All posts by Steven

91(14) barring orders – the skinny.

Barring orders. They’re the stuff of legends. As in `most people don’t seem to know the truth about them’. Among the many, many myths litigants in person seem to believe along with the fact that solicitors sleep in coffins, court staff are incompetent and judges bang gavels whilst shouting `Order! Order!’ is the one that 91(14) barring orders mean that if you are the proud owner of one you’re not allowed to make an application. Let me give the legal term for this belief:

Rubbish

91(14) barring orders don’t stop you making applications

Barring orders are not dead endsTaking the Ronseal principle when it comes to names it’s a reasonable mistake to make. I’ve lost count of the number of people who tell me they are not allowed to make another application for another 1/2/3 years and after having a quick look at their order it becomes clear they just don’t understand what it really means.

In practical terms 91(14) barring orders do one thing. They add an extra hurdle when it comes to filling in the forms. If you’re completing your favourite application form (what’s that kids? Mr C100?) you’ll need to fill in the C2 too. The C2 is the permission form. You send them both at the same time and you only pay once. Not twice.

It’s a pain in the bum, but it’s not disastrous (chances are you have other stuff on your mind like not seeing your kids…).

What you’ll do to get a barring order

These orders aren’t that common. You’ll usually have to surpass yourself to end up with one but it is possible and we’ve spoken to quite a few people who have one. It’s more common for the other party to mention they are going to seek one to dissuade you from making further applications (but as we know kids…it’s the courts that make the orders).

You can get one of these orders made against you by being vexatious (i.e. making an applications so often you’re on a first name basis with the security guards) without good reason – you know…making an emergency application because the turned up with the kids 20 minutes late a couple of times.

The court may want the existing order to `bed in’ without being changed too soon. It may want you not to attempt to impose another disruption on your kids’ routine.

How does a court make one?

It’ll make one when the other side/authority/CAFCASS (or even the court – it can make orders without anyone asking for one). Remember however  – these are time limited. They have a life span. We’ve seen ones lasting between 6 months and 3 years (although these are extremes).

Reasons for making an application even if you have a 91(14) barring order against you

Simple. Either circumstances have changed significantly or fresh evidence has come to light. In both of these you need to consider if you believe the court will make a different decision; if it doesn’t you will have proved the point that such an order is required and you’ll be sent away with your flea in your ear. Actually…that’s not true. You’ll get a letter back telling you that your application has been refused and to go away.

If things are going well the court may grant your application without seeing you. In our experience what is more likely is that there will be a hearing to deal specifically with whether you will get permission for the application to go ahead or get thrown out.

So that’s it. The tl:dr here is simple. Don’t make silly applications. Don’t do anything unless you have a good chance of winning. A 91(14) barring order isn’t the end of the world but it is extra hassle you don’t need.

4 myths about McKenzie Friends

McKenzie Friends. Lay Advisors. Court Assistants.

They’re all just titles. It doesn’t matter what they call themselves. Unless someone is a practicing solicitor or barrister – an officer of the court – and have completed all the qualifications, training and other requirements to receive that recognition they are a McKenzie Friend.

Simples.

What we can and can’t do is clear.

Michaela Wade, one of our McKenzie FriendsAside from the confusion about what a McKenzie Friend actually is there is also the fact that most people have just never heard of them.

If I had a pound every time said `I wish I had heard of you about 7 years ago’ I would probably have enough to pay for a few hours of my legally qualified counterpart’s time.

So us McKenzie Friends have just two problems – no one has heard of us and amongst those who do…no one knows what we can and can’t do.

Here are four of the top myths, responded to by one of our team, Michaela Wade

McKenzie Friends can’t come into court with me can they?

We absolutely can. We sit right next to you in court and quietly advise you what to say. I help all types of people from high profile people in the media to people whose first language is not English to people with learning difficulties. The one thing that they all have in common is the fact that they need assistance in understanding what the judge or magistrates are saying or asking of them. In addition most McKenzie Friends will also take notes at the hearing. No matter erudite, smart and organised you are you can’t do two things at the same time. Having someone take notes is valuable for many reasons. If the order is wrong you have a point of reference. If you need to remind yourself about what the judge said about a particular point you can remind yourself. If you need a transcript of the hearing you will have an idea about what time you will need the transcribers to refer to. 

