Can I Use my Family Law Documents in my Immigration Application or Tribunal Hearing?
As specialist Family Law Solicitors and Immigration Lawyers, we often come across situations where a visa applicant, settlement applicant or person appealing a Home Office decision wants to use documents filed in family law court proceedings as part of their UK visa application or immigration appeal.
In this article, our Family Law Solicitors explain the family court rules on the use of family law documents in an immigration application or tribunal hearing and why it is important to follow the rules.
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For family law or immigration legal advice call the expert London lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.
Your right to use your documents
At OTS Solicitors we come across the scenario where people assume they don’t need family law legal advice about whether they can use their family law paperwork in their immigration application or appeal as the assumption is made that as the paperwork concerns them they have the legal right to use the documents in any way they want.
Others realise that there are court rules about the disclosure of family law documents but assume that it is OK to send family court documents to the Home Office because they are a government department or to a tribunal hearing as the tribunal will deal with the paperwork appropriately. After all, it isn’t like you are posting the contents of a family law statement or court order onto social media.
There is a big but – the law says you do not have the right to disclose some family law court documents without the permission of a family law judge. That is a blanket rule and it does not matter that you want to use a family court order or statement filed in court proceedings to support your immigration application or appeal rather than for spreading what should be private family information on social media or to family and friends.
Although you do not have a right to use your family law paperwork in your immigration application or appeal you do have the right to apply to the family court for permission to disclose the relevant documents to your immigration lawyers and the Home Office or tribunal. Any other party to the original family law court proceedings has the right to object to disclosure.
Applying to the family court for permission to disclose documents
An application for permission to disclose documents to specified persons, organisations, or for use in other court proceedings can be made to the family court during the family proceedings, at the final hearing of the family law application or at any stage after the court proceedings have been concluded.
If you know that you will need family law court paperwork in your immigration application or appeal it is best to discuss this with your Family Law Solicitor so they can make the application at the best time for you. For example, it will be cheaper for you if the application is made at either an interim hearing or the final hearing rather than your solicitor making a separate application later.
At OTS Solicitors our Family Law Solicitors and Immigration Lawyers work closely together to provide joined-up legal advice if you are instructing us on family law and immigration matters.
For example, you may have separated from your husband or wife because of domestic violence and applied for a no-fault divorce as well as a non-molestation injunction order and occupation order coupled with a child arrangement order and prohibited steps order to protect your children. If our Immigration Solicitors are helping you to apply for indefinite leave to remain using the domestic violence concession because you are in the UK on a Spouse Visa then your Immigration Solicitor and Family Lawyer can sort out what documents would help your settlement application and assess the best time to ask for permission to disclose the documents to the Home Office as part of the paperwork supporting your indefinite leave to remain application.
Identifying the documents you require
If you need the permission of the family court to use family court statements, reports or orders in an immigration application or appeal it is important to specify exactly what documents you need. That’s because the family court will not want to order blanket disclosure of every document filed in a family court application. Equally, the Home Office or Immigration tribunal will not want to see irrelevant documents. Taking the time to work out what statements and orders help your immigration case will assist your Family Lawyers in getting permission to disclose the documents to the Home Office or tribunal.
What happens if you use family law documents in an immigration application without permission
If you use family law paperwork in your immigration application or in tribunal proceedings without getting permission from a family law judge then you could be in contempt of court. You should not assume that no one will find out. An ex-partner may report the use of the court order or statement to get you into trouble with the family court.
If you use family law documents for other purposes and disclose them to someone who was not a party to the family law application you may be guilty of contempt of court. The family court could punish you for this. If the court thought you had deliberately flouted confidentiality rules this could also influence the outcome of any ongoing family law proceedings. For example, if you apply for a child arrangement order and the family court discovers that you sent a copy of your application, statement, and interim order to the Home Office despite being aware that you should not disclose documents unless you first obtained the permission of the family court.
If you are in any doubt about whether you need to use family law paperwork in your immigration or visa application it is best to speak to your Immigration Solicitors and Family Lawyers.
How can OTS Solicitors help
There are many reasons why you may need to produce documents filed or orders made in family court proceedings for use in a visa application or indefinite leave to remain application. Our expert Family Law Solicitors and Immigration Lawyers can help you with all your family and immigration law needs.
Online and London Family Law Solicitors
For family law and immigration legal advice call the expert London lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.