A judge who finished hearing a case at 6pm has told lawyers to stop underestimating the time it takes to deal with interim applications - and to remember that wellbeing goes both ways.

Recorder Alexander Chandler, sitting at Central Family Court, said an interim hearing in E v B, raised problems 'which in my experience as a part-time judge and practitioner are endemic in interim financial applications'. These included a 'grossly underestimated' time limit and a court bundle that exceeded 480 pages.

Recorder Chandler said: 'In this case, it took me a total of one-and-a-half hours to read the essential material, one hour’s pre-reading and 30 minutes taken during the hearing. This comprised counsel’s position statements (28 pages), the three witness statements prepared for these applications (25 pages, several of which were single spaced), and the opinion of a solely instructed expert in relation to foreign exchange controls (25 pages including answers to replies). I also scanned W’s first witness statement, the parties’ Forms E, the four authorities, and various other relevant documents, including earlier orders. 

Central Family Court, First Avenue House

Central Family Court: Chandler says inadequate time estimates are often given for interim applications

Source: Michael Cross

'I started the hearing at 2pm and concluded it at 6pm (having released my clerk at 4.30pm). After three-and-a-half hours of oral submissions and 30 minutes of judicial reading (taken during the hearing, to complete my essential reading), I had to reserve judgment and adjourn the first appointment to a further date.'

The parties' agreed position that the hearing, comprising two interim applications and a contested first appointment, could be heard within two-and-a-half hours was 'wildly optimistic, to the point of absurdity'.

Chandler said: 'Just as practitioners should not receive unreasonable demands from the judiciary, so judges should not be put in the sort of position this court faced in the present case: wellbeing is a two-way street. Realistic time estimates must be given.'

However, the judge thanked counsel for their 'careful and analytical' written oral submissions, 'without which this hearing might have taken even longer'.