A cloud on the horizon: What to do when you see it coming.

Out of the blue

We speak to a lot of people – not just our clients. A lot. Many of them appear to be in broad, sunlit uplands in terms of their relationships or marriages.

It’s understandable. Because admitting things aren’t good often comes with a sense of guilt, failure and shame. Furthermore there is (the not completely unfounded belief) that not everyone is interested. Douglas Adams used to say the best way to hide something was to hide it in a SEP (`Somebody Else’s Problem):

`An SEP is something we can’t see, or don’t see, or our brain doesn’t let us see, because we think that it’s somebody else’s problem. That’s what SEP means. Somebody Else’s Problem. The brain just edits it out, it’s like a blind spot’.

All this means people tend to keep quiet about things until it’s kind of unavoidable. Besides if you ignore it maybe it will go away won’t it?

Out in the open

And so many people do nothing until there is no alternative. Or until it can’t be disguised. Like when someone has moved into separate accommodation from a partner and/or their children. When financial hardship starts to part. Or when they cannot hold back the emotions.

If the above are familiar things are already a way down the path. And almost always it’s too late to stop it. Your choices are to continue to do nothing and wait for the dust to settle or to take an active role in guiding matters.

Out of control

`Has he called you yet?’ a concerned friend or relative will ask us.

`Not yet’ is often our response.

`I keep telling him’ we’ll be told.

`We can’t help someone unless they’re ready to take that step and get in touch’.

The capacity for someone to stick their head in the sand is shocking.

By the time they speak to us – they feel there are no options and we’ll help them get the ball rolling. Mostly. Some of them vanish again only to appear six months down the line with the same situation, albeit grown larger and unmanageable. Some of them do this a number of times, each time with progressively worse news.

Out of the frying pan…?

And despite possibly hearing truths they don’t want to hear it can be assuring – that we can offer something they’ve been looking ever since things went south: The certainty that the situation can be managed. That there are others who know how it feels. That there can be a new start when all this is old history.

`I’m going to be able to sleep for the first time in six months’ we’ll hear.

But for the moment…you’re out there aren’t you? And you’ll stay there until your ready. You’re possibly alone. Reading this in an empty house at 3am wondering when you’re going to see your kids next. Or whether you’ll be living in the home in a week, month or year. Listening to Radio 4 change into the World Service via the tones of Sailing By.

You’ll walk around in a daze watching the happy families and wondering how the world can go on so utterly indifferent to the calamity you feel in your heart. You may laugh inappropriately. Cry without warning. Talk about stuff to people who have no business knowing it. And more.

We get it. It’s hard. The first step is always the hardest. But without you nothing happens. Making the first step is more powerful than you’d ever believe.

How to Live, Thrive and Survive in the Family Courts!

Self care - the elephant in the room in the family courtsSeeing the wood for the trees in the family courts

It’s easy to forget isn’t it? It gets lost doesn’t it?

Amongst the court orders, letters from solicitors and practice direction. Trial bundles. Waiting to go into court. All nighters preparing paperwork.

All of these relate to the case you’re about to embark on, are involved in, have been involved in. They’re the nuts and bolts. Your case may be about children. Money. Your relationship. Or something else.

You’ve likely given a lot of thought to all of the above but I’m guessing there is one thing you almost certainly haven’t considered.

And that’s you.

It starts and stops here.

It’s normal to feel like a passive figure in your own case. Maybe that’s because you have a solicitor and sit at the back while he/she outlines your position. Possibly it’s because it’s in the family courts for your children and it’s been impressed on you by everyone that it’s about them and it’s not about you. You may feel a bit like this.

It’s odd though isn’t it? You’re in court because of something that affects you massively. And yet you are…lost. You may as well not be there.

The missing 50%

Between us we’ve worked for over 30 years in civil litigation – that’s family law, contract law, CMS and employment tribunals (and more – Michaela was once asked to attend a mortuary in South London in connection with a will…but I digress).

And over the years it’s been very clear that dealing the emotional side is important. To the extent it can make or break a case. A large part of what we do is helping people see things in a perspective that keeps them focused, shows them it isn’t hopeless (it often isn’t – seriously) and possibly giving them a little light relief when it’s needed.

Your mental state is a huge part. It’s a make or break.

You’re at the centre

The bottom like is – look after yourself. Don’t forget you. I’m not going to provide a list of things you should or shouldn’t to do that – because you know. I’m saying that occasionally sit up and ask yourself `What am I doing to look after myself?’

Of course – if you need help doing that, get in touch. We’re running the first workshop of it’s type in the country to train people how to do this. We’re going to teach you some of the tactics we would if we were assisting you in court on Saturday, 13th October 2018 in Newport, South Wales. Michaela Wade will be leading this – as well as being one of the top McKenzie Friends in the country and a qualified paralegal she’s also a NLP Coach and hypnotherapist.

