Don't waste time in the family court

Wasting your time in the family court – 4 things not to do.

Don’t waste your time in the family court. You only have a limited amount of time to get your point across so make everything you do and say is relevant.

People often waste precious time, money and effort on stuff that won’t be relevant to their situation. Time, money and effort that would be better used in a focused manner.

4 ways to waste your time in the family court

1.) Submitting unprompted character references

Don't waste time in the family courtYou do not have to prove your innocence. Anyone who feels it is relevant needs to prove your `guilt’. Furthermore character references from family members, relatives, etc. are a complete waste of time unless the court has asked for them. And that is rare…

Think about it. Would you submit something to the court saying you are an awful person? From a loved one? Something that is going to damage your own case? Nope. And the court takes this as read.

2.) Labelling your ex

It doesn’t matter if your ex is a Narcissist. Or an awful parent. Neither is it relevant if he/she is a Parental Alienator.

Focus purely on the impact of your children of any inappropriate words or behaviour.

3.) Submitting irrelevant information to the court

Don’t dilute your own argument by talking about or sending the court information that has no bearing on the case. 238 pages of text message arguments doesn’t strengthen your position. It is more likely to hide relevant stuff among it all. It’ll likely make you look like an obsessive nutter too. Besides…bundles are restricted to 350 pages.

4.) Doing stuff because `it’s the principle’

Mountains of paperwork won't help in the family court unless it is relevantThis is the best way to get the judge/magistrates, the legal advisor, your ex’s representative and your ex to roll their eyes and mutter something obscene under their breath. The court isn’t there to deal with anything other than the best interests of your child.

It’s natural to feel like this of course.

But ask yourself when you do – `Does this matter? Is it in the best interests of my children? Am I making things harder with no tangible benefit?’ If the answer is `yes’ to any of these…think again.

Co-parenting with a hostile ex-partner can require patience!

4 Top Tips if you’re co-parenting with a hostile ex-partner

Co-parenting with a hostile ex-partner?

Co-parenting with a hostile ex can seem impossible.`Really?‘ I hear you say? You’ve got an ex who will tell anyone who listens that you are like Vlad the Impaler – minus the sensitivity and kindness. That you like nothing better than spending your evenings twisting heads off kittens.

Easy for us to say, isn’t it?

But…it’s possible. It may feel it is possible in the same way winning the jackpot of the National Lottery is possible but it can be done.

It just takes a little more work. With no further ado here is Family Law Assistance‘s guide to 4 things you can do that will help:

1.) Rely on your ex as little as possible.

It’s worth remembering you are as much a parent to your child as your ex is. So act like it. If your child is in nappies buy them. With nappy bags, wipes, changing mats, etc. If they’re older make sure they have their own clothes (not just ones your ex bought) and everything else they’ll have at home (i.e. your place as well as your ex’s). If you have PR deal with your children’s school, doctor, whatever directly. Don’t use using phrases like `My ex didn’t tell me’. It is your job – not your ex’s.

2.) Remain child-focused at all times.

You may feel you are put in impossible situations, your kids losing out as a result. But it’s important to understand you cannot control your ex and that he/she is responsible for his/her own actions. Your duty is to your children.

If you feel you are put in a probably familiar `damned if you, damned if you don’t’ situation ask yourself `What is best for the kids here?’

Co-parenting with a hostile ex-partner can require patience!3.) Don’t rise to the bait.

Don’t get into arguments. If you feel your ex is attempting to provoke you  that makes you want to let them know exactly what you think…don’t.

You’d be shocked how long an ill-chosen reaction can be dragged up in conversation, legal documents and court hearings.

4.) Take the long view.

We won’t pretend it’s easy, fair or logical. But at some point all this will be old history. You probably won’t care. Your kids almost certainly won’t. Maybe your ex will…but your children won’t be subject to the Children Act 1989 and whatever they say or do will have no impact on you and you’ll have moved on to happier times.

Co-parenting is possible even with a hostile ex.

In conclusion it is possible. It is hard. But it is possible.

50/50 shared care? Just part of the merry go round?

Why a presumption of 50/50 Shared Care is a waste of time.

…a story from the near future when there is a presumption of 50/50 Shared Care:

`…newly appointed President of the Family Division Sir James Holman has issued new Practice Guidance in relation to the quantum of time children spend with their separated parents. All courts have been advised that any parent wishing to depart from a routine that provides children with equal amounts of time with each parent will be required to demonstrate why this view is in line with the paramountcy principle. Fathers rights groups hailed this as a major step forward, whilst Women’s Aid…’

`Hello, Family Law Assistance – how can we help?’

