The first hearing at court

A First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA) is the first hearing at the start of your case. It is usually a short meeting for the Judge to decide how the case should be organised.

The first hearing (First Hearing Dispute Resolution) is usually quite short, and everyone is asked to prepare information for another hearing a few weeks later.

You may have to attend court a few times before the Judge can decide on the case. The Judge should tell you what you need to prepare for each hearing and by what time. It will help the Judge if you stick to their ‘directions’ and give the court the information that they asked for on time. If you don’t understand what you are being asked to do, tell the Judge or a member of court staff.

The Judge may encourage you to come to an agreement at the first hearing, however often this isn’t possible and further hearings are arranged.

If there are concerns for the welfare of the child or anyone involved, the Judge may ask for CAFCASS or the local authority (social care) to prepare a report about your child, their experiences and circumstances, to help them decide what should happen. This report is usually referred to as a ‘section 7’ as it is completed under Section 7 of the Children Act 1989. If the Judge thinks it is necessary, they will ask to hear from your children. Your children may not be asked for their views directly.

Watch this video about how CAFCASS prepare a report

Find out more about court hearings.

If you are concerned about the immediate safety of a child, you should call the Police. You should also inform Social Services and raise this with a CAFCASS officer when they first contact you and/or the Judge during a court hearing.

If the child is not in your care, but you are concerned that they are at risk of harm, you could contact Social Services or the Police, but if CAFCASS are involved you should also notify them.

If an urgent matter occurs between court hearings, then you should raise it with the Police and/or Social Services immediately.

Step 5: Hearings to present evidence of domestic abuse