1. Fill in the relevant forms
Form C1 – Initial Application form to the Family Proceedings Court (Magistrates’ Court) REQUIRED
Form C1 (FPC) should be submitted as paper copies to the court office by post or in person. You should confirm with the court office how many copies of the forms you need to provide.
Form C1A - Summons to respondent on an application under the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995, Family Proceedings Court REQUIRED
Form C1A (FPC) should be submitted to the court at the same time as you submit Form C1. This form is a Summons which the court staff will complete and serve on the respondent party.
Form C1AA – Additional Information about welfare of the child OPTIONAL
Form C1AA (FPC) should be completed if you believe the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering harm through domestic violence, violence within the household, other conduct or behaviour or ill treatment of another person by a person caring, living or having contact with the child.
Form C1AA Guidance Notes (FPC) Guidance Notes on completing Form C1AA may help you in completing this form.
Form C5 – Confidential address (Keeping your contact details confidential) OPTIONAL
Form C5 (FPC) can be completed if you want to keep your contact details confidential from the other party. Send it to the court with your application.
Hearing request or approval form MAY BE REQUIRED
You may be required to complete a form in collaboration with the other party if there is going to be hearing. Contact the court to check – see NICTS contact details or Court office emails.
When the case is listed for hearing, the parties may be required to complete a form about who will attend the hearing and the issues to be discussed.
The court office may send you the form one week prior to the hearing date. The parties may need to collaborate to complete the form before returning it to the court office.
The application forms are available on this website Quick Forms and also from the Department of Justice Court Forms.
When completing the forms
- Each question should be answered openly and honestly.
- Provide all relevant information requested.
- Do not answer questions by referring to another document.
- Do not attach anything which the court has not asked for.
Forms need to be completed in full, otherwise they may not be approved by the judge and this could result in a delay in the case being listed for hearing.
Other documents may be required
You may need other documents to help you complete the forms. This may include any information or forms that you have received, employment details, details of income, solicitor’s address, evidence of benefits received, reference numbers, etc.
For applications to change or cancel an existing Order and to enforce an existing Order, you will need the reference of the existing Order - see Appeals & Other Applications.
2. Submit the forms to the relevant court
When the forms are complete, signed and dated, you submit them and the application fee to the family court nearest to where the child lives. Some courts require the documents to be submitted via email, whereas others request applications are submitted in person or by post.
The Family Proceedings Court office will require the original application forms and a number of copies. You can confirm with the court office the number of copies of the forms you need to submit.
If in doubt, check with the court. To contact the nearest court, email them in the first instance - see NICTS contact details or Court office emails.
Please be aware that court service staff are not legally qualified, so cannot offer any advice regarding forms and how you should complete them.
3. Pay the fees
Fees are paid by cheque or via telephone. The local court office can advise on current fees and can be contacted by calling NI Direct on 0300 200 7812.
For information on courts fees - see Court fees.
If you are in receipt of benefits or have a low income, you may qualify for an exemption or reduction in court fees. To apply for an exemption or to claim back court fees, use Form ER1.
Form ER1 - Fee exemption IF YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES ALLOW
You may need to complete more than one form as you must submit a separate form for each individual fee for which you would like help with.
Court fee refund form should be completed if you have already paid a fee and now realise you could have applied for help, you may be able to claim a refund.
4. Once the application has been submitted
Once the court office has received the application and fee, the application will be processed and allocated a case number.
The Family Proceedings Court office will arrange for service to the other party. This is known as issuing a summons. As the receiving party, the other party is called the respondent.
When the court receives the Form C4 and/or Form C5 from the respondent, it will send the applicant and respondent a date on which to attend court for a first hearing, known as a Directions Hearing.
For more information about hearings - see Hearings.
When the case is listed for hearing
When the case is listed for hearing, the parties may be required to complete a Hearing Request or Approval form about who will attend the hearing and the issues to be discussed. The court office may send you the form one week prior to the hearing date. The parties may need to collaborate to complete the form before returning it to the court office.
If you require any special arrangements, an interpreter, a disability which need to be accommodated, you will have informed the court in your application form. However you may wish to double check that these arrangements are in place for the hearing - see Special arrangements below.