In court it’s teamwork. I always say to clients that it does not matter who you have by your side you have to feel comfortable. I will talk to my clients as well as kick them under the table when they start to waffle or when they lose focus”.

It’s better to use a legally qualified solicitor than a McKenzie Friend surely?

It depends is the short answer.  We live in an age where information is on tap. We live in the age of the “app” . People share information and post blogs like this one. I think the reality is that we are moving to an age where people feel more empowered by being in the driving seat themselves. Being in court is no different. I recently went to a parenting charity’s AGM where I met the President of the Family division, Sir James Munby, where we acknowledged that the family justice system has to really start from scratch from a litigant in person’a point of view. He suggested that we could start with making applications online available. The point is if the big man at the top acknowledges it then there is a place for McKenzie Friends. 

Two thirds of my clients come to me because they don’t want a solicitor and not because they can’t afford one. My clients have been impressed that I don’t work traditional hours; that I deal with the more every scenarios that can be blown out of proportion at court; that I can get by butt from Wales to London at a couple of hours notice or be there for an emergency ex-parte application the next day.

A winning team is often a litigant in person and an experienced McKenzie Friend. The judge hears from you – as it is. You ARE the case. You know who, what, why, where and when on the tip of your tongue. You don’t have to rely on a third party to recall those details. Your experienced MK should be assisting you through the court procedure and how to best present your case in court”.

Why do you charge if you aren’t legally qualified?

McKenzie Friends don’t have to charge but the reality is this. If I didn’t charge then I wouldn’t be on hand to help out as much as I do and I help out  A LOT.  I travel the length and breadth of England and Wales assisting people. There is no legal requirement for McKenzie Friends to be legally qualified and there is nothing to say that we shouldn’t charge. I am a qualified paralegal (CILEX) and have spent most of my career in civil litigation. For me it was a natural progression. I also do much charity work and often signpost people to the charities that I am involved in for additional help and support“.

Do McKenzie Friends only assist with Family Law?

No. I do also assist with rent evictions, employment tribunals and contract law. My career began in finance and I was a debt collector, a benefits review officer as well as working for a centre with learning difficulties. I had to learn to communicate in a big way. Not only did I learn Maketon sign language but I learned to get blood out of stone. I would be repossessing people’s houses and cars. I would be working closely with the fraud department and liaising with debt collectors, court bailiffs, solicitors and people who were generally not nice to me. You’ve all seen “Can’t Pay, We’ll Take it Away” right? 

These skills made me perfect to dealing with all sorts of hostile and adversarial scenarios. That, combined with my legal training and knowledge made me perfect to deal with family law and other areas of law too. 

I started off just by doing family law but kept getting asked to other areas of law. I would have desperate people messaging me at all hours trying to get hold of me to assist with evictions and contract law etc. 

It is also true that I am a workaholic

 

Why CAFCASS make court orders

CAFCASS make the court orders. Or if you are involved in with Social Services, them. Even the ex’s solicitors can tell you what is going to happen in a court case. And you have no choice do you? They’ll do the reports, provide the recommendations or tell you that if you don’t do what they say you’ll find your child removed or your time with them restricted.

It’s a scary thought isn’t it? And you sure as hell better play ball. Right?

Let me let you into a little secret…

Only the court can make court orders

The clue is in the name.

No one other than the nice man or lady (or men and ladies) can tell you what to do. They’re the ones who have the power to make a court order you don’t want, don’t like and don’t agree with. If you don’t agree to something, say so. And make it clear.

Court orders - do as you are told?Should you agree to something – no matter how much you really don’t want to and no matter how much you feel you are being pressured into something…you have agreed to it. Agreement is agreement is agreement. It won’t wash that you were pushed into it.

Because the response you’ll likely get is `But you did agree to it didn’t you? And you would have sought legal advice on it before you did so surely?’

