What do Court Documents Look Like?

What are Court Documents?

After civil legal proceedings are commenced, certain documents, known as Court Documents, are produced as part of the process. Some of these Court Documents are produced by a party in the case, and some are produced by the court itself. Here are some examples:


An Order document is normally one or two pages and sets out the order or orders made by the court on a particular date. It will have the court stamp containing the Royal Coat of Arms (sometimes called a "seal"). 

Court orders may be typed onto a standard form (headed General Form of Judgment or Order) as shown above or may be simply typed up "from scratch" as shown below 
but a court order will always contain the court seal (stamp). 

Sometimes, before the judge makes an order, a party will submit a draft order containing the wording of an order they would like the court to make. The judge may make the order using the wording proposed, or may decide to use different wording when making the order, or may decide to make a completely different order. It is important, therefore, to get a copy of the order with the court stamp on it so that you are sure that it is the order which the court actually made in the end rather than just a draft of what one party wanted the court to order.

Notice of Hearing

A Notice of Hearing gives advance notice of the date, time and place of a court hearing, how long it is expected to last, and what type of hearing it is (e.g. trial, hearing of an application, case management conference).


A Judgment (exampleis quite a long document which gives the judge’s reasons for coming to a decision.     


The above three types of court document are produced by the court itself, sealed (i.e. stamped with the court stamp) and sent to the parties. However sometimes the judge will ask one of the barristers who appeared at the hearing to draft an Order which the judge has indicated is to be made but it will then be checked by the judge before having the court seal (stamp) applied to it and being sent out by the court.


Claim Form

Particulars of Claim



Reply to Defence

Defence and Counterclaim

Reply and Defence to Counterclaim

Reply to Defence to Counterclaim

Further Information - sometimes known as Further and Better Particulars or Response to Part 18 Request

All the above are collectively known as pleadings, sometimes called statements of case, although you won't find the actual words "pleading" on them. Each of these types of document is drafted by one of the parties (usually by their barrister) and then signed by the party and sent to the court office and to the other party. There are different types of statement of case but together they set out concisely what each party claims, admits or disputes. A Claim Form has to be sealed (i.e. stamped with the court stamp) by the court to be valid so after the Claimant has filled in the Claim Form it is sent to (or, where the court has an online system, uploaded to) the court office to be sealed (stamped) and it is the sealed copy which is then used. It is best to obtain a copy of the sealed Claim Form because the seal (and date entered by the court) is proof of the date it was issued (which can be important). Apart from the Claim Form, none of the other pleadings have to be sealed. The party sending other pleadings still has to send a copy to the court to go on the court file but the copy for the other party can be sent direct as it does not need to be sealed first by the court. Pleadings are filed and served at the beginning of all court proceedings but not all of the different types of pleading documents are used in every case. For example if there is no counterclaim then there will just be a Defence document and no Defence and Counterclaim Document. If no Further Information is requested there will be no Further Information documents.


Application Notice 

Copies of an Application Notice document are sent to (or, where the court has an online system, uploaded to) the court office which fixes a date for the hearing of the application and then provides a Notice of Hearing giving the time, date, and location at which the application will be heard (or sometimes the time of an appointment at which the actual date of hearing will be fixed). An application could be, for example, for an interim injunction to preserve the status quo pending the trial, or for some other order needed before the whole case is eventually decided at the trial. In some cases there are a lot of applications, in others there are none. In some court offices the Notice of Hearing is not a separate  document but is actually a stamp on the Application Notice. 



Witness statements filed in connection with the Application

The Application Notice has a small box on it which can be used as a witness statement but usually the party sending in the Application Notice does not use this but instead sends a separate witness statement with it in support of the application. After receiving a copy of the Application Notice and witness statement the other party may file and serve a witness statement in response. Then the first party may file and serve another witness statement, etc. A witness statement should have words such as Witness Statement of John Smith
on it, often within parallel horizontal lines ("tramlines"). 


Each witness statement may be accompanied by one of more "exhibits". In the witness statement it may say, for example "I refer to a photograph marked Exhibit JJS2"  and the photograph referred to will be separate with a front-sheet identifying it as Exhibit JJS2.  

Copies of all the documents mentioned so far will normally be held on the court file for the case (but sometimes large Exhibits are not held on the court file). This is so that a judge can refer to them when managing the case (e.g. deciding what directions to give at a case management conference or reading up on the procedural history when considering an application).


Witness Statements (for use at a trial) 

The witness statements referred to above are witness statements which relate to a specific application. Copies of application witness statements will be on the court file. However copies of the “main” witness statements which will be used at the trial (and any accompanying Exhibits) will not generally be on the court file – they will just be exchanged between the parties – usually sometime after the Disclosure of Documents stage - so only the parties will have copies of them until just before the trial (when they will be included in a trial bundle copies of which will be sent to the court).

Witness statements should have words such as Witness Statement of John Smith on them, often within parallel horizontal lines ("tramlines"). 

Appellant's Notice

An Appellant's Notice, sometimes known as a Notice of Appeal, is the document used to appeal from the decision of a judge in one court to a higher court - an appeal court - such as the Court of Appeal (or the High Court for  appeals from the County Court).    

The appeal court will will put the court stamp (sometimes called the court "seal"), containing the Royal Coat of Arms, on the copies of the Appellant's Notice it receives and give/send copies back to the party appealing so that they can serve sealed copies on the other party. It is best to obtain a copy of the sealed Appellant's Notice because the seal (and date entered by the court) is proof of the date it was filed (which can be important) and shows the case number which the appeal court has allocated to it. In the case of some appeals (such as some planning appeals) the Appellant's Notice is not sealed until after the court has given permission to appeal. If no sealed copy of the Appellant's Notice is yet available, an unsealed copy should be obtained.    

What do Court Documents look like?

It is easier to find documents when you know what they might look like. In terms of appearance, most court documents are in one of two styles.

Pre-printed Forms 

 Some are on pre-printed forms with the details filled in in boxes as shown below. You can see some of the different forms at www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/civil/forms Each form is different but they have a similar style which is easy to recognise

Typed Documents with Tramlines 

Some documents are drafted from scratch without using a form. Usually you can recognise these because the top half of the first page will have the name of the court and the names of the parties and, below that, the type of document in tramlines like this:










- and -













This information page is designed to be used only by clients of John Antell who have entered into, or are about to enter into, an agreement for the provision of legal services. The information in it is necessarily of a general nature and is intended to be used only in conjunction with specific advice to the individual client about the individual case. This information page should not be used by, or relied on, by anyone else.

This page was lasted updated in June 2020 Disclaimer