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Putting a Witness Statement Together

What is a witness statement? Good question. Well, it forms your evidence in chief: written evidence which you will be required to verify with your signature and a statement of truth. It is your opportunity to set out the issues relevant to your case and to exhibit any supporting evidence (e.g., text messages, photos, letters, reports etc.).

It is not anyone’s opportunity for a meaningless rant! Here at McKenzie Law Partners, we feel strongly about that.

When the court directs parties to make a witness statement, the topics which a statement needs to cover will generally be set out together with the expected document length (e.g., by 4pm on 31 May 2023, the parties must prepare a witness statement setting out a response to the section 7 report; the issues which have been agreed; the issues which remain not agreed; the parties proposals for child arrangements and the orders that they seek. Statements must not exceed eight sides of A4 paper in a font size no smaller than 12pt and with 1.5 lines spacing). It is essential to follow these directions carefully.

The guidance about statements can be found in Practice Direction 22A (link).

Where no specific direction has been made for the length of a witness statement, the guidance found in Practice Direction 27A at para. 5.2A.1 (link) will instead apply, which is 25 pages excluding exhibits.

Being a litigant in person and unaware of the court rules is not an acceptable reason to go beyond, and litigants are referred to the Supreme Court judgement in Barton v Wright Hassall LLP, specifically paragraph 18 (link) –

“The rules provide a framework within which to balance the interest of both sides. That balance is inevitably disturbed if an unrepresented litigant is entitled to greater indulgence in complying with them than his represented opponent. Any advantage enjoyed by a litigant in person imposes a corresponding disadvantage on the other side, which may be significant if it affects the latter’s legal rights under the Limitation Acts, for example. Unless the rules and practice directions are particularly inaccessible or obscure, it is reasonable to expect a litigant in person to familiarise himself with the rules which apply to any step which he is about to take.”

A judge can disallow evidence from parties who do not follow the rules or play fairly. (Family Procedure Rules – Part 4 (link) )

The court has a duty to case manage the proceedings and control the evidence gathered and used within proceedings.

It is, therefore, vital to make your witness statement count, and in the forthcoming paragraphs, we shall talk about best practices to adopt so that your witness statement stands out in the right ways.

Evidence: Let’s define ‘evidence’ – anything you see, experience, read or are told that causes you to believe something is true or has happened.
? - What do I need to prove? ? - How am I going to prove it?

First, YOU are your own evidence. Your experiences and recollections are fundamentally important. This IS your truth! What you must not do is question your truth and then add detail which you feel makes your story more believable or credible. Remember that you are likely to be cross-examined about what you write in your witness statement, and credibility soon breaks down when elements of what you wrote are added for dramatic effect.

Hearsay evidence is admissible in the family court. Did you speak to friends or family about your experiences? If so, this is an important detail because your third party could also prepare a witness statement to account for what you spoke about, and this independent evidence can significantly assist your case. (You must apply to the court for a third party to make a witness statement on your behalf).

Other forms of independent evidence can be from photographs, videos, and diary entries if you documented your experiences contemporaneously, and text messages or emails (including WhatsApp and Facebook messages) can be screenshotted and exhibited to illustrate relevant points in your story.


Formatting your witness statement correctly will greatly assist the judge, who takes in vast amounts of information over incredibly tight timeframes. Always remember that the judge does not have the luxury of time

Statement header on Page 1:

NO. OF STATEMENTS: [Is this Statement 1 or 2?]
NO. OF EXHIBITS: [How many exhibits are you referencing?]


In the matter of [Child A full name] (DOB & AGE)
In the matter of [Child B full name] (DOB & AGE)
And in the matter of the Children Act 1989



Applicant [Mother/Father]
Respondent [Mother/Father]


I, [your full name] of [your full address and post code] (unless you have submitted a form C8 to keep your details confidential) [Confidential see C8], [your occupation], make this statement in support of my application for [the purpose of your application, e.g., child arrangements/a prohibited steps order/a specific issues order/to relocate the child[ren] to [where] dated [Date] which can be found at bundle reference [Page]
*if known and I shall say as follows –

Statement details:
Golden rules to apply here are: -

Each paragraph must be numbered.
Each paragraph must be line spaced 1.5.
Each paragraph must be in 12pt font.
Start each statement with a brief background and history as to why this case was issued and the relevant points, such as the stage of the proceedings. The reasons for making the application. The orders you are seeking.
Consider using side headings, for example –

My current circumstances
My proposals for future arrangements
Incident dated [Date]
Examples of the domestic abuse
Impact upon the children and me
My views of the section 7 report/guardian’s analysis dated
Concerns about the children

Deal with each child separately rather than as a package, as each child's issues may differ slightly or substantially.
Remain child-focused. Remember that #ChildrenAct matters are primarily about the children.
If you are a victim of domestic abuse, identify the issues you are experiencing separate from the problems the children are experiencing.
Be detailed and transparent in your truth. Never underestimate the value of photos to assist with your explanations of places or events.
Write the statement in the first person. You are *I* and can use the other party’s and the children’s first names. Please do not refer to yourself as the applicant and the other party as the respondent in a witness statement.
Finish your statement with a short conclusion and invite the court to make whatever orders you are seeking (never tell the court what to do, always invite the court – it is received much better).
Ensure that you add a Statement of Truth at the bottom of your statement -- I believe that the facts stated in this witness statement are true. I understand that proceedings for contempt of court may be brought against anyone who makes, or causes to be made, a false statement in a document verified by a statement of truth without an honest belief in its truth.

Once you have written your statement, step away from it, preferably for 24 hours, then re-read it and consider what you have written carefully to ensure it reflects the issues you wish to raise. And remember, you may be cross-examined on the contents, so ensure you are always truthful.

In those parts of your statement where you wish to cross-reference an exhibit (e.g., a text message), it is always good practice to write it this way –


I have repeatedly tried to compromise with John when arranging for the children to spend time with him. However, he always made me feel guilty and as if I did not have a voice. [It is shown to me now as exhibit ABC-1 TEXT MESSAGES SENT AND RECEIVED BETWEEN US DATED XX].

Each exhibit should have a cover sheet attached to it, and here is an example for you to use –



In the matter of [Child A full name] (DOB & AGE)
In the matter of [Child B full name] (DOB & AGE)
And in a matter of the Children Act 1989



Applicant [Mother/Father]
Respondent [Mother/Father]


Text messages between myself and John covering the period [Date from] to [Date to].

Number of pages: 5


Your witness statement must include anything you wish to rely upon in court. Make sure you plan your statement carefully BEFORE you begin to write it.

If possible, ask your #legalrepresentative, whether us or another professional party, to read through your statement and check it with you carefully and thoroughly. It helps to remove the possibility of errors or factual inconsistencies creeping in.

Lastly, remember that you are engaged in PRIVATE LAW Children proceedings, and therefore you MUST NOT show your statement to just anybody. To understand who you can disclose information to, please take a few moments to familiarise yourself with Practice Direction 12G (link), which sets out who you can share information with.

If you require further information or would like us to assist you in preparing your witness statement, we at McKenzie Law Partners are here to help as expert #paralegaladvocate