Party to proceedings
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A ‘party’ to court proceedings is a person or organisation who is subject to litigation. This means that they are centrally involved in the case. A witness is not a party, for example.
In care proceedings, the following people or organisations will be parties from the outset:
- Children’s services
- The parents
- Anyone else with parental responsibility for the child
- The children (their interests will be represented by their children’s guardian).
The party who brings the case to court is the applicant. In, this is children’s services (the local authority). The other parties are known as respondents.
Other family members are not a party automatically (unless they have parental responsibility for the child). They can seek permission from the court to become a party.
In family court proceedings, only someone who is a party is able to go into the courtroom and hear the evidence, submissions and judgments made. Unlike other courts, members of the public cannot go into the family court, as proceedings are private. A party to the case will receive copies of all paperwork submitted during the proceedings. This will include reports to the court or the child’s care plan. Information can only be withheld from a party if the court believes telling that person something could put someone else at risk. If this is the case, the court may make an order to ensure certain documents are not disclosed to that party.
Anyone who is thinking of applying to become a party to proceedings should get advice from a solicitor (preferably one who has children law accreditation) or refer to the Family Rights Group Advice Service.