Now don’t get me wrong. I get it. You are faced with a social worker who tells you your kids will be taken away and you won’t be allowed to see them if you don’t agree to a Section 20. Or CAFCASS will tell you that their recommendations are effectively set in stone and there is nothing you can do about it. Or even the ex’s solicitor telling you that if you don’t agree to your application being dropped you will end up paying their costs and you’ll be seeing the kid’s in a contact centre until hell freezes over.

Not even your friendly neighbourhood McKenzie Friend

The court order is all that counts

Furthermore you don’t have to convince anyone else. No one at all. Just the court. Because they make the orders. Because if it ain’t on the court, it doesn’t count.

Ever heard `POIDH‘? `Picture or it didn’t happen’? Same thing.

But having read of this…am I telling you to ignore CAFCASS? Social Services? The ex’s solicitor.

No.

I know, I know. I am contradicting myself again. Here he goes…telling me to ignore the lot of them and no he’s saying the opposite. But in terms of making court orders – they don’t make them.

Listen to people. Consider what they’re saying. They may be right. They be wrong. They may even be trying to help you (it doesn’t happen you know…I’ve met people in all parts of the Family Law system who are genuinely nice people who don’t like some parts of their job). While you’re being nice to them (we covered that earlier didn’t we kids?) understand they have an opinion just like you…and it may not be right.

Your job is to convince the court

As it says above. Your job is to convince the court. But it’s also to listen and respond as needed to everyone else who is involved. And to weigh up all aspects of your case.

But don’t assume that because someone in an apparent position of authority tells you something will happen that it will happen.

It ain’t over until the court order is made.

LiP Commandments (Part 2)

Welcome back to our new sermon, erm, blog post. To err is human, but to forgive is divine – and few people will blame you for making mistakes as you make your way through the vale of tears, the path of many faced with the family court. As promised we’d like to give you another 5 commandments – things to do and things not to do that’ll make a big difference to your case.

No one is perfect and chances are that we have all done a few things we wished we hadn’t or not done things we wish we had.

Here commenceth the lesson.

More LiP Commandments

6.) Thou Shall Care for Thine Documents

It always puzzles us why people how people treat the pieces of paper that can make a difference between an outcome in court they will live with and one they would positively hate. We’ve seen original documents written over (swear words and insults are always a `favourite’ of ours which means you are going to have to spend a lot of time with a copy and a bottle of Tippex removing comments that the court and the other side will find very interesting and useful.

Or else the documents are `filed’ in a bag that has the name of a supermarket in it and was formerly used to store a back of King Edward potatoes.

Don’t do it. Don’t write over documents. Put them in a ring binder in an orderly manner. It’ll mean they are nice and clean. You’ll also know where each one is when you need to refer to it.

7.) Thou Shalt Hope for the Best and Plan for the Worst

Be positive. You’ll do better in your case and feel better. It’s a tough and challenging situation you are in. It’s hard to stay positive true. But look after yourself and work on the principle that one day, none of this will matter.

Speak to many of the `old hands’ who have been through what you have several years (or decades) before and you’ll see that one day all this will be old new and you likely won’t care. Because life will be OK.

But don’t assume this means you should wait for things to get better on their own.

Work on the principle that documents will get lost. That no one else cares. That you are the only one who will meet that deadline.

In practical terms that means doing things like taking spare copies of statements to court if you have previously filed them as ordered. Or finding out the name, address, opening hours and requirements of that contact centre you may be stuck in for a while – so the court is in a better position to make an order there and then.

8.) Thou Shalt Not be Seen to Get Angry or Upset

You may well have good cause to be angry or upset. No one will actually blame you for this…but as sure as eggs is eggs it will be used against you if you put it on display. Doing so will mean contact is delayed. You’ll end up in a contact centre. You’ll end up on an anger management course. You’ll end up facing a Finding of Fact hearing or a Non Molestation Order.

If you need support, get it. Contact a support organisation of charity of your choice – where you can let off steam and learn to deal with the injustice you feel.

Don’t do it in court or anywhere else you will prejudice your case.

9.) Though Shalt Be Nice to Everyone Thy Meet

Everyone. The CAFCASS Officer. The court office staff. The security guards. The ushers (the ones in the black robes you’ll see in court). The judge, magistrates or legal advisors. Even the ex’s solicitor.