It’s the first of it’s kind and we’re massively excited to do this. It’s a game changer for you. For the cost of a meeting with us you’ll learn over a day tactics that will change your outlook on the legal process you’re enmeshed in and understand how to live, thrive and survive in the family courts!

See you there – don’t miss out!

Tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/live-thrive-and-survive-in-the-family-courts-tickets-48298292493

The Family Court – Does going in all guns blazing work?

The Family Court. It isn’t the legal equivalent of the gunfight at the OK Corral.

Yet it’s amazing how many people tell us they’re going in all guns blazing to win a sudden and decisive victory against an ex partner who has said and/or done things they shouldn’t have.

It’s a (depressingly) normal reaction to do so however. And for people like us – people who are trying to help you and have seen hundreds (thousands?) of people in the Family Court – it’s something we do our best to manage.

You won’t get what you want by being aggressive in the Family Court.

Don't treat the Family Court like the gunfight at the OK CorralIt’s amazing we have to say this. Especially as it’s all too common for allegations of aggression to be made. You’ve been accused of being aggressive, controlling and obsessive…so your response is to act aggressive, be seen to attempt to control the situation and to be obsessive over every email your ex has sent, every time they’ve turned out 5 minutes late…on a spreadsheet.

Seriously. We’ve seen this happen. And it doesn’t work.

It’s almost like the Family Court is designed to deal with people being awkward

So you go to court. You consider your case exceptional (of course it is – it’s a very personal subject). You think that with the force of your argument the court will acquiesce to what you are seeking.

Except it doesn’t work like that.

The court sees cases like yours day in, day out. The judge you are seeing may see dozens of people like you, saying the same sort of thing day in – day out. We do too.

The Family Court wants one thing

And that is? A resolution to your case. The best outcome is you working something out with your ex and you disappearing into a bright new future. Otherwise it wants to make a quick, easy and long term order that means you…disappearing into a bright new future. Which in the court’s eyes means you going away and not coming back again.

So what does this mean to you? Something simple:

Don’t be the bad guy who has nothing to offer the court other than dealing with your `fighty’ attitude.

Because if that happens…you’ll be disappointed. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You won’t get to present all your evidence at the first hearing in all likelihood. You won’t get to prove your ex is a liar (even if it is relevant to your case and it probably isn’t). You won’t score a knockout blow.

So relax. Plan. Take it easy. Be patient!

5 things we’re always asked

McKenzie Friends: What we’re always asked.

We get asked all sorts of questions. Some of them are complicated, some are simple – it kind of goes with the territory of what we do on a day to day basis.

But we hear quite a few myths about McKenzie Friends – many of which are untrue. They confuse people so without further ado here’s a run down on the biggies.

Can you represent me?

No. Only a solicitor or a barrister can do that. Its’ worth thinking for a moment what being `represented’ actually mean in a court context. Here it means someone who can speak for you in court. Respond to other people on your behalf – write to your ex and/or their solicitor. Sign documents. Solicitors and barristers are officers of the court.

As that link says:

Although solicitors must fearlessly advance their clients’ cases, they are not “hired guns” whose only duty is to their client. They also owe duties to the courts, third parties and to the public interest.

So we can’t. We can offer you advice, help with paperwork, that sort of thing – but we cannot represent you. But over the decade we’ve assist people we’ve come up with a pretty good way of both following the rules about what we can do and providing you with the help you need!

Are you solicitors?

See above. Solicitors are officers of the court (see above). They’re legally qualified.

McKenzie Friends don’t have to be qualified either but some are (Michaela Wade is a CILEX-qualified paralegal). Others have a wide range of skills and experience.

Can you give me legal advice?

Yes! 4.) iv of Practice Guidance: McKenzie Friends (Civil and Family Courts) says a McKenzie Friend can `quietly give advice on any aspect of the conduct of the case’.

Our advice is based on our legal knowledge (as I say above our team includes qualified individuals) and experience of a large number of wide-varying cases over the years. We’ll tell you what we think the best action to progress the situation is – and you are free to follow or disregard it at any point. We’ll tell you what the court has the power to do and not to do, what the likely response of the court and others involved in the case will be and how to handle changing situations.

It’s really as simple as that.

Can you come to court with me?

Yes! We’re really not sure why people seem to think we can’t. We can! Speak to many legal professionals and they’ll be under the impression that is all we do – they think we’ll turn up on the day, sit with you and go away when the hearing ends (Pro-tip: We do a lot more than that!)

The only time we can’t be with you is during CAFCASS conciliation appointments (mediation before a hearing) – but neither can your solicitor be if you have one instead of us assisting you.

So we can be with you at all points – including when it comes to going into the court room to speak to the judge or magistrates.

