Foreword and summary of the rules

The Family Procedure Rules 2010 and the supporting Practice Directions set out a comprehensive framework for the family jurisdiction. I am pleased that, for the first time, family proceedings courts will operate under the same set of rules as the High Court and the county court. This will serve to improve even further the relationship between the family proceedings court and the county court.

The new framework, modelled on the approach to the Civil Procedure Rules, will contribute to a common understanding and approach across all three tiers of family court, resulting in a more streamlined system to serve court users well.

I should like to pay tribute to the members of the Family Procedure Rule Committee – past and present – for their unstinting public service in developing, consulting on and refining these rules. The rules, Practice Directions and revised court forms reflect many hours of painstaking and detailed work by judicial and practitioner experts supported by a lay member and officials from the Ministry of Justice.

The creation of a unified single set of rules for the family jurisdiction is a significant achievement. We shall of course continue to develop and refine the rules and Practice Directions to ensure that they remain responsive to the needs of all those who use the family justice system.

Sir Nicholas Wall,

President of the Family Division

Summary of the Rules

This is a summary of the different Parts of the Family Procedure Rules, intended to help explain the contents of the Rules. This summary does not form part of the Rules.

The Family Procedure Rules, and supporting Practice Directions, set out the practice and procedure to be followed in all types of family proceedings, in the family court and in the Family Division of the High Court.

Part 1: Overriding Objective

The court has the overriding objective to deal with all cases justly, having regard to any welfare issues involved. This Part sets out the general procedural principles that are relevant to a case being dealt with justly and how the court will manage cases to achieve that objective. It also sets out the duty of the parties to help the court achieve this.

Part 2: Application and Interpretation of the Rules

Part 2 explains how the procedural rules should be interpreted, defines what specific words and phrases mean and explains how time is calculated when time limits are imposed by the Rules.

Part 2, and its supporting Practice Directions, also set out what functions of the court can be performed by a single lay justice and by a Justices’ Legal Adviser.

Part 3: Non-court Dispute Resolution

Part 3 sets out the court’s duty to consider non-court dispute resolution, at all stages of proceedings, and its powers to encourage and facilitate this. It also makes provision in relation to the requirement, in certain cases, to attend Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAMs) before proceedings can be started.

Part 3A: Vulnerable persons participation in proceedings and giving evidence

Part 3A explains the specific duties that the court has towards vulnerable persons and protected parties. This includes rules about the court’s obligation to consider how a such a person can be assisted to participate in the proceedings or give evidence. Part 3A explains what the court must have regard to and the “participation directions” that it can put in place to assist. Examples include permitting a person to sit behind a screen so that they cannot be seen by the others in court or allowing a party to be supported by an intermediary to help them to understand the proceedings.

Part 4: General Case Management Powers

Part 4 sets out the general powers that the court has to manage cases, including when the court can strike out applications, correct errors of procedure and make orders of its own initiative. If a party fails to comply with a rule, practice direction or court order then a sanction may be imposed. In some circumstances, a party may ask the court to consider not imposing a sanction and this Part sets out how a party can ask for this and how the court will make that decision. Part 4 also sets out the procedure for the court to make a Civil Restraint Order, which is an order stopping a party freely making further applications to the court.

Part 5: Forms, start of proceedings and communication with the court

Part 5 explains how to start proceedings and what form(s) to use when making applications at the start of proceedings or during proceedings once they have begun. It contains detailed rules about how to communicate with the court and how to “file” documents, that is how to send them to the court, including when it is possible to send them by email.

Part 5 also makes clear that proceedings should be started in the family court, except in very specific circumstances when they may be started in the High Court.

Part 6: Service

Part 6 contains detailed rules on how to serve documents, that is how to send them to other people and organisations including other parties to the proceedings. It specifies who can serve a document, by what method and on whom. It explains when a document is deemed (i.e. considered) to have been served. Different rules apply depending on what document is being served and whether it is being served in England and Wales, the UK or elsewhere.

Part 7: Procedure for Applications in Matrimonial and Civil Partnership Proceedings            

Part 7 sets out the procedure to follow in matrimonial and civil partnership proceedings, for example for a divorce. Specific rules on how to start, serve, amend, withdraw and respond to these proceedings are found in Part 7. Rules about hearings, case management and costs are also found here. The process that the court will follow when considering an application is set out.

