Intermediaries provide services to Family Courts to ensure that vulnerable people can fully participate in family proceedings.
Intermediaries can provide communication assistance to children and adults who have communication needs.
The Family Procedure Rules (FPR) 2010 set out the overriding objective (rule 1.1 (1)): the court must deal with cases ‘justly, having regard to any welfare issues involved’. This includes the requirement for courts to take reasonable steps to ensure the effective participation of vulnerable witnesses. The Family Courts are not limited by usual courtroom procedures/traditional special measures. Rule 4.1 FPR provides the Family Court with wide-ranging and flexible powers of case management, including the power to ‘take any other step or make any other order for the purpose of managing the case and furthering the overriding objective’.
Early identification and notification is essential when a witness or party is identified as being vulnerable such that their ability to effectively participate in the hearing is compromised. Practitioners should ensure that the Family Court is notified at the earliest opportunity so that it can consider what, if any, adjustments should be made to ensure that hearings are fair.
There is no statutory requirement for HMCTS to fund an intermediary or intermediary assessment in family proceedings. However, where it appears to the court that this is the only way a party or witness can properly participate in proceedings, or be questioned in court, the judge may order that there should be (i) an assessment to determine the nature of support that should be provided through an intermediary in the courtroom, and (ii) funding for that intermediary. HMCTS may then provide the funding if there is no other available source of funding.
If you wish to engage an intermediary for family proceedings please refer to the ‘Find an Intermediary’ page on this web site to identify the most suitable intermediary who can then provide you with an estimation of costs to provide to the court so that funding may be approved.