This guest blog has been written by the Family Court Application Service (FCAS). FCAS is a newly developed service that provides procedural support for individuals who are making an application to the court using the C100 form. Mediation is almost always the first step for applicants, but unfortunately this may not be successful in resolving the issue which leaves individuals with no option other than to go to court. Whilst court should be seen as a last resort, for some people it is simply unavoidable.
What is FCAS?
FCAS is a private online service delivering procedural support for the making and submitting of courts to the Family Court, particularly the C100 form. We describe ourselves as “an affordable service for everyone”.
Applying to court can be a very daunting process and we understand that. FCAS was developed because we recognise the barriers to justice that people face when trying to navigate the family courts, often to get access to their children. The fact these cases are so emotional and important to applicants encouraged us to think of ways we can offer accessible support to families.
Beginning an application to the court requires people to complete complex legal court forms which of course applicants are keen to get right from the outset. Incorrect court forms or misunderstandings such as “what do I actually need to apply for?” can lead to significant delays to an already timely and stressful process. The C100 form itself does not only relate to applications for a child arrangements order, for example, it also includes the specific issue order, or the prohibited steps order. This can very easily become complex for applicants without legal knowledge or support. Moreover, the form gives option for applicants to discuss other things such as urgency, harm, or capacity. Lacking professional support in completing this form only adds insult to injury.
Since the consistent cuts to legal aid, it has become incredibly difficult to access professional support which can leave applicants in a very difficult and stressful situation. Some may opt to instruct a lawyer; however legal fees can easily reach the thousands which often is not an option for many people. At FCAS, we look at ways in which we can improve accessibility in a way that is affordable. The aim of FCAS is to improve access to justice and support litigants in person (people self-representing at court) to feel empowered when making applications to the court.
What do FCAS do?
FCAS has been running successfully for over a year. Our main and most popular service is the telephone support consultation which is billed at a fixed fee of £60. This involves applicants meeting with a qualified case worker who will provide procedural support completing the C100 form. It is not legal advice. However, the service offers peace of mind that your form is completed correctly based on your instruction. Your case worker will provide you with the legal information required to give you confidence in the decisions you make. They will provide you with emotional support too as we understand how difficult these situations can be.
Your case worker will be able to support you from the beginning of the application up until submission. They will talk through the process with you, explain the legal fees and provide you with the necessary guidance to make the all-important application. Your case worker will complete the C100 at their end and email you a PDF copy which will be ready to submit to the court when you are ready. Your case worker will also complete a Help with Fees application, if you qualify, and also any supplementary forms such as the C1A or the C2.
Currently in development is our online support service which will hopefully be up and running in the coming months. This is fixed at £30 and is only relating to the C100 form. This consists of an automated service that takes you through the C100 form step by step. Whilst currently the government offer an online service, this does not explain to you the different areas of the form.
Finally, we have a free downloadable pack that explains the C100 form and gives you top tips. You can download this here
How we help – a case study
Our usual cases involve parents who are struggling to get access to their children. These parents are often seeking a child arrangements order that allows for some form of contact with their children. However, families are complex, and this is not the only scenario that we support with. See the following example (names changed to protect identities):
We received a referral for two related parties. The first, Alex, was a father of a 4-year-old who had been denied contact for the last 18 months. The second, Bob & Catherine, were the parents of Alex and thus the grandparents of the child. They too had been denied contact. Each party were attempting to gain access to the child and had both attempted mediation with the respondent – Sabrina, the child’s mother. Unfortunately, Sabrina had declined the invitation to mediate and as such both Alex, Bob & Catherine were left with no option other than to apply to the courts.
Neither party could afford to pay for a solicitor and so accepted that if they were to apply to the courts, they would need to do this alone. This was understandably very daunting and led to a lack of confidence at any prospect of success.
The parties were referred to us at FCAS for a free no obligation consultation about the service we offer. The case worker discussed the C100 form with them and distinguished that there would need to be two separate applications: one for Alex, and another for Bob & Catherine. The case worker also explained that Bob & Catherine would need to submit a supplementary form due to being grandparents. All of this was part of the free consultation.
Both parties decided to go ahead for the full telephone support service. Alex was supported to complete his C100 form, as well as a C1A and his help with fees. Bob & Catherine on the other hand were supported to complete their C100 but also their C2 application form. Alex paid £60 for his service, as did Bob & Catherine. We never incur additional costs*.
Alex, Bob & Catherine were some of our early clients at the beginnings of FCAS. We rarely hear back from clients as to whether their applications were successful or unsuccessful and it is not our job to ensure that. However, we do often hear back that their applications have all been submitted and processed correctly, successfully, and efficiently – which is exactly what we strive to do.
* Additional costs will only be incurred for additional forms that are separate to the initial C100 and would be discussed with you before any service performed or invoice made.
What forms can you help with?
We mainly support applicants to complete the C100 form. However, within this we can also support you with the C1, C1A, C2, C3, C4, C8, C79. If you have another form you would like support with, please feel free to get in touch and ask as we may be able to help.
We also complete the EX160/Help with Fees for all our clients where they qualify.
In the future, we are looking to develop our services to deal with other Family Court applications, such as the Form A for clients who are seeking financial orders in divorce proceedings, and also the divorce application itself (The D8 form).
How can I book?
All bookings are taken online. You can do this directly through our website and you can also make the payment direct. Simple!
If you would rather speak to someone about the service first, you can contact us on 0113 833 4931, or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send us your name, contact number and a brief message explaining your query.
Finally, if you are an organisation who would like to make a referral, please do this directly through email@example.com and type REFERRAL and your organisation name into the subject header. We will be releasing a direct referral email in due course. Furthermore, if you are an organisation and would like to discuss working with us in a referral capacity, please get in touch as we are always looking to broaden our network.
We hope that reading this guest blog has provided you with some newfound knowledge on the services available to you when applying to the Family Court. We understand the difficulties associated with doing this and are always here to help. We always encourage mediation and will likely be unable to help you if you have not attempted it in the first instance – however if court is your last resort and you need support, then get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to known more about family mediation?
You can call Direct Mediation Services on 0113 4689593, email email@example.com or complete the form below for a free call back.
By completing this form you consent to Direct Mediation Services holding the information you provide us about you in accordance with our Privacy notice. By submitting your email address and telephone number to us you consent to us contacting you in order to enable us to deal with your query. Calls may be recorded for training and monitoring purposes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do FCAS provide legal advice?
No. Your FCAS caseworker will never provide you with legal advice, they will only provide you with procedural support and give you legal information. All of our caseworkers have vast legal experience and will support you throughout your application. If you would like legal advice, you should contact a solicitor.
Can I use FCAS on Legal Aid?
Unfortunately we are not able to offer Legal Aid appointments to clients as we are a private service. All of our telephone consultations are at a fixed fee of £60 so you will not be faced with unforeseen and extensive legal fees.
Can I do the C100 myself
Absolutely! Many applicants complete the C100 form independently without any support. However, if you feel you would like some professional support, FCAS are on hand to help.
Can FCAS come into a court hearing with me?
Your case worker will support you from the beginning of your application to the application being submitted to the court. Your caseworker cannot represent you or provide you with support once your application has been lodged.
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