Monk - Ten CommandmentsYes. It may be hard. But you get more flies with honey than vinegar. And despite what you may think they are human beings – meaning they are more likely to be well disposed to you if you are pleasant. They are also less likely to believe you are the awful person your ex may be trying to paint you as if you are Mr or Ms Cool, Calm and Collected. As opposed to shouting swear words in the waiting room because you are angry the ex has said you shout swear words at people when you are angry.

In addition to all this, you are less likely to become unfocused.

10.) Thou Shalt Not Give Up; Thou Shalt Play the Long Game

There are very few situations where you have no legal options when it comes to your kids (yes…there are some – we know).

Don’t expect it to be plain sailing. You will come out of hearings wondering what the hell happened and that giving up may be the best thing for your sanity, your children and your finances. It is inevitable you will things are moving too slowly (or not at all). But you are there to secure an outcome in the long term – not within the next couple of weeks.

You may say you have no chance whatsoever. The best way to ensure you that happens is to walk away. No one can make you do that other than you however.

TL:DR – Commandments in Short

Expect it to be hard. Expect it to feel unfair. Be nice. Be prepared. Stay Calm. These commandments are really just common sense. It can be hard to follow them all when you feel attacked at every angle and it involves your kids. But it is possible to get an outcome you can live with.

That’s it.

LiP Commandments (Part 1)

We are all but imperfect human beings. We all do things with the best of motives and upon searching our souls know the best and right thing to do even while we go off and do something entirely different, making achieving our goals and reaching the happiness we crave so much more difficult. Following a few simple commandments will make your life a lot easier.

Here at Family Law Assistance we’ve seen and heard a lot. We’ve seen a wide range of tactics used (and justified) – and we’ve seen the outcome for good and bad. We also see things more clearly very often, our clients paying us to provide a more clinical view of a case than they are able to. Because at the end of the day they’re your kids and not ours – it is hard to be impartial when it comes to your own children.

So it’s fair to say we have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t.

It’s common for people to say `I bet you’ve not anyone as bad as my ex’ or `I bet this is the worst case you have ever seen’. You’d be surprised – we won’t discuss details (a two year custodial sentence for contempt of court often offends) – but it is fair to say we’ve seen some challenging situations.

There is often a pattern however – certain immutable rules that are a sure fire way to help or hinder your case. If we were gamblers we’d have a fair guess when it comes to what will and won’t work in a court case.

So with no further ado…

LiP Commandments

1.) Thou Shalt Not Slag Thine Ex off on Social Media

Church - Ten Commandments?No excuses. Ever. Because there are none that will be accepted by a court in mitigation if you are asked to justify why you describe your ex as a ****', a `****’ or even a `****’. You won’t be thanked your honest or your insight even if you are demonstrably correct. Instead you are likely to be painted as someone who is more interested in sticking it to your ex than you are producing a child-focused solution.

Better still? Don’t mention the ex at all. Or your case. You don’t have to convince us, remember. Just the court…

Pro-tip: Slagging the ex off or what he/she is doing whilst not naming them won’t cut it.

2.) Though Shalt Remain Whiter than White at All times

Many people feel they are lied about during court hearings. Why give the other party the opportunity to say unpleasant and true things about you – even better for them if they can prove it?

Again…the court won’t be persuaded by the argument `Yes – I know I did that but he/she is just as bad or worse!’ Or anything else for that matter.

No matter unfair it may seem or indeed be.

3.) Thou Shalt Keep Thine Eye Upon The Ball

What are you going to court for? Proving the ex wrong? Having your say? Getting things on record? Or for ensuring your kids have a relationship with you?

The court will only take any notice of the last one of these. If your motivation for making an application is anything else…save yourself the cost, time, effort and heartache and don’t bother. Seriously. Go on a nice holiday or something instead.

And don’t waste your time trying to get the court to do stuff it doesn’t have the power to order – like communicating with you.

If you do go to court make sure your original motivation for going there stays the same throughout. Don’t get distracted by false allegations – refute them. Don’t get into arguments over anything other than your kids’ best interests. If the other side can change the subject and get you riled…they will. Be wise to it.