Can I change the judge/CAFCASS officer/social worker?

Maybe. But seriously…99.99% of the time it isn’t going to work and it isn’t going to help trying. It’s understandable especially if things aren’t going the way you’d like. The processes to achieve this are there – but for obvious reasons they tend to be a lot harder than actually working with the system to get the desired result.

It’s important to look at the big picture too. Judges, CAFCASS officers, social workers – they often move on over the life span of a case so it’s quite possible that whoever you aren’t particularly enamoured won’t be involved before long in any case.

This last one is a controversial – I know. But it’s a fact. Court cases are hard. Fighting the people involved in the system is even harder and you should conserve your energy on your primary goal.

Wrap up

If you’re not clear on what your McKenzie Friend can do – ask. Read. Practice Guidance on McKenzie Friends is the definitive guide to what we can and can’t do. Anything else you’re reading is just rumour!

Live, Thrive and Survive in the Family Courts

The Family Courts: Whether you go to a hearing alone, use a Family Law Assistance McKenzie Friend or a solicitor or barrister being a litigant in the family court can be hard. That’s not surprising – because what happens will likely affect your life in a material way.

It’ll be about whether your children live with you or see you. Whether you stay in your home – or have enough money to buy somewhere else. Dealing with the fall out of the end of a marriage or relationship. For many people it’s all of these things, at the same time.

You’re likely tired, wounded, stressed and unable to see a future you’ll enjoy.

You need to be clear about what you want, how to ask for it and how to make sure you are resilient, focused and determined to ensure the outcome you desire has the greatest chance of success. And how to deal with the aftermath so the past remains in the past and you move forward to a happier and more prosperous future.

A fresh start

Which is where our workshop comes in. Between us we have around 30 years of legal experience But over the years we’ve also given strategies to hundreds of people to allow them to deal with their situation by reframing the challenges they face, by focusing on their goals and by showing them to deal with the challenges they face.

And this side of our work has provided a lot of help – many of our clients saying things like `I’m able to sleep for the first time in months!’

So after much work (and training to further enhance our skills in this area) we’re now ready to offer these skills to anyone facing a court case.

Join us!

Michaela and Steven Wade - McKenzie Friends working in the Family CourtsOn Saturday, 13th October 2018 we’ll be running our workshop in Newport, South Wales. Our special Early Bird price is just £79 and £99 after they’re gone. And when they’re gone, they’re gone!

Among others we’ll be covering:

Tickets are on sale now here.

See you there!

You are always a dad. Happy Father’s Day

No, really. You are always a dad.

It doesn’t matter if your children live with you one hundred percent of the time. Or half the time. Or none of the time. Or if you have `contact’ of one card per year.

You. Are. A. Dad.

We can play semantics here. We can do the whole `Any man can be a father but it take’s a real man to be a dad’ thing. But you’ve probably heard plenty of opinions that diminish your role, your worth and your suitability. You know if you are below par – and if you believe you are there is a fair chance you came to feel like that over time.

Father’s Day alone.

But the power is in your hands. You are a dad. You likely swore to do the best for your children on the day they were born and this situation doesn’t change anything does it? Does it? I mean…you probably didn’t imagine that would be the endless paperwork. The tongue-biting. The being told the kids have a new dad. Your children calling another man `Dad’ and you being called by your first name. Seeing their name changed. The hurtful comments made on paper and to your face. The empty nursery. The photos you’ve taken off the wall because you can’t bear to look at them. The being told you have no dependents’ because your children don’t live with you more than 50% of the time. The inevitable Well plenty of guys don’t bother’ or the rebuttal `there are plenty of useless fathers out there’ comments. The comments about how you should walk away and your kids will find you when they grow up if they want to see you. The pictures of happy dads and their kids on Facebook celebrating Father’s Day. The TV adverts about treating dad on his big dad. The happy, smiling families that you don’t have.

No one would ever forgive you for walking away. Or giving up. Or being hard bitten and cynical. But it starts and ends with you. No one can make you keep going. No one can make you give up.

The biggest thing to fear perhaps? Your children asking you many, many years time when all this is the dim distant past  `What did you do to be my dad’.

Do everything you can and your conscience will be clear the rest of your life.

Happy Father’s Day whatever your situation.

Ask Us Anything! (25th May 2018)

In the first of a series of Facebook Lives we’re hear to answer any questions you may have about Family Law, contract law, CMS and employment tribunals.

We also answered questions emailed to us at steven@familylawassistance.co.uk.

We’ll be running another one in August so watch our Facebook Page for announcements!

 

You have the power!

Empowerment isn’t just a word used by hippy life coaches and ever-grinning American motivational speakers with unblinking eyes.

Mindset is everything!