Part 8: Procedure for Miscellaneous Applications

This Part contains the application procedure for:

  • correcting a gender recognition certificate,
  • altering a maintenance agreement after the death of one party,
  • deciding a question as to property summarily,
  • making declarations as to marital status, civil partnership status, parentage, legitimacy or legitimation or adoptions effected overseas,
  • seeking permission to apply for a financial remedy after overseas proceedings,
  • transfer of a tenancy under section 53 and schedule 7 to the Family Law Act 1996,
  • preventing avoidance under section 32L of the Child Support Act 1991; and
  • consenting to marriage of a child or to registration of civil partnership of a child.

Part 9: Applications for a Financial Remedy

Part 9 relates to proceedings for a financial remedy, including consent orders. Part 9 sets out how to apply for various orders for a financial remedy, and how those applications will be progressed. The Part includes rules about who has to be notified of the proceedings and how to communicate with the court. There is a “standard procedure” and a “fast track procedure”: which applies depends on the type of order being applied for. Part 9 explains what should happen at each type of hearing. Specific rules are provided for cases that involve pensions and for cases that involve the Pension Protection Fund.

Part 10: Applications under Part 4 of the Family Law Act 1996

This Part contains rules applicable to proceedings for occupation and non-molestation orders. It includes information about how to make such an application, what evidence is needed to support an application, and who needs to be given a copy of the application and any orders which the court goes on to make.

It provides detail about what steps must be taken where an order is made with a power of arrest attached and the procedure which occurs if a person is arrested under such a power. It also outlines what information the court must send and to whom when a Hospital or Guardianship order is made under the Mental Health Act 1983 or where transfer directions are made under section 48 of that Act.

Part 11: Applications under Part 4A of the Family Law Act 1996

This Part contains rules applicable to proceedings for forced marriage protection orders and for female genital mutilation protection orders. It details what is needed to support an application and who needs to be given a copy of the application.

The rules include the procedure to follow when permission to for an order apply is necessary, including who should be notified of such an application and when a child (who is not themselves the applicant) should be joined as a party to proceedings.

Part 12: Proceedings Relating to Children Except Parental Order Proceedings and Proceedings for Applications in Adoption, Placement and Related Proceedings

The rules in this part contain some (but not all) of the rules about the procedure that applies in the following sorts of court proceedings relating to children:

  • emergency proceedings,
  • private law proceedings (for example for a Child Arrangements Order),
  • public law proceedings (for example, for a care order),
  • proceedings relating to the exercise of the court’s inherent jurisdiction (for example where a child is made a ‘ward’ of the court, meaning that the court is able to make decisions about aspects of the child’s life and upbringing),
  • proceedings relating to child abduction, the recognition and enforcement of decisions relating to custody under the international instruments.

Further, more detailed, procedures which are specific to the type of court proceedings are set out in the Practice Directions which supplement Part 12.

Part 13: Proceedings Under Section 54 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008

This Part contains the rules relating to the procedure to follow in applications for parental orders which are made under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008.

Part 14: Procedure for Applications in Adoption, Placement and Related Proceedings

This Part sets out the court procedures relating to adoption proceedings, proceedings placing a child for adoption, proceedings concerning post-adoption contact, proceedings concerning changing a child’s surname or removing a child from the UK in certain contexts, and other proceedings concerning children who are placed for adoption or who are adopted.

It includes rules relating to who the people involved as parties to the proceedings and procedures concerning keeping the identity of parties confidential.

This Part also includes rules about the consent of a parent or guardian to a child being adopted and about the communication of information about the proceedings.

Part 15: Representation of Protected Parties

This Part contains rules about the representation of “protected parties”. A protected party is someone who lacks capacity, within the meaning of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, to conduct proceedings themself. The Part contains rules about when a protected party needs a “litigation friend” to conduct the proceedings on behalf of the protected party, who may be a litigation friend and how such a person could be appointed.

Part 16: Representation of Children and Reports in Proceedings Involving Children

This Part contains the rules about when the court may make a child a party in family proceedings, and the special provisions which apply to proceedings involving children. It covers the rules about who and how a person can become a “litigation friend” and their powers and duties. The rules also deal with when the court will appoint a “children’s guardian”, who may be a children’s guardian and the children’s guardian’s powers and duties. It also sets out the duties of a solicitor who acts for a child.

This Part contains rules about when the court can appoint a “reporting officer” and their duties and how a court can request a welfare report in respect of a child.

This Part also contains rules about the appointment, powers and duties of a parental order reporter in proceedings concerning surrogacy arrangements.

Part 17: Statements of Truth

Many documents have to be signed with a statement confirming that the contents of the document are true. Part 17 states what documents must contain this statement and who can sign a statement of truth and provides the rules that govern statements of truth. People who sign a document that has been verified by a statement of truth without an honest belief in its truth may have proceedings for contempt of court brought against them.