4.) Thou Shalt Not Take the whole Family Law System Head on

Maybe you’re a tough guy who never gives up. Show me the man/woman who will tell you `At least I had the guts to tell that judge and everyone else like it is’ and I will show you someone with no contact and non molestation and barring orders against him/her.

That’s because the court is geared to dealing with angry, aggressive and unreasonable people who will shout the odds and get aggressive when they don’t get their way. Do that and you’ll be chewed up, spat out and forgotten by the time you’re out of the court room door.

5.) Thou Shalt Listen to Those with Some Knowledge

So you’re in a difficult situation. It probably feels quite unique. It ain’t. No matter how hard it is I can guarantee you someone has gone through it years before you…and there will be others who will do some in the future too. Amongst them will be the ones who have done well and others who haven’t. Learn from the mistakes of those who have come before and listen to those who have hung around to help others. If you use a solicitor, the same applies – after all, at £260 an hour it’s quite reasonable to assume they will help in some capacity.

The same goes if you use your friendly local McKenzie Friend – namely, us. We’re pretty good at advising you if your chosen course of action is good or bad. We won’t hesitate to tell you if you’re shooting yourself in the foot. After all a good friend tells you what you need to hear and not what you want to hear.

So that’s it. There will be another 5 of these handy commandments coming up as time progresses. But it ain’t rocket science guys. We’re on your side and if you choose to let us help you we’ve got your back. And like the original commandments it’s fair to say these are set in stone.

You’re not alone. Contact us to find out how we can help.

Here endeth the lesson.

Win a Non-Molestation Order!

Believe me, a Non-Molestation Order made against you is the cherry on the cake.

Things are hard enough as it is: Your children not allowed to see you. Your work is being affected by the upset you’ve suffered – and the unexpected emails, phone calls and other stuff that means your life is on hold. Your finances are trashed – maybe you’ve been paying a solicitor (and being shocked by the £600 you’ve had to pay on account even before the action starts); you’re not cooking so you’re eating out (if you stomach food – because the `Divorce Diet’ that involves nausea, vomiting and chronic lack of sleep means the pounds are just going to fall off). Maybe you’re driving long distances to sort things out.

Things couldn’t get any worse could they? Don’t count on it.

A Non-Molestation Order will make a hard situation a damn sight harder.

In a lot of respects an application for one of these against you is a side show. For a start, they’re not covered under the same statute as the one that covers contact disputes – that’s the Children Act 1989. But it will impact a child contact dispute.

No entry sign - non-molestation orderA Non-Molestation Order falls under the Family Law Act 1996.

That doesn’t mean they don’t often come visiting together however because:

  1. Divorce/child disputes are often times of high conflict and stress.
  2. It is one of the criteria for gaining legal aid….and a (potential) subsequent advantage in Children Act proceedings.
  3. It helps demonstrate that one party is aggressive and should influence contact…a subsequent advantage in Children Act proceedings.
  4. It is often lumped with an Occupation Order – giving one party (usually) the former family home…and a subsequent advantage in Children Act proceedings.

Did you see what I did there?

You’ve gone in an instant from being a parent who is being denied time with his/her legal time to a violent and abusive nutter who would have to see the children in an environment they aren’t familiar with with an ex who has legal representation.

Game showOh yes, you could end up with a PIN. Or a caution for criminal damage, a breach of the peace or something else – so many amazing offers. But a Non-Molestation is the top prize. So to speak.

So, if you would like to see your name up in lights…sorry…on a court order ordering you not to molest your ex and advising you risk imprisonment if you ignore it try some (or all if you really fancy your chances).

What will get me a non-molestation order?

  1. Turn up at your ex’s property/place of work/where ever else they hang out without warning.
  2. Bang on their door. Bang on the window. Shout through the letter box.
  3. Send frequent emails/texts/letters. Or make many calls. Can be about anything including how your kids are when they will see you next.
  4. Encourage anyone else do the above.
  5. Let yourself into a former home without warning because you still have the keys and the locks haven’t been changed. Yet.

The first you’ll probably know that you’ve `won’ will be when you are served with an ex parte emergency interim order. That’s a sudden hearing made without you being there. You’ll be invited back in a week or so to find out what your take on things are and whether the length of this order should be extended or dropped.

