When an Application is made to the Family Court then usually the first step is that the Court lists an initial Directions Hearing. This is the first time that the Parties will come to Court. The Court does not consult with either Party and so when you receive the Notice of Hearing the date is set.
This can cause problems if the date is inconvenient for any reason. So, can the date be changed?
The answer is really only in exceptional circumstances. The Court views the Hearing date as something which should be prioritised by those involved in Court proceedings. It will not be an adequate excuse to say that it is not convenient due to a prior engagement or even if you have, what you would think would be, a good excuse such as child care or work.
The Court would consider medical appointments (such as an appointment at the hospital or with a Consultant) if these cannot be changed, or pre-booked holidays, as good reasons to move the Hearing but only if evidence of the appointment or holiday can be provided which shows that these existed prior to the Court sending out the Hearing date. Sadly the Court will expect you to take time off from work or make other arrangements for child care in order that you can still come to Court.
So far we have discussed the possibility of persuading the Court to adjourn a Family Court hearing and the difficulties in doing so.
This does not mean that it is impossible to succeed in obtaining an adjournment although it may be difficult.
The most common route is to ask the other Party, or their Solicitors, if they will agree to adjourn to a new date, explaining the reasons why. Both Parties would have to agree and would then either separately write to the Court or sign a joint letter asking for the date to be moved. This is still seen by a Judge and the Judge can still insist that it go ahead although usually in this situation the Court would agree to adjourn.
If the other Party will not agree then you need to write to the Court setting out in full your reasons for wishing to seek an adjournment and explaining the benefits to both yourself, the other Party and the Court. These could include not wasting the Court's time, and not wasting the costs of either Party.
You should provide a copy of this letter to the other Party so that they have been informed and they then have an opportunity to object to an adjournment if they want to.
The Judge has a wide discretion and may agree or may still feel that the hearing should go ahead.