50/50 shared care? Just part of the merry go round?`Hi there. I’m looking for advice. I separated from my ex 3 months ago. She won’t let me see the kids. I’ve told her that the law means they are meant to be with me for half the time but she won’t listen’.

`Have you tried mediation? It’s always best to try to avoid court and besides it’s a requirement if you are going to make an application.

Contact National Family Mediation and organise to meet them. You’ll attend a MIAM. If mediation doesn’t work you’ll need section 14 of the C100 signed and stamped in any case’.

`Already done that. I went to the MIAM’.

`How did it go?’

`She went to the first one but said she wouldn’t agree to anything more than the kids seeing me on alternate weekends and mid week contact. Because there’s 50/50 Shared Care now isn’t there? She didn’t listen and refused to go to another session’.

`You’re right. There is a presumption of 50/50 Shared Care now’.

50/50 Shared Care. Would it change anything?`OK thanks. She told me I had committed DV against her and abused the kids which is why she won’t agree to anything else. Will the court ignore that?’

`Allegations made will either be ignored, or you’ll be asked about them. Possibly order a Finding of Fact’.

`Will that slow things down? Will I get my kids half the time until then?’

`It’s unlikely at this stage. The court has an obligation to investigate allegations. Since the changes to Practice Direction 12J were made last year however contact may be difficult for the moment’.

`I was told that if the kids are with her and not seeing me it’ll make things harder for me to get 50/50 is that true?’

`The court has to work in the best interests of the child and if they’ve not seen you for a long time it may want to work on a schedule of increasing contact…’

Sound familar? How would a presumption of 50/50 work?

Christmas contact - don't risk an empty house.

The Season of Goodwill – Christmas Contact

Christmas contact if you have a hostile ex partner is…special. OK, OK – Christmas is meant to be special. But not in that way, eh?

Christmas contact - don't leave it too late to sort it out.If you’re not seeing your kids over Christmas it can be just about the worst time of year. A time of year you quite frankly want to see the back of. You want everyone to put away the tinsel, stop banging on about it being `for the kids’ or anything else to remind you that you’ve been thrown out of `the parents club’.

You want it gone. The New Year to start. And to get on with life.

If the above sounds scarily familiar or likely to occur you have time to do something about it.

But not long.

Deal with Christmas contact issues now

Along with the summer holidays we always get a rush of calls in December from parents who realise they’re not going to see their kids on or around the 25th. By the time they do…it’s too late. We can’t help. Nor can anyone else.

Christmas contact - don't risk an empty house.It’s because the the court staff are taking time off for the holidays…and spending time with their kids. And because other people have anticipated the very problems that we’re discussing here and have beaten you to it.

They are going to avoid the situation of being told by the ex there is going to be no Christmas contact and if you don’t like it you can take him/her to court for it….which in reality will be when you’re throwing out the left over turkey at best and after ringing in the New Year at worst. You’ll get a court date at some point in January to discuss you wish for Christmas contact – we’ve seen it happen.

It’ll be too late.

How to make sure Christmas contact happens

So assuming Christmas contact isn’t specified in order, you need to work on things now. The same applies if the ex tells you you’re not seeing the kids over this period or refuses to discuss it at all.

You’ll need a plan. Here it is:

  1. Contact a mediation service such as National Family Mediation ASAP. Today is a good day to do it.
  2. Complete a C100 form for a Specific Issues Order. You’ll be applying for contact over Christmas this year as well as order that provides for Christmas Contact for every year going forward.
  3. Hand deliver the forms and submit your fee. You can always chance your arm at an emergency ex parte hearing for the same later down but this is risky and you may well find yourself turned away being told you shouldn’t have left it too late (and it’d be a fair point…).

If you do nothing, nothing happens. It’ll be you sitting alone. Make sure that doesn’t happen.

Don’t hesitate people!

Allegations - don't make things harder for yourself.

Avoiding allegations in the Family Court

Allegations: If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about?

We’ve discussed allegations before. But they are a big part of the process in the Family Court so they are worth re-examining.

Allegations - don't make things harder for yourself.You’re not perfect and nor is anyone else. However if you are in the Family Court it is likely you will face allegations. Not even the man or lady behind the big desk is without fault – but they aren’t a party to proceedings. You are just an average man or woman doing their best albeit facing the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. You’ve made mistakes as you are only human.