Part 18: Procedure for other Applications in Proceedings

This Part relates only to certain types of applications, including those made in existing proceedings or in relation to proceedings which have already ended. If an application is made within existing proceedings, it will usually be made using the procedure in Part 18. The Part sets out the procedure to be followed in such applications, including the requirements for filing and serving notice of the application and for the hearing of the application.

Part 19: Alternative Procedure for Applications

This Part applies sets out the procedure for an application to which no other Part of the Rules applies and where an applicant seeks the court’s decision on a question which is unlikely to involve a substantial dispute of fact. It also applies where another rule or practice direction requires, or the court directs, that the Part 19 procedure is used.

Part 20: Interim Remedies and Security for Costs

This Part sets out the “interim remedies” that the court may grant, including an interim injunction, interim declaration and certain orders relating to property and income from a property. It also sets out the procedure for applying for an interim remedy.

Part 21: Miscellaneous Rules about Disclosure and Inspection of Documents

This Part provides detail on the meaning of ‘disclosure’ and ‘inspection’ of documents, and of ‘specific disclosure’.

It outlines how applications for disclosure and/or inspection can be made by a person who is not a party to proceedings and how a person can apply to withhold disclosure of documents which they have been ordered to disclose.

Part 22: Evidence

This Part outlines the ways in which the court can control evidence both when deciding whether it should allowed to be considered in the proceedings (its “admissibility”) and how it is used in court. Specific detail is given regarding the requirements for a valid witness statement or summary, including what they should contain and who should be given a copy.

This Part also includes rules about the production of affidavits, notices to admit facts and notarial acts.

Part 23: Miscellaneous Rules about Evidence

This Part contains rules about when hearsay evidence can be relied on within a hearing and who should be notified in advance if a party intends to rely on hearsay evidence. Specific rules are given for cases where a party seeks to cross-examine the maker of a hearsay statement or challenge the maker’s credibility. The rules also provide for how evidence in the form of maps, plans or photographs and of findings on questions of foreign law are to be put before the court.

Part 24: Witnesses and depositions generally

This Part provides rules regarding the use of witness summonses to require a witness to attend court, including how they should be produced and when and on whom they should be served.

This Part also details how evidence can be obtained by way of deposition when a witness is unable to attend court and the procedures which should be followed in so doing.

The rules also provide for the expenses which a witness is entitled to and special procedures in respect of examining a witness who is in another jurisdiction.

Part 25: Experts and Assessors

This Part defines the role and responsibilities of an ‘expert witness’. It makes clear that an application must be made to the court for permission to seek evidence from an expert and details the ways in which the court is able to control their evidence.

This Part additionally gives detail about the different options for instructing an expert (usually either jointly or separately), the form their evidence should take and how other parties may ask questions of an expert witness.

Part 26: Change of Solicitor

Part 26 contains the rules on what to do if a party changes solicitor or ceases to have a solicitor act for them.

Part 27: Hearings and Directions Appointments

Part 27 contains the rules about court hearings. It includes the general rules about when a party must attend a hearing and what the court may do if a party does not attend. It also sets out what hearings will be heard in private and who can attend hearings. Detailed rules about how documents are to be presented in a “court bundle” for a hearing are found here. Specific rules apply to hearings before a lay justice or justices as opposed to judges.

Part 28: Costs

Part 28 contains the rules on when the court can make an order that one party pay the costs of another party, and if so, what the court should consider before making such an order.

Part 29: Miscellaneous

Rules that do not easily fit into the other Parts are found in this miscellaneous Part. It includes rules concerning:

  • when a party can keep contact details confidential from other parties;
  • disclosure under the Child Support Act 1991 Act;
  • how to give notice;
  • how to withdraw applications;
  • applications concerning the Human Rights Act 1998;
  • keeping documents in proceedings concerning gender recognition in special security;
  • stamping and sealing court documents;
  • the standards for drawing up, filing, correction and service of judgments and orders;
  • when a judgment or order takes effect,
  • access to and inspection of documents retained by the court; and
  • transfer of proceedings to another court and their allocation to a different level of judge.

Part 30: Appeals

This Part contains rules setting out the procedure that applies to appeals in family proceedings that go to the High Court or the family court, including when permission to appeal against a decision or order of the family court is, or is not, required.

The powers of the appeal court are set out in this Part, as well as rules relating to the appeal court’s power to hear an appeal in public.

The circumstances in which an appeal can be assigned to the Court of Appeal are set out in this Part. (The procedure for appeals to the Court of Appeal is set out in the Civil Procedure Rules 1998.)

