There are three types of statement you may need to write:
A position statement sets out what you want to happen and what you are asking the court to order i.e. your position in relation to what other people are saying they want or should happen.
A witness statement, usually just referred to as a statement, is your evidence for the court i.e. you are writing it instead of taking the oath and telling the court what you say has happened.
A statement of issues is needed for the first hearing (FDA) in financial proceedings. What you need to set out are the things you and your ex don’t agree on, i.e. the things the judge will eventually have to decide. In financial proceedings your Form E is your financial statement and you may also have to write a Section 25 statement.
Whichever type of statement you are writing, at the top of the first page you must include your case number as well as your name and the other party’s name. Then centre and underline what the statement is eg ‘Position statement of the [Applicant] [Respondent] for hearing on [date at am/pm]’, or ‘Statement of the Respondent’.
Let’s look at each of them in more detail.
You don’t need permission to write a position statement. It is helpful to the court if you do one before every hearing and if you’re a litigant in person it’s very helpful to you if you’re nervous about speaking in court because it means you need to say a lot less.
A position statement should be very short – three pages at the absolute maximum. The shorter it is, the more likely the judge is to have time to read it so make it concise and clear. It should not contain your evidence – see witness statements below – just what you want to happen. If you know what you want as a final outcome of the proceedings, then do state that e.g. I would like an order that the children live with me and have supervised contact with their father. Then you need to decide what you want the court to order at this hearing.
For instance, before your first children hearing you should receive a safeguarding letter from Cafcass and they will usually suggest how they think the court should proceed. In your position statement you can say if you agree with that or suggest some other way forward or an extra direction that you want.
If you are raising allegations of abuse towards you and/or your child you should already have sent a Form C1A to the court, or included your allegations in your on-line C100, and you then need to ask the court to consider Practice Direction 12J and ask for a fact-finding hearing if your ex is denying the abuse.
It’s essential for you to be clear in your mind what you want the court to order before you start your statement, although in fact you will put this at the end of your position statement.
At the beginning you need to give a few brief details of what has happened to bring you to this point, and to explain why you want those particular court orders.
Click here for a template position statement to give you an idea of what to do, but of course every case is different and yours may look nothing like this.
When writing position statements for hearings involving an abusive ex, you need to consider carefully what to put in and what’s better left out. If you’re trying to get a fact-finding hearing then you probably need to throw the book at them. But if you’re further down the line and the abuse has been dealt with, it may not be wise to antagonise the judge or your ex by going over old ground again, especially if you’re on the back foot at that point: think carefully about what you want to achieve and the best way of getting that. Unlike you, the judge is not usually interested in the truth, just the outcome, so you need a clear strategy for court.
Your case will shift and morph as the months go on and it’s really important to take the time to work out what your current position is both for the final outcome and the next hearing before you start writing your statement. It’s a harsh fact that the court is not interested in how you feel about what’s happened to you and your children and somehow you need to get out of your heart and into your head before you start writing. And if at all possible, get someone else to read your statement through before you submit it, to check that it’s clear what you’re asking for and why, and that there’s no emotion, just hard facts in it.
When you’re done, email your position statement to the court and to your ex or to their solicitor if they have one. You can do this a day or two before the hearing and/or take copies to court with you. Give one to the usher as soon as you arrive and ask them to give it to the judge. Give one to your ex or their barrister as soon as you can. And if it’s a remote hearing be sure to check right at the start that the judge has received your position statement.
You can only write a witness statement if the court gives you permission to do so. The exception to this is if you are applying for a non-molestation and/or occupation order when you need to send a statement with your application. Otherwise your court order will give you a date by when you have to send your statement to the court and to your ex or their solicitor if they have one. Your court order may also set out conditions for your statement, such as how many pages you are allowed to write, so be sure to check your order before you start.
