Our Child Arrangements Guide  
The First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment
  Previous Video: What is a 'Position Statement' for the FHDRA?
Next Video: What is a Section 7 Report?  
  A First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment, (FHDRA), is the first court hearing after an application has been made to the court.

Once the application has been submitted, the respondent(s) will be invited to file a response using the Forms C7 and C1a no later than 10 working days before the hearing.

The FHDRA will usually take place within 6 weeks of the application.

By the time of the hearing, the court should have the following documents –

(a) C100 application, and C1A (if any);

(b) Notice of Hearing;

c) C7 response and C1A (if any);

d) Cafcass/CAFCASS safeguarding letter/report

  The main purpose of the First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment is for a Cafcass officer to meet with both parties individually to:

a) Establish an overview of the issues between both parties.

b) To consider recommendations to the court re any interim contact.

c) To determine whether Cafcass of Social Services, (if already involved), should conduct a Section 7 / Impact Analysis Report. This is where a field assessment is conducted in relation to risk factors and the issues that separate the parties and comes up with recommendations. The report can take up to 10 weeks to complete.

Evidence is not permitted to be submitted for this hearing unless permission has been sought and given by the court.

A concise 'Position Statement'laying out the main issues and wishes of either party is permitted and can be filed with the court and submitted to the other side 5 days before the hearing or more commonly taken to the court on the day.

Bring to the court 3 x copies of any 'Position Statement'. Your McKenzie Friendshould bring 3 copies of his / her CV.

  The parties should arrive 1 hour before the hearing time. On arrival, you and your McKenzie Friend should book in at the reception or with the court usher. Your McKenzie Friend will present his / her CV. If a position statement has been completed, this should also be submitted. The McKenzie Friend may also have to complete the court’s own McKenzie Friend attendance form.

Your McKenzie Friend will then identify the presence of the other party and whether they are represented. Once they have been identified, a copy of their CV and any 'Position Statements' will be exchanged with the other side in advance of speaking to the Cafcass Officer.

You and your McKenzie Friend will then wait for the interview with the Cafcass officer. The Cafcass Officer will usually speak to the applicant first.

When you are interviewed, your McKenzie Friend has a right to be present to support you. However, if the other side is represented with a lawyer, the Cafcass officer is unlikely to allow their lawyer to be present.

Your McKenzie Friend will hand a copy of their CV and your position statement to the Cafcass Officer. This will assist them to understand the issues.

Please note that The FHDRA is not privileged. That is to say that what is said at the FHDRA may be referred to at later court hearings.

The Cafcass officer, will seek to assist the parties in resolving all or any of the issues between them.

Once the Cafcass officer has spoken to both parties, you attend court with the Cafcass officer.Usually, the Cafcass Officer informs the court of any progress and outlines the main issues between the two parties, any safeguarding issues and provides recommendations as to whether interim contact should be considered and whether a Section 7 / Impact Analysis Report is needed.

Case Management

As part of the case management the court will consider:

(a) What, if any, issues are agreed and what are the key issues to be determined?

b) Should the matter be listed for a fact-finding hearing?

(c) Are there any interim orders which can usefully be made (e.g. indirect, supported or supervised contact) pending Dispute Resolution Appointment or final hearing?

(d) What directions are required to ensure the application is ready for a Dispute Resolution Appointment or final hearing - statements, reports etc?

(e) Should the application be listed for a Dispute Resolution Appointment (it is envisaged that most cases will be so listed)?

(f) Should the application be listed straightaway for a final hearing?

(g) Judicial continuity should be actively considered (especially if there has been or is to be a Fact Finding hearing or a contested interim hearing).


(a) The Allocation decision will be considered by the Court;

(b) If it is necessary to transfer the case to another court within the DFJ area or another area, or re-allocate it, the court shall state the reasons for transfer / re-allocation and shall specifically make directions for the next hearing in the court.

Order (other than a final order)

Where no final agreement is reached, and the court is required to give case management directions, the following shall be included on the order:

(a) the date, time and venue of the next hearing;

(b) whether the author of any section 7 report is required to attend the hearing, in order to give oral evidence.

(c) such other matters as may be included.

The next hearing, the Dispute Resolution Appointment (DRA), is typically listed 3 months later. If Cafcass are to prepare a Section 7 Report, then this usually needs to be filed and copies served on each party within 8 weeks.

At the conclusion of the hearing, it is always good practice to find a quiet area for your McKenzie Friend to debrief the hearing with you and to plan any next steps and agree on a timetable of actions.

The hearing lasts for about 20 minutes.

If you have any questions or would like the assistance of a McKenzie Friend at your DRA, please visit www.mckenziefrienduk.net or contact 01420 370770.

Copyright 2019 www.mckenziefrienduk.net