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The Family Law Guide to a Court Bundle

7 min read

The Family Law Guide to a Court Bundle

A court bundle is a paper hard copy or electronic version of all of the relevant documents in your family law proceedings.

These important documents are collated under a specific format which is set out by the court. Prior to each hearing in the family court, all parties to the proceedings, their legal representatives and either the Judge or Magistrates/ Legal Advisor should be sent a copy of the completed bundle.

Court bundles are used in children proceedings and financial remedy proceedings as part of a divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership.

The purpose of the court bundle is to ensure each party, the court and any witnesses each have identical copies of all the relevant documents in the case so they can be referred to during the hearing (especially where evidence will be given).

Practice Direction 27A of the Family Procedure Rules 2010 covers the preparation and issuing of court bundles in family proceedings in both the Family Court and Family Division of the High Court.

When does a bundle need to be prepared and who by?

A court bundle will need to be prepared for every hearing in the family court. This is usually prepared by the applicant’s solicitor. However, if the applicant is un-represented then the respondent’s solicitor will prepare the bundle.

If both parties are un-represented, then a court bundle will only need to be prepared if the court has ordered one. The parties can check this by referring to the most recent court order which will state if the court requires a bundle for the upcoming hearing.

In circumstances where there is cross-applications made by both the applicant and respondent, then the solicitor of the party who made their application first will prepare the court bundle.

What goes in the bundle?

The contents of the bundle will depend on the type of hearing (such as first appointment, directions or final hearing) and what documents the court has requested should be included.

Essentially, the court bundle should include all of the relevant documents from both parties and any other documents prepared by other people for example CAFCASS in Children Act Proceedings (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service looks after the interests of children involved in family proceedings).

Documents which have not been filed and served should not be included in the bundle.

The bundle should only contain documents that are relevant to the specific hearing that the bundle is being prepared for.

How should a bundle be formatted?

The bundle should be no more than 350 pages, if it is larger than parties must seek permission from the court to file a larger bundle.

The bundle should be split into lettered sections, namely:

The documents within each section should be in paginated and in chronological order, starting with the oldest document.

What are preliminary documents?

The addition of the preliminary documents within the bundle is to provide a summary of the main facts and information within the case so that the court and Judge can understand what the case is about and what the purpose of the hearing is. These include:

The applicant’s solicitor should send these across to the respondent’s solicitor to agree these preliminary documents ahead of the hearing. However, if the parties are unable to agree then the respondent must create their own versions and these must both be included in the bundle highlighting that these are not agreed between the parties.

Finalising the bundle

One bundle is required for each court hearing. It must be agreed between parties to the proceedings which means it will contain all the documents both the applicant and respondent want the court to review during the hearing.

A draft index will also need to be agreed between the parties and this will lodged at the front of the bundle for the court and Judge to direct themselves through the documents. This should be sent to the other party to review and suggest any changes a few days prior to the hearing so there is adequate time to alter.

Sending the bundle to the court and other party

Once agreed the court bundle should be sent to the other party along with a copy of the final index before the hearing.

A copy of the bundle should then be lodged at court where the hearing is taking place either via a hard copy or email, this is usually 2 days before the hearing. The party filing the bundle at court should ensure that the case number, parties names, name of court and date of hearing is at the front of the bundle.

It is important to note that if any experts or witnesses are attending the hearing then an extra bundle may be requested by the court.

Urgent hearings

In these circumstances, the parties are not required to prepare a bundle if there is not sufficient time to do so. However, if you attend an urgent hearing, the applicant’s solicitors should ensure that all documents that are required to be reviewed by the court and Judge are made available as early as possible prior to the hearing.

What happens when the other party has to prepare the bundle?

If the other part such as the respondent in the case is ordered to prepare the bundle for the upcoming hearing then they will have to comply with the same formalities as discussed above. However, there are certain issues which may arise such as:

Preparing court bundles is a specialist task that is usually undertaken by a family lawyer. For advice and guidance on family law proceedings please speak to a member of our Family Law Team.