Rhetoric aside – don’t do this, OK? Seriously. There are genuine reasons why Non-Molestation Orders are made. There are genuine victims who need them. You are stressed and chances are your ex is – and if there are kids are involved it’s not going to help them either. A silly and small mistake can escalate very quickly into a serious and big one.

See taking this advice as good for a few reasons:

  1. You are behaving like the good person you are.
  2. You will be seen as the good person you are.
  3. You are de-escalating a probably already tense situation.
  4. You’ll not disadvantage your case.

Your case is likely hard enough as it is. This is an `easy win’ for you not to make it even harder. Keep your nose clean, stay out of trouble and do everything you can to make things easier for all concerned and not harder.

LGBT parents – the basics

With the increasing openness when it comes to the existence of LGBT people there’s a corresponding increase in the visibility of them in all walks of life – including as parents. Unsurprisingly enough (for some of us at least) lesbian, gay, bi and trans people do have kids.

Some of them are conceived, born and are raised in families in the *ahem* old-fashioned way, others in a more circuitous manner. It’s not an unreasonable believe to think that a non-traditional family faces it’s own unique challenges and in many respects it’s a correct one.

In terms of the law however there isn’t a great deal of difference between straight and/or cis people and everyone else when it comes to the matters concerning contact, residence (OK, OK `who the child lives with’) and everything else the Family Court is concerned with.

There are a few basic thoughts to consider here.

PR is important to LGBT people

Parental Responsibility is the key here. In short that means a) being on the birth certificate or b) having an order awarding you PR. Without it, you are at a serious disadvantage.

If you’re adopting a child, it’s something that should be taken care of. If you’re conceiving artificially, make sure you are on the birth certificate – or that the birth parent signs a C(PRA001) form to give it to you.

Rainbow flagThe nuclear scenario? You split from your partner and you don’t have PR. Your ex refuses contact and when you apply to the courts you’ll be filling in the standard form for contact (a C100) but you’ll also be needing a C2 (permission to apply) because you have no legal relationship with your child. And when you get there your ex will deny contact, deny you had much involvement with your own child and in the meantime is free to change their name, give PR to whoever they like and move to the other side of the planet if they so wish without you being able to stop them.

So get PR.

The T in LGBT

When it comes to trans parents they may well already have PR – particularly if the child was conceived/born before transitioning. It’s a sad fact to say that many of our trans clients coming out/transitioning has been at least a factor in the breakdown of their relationship with their ex’s. And often a source of hostility when it comes to children having an ongoing relationship.

Yet children are usually completely unfazed by this because Mum is still Mum and Dad is still Dad.

Furthermore in our experience the court is usually completely indifferent to a client’s status as transgender and wholly uninterested in parents seeking to use this fact to limit a child’s relationship with either parent. It is possible it will likely be an aspect discussed in any welfare report (such as a CAFCASS Section 7 Report) but will often carrying little weight overall.

But that’s no different to any other case where a child’s welfare is examined.

TL:DR

If you don’t have PR, get it. Whether you are still with your partner or they are now your ex. You are putting yourself at a serious disadvantage without it.

Stepparent rights?

When your ex remarries their new husband or wife have legal rights over your children, right? They are a stepparent after all aren’t they? Not the same as a biological parent, true – but a parent all the same.

They’ll be able to make major decisions about your kids’ lives. Where they go to school. What medical treatment they receive. That sort of thing. They’re your kids’ parent as much as you aren’t they? Especially as they will likely see your kids more than you do, right?

A Stepparent has no legal rights or responsibilities.

Being a stepparent confers no rights and no responsibilities. They have no legal relationship to your child. The only thing that counts is PR (Parental Responsibility).

Wicked stepmotherBut Aha!’ I hear you cry. `My ex’s new partner/spouse is listed as a contact at my kids’ school and doctor! And they told me they aren’t going to allow me to see the kids!’

As always…this is a lack of understanding of the law. It’s not the law itself. If your ex has PR they have the same legal status as everyone else. And they’re only going to get that by getting a court to order it or with the agreement of everyone else who has PR (and I am assuming that includes you, dear reader).

