Finding out that you need to attend court as part of a family or divorce matter can be intimidating. During your first visit to the court, you may be concerned about the court process itself, navigating an unfamiliar building, or not having a clear idea of how the day will go. Having more information about what to expect can help you to feel calmer and better prepared.

 

Below, we’ve compiled information about attending Bristol Family Court from our experiences as family law solicitors in Bristol. We hope you will find this a helpful and reassuring tool during your own journey through the courts.

Where is Bristol Family Court?

In Bristol, the Family Court can be found at The Bristol Civil and Family Justice Centre. County Court hearings are held in the same building. There are several other court buildings in the city, mostly also around the centre, but these are used to deal with different types of legal matters so make sure they don’t get selected on your sat nav by mistake.

 

bristol county court exterior

 

When navigating to the Bristol Family Court, you should use this address:

Bristol Civil and Family Justice Centre

2 Redcliff Street

Bristol

BS1 6GR

The building is near the centre of Bristol and a relatively short walk from both the Bristol Bus Station and Bristol Temple Meads Station. If you’re driving, there are several local car parks including those at Redcliffe Parade and the Galleries Shopping Centre. There’s also Pay and Display parking on Redcliffe Street, though much of it is short stay only.

The court is open 8:30am to 4pm every day but Thursday, when it opens at 9am. The phone line is open for enquires every day from 9am to 4pm.

How can I contact Bristol Family Court?

You can find a detailed list of email addresses and phone numbers to reach different parts of the court at this link.

You can call the general family court line or the court of protection at 0117 366 4880. However, these branches have different email addresses.

 

Family Court: family.bristol.countycourt@justice.gov.uk

 

Court of Protection: courtofprotection.bristol.countycourt@justice.gov.uk

 

Family Public Law: contactfpl@justice.gov.uk

 

If you need to send a document to the court, you should use this address:

Bristol Civil and Family Justice Centre

BRISTOL

DX 95903

What Will I Need to Prepare Before going to my Court Proceeding?

Before attending court, you should think about:

  • Who will be representing you in the hearing
  • What exactly the hearing is for (you’ll need to prepare very differently for a child matter than a financial matter, for example)
  • What your goals for the hearing are and what you’re willing to be flexible on
  • What evidence you need to submit, and when and how the court case requires you to do this
  • If you need to request time off from work (be aware that even hearings scheduled for first thing in the morning can become a whole day affair)
  • Who will be looking after any children while the hearing is taking place
  • How you will arrive at the court

 

packing for the day

 

If you’re working with a lawyer, they’ll be able to tell you if you need to bring any specific documents or papers. Depending on the  type of hearing which you will be attending, you may need copies of personal statements, reports from various services which you or your family has interacted with, previous court applications and orders, or records of correspondence, for example.

As well as the documents mentioned above, you may also like to bring the following:

  • Your hearing letter (Notice of Hearing) which will have your case number on it.
  • A drink and snacks for the day; and/or
  • One adult friend or family member as support (known as a McKenzie Friend).

You may choose to wear a face mask or a religious head covering, but you shouldn’t wear anything else on your head. While there isn’t a dress code for the family court, wearing a smart outfit can help to create a positive first impression.

If you are concerned about intimidating behaviour from an ex-partner or another family member while waiting in the court building, you can contact the court’s Witness Liaison Team in advance of any hearing to see if you’re able to wait in separate areas. Security will also be present in the building should you need it.

What is the Building Like?

The Bristol Civil and Family Justice Centre is a large, square building with a steel and glass entrance facing Redcliff Street. It was purpose-built in 2010, unlike some court buildings which are adapted for purpose and may be more difficult to find your way around. Above the entrance is a large sign with the words “Bristol Civil Justice Centre” (but don’t worry, you are in the right place for the family court).

There are several floors and 15 rooms in total where family and civil hearings can be held in the court. There are also smaller interview rooms and a quiet room for prayer or contemplation.

Inside the building, you can find a reception area and a display of “hearing room listings” where you can look to find a hearing matching your case number (this should be on your hearing letter). There are waiting areas with seating, toilets, baby changing facilities and a vending machine. Mobile service is generally poor in the building, but there is free Wi-Fi access available.