It’s a sad truth that any mistakes you have made (and often are) magnified, illuminated and explored when it comes to Family Law proceedings.

There’s a sad inevitability here.

The court considers the best interests of the child. The court has to consider any factor that would affect this – including the behaviour and words of any party involved in the case. And considering these factors takes time and requires examination.

Avoid having to deal with unnecessary allegations

Allegations - mud slinging?It’s worth remembering too that there is seldom any sanction for making an allegation – but much to gain (if gain’ means the court making an order you like). Even if they turn out to be false. As the old saying goes `If you sling enough mud some may stick’.

As always, we’re big on personal responsibility here at Family Law Assistance Towers. Which means your ex is responsible for what he/she does or says. In the same way you are.

So in a nut shell: Don’t give the other party ammunition. You will likely have enough to deal with without making it harder for yourself.

The court won’t accept any extenuating circumstances for poor behaviour on your part. Reasons that won’t be accepted include:

  • He/she provoked you.
  • You were upset.
  • The ex needed to be shown what it felt like to be on the receiving end for once.
  • It was the drink/drugs.
  • You had no choice.

How to avoid allegations

Not sure what to do in any given situation? Easy. Avoid any unnecessary communication with the other party. Ask yourself at every turn `How would this look in court?’. Is this child-focused (if it’s a child matter)?

It’s as simple as that.

You cannot stop allegations being made against you. You don’t need to prove they didn’t happen. But you can control how you react.

Learn how to represent yourself in the Family Court

Ready to empower yourself in the Family Court?

Family Court hearings are not to be feared.Join us in our new Facebook support group to learn how to represent yourself in the Family Court today!

Great news: You can represent yourself in court and do a great job too.

Even better is that you will be empowered. You’ll be the one in the driving seat. You won’t be passive, sitting in the background while someone who doesn’t know you, your situation or your children speaks about you as if you aren’t there and leaves you wondering what is going on.

You will be playing a full role every step of the way.

The Family Court is not to be feared.

Steven and Michaela, here to help in the Family Court.

Especially if you know what’s going on. And you will. Because we’ll help you. You’ll know who is who. What is going on, what your options and the best way to make the most favourable outcome as likely as possible.

Join us today and learn how to take control!

 

A rose by any other name...as a litigant in person make sure you know what your statement is for,

Litigant in Person FAQ – putting together a position statement

As a litigant in person there is a lot to learn. Those choosing to represent themselves tend to do for 2 reasons – they either don’t trust anyone else to represent them in court or they are unprepared to pay the fees of a legal professional. Or both.

Either way, if you are a litigant in person you need to ensure that you learn quickly. Representing yourself and facing a solicitor representing the other party isn’t a level playing field and you need to do what you can to address this.

Of course, we’d suggest you use a McKenzie Friend

We also strongly suggest you put together a position statement, especially for non substantive hearings (i.e. the ones that tend to last more than an hour or two – Finding of Fact hearings, Final Hearings, etc.).

Litigant in Person 101 – Why a `Position Statement’?

A rose by any other name...as a litigant in person make sure you know what your statement is for,Firstly, don’t get hung up on what it is called. They are normally called a position statement but we’ve heard them described in various ways over the years. A rose by any other name and all that – it is what it does rather than what is is that is important.

The clue is in the title however.

It is a statement detailing your position. How you see things. It contains in a nutshell everything you would like the court to know. Nothing more. If you were to walk into a hearing and not say a word your position statement should be able to do the talking for you. Which is particularly useful as many litigants in person feel they do not get an opportunity to express their views.

However the court’s attitude to your position statement can be unpredictable

The reception your position statement will receive can vary dramatically. The response you can receive can range from being thanked by the court for providing it and making it clear how you see things all the way to it being handed back to you and being told you didn’t have the leave of the court, not to do it again and an order that says the same.

We tend to find they are received positively rather than negatively, but like many things in court there are no guarantees here.

On balance however we’d suggest they may be a good thing particularly if you insist on attending court alone (which as we repeatedly say is usually a very bad idea).

