Do I have to see my ex at court in family court proceedings?

21st March 2024

Family court proceedings can be difficult and stressful. Going to court can be even more intimidating when the other party to those proceedings is your ex-spouse or partner.

Security is paramount at all family court hearing centres across England and Wales. If you know that you need to attend at a court hearing, it is a good idea to turn up at least 10-15 minutes before your hearing is due to start, to give yourself enough time to get through the necessary security checks (these are a bit like airport security checks).

You can ask for separate waiting areas so that you do not have to see your ex-partner whilst waiting for your hearing to start.

Special measures can also be put in place to protect parties when they step inside the courtroom itself. The list of factors that the Court must think about when deciding whether special measures should be used in a hearing includes:

  • the effect of any actual or perceived intimidation on a party, or behaviour towards them, by the other party, another witness, their family, associates or anyone else who may be present at court;
  • the purpose of the case and the issues within it, including whether any allegations of abuse have been raised by either party;
  • how contentious the case is.

Special measures are especially important when vulnerable parties attend court (e.g. in cases where there are allegations of, or proven domestic abuse or other abuse by one party against the other).

The types of special measures available to the court include:

  • screens being set up, or the parties being positioned to make sure that they cannot see each other;
  • one party being allowed to give their evidence via video, so they don’t have to be in the same courtroom as the other party;
  • discussing the ground rules for a hearing before it starts. This can include an agreement that one party will not be asked certain questions, or they may be able to take comfort breaks to compose themselves whilst giving their evidence.

Special measures apply to video hearings as well. As well as those mentioned above, a vulnerable party or witness may be allowed to turn their camera off during a court hearing if that stops their alleged or actual abuser from seeing them during the hearing.

If you think that special measures will be needed for your hearing, then you or your family solicitor should ask the Court for those at least 24 hours before your hearing starts. Special measures can also be put in place when requested on the day of the hearing itself, if the facilities are available.

The Ministry of Justice has allocated £200,000 of their 2024 budget to make sure special measures are available to everyone that needs them. It is vital that you feel as safe as you can be when you go to court.

Your solicitor, judge and other family court staff will always be able to help you with this.

Rather shockingly, there is also a need to think about the safety of judges in family proceedings, as there have been attacks on judges by parties in recent times. Last December, a judge in Milton Keynes County Court was assaulted and hospitalised by a party in children proceedings. Judges have now been given guidance not to sit in court if they feel unsafe and to have video hearings. It is rare to have security in the family courts, but that is also a possibility if the judge needs protection.

Tessa Bray at and Michael Radnor at have extensive experience using special measures in family proceedings. If you need advice about seeing your ex in Court and putting special measures in place, or any other family law advice, please do not hesitate to get in touch.