the book if you are to have any chance of winning. The other side certainly will.
Under Family Procedure Rule 12.32 the respondent is expected to file a response using the Forms C7 and C1A (soon to be replaced by C100A) no later than 14 days before the hearing, and the Court may abridge this time if it thinks it is necessary. This will allow him or her only 2 weeks at the most to read the application, find a solicitor (if necessary) and prepare a response. The Court must forward this response to CAFCASS on receipt.
We would warn you that making an application to the Court sets into motion a course of events which can lead anywhere and become hugely distressing to all parties, but you have to face that. Applications are only made in response to the other party behaving in a manner which is not consistent with good parenting – usually involving the denial of contact – and they have only themselves to blame. It is inevitable that they will react badly to your application; it may even take them by surprise. They will make threats, make false allegations, move house, abduct your children, alienate them against you and abuse them. You have to deal with that in whatever way is most appropriate, often with other applications. You just have to hang in there.
Once it has been made you may only withdraw an application with the permission of the Court. You will thus have to make an application for your earlier application to be withdrawn.
If the Court considers that your application, referred to as a ‘statement of case’, is without merit and has no hope of success, or is an abuse of the Court process, or has not been made according to the rules, it can reject it. This is called ‘striking out’ and is enabled under Rule 4.4 of the Family Procedure Rules 2010.