If you would feel better familiarising yourself with the building before the day of your hearing, the court occasionally holds open days and regularly runs clinics for the public. You could also enquire about attending the court to sit in the gallery of a civil trial.

Is Bristol Family Court Accessible?

Bristol Family Court has wheelchair access, interior lifts, and a portable hearing enhancement system, though you will need to contact the court ahead of time to arrange access to this.

 

woman using a wheelchair

 

Guide and Assistance dogs are welcome in the building, and you can request a hidden disabilities lanyard at reception if required.

You can find a full list of facilities available on site here or contact the court for any other accessibility enquiries.

Can I Bring my Child?

Unless their presence is requested in a hearing, it’s usually best to arrange childcare elsewhere during your legal proceedings.

If you bring a child with you and with no one else to look after them, you will not be allowed into your hearing except in very special circumstances. Building staff cannot look after children while you are in court.

In cases where children are invited to the court, there are baby changing facilities and a children’s waiting room available. You will also be able to express milk or breastfeed in the building if needed.

What Will Happen as I Enter the Building?

Most court letters recommend that you arrive 30 minutes early for your hearing. If possible, give yourself even more time in case of traffic or other hold-ups.

When you arrive, your bags and pockets will be checked for any weapons or alcohol. You may also be asked to step through a scanner. If anything is taken from you, you will be able to get it back as you leave the building later in the day.

 

security check

 

After you enter, you should book in with the Court Usher at the reception desk. They may be dressed in a black gown. This is also usually where you or your lawyer hand over copies of any documents that will be used in court. If you need to leave the court by a particular time, or if you’ve brought a friend you would like to quietly sit in on your hearing for support, you should discuss this with those at reception.

You can also ask the court usher them any questions about where you should be waiting, accessibility requirements, or where you can find the hearing listings displayed.

On the hearing list, you can check where your matter will be held and who will be presiding. It’s common for names not to be used for family court hearings, so the best way to do this is to compare the case numbers to the one on your letter.

You may have to wait a long time for your hearing, so it’s a good idea to bring along a book or download your favourite podcast. While you wait, you might be approached by the legal team of the other party. If you are working with a barrister, they might also spend some time talking to the other party. This can be a time when last-minute agreements are made, or you can learn more about what approach the other party will take in the hearing.

When you are called for your hearing, make sure your mobile is switched off or on “Do Not Disturb.” No photos or videos can be taken in the room.

What Can I Expect From my Family Court Hearing?

Unlike some civil matters, family courts are not open to the public, so you won’t have an audience outside of those involved in your case.

As the judge or magistrates enter, you will be asked to stand up with the command “all rise.” Someone will explain the purpose of the hearing and how it will be structured. It will be clear when it is your turn to speak. It’s normal to address the judge or magistrates at your hearing as “sir” or “madam” and you should make an effort to speak to them clearly and politely.

 

lawyers talking in a court case

 

You may be asked questions and in some types of hearings you will be required to give evidence – in which case you’ll also be asked to take an oath. At some point, the judge or magistrates may lay out a likely outcome for the case and give you and the other party time to negotiate.

If you bring a barrister to court, their focus will be on advocating for you, putting your case persuasively, presenting evidence, and asking the other party questions. A solicitor will be able to give you the benefit of their knowledge and experience in family law cases and ensure nothing gets missed from your case.

Some hearings can involve statements from external parties such as CAFCASS officers.

You can learn more about different types of family law hearing and what they might involve on the family court info website.

After Attending Court

Depending on the type of hearing, it may end in a formal agreement between parties, a verdict from the judge or magistrate, or them needing additional time to consider the outcome of the hearing. If you are early in the court process, you or your legal team might be asked to carry out some actions before attending another hearing to find the next step forward.

If your solicitor didn’t attend court with you, you should keep them updated on how it went and any outcomes they should be involved in. Keeping notes during the hearing can help with this.

 

post court phone call

 

In Need of Legal Assistance?

Harbour Family Law are a firm of local solicitors specialising in Family Law in Bristol. We’ve achieved respectful, dignified solutions for many clients struggling with divorce, injunction, or child law cases and can work with you at any point in your legal journey.

Whether you need a viable strategy for an upcoming child law court case, help negotiating with an ex-spouse, or support with splitting financial assets, our experts can help you find a way forward.

 

Contact us today for a free callback.