Exhibits are not included in the number of pages allowed so you can usually attach as many pages as you want (number each with your initials first eg I exhibit at VG/1, VG/2 etc and mark the number on each document). Exhibits could be text messages, or a report or letter from a third party eg police or GP.
Your statement should have your case number at the top, and be set out the same as for a position statement. The heading will be ‘Statement of Violet Gardener’. The introduction will read: “I, Violet Gardener, of 22 High Street, Hightown, HT1 2AB, make this statement following the order of 25 September 2020.” After that your paragraphs need to be numbered.
These are the most important statements in family proceedings as they are your evidence i.e. they are instead of you telling the court what has happened. If you have a contested hearing your statement is instead of you giving evidence (in chief, as it’s called) and you will just be cross-examined on it by your ex or their barrister. If your ex is saying something very different to you, the judge has to decide which of you they believe. It is therefore important that you spend as much time as you can (a week or two) to make your statement the best it can be, so don’t leave it till the last minute. You also need a night or two to sleep on it and come back to it to make sure it’s all correct, you haven’t forgotten anything, and that it reads as well and succinctly as possible.
Always bear in mind how little time the judge has, and the shorter your statement, the more likely it is to be read. If you start rambling on about things which may be important to you, or have angered or upset you, but which don’t help the judge to decide the issues before the court, you weaken your case.
Your statement is just that – yours – so needs to be written in your own words, in the first person, as if you were speaking it in court.
In children proceedings a lot of your statement will be about what has happened in the past, the behaviour of your ex, the effect on the children etc. what is happening now and usually includes what you want to happen. Be as specific as you can with dates and what was said or done as a result of what happened.
In children proceedings the judge will rarely have concern or sympathy for what you’ve been through or the abuse you’ve suffered so turn it around and focus on the children instead. For example, after writing: “The children were in the kitchen when he pushed me so hard I fell over and caught my head on the edge of the table” instead of saying “I had a huge cut just above my eye which bled so much it made me feel sick. Afterwards it was so swollen that I couldn’t open my eye properly and I was in agony for days. I had to have three days off work and was embarrassed and ashamed of the bruising to my face when I did go back.” you could say: “As I lay on the floor I could see the horror on the children’s faces as the cut to my eye was bleeding so much, before they both burst into tears. They were inconsolable and I couldn’t get them to bed that night. My eye was so swollen afterwards that I couldn’t open it properly for days and every time Poppy looked at me she said “daddy hurt you” and Holly looked as though she would cry again. They were subdued and clingy for ten days afterwards and seemed frightened and frozen in the presence of their father.
If your ex is a narcissist another reason for keeping your emotion out of your statement is not to give them any further ‘supply’ so reread it to make sure it passes the ‘grey rock’ test. Your emotional reaction keeps them feeling powerful and in control so when you leave that out you take back your power and help to derail them.
Deal briefly with your ex’s position: this is what they say, and this is what I think about that. E.g. the 50/50 shared care they want won’t work because it needs parents to communicate and co-operate well together.
State the order you want, and why you want that order.
At the end of a witness statement (but not a position statement) you need to add a statement of truth: “I believe that the facts stated in this witness statement are true.” Finally you need to sign and date the statement, which again is not necessary for a position statement.
In financial proceedings, your Form E is effectively your witness statement about your past and present financial circumstances. It’s important that you fill it in the very best you can as for most people this is the only statement they will be able to make.
You will have up to three months to complete this 29 page document but you need to start straight away as pension valuations can take that long to obtain.
A Section 25 statement is ordered if your case hasn’t settled after the FDR and is going to a final hearing. This is a witness statement, and needs to cover the eight issues set out in S.25 Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.
A statement of issues is needed for the first hearing (FDA) in financial proceedings. What you need to set out are the things you and your ex don’t agree on, i.e. the things the judge will have to decide. This could be the value of your property, or how much one of you is earning from a business.
If you need help to write a statement, or you would like me to look over one you’ve done, please drop me a line at email@example.com