I hesitate to type this. Because in the wonderful world of Family Law the weary troops in the trenches will inevitably say something like `It’s easy for you to say’ or `Yes but it’s hard’.

Yes…it’s hard. And we have personal experience of it. We’re not belittling you or the struggles you’re going through. But in a period that you feel utterly powerless, demoralised and done-to rather than doing the merest spark in the dark can make a huge difference. It can give you hope. Something to build on. The knowledge that it isn’t completely and utterly all bad.

The little things count here, OK?

You have power over your mindset

You’re responsible for the way you feel, how you act and what you say. Nothing more. You’re not beaten until you give up. You’re not the bad guy unless you have been shown to be. No matter what anyone else thinks. To thine own self be true as Bill wrote many years ago. You can’t be forced to give up either.

The right mindset is powerful

With this in mind…why would a hostile ex with a hostile solicitor or barrister say your application has no merit, that there is large amounts of evidence detailing what a terrible person you are and that if you are nice they may decide to drop the whole silly costs application against you which currently stand in the tens of thousands (I kid you not…I’ve seen all of these happen)?

Anyone? Bueller?

So with all this in mind (pun intended) – what’s it going to be?

To suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (sorry…another Shakespeare reference – I’m in a Tudor kind of mood tonight)? Or will you decide that you’re going to do your best and be able to look back with a clear conscience and the knowledge there was nothing more you could do?

Your call.

Pontypridd Court – a visitor’s guide

Pontypridd in the Welsh ValleysPontypridd – in the depths of the Welsh Valleys

Pontypridd (or `Ponty’ as it’s known by the locals) gets it’s name from the many bridges crossing the River Taff that bisects the town – coming from the Welsh `Pont-y-tŷ-pridd’ meaning `bridge by the earthen house’. The Old Bridge – built in the mid 18th Century is still there next to a modern counterpart. It’s roughly halfway between Cardiff and Methyr Tydfil and lies near the main road (the A470) linking them.

Being in the heart of the Welsh Valleys the town has a long and involved history with the coal mining industry with many collieries being located in the town in the past.

Prior to this, like many part of this region it was a largely rural area and only grew as a result of the Industrial Revolution’s demand for coal and iron – the latter passing through the location of the town by canal and rail.

Today, the town is a busy place with a wide selection of shops and a nice indoor market with some great food too – we recommend Lewi’s Thai Cafe.

Pontypridd Family Court Guide

Pontypridd Indoor MarketThe court is close to the Pontypridd Train Station if you’re coming by rail – it’s an easy journey from Cardiff. If you’re driving we recommend the Pay and Display Sardis Road carpark however . Don’t use a satnav to get to the court – you’ll get to the court but will find yourself driving in a large loop to get to somewhere to park. The car park postcode is CF37 1LE. It’s our first choice when we visit the court to assist people.

Facilities are sparse. There are a few small consultation rooms and the court is often quiet. There is a machine that dispenses cans of soft drink, crisps, chocolates, etc. however. It is however a short walk to the shops in the area.

As always – do your research beforehand. Arrive early before the hearing time and make sure you are relaxed, calm and prepared.

Give a dog a bad name?

Separated Parents and Second Class Parent – why language is important

Second prize? Separated parent?Separated parents: It can be a minefield

It’s hard enough not having your children in your lives – especially if you are the minority of carer and didn’t choose to be. It’s even harder when the world insists on reminding you. The words used by many can sting.

You may be called a `Non resident parent‘. Or an `absent’ one. You may be told you are a `minority’ carer and as such the primary carer can veto anything you say or do. You may see in a CAFCASS report that your child `lives at the family home with the other parent’. You may hear about your children going `back’ to the other parent.

And much more. You’re number 2. As Buzz Aldrin (the second man on the Moon) says in an episode of `The Simpsons’ stony faced `Second comes right after first!

Give a dog a bad name?Separated parents – give a dog a bad name

It’s easy to internalise all this. Easy to accept that as the world sees you as less than a full parent you will begin to believe it yourself.

What’s worse is that once this starts happening there is a great chance you will start acting in a self defeating manner. You’ll abandon hope, feel like you are powerless and behave as if you aren’t a normal mum or dad.

Don’t fall into this trap

Separated parents – there is no such thing as a second class parent

Act like the parent you would be if your child were with you on a full time basis. Kids need bedrooms, right? With toys, clothes, pictures, etc. If he or she went to visit another family member they’d not being going `back’ to them. If you were still with your ex – a fully involved mother or father.

Yes, it’s hard. In the fact of unrelenting negativity from a hostile ex partner and outside world it is an easy trap to fall into. It’s all too easy to become defeated before the first metaphorical shot is fired if that is what has happened (or may happen).

But act like the parent you are: You are a mum or a dad regardless of what has happened and no one can take that away from you.