Part 31: Registration of Orders under the Council Regulation, the Civil Partnership (Jurisdiction and Recognition of Judgments) Regulations 2005 and under the Hague Convention 1996

This Part supplements the 1996 Hague Convention rules on recognising and enforcing certain children judgments that are made in states party to this Convention. It provides rules regarding how to apply for the recognition of an order or judgment to which the 1996 Hague Convention applies, and which was made in a state bound by the Convention. It also provides rules for the certifying of judgments made in England and Wales and to which the Convention applies, so that these judgments can be recognised and/or enforced in other states bound by the Convention.

Part 31 rules that were in force until 31 December 2020 also have continuing effect for the recognition and/or enforcement of certain children judgments and matrimonial orders to which Council Regulation 2201/2203 continues to apply by virtue of the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement.

Part 32: Registration and Enforcement of Orders

This Part provides rules that supplement certain statutes regarding the registration and enforcement of certain maintenance or children orders within the UK. In particular, the Part provides rules on registering decisions made by the family court or High Court of England and Wales so that they can be enforced in the courts of Scotland or Northern Ireland, and rules on registration in England and Wales of certain maintenance or children orders made in Scotland or Northern Ireland so that they can be enforced here. Rules also detail what steps must be taken where an order, having been registered, is varied, revoked or recalled.

Part 33: Enforcement

This Part sets out rules concerning the procedure for applications that are made to enforce an order made in family proceedings. In places, this Part applies provisions of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998.

There are different methods of enforcement that can be applied for, and this Part deals with each of these separately. The methods include judgment summonses, warrants of control and third party debt orders. An application could be made for an attachment of earnings order (the detailed procedure is in Part 39) or for a charging order (the detailed procedure is in Part 40). There is also a procedure for making a “general application” for enforcement, where the court decides which specific method of enforcement should be used.

Part 34: Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders

This Part supplements the provisions of the 2007 Hague Convention and certain statutes regarding reciprocal recognition and enforcement of maintenance orders. In particular, it provides rules about the recognition and registration for enforcement in England and Wales of maintenance orders made either in states bound by the 2007 Hague Convention, or in certain other foreign jurisdictions with which there are reciprocal agreements in place. It also provides rules for the certifying of maintenance orders made in England and Wales so that they can be recognised and/or enforced in states bound by the 2007 Hague Convention or these reciprocal agreements.

Detail is also provided as to steps to be taken if a maintenance order is varied or revoked. Specific rules also apply to the payment of money due under registered maintenance orders.

Part 34 rules that were in force until 31 December 2020 also have continuing effect for the recognition and/or enforcement of certain maintenance orders to which Council Regulation 4/2009 continues to apply by virtue of the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement, or to which the Lugano Convention continues to apply by virtue of similar provisions enacted in domestic law.

Part 36: Transitional Arrangements and Pilot Schemes

This Part provides that a Practice Direction may modify rules and procedure to establish pilot schemes testing new ways of operating. The Part contains various pilot Practice Directions explaining how various current pilot schemes work and what special rules apply to their operation.

Part 37: Applications and proceedings in relation to contempt of court

This Part sets out the rules to be followed in proceedings for contempt of court, including how to make and serve a contempt application and what information the application must contain.  Where no application for contempt is made but the court considers that a contempt of court may have been committed, this Part sets out the procedure to be followed.

Part 38: Recognition and enforcement of protection measures

This Part contains rules regarding the recognition and enforcement in England and Wales of ‘protection measures’ made in EU Member States. ‘Protection measures’ are defined by the EU Protection Measures Regulation which still applies in England and Wales and includes, for example, non-molestation orders and occupation orders.

The Part includes rules concerning how to apply to have protection measures issued in EU Member States adjusted in England and Wales, or to have recognition/enforcement suspended, withdrawn or refused.

Part 39: Attachment of earnings

This Part contains the rules setting out the procedure where an attachment of earnings order is sought as a way of enforcing an order for the payment of money, including on how to apply for an attachment of earnings order, what information must be provided, where this should be sent, and to whom notice must be given.

Part 40: Charging order, stop order, stop notice

This Part contains the procedural rules relating to charging orders, which are another way of applying to enforce an order for the payment of money.

This Part also sets out the procedure relating to applications for stop orders and stop notices discharge or variation of a stop notice is considered in Rule 40.19.

Part 41: Proceeding by electronic means

Part 41 allows for Practice Directions to make provision for specific types of proceedings to proceed by electronic means. At present there are three different Practice Directions to Part 41 permitting three types of proceedings to proceed in this way. They are for certain proceedings for a matrimonial order, consent orders for a financial remedy, and appeals to be heard in the High Court.

Ministry of Justice