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.

Eleven hundred reasons to avoid the Family Court

Eleven hundred reasons not to use the Family Court

The Family Court should be the last resort

We spend as much time telling people not to get involved in the Family Court as much as we do actually helping them by the time they are in it.

They’ll come to us looking for the best solution. Which may be getting back with your ex. Or talking to him or her. Maybe it is attempting mediation. Or biting the bullet.

Only you’ll know if any of these are possible and/or you can live with any of these potential outcomes.

But going to the Family Court. If you can avoid it…do so.

That’s because making an application to change a situation is effectively pressing the nuclear button and is (in the short term at least) liable to make things worse than they already are; although to be fair – you have little to lose if things couldn’t get worse (such as being told in a child contact dispute that you’ll never see your kids again).

Speak to us and we’ll tell you if things could get worse – and believe us here…there is always someone worse off than yourself. Chances are we’ve assisted them too.

Eleven hundred reasons to avoid the Family CourtThe Family Court can be difficult to deal with

A little context. A client we recently assisted has a long-standing contact dispute with considerable hostility but no welfare concerns. Contact stops. And starts. And stops again. So for a recent final hearing we assisted our client with a trial bundle to be used before magistrates.

That means 6 copies. Of 350 pages each – the limit according to Practice Direction 27A (although we were involved in another case recently where the bundle was 900 pages before the bemused judge suggested that the other party’s solicitor trimmed down the behemoth they had created).

So for a simple contact dispute there is a bundle (not the first one either) that you wouldn’t want to drop on your foot. Another final hearing (again…not the first one). Lost time for client from work. The fees they have paid. The heartache. All the incidental costs of dealing with a hostile ex partner.

In this case – it’s not avoidable. If only it were!

If you are in the Family Court it’s hard work

Of course, despite our protestations that you should avoid the Family Court if you are don’t leave any stone unturned. Don’t expect things to all blow over. Don’t skimp on preparation. As always…it’s about focus (we know, we know…).

But the real focus is not about going to court if that’s a possibility. It’s about working out what your goal is and working backwards from there. Court is seldom the easy answer and even less seldom the way to achieve an outcome you’re happy with.

Avoid it if you can whether you are the resident or non resident parent unless there is no other option.

The lychgate of St Woolos' Cathedral, Newport

Newport Court – a visitor’s guide!

Sunrise over the Usk, the river bisecting Newport.Newport – so good they named it twice!

Newport, or to give it it’s Welsh name, Casnewydd is easy to get to via water (the Romans did this, using the River Usk to get to the fortress at Caerleon) and more recently along the M4 – a 30 minute drive from Cardiff and 170 from London on a clear run.

 

It’s a historic place too. As well as the Caerleon thing (its worth a visit – complete with a gladiatorial arena) which is the alleged site of Camelot according to Geoffrey of Monmouth it’s the site of the `Newport Uprising’ in 1839 – the last large rebellion in the Chartist Riots demanding the right to vote. The museum houses some impressive artefacts too.

It’s also the home of St Woolos’ Cathedral named after a local saint, Gwynllyw.

On the cultural front it’s the home of Goldie Lookin’ Chain, a band that has been known to extol the virtues of the city – including the nightlife, the shopping facilities and the impressive parking at the neighbouring town of Cwmbran

Newport Family Court guide

The lychgate of St Woolos' Cathedral, NewportLocated in Clarence House, opposite the remains of Newport Castle and next to the Newport Bridge (that Harry Houdini jumped off in an escape attempt in 1913 no less leading him to be arrested by some of Newport’s finest) the Newport Family Court is one of the more modern ones. Should you be visiting it there is a shop that sells food and drink – a contrast to those that have at most a machine that dispense brown water that is allegedly coffee. CAFCASS offices are located in the same building handily enough.

For parking we’d recommend you use the Clarence House car park (postcode NP19 7AB) although it’s a quick walk from the train or bus train station if you’re using public transport. If you are parking take plenty of change or make sure you have the Just Park app to use because it’s a pay and display deal.

Hope this helps – do your research before you go to a court hearing. The last thing you want to do is worry about parking just as your hearing is scheduled to start…

 

Thestatusquo:Stickingyourheadinthesand orthepubisn'talwaysthebestoption

The Status Quo: Going to the Winchester and waiting for it to all blow over

The status quo builds an argument to not make an order or a change in circumstancesIf you want something to change, waiting for a status quo to build is absolutely the worst thing you can do.

No mincing of words here guys and gals. The clock is ticking. And every day you wait the better and stronger the argument is that a court should do nothing to change things (it’s called `the no order’ principle).

Hoping your ex will calm down/act reasonably/see sense/get told that he/she is being unreasonable and will agree to what you want is a big risk.

Have your kids not seen you for six months? Imagine the scene in court once you finally realise you have no option but to make an application:

`Sir, my client is a little confused why the applicant has only just chosen to bring this matter before you. The current arrangement has clearly worked well and I am surprised the applicant hasn’t raised this matter sooner if he/she felt it wasn’t in the best interests of the children sooner. I therefore ask that the court dismiss this application’.

Pro-tip: Saying you didn’t know what to do or you were hoping things would get better won’t hold much weight.

The previous President of the Family Division, Baroness Butler-Sloss (and many other judges) have said over the years that the status quo is a significant factor when deciding to make an order that changes the current arrangements (whether you have agreed to them or not too…because doing nothing counts as agreement).

The status quo: Sticking your head in the sand - or the pub isn't always the best option

When is a status quo not a status quo?

This doesn’t mean you should hop, skip and jump into court either: For example if contact is denied or an order is breached in a way that doesn’t disrupt the status quo hold fire.  One (or even two) lost contact sessions doesn’t automatically mean it’s time to send the enforcement application in and/or go for an emergency one.