So assuming your ex’s partner acts in a way that is inconsistent to your child’s best interests what do you do? Quite simply – they’re not a party to anything that involves your children. Your ex, as the responsible and child-focused adult that he/she undoubtedly is will of course only allow your child to spend time with an appropriate adult.

Your ex is responsible for their partner as a stepparent

Any application to the court should be to other holders of PR – usually your ex. Simple as that.

A stepparent can make an application with regard to your children however. To do so they need a C100 and a C2 form (the latter for permission); they’ll need to demonstrate they have played a meaningful role in your children’s lives for their application to be heard.

Anyone who doesn’t have PR for a child is in the same boat – it doesn’t matter what their relationship with the child is. So don’t focus on your ex’s new partner; it is all about the best interests of your child as always.

 

Enforcement apps don’t work

Enforcement applications don’t work.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news and all. Because it’s a pretty grim statement isn’t it? Enforcement applications quite simply don’t work.

The ex won’t talk to you. They won’t respond to emails, texts, letters or anything else. They didn’t turn up to mediation. Or maybe they have – and they have advised you that you’ll never see your kids again and if you don’t like it you’ll have to go to court.

Which makes it nice and simple. Hey ho! It’s off to court you go.

You’ve paid your £215. You’ve possibly paid a solicitor. Or your friendly McKenzie Friend. You’ve taken the day off work, possibly driven a long distance to a hearing. Where you have convinced a court to make an order for contact. Something. Anything.

And then after all that the ex decides to break the order.

But that’s OK. Sorta. OK, OK, it’s another £155 but hey…the ex will get a rocket when you put that enforcement application in won’t he/she? Eh? Eh? Contact will resume, order will be restored and it’ll be all good.

Nope.

Statistically you have around a 1.5% chance of your enforcement application succeeding. For the non mathematicians among you that’s around a 1 in 66 chance. Chances are you’re going to be on of the 65. So sorry…

You’re stuck with an order that cost you £215. For that price you’d get around 200 rolls of Andrex and they’d be more absorbent than the 2-3 pieces of A4 you have.

Enforcement doesn’t work.

What more typically happens is that your application morphs (or is hijacked if you want to be uncharitable) into a variation by your ex. It’s a truth universally acknowledged by court staff. Here’s a list of what happens:

  1. You get a court order.
  2. The ex breaks it.
  3. You apply for enforcement.
  4. The ex says he/she broke the order because it wasn’t working.
  5. The court varies the order (quite often with a reduction of contact).

If I were a horrible cynic as opposed to the optimistic, philanthropic soul that I clearly am I’d say something like `Well – if you are a resident parent who is hostile to contact and don’t want to pay the fee yourself all you need do is break the order and then get a variation to reduce the level of contact closer to what it is you want (i.e. none)’.

But I won’t. Because that’d be monstrous wouldn’t it now?

So are we clear?

Enforcement applications don’t work so isn’t worth making them is it?

Nope. You absolutely should go for enforcement.

Whaaaa?’ I hear you say. `What’s the point. You’ve said that it’ll cost me money for an application that almost certainly won’t work and I’ll likely end up with an order that provides less contact than I had before haven’t you??? Make your mind up!’

It’s a fair point.

Enforcement applications are still worth making.

There are very good reasons why you should make an application for enforcement if the order is materially broken.

  1. If you have no or reduced contact you likely have nothing to lose (apart from the application fee, time, effort and stress of course). Your options are to suck it up or do something.
  2. If you do nothing you’ll likely be told down the line that you were obviously A-OK with it. Because if you weren’t you would have made an application wouldn’t you? The ex will be able to argue that it was an agreed change of arrangements because you’ve come to an amicable agreement.
  3. If you do so you’re making it clear you don’t agree with what has happened and you are building a narrative that court orders are broken. And that the existing arrangement needs changing. Possibly a change in residence because the current resident parent can’t be trusted to support contact?

In short it’s absolutely worth making an applications for enforcement. But do it in the knowledge that you’re doing it as part of a long term strategy to get the order that is in the best interests of your child. In the short term you’ve got to be prepared to keep banging your head against a brick wall or just giving up.

What’s it to be punk?

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