When disputes need to be decided by the Family Court, depending on the type of case, they are dealt with by either Family Panel Lay Magistrates or District Judge (Magistrates’ court) or by a District, Circuit or High Court Judge.
Family magistrates and Family judges are specially trained by the Judicial College to deal with issues affecting families, including training on domestic abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour. They receive regular updating training to ensure their expertise in family law remains up to date.
High Court Judge
High Court Judges sit in the Family Court and in the Family Division of the High Court. They deal with the most complex cases relating to children and families and can exercise the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court, including wardship (see the type of family cases page for more information). High Court judges sitting in the Family Division also deal with the appeals from certain decisions of Circuit Judges sitting in the Family Court.
Circuit Judges undertaking Family cases sit in the Family Court. Some Family Circuit Judges will be Designated Family Judges, who are responsible for the administration of Family justice at each major court centre. Designated Family Judges are often responsible for a number of Family Courts in a region. A part time judge called a Recorder can also hear the type of cases dealt with by Circuit Judges.
District Judges are full-time judges who deal with the majority of family cases in the Family Court in England and Wales. District Judges preside over both private cases and public law cases concerning children and cases concerning financial remedies following divorce, as well as a wide range of other types of Family case. Part-time District Judges are called Deputy District Judges.
District Judge (Magistrates’ courts)
District Judges (Magistrates’ court) hear Criminal cases, youth cases, some Civil proceedings and they usually deal with the longer and more complex matters that come before the Family Panel Magistrates in the Family Court.
Family Panel Magistrates
Family Panel Magistrates are members of the public who sit as magistrates in the Family Court. Family Panel Magistrates hear both private and public law cases concerning children and will also deal with other family matters, including applications for non-molestation injunctions and occupation orders.