the new post-Re HN approach



Louise McCallum, Solicitor, Parklane Plowden Chambers

This article examines the evolution of the family court’s approach to decisions about whether to conduct investigative hearings in private law cases, following the landmark decision in HN case and subsequent decisions of the High Court, the most recent in K against K [2022] EWCA Civ 468. The article also reflects on the likely impact of the latest guidance issued by the Family Division President, “Fact-Finding Hearings and Domestic Violence in Private Law Proceedings.’ The article examines the Court’s ongoing efforts to strike the best balance between properly acknowledging the impact of domestic violence and ensuring that fact-finding hearings are only conducted where necessary and proportionate. The recent guidance emphasizes that the fundamental elements in deciding whether or not to order an investigative hearing are “relevance, purpose and proportionality”. The article also examines the family court’s developing approach to handling cases where there are allegations of domestic violence and coercive control and how such cases should now be better presented in court. It is anticipated that lawyers can expect to see increased and scrupulous attention to whether a fact-finding hearing is indeed required on the facts of their particular case, accompanied by rigorous case management.

The full article will be published in the July issue of Family law.

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