As always, look at the big picture.

Sometimes the status quo is a good thing

With the above in mind there are times when the status quo can actually benefit you. Do you have regular contact and it’s then stopped? Or overnights? Or regularly take the children abroad without incident only to be told you are not permitted to?

Document it. Record it. Cultivate it. Especially if it’s not in a court order.

If you can build this sort of thing up without a court case…brilliant! And if things do end up in front of the man behind the big desk you can use the status quo argument in your favour. Of course, like anything else in the family courts there are no silver bullets, no guarantees – but remember…it’s a marathon and not a sprint.

Hit the Road Jack! Do I need to leave my home?

Hit the Road Jack: When your ex wants to throw you out

Hit the Road Jack! Do I have to leave my home.Being the music lovers we are here at Family Law Assistance Towers we hear many lyrics that resonate with us because of recent conversations we’ve had with people in relation to their situation.

Just recently it was the hoary old chestnut of `The ex is trying make me leave my home – what do I do?’. Often the speaker is already out – living with parents, sofa surfing or in a worst-case-scenario living on the streets. We’ve known all of these to happen.

For whatever reason it tends to be the male partner who is facing this situation; speculation on why this is the case is something for another day.

Typically he’ll have left under the pressure of persuasion of an ex partner, her parents, the police, her solicitor or a combination thereof.

It’s not black and white…

Do I have to leave my home? The legal position.

As always…it depends. If one of the below is true the answer is `No – you do not have to move out’:

  1. You are married to your ex partner.
  2. You are unmarried but your name is on the tenancy/mortgage.

If neither of the above is true you have a legal right to remain in a property.

Why do people leave if this is the case? It’s because of the pressure they are under. The ignorance. Because of a sense of old-fashioned duty to do `the right thing’ in terms of an ex wife/female partner and/or children. Sometimes it is…sometimes it isn’t. The devil is in the detail.

Do I have to leave my home?

When you do have to move out from a legal perspective it is because:

  1. There is a court order telling you to (including an occupation order).
  2. You aren’t married and aren’t on the tenancy agreement/mortgage and you ex partner asks you to.

Of course – that’s not say that it is quite possible to be legally entitled to stay but are in a situation where there are good and pragmatic reasons to leave but again…that’s a discussion for another day.

What is the impact of leaving your home on divorce and/or children?

In short: You have just handed a MAJOR tactical advantage to your ex partner without a metaphorical shot being fired.

You’ve abandoned the family home. Your ex partner. Your children. Voluntarily. It will quite possibly be used against you. If child contact issues, etc. are unresolved you have ensured that the children have remained in the family home giving them the stability they need. You will also be seen by any council, housing association, etc. as voluntarily making yourself homeless.

Don’t think this will make any difference in what you may consider an eventual `fair’ outcome. Trust me. It won’t. Think carefully before you leave your home. Don’t do it. Get advice before doing so.

A good McKenzie Friend will have more ideas than just `Go to court'.

Questions to ask yourself before using a McKenzie Friend.

It won’t be a surprise to many reading this post that we recommend a Family Law Assistance McKenzie Friend to help you with your legal situation. Our work takes us up and down the country with people seeking our help in child contact disputes, big money finance disputes, dog custody battles and even once to visit a mortuary as part of a dispute in a will.

That last one in case you’re interested it didn’t happen – but our top McKenzie Friend Michaela Wade was game.

It's not all about the money money money when deciding whether to us a McKenzie FriendThe wrong first question is how much do you charge?

Our fees are considerably less than the alternative but we’d urge anyone who is using a McKenzie Friend solely or firstly with this question in mind to seriously consider if we’re the right people to help you. We’ll give you an estimate of what we charge for a hearing, for a piece of work, etc. but we aren’t fortune tellers – we can’t and won’t guarantee what will happen in your situation. We’ll tell you what we think is likely but there are no certainties.

If anyone does guarantee you anything in a case…run a mile from them.

Jerry Maguire was a McKenzie Friend: Help me, help you.

To be honest this applies to a McKenzie Friend, solicitor, or barrister. They can do a lot. But not everything. They can’t stop you sending that ill-advised email. Or not mention the criminal conviction that will be a big part of the case or the 17 Social Services interventions to us.

We’ve seen many a £400 pound an hour solicitor sit with their heads trying not to explode with frustration that all the work they have done (and all the money they’ve been paid – honestly!) is wasted because their own client is causing more problems than the opposition.

If this is you…go it alone. Seriously. Save your money.

A good McKenzie Friend will have more ideas than just `Go to court'.

Should you go to court?

Court should always be the last resort. Anyone who chooses to go to court when there is another option risks being painted as vexatious and/or ending up on the wrong end of a 91/14 barring order. And if you ask our advice we’ll consider this and tell you when it’s not a good idea and alternative potential solutions. It’ll save you a lot of time and money – for the sake of a half hour meeting with us we’ll be honest with you if a court case is likely to be the best way to achieve the result you seek.

Is a McKenzie Friend right for you?

Nine times out of ten we’d say `Yes’. Mostly because no one knows your case like you and likewise no one is motivated as much either.

If you’re one of ten we’ll tell you – recommending great solicitors and barristers we’ve worked with in the past and think will be a positive influence on your situation.

In our experience people are able to represent themselves, get a great result and best of all get a great night’s sleep for the first time too long because they now feel in charge of their own destiny.

The Jerry Springer-style wrap up…

It’s down to you. We can help but what you are responsible for your words and actions if you use us, a solicitor, a barrister or go alone. You’ll also be the one who lives with the consequences often for years afterwards. Think about what your goals are, think carefully about what will best help you achieve them and stick to the plan.