Litigant in Person 102 – How to write a position statement

Golden rules:

  1. Firstly, no more than 2 pages. Ever. Unless you seriously, seriously believe it merits it (and believe us – everyone does believe this). We’ve managed to help boil 15-page statements down to 2 without difficulty.
  2. Make sure the case number is on the top, as well as the names of the parties involved and which court your case is being heard at.
  3. Number your paragraphs.
  4. Do not use legalese. Using words like `pursuant’, `hereafter’ and `forthwith’ will at best confuse the issue and at worst leave everyone who reads it thinking you sound like Rumpole of the Bailey.
  5. Three sections. Background. Concerns. Order sought. The first section is a brief history. Dates. The second is why you are in court – what the problems are. The third and final section is what you would like the court to do about it – what order you would like it to make. On this last point it needs to be stuff that the court can actually order – things like making your ex behave like a `reasonable human being’ or forcing them to go to mediation can’t and won’t be ordered. If it’s contact be precise. `Some contact’ won’t cut it – `Contact on every other weekend, collection from school on Fridays and return there the following Monday’ will. Be unambiguous.
  6. Write everything with the best interests of the child and the Welfare Checklist in mind. Nothing more.
  7. Do not write anything but fact. Opinion doesn’t count. Write facts only and you give other parties less to dispute.

Litigant in Person 103 – What to do with the Position Statement

Make multiple copies. More than you think you’ll need is always helpful. You’ll need one. As will the other party. The CAFCASS officer or Social Worker would benefit from a copy too. The court will need to see it too – 1 for a judge, 3 for magistrates. For good measure take a couple of spares. That makes 8 at least.

As a litigant in person you will prepare your own documentsPhotocopying is often possible in court, but is also often expensive. £15 for the first sheet isn’t unheard of. Do not collect copies on the way to court either. We’ve lost count of the number of people who have turned up late because they have swung by the print shop on the way to the hearing.

You’ll be stressed enough on the day so get this out of the way the night before.

When you arrive at court (an hour before the hearing of course) find an usher. Ask them if they’ll pass it to the court. Find the other party’s solicitor and hand them a copy too. The same applies to the CAFCASS Officer or Social Worker if you can find them.

Litigant in Person 104 – What happens next?

In an ideal world the position statement will be seen by the court before you walk in. How you see things before you say a word should be clear to everyone involved.

You may be asked to clarify the things your statement says which is why it is important to be unambiguous as much as possible because doing so will only ensure your view is stronger than it would be otherwise.

Finally – anyone who assists you in putting together a position statement or other paperwork should be prepared to attend the hearing with you. Position statements can be very useful. But as we’ve said before, things can and do change dramatically at hearings; don’t get left high and dry by someone who puts it together with you but isn’t on hand when you are being asked all about it.

Non resident mums are becoming more common

MATCH Mothers – helping non resident mums

There are significant numbers of non resident mothers as well as fathers. In the first of a series of guest blogs by people involved in the Family Law is an article written by Rosalind Barton, Secretary of MATCH Mothers. This charity offers non-judgemental support and information to mothers apart from their children in a wide variety of circumstances, assisting those whose children who do not see them at all, to those who are in shared parenting arrangements.

Non resident mothers are fewer than their male counterparts but are becoming more common. They face the same issues that any other non resident parent experience, albeit with sometimes additional ones as a result of the different expectations of mothers and fathers in society…

MATCH Mothers – helping non resident mums

As a young lady I began a difficult stage of my life as I faced divorce from not only my husband but a divorce from my 3 beautiful young children. In the 2001 I began a 3 year court battle for the residency of my children. I turned to MATCH Mothers for support and the strength I had was enhanced by this national charity.

Non resident mums are becoming more commonFortunately I had obtained Legal Aid and found an amazing barrister to see me through the legal minefield. The largest obstacle for me seeing the children was my health. I have Multiple Sclerosis. The judge who oversaw the 3 year case admitted he knew nothing about the condition. My barrister asked if professionals who knew me could be brought in to court. My consultant from Poole and a psychiatrist from Brighton were accepted and the fight began.

An uncertain future

According to the professionals I had a limited future and would not be strong enough for my 3 children. The judge did not ask my views on this; he just accepted the professionals’ views. This was a disaster for my children – particularly when they were moved from Winchester to Halifax by their father.

I began a new diet and exercise programme to maintain my health; with MATCH Mothers’ mental support  I was strengthened and able to maintain alternate weekend visits, 6.5 hours’ drive each way. Sadly my eldest son never spent time with me without explanation.

It was time to return to court.

Returning to court

A final court hearing in Bournemouth brought to head the hostility I had faced, culminating in me being told by our son’s other parent that nothing would change and our eldest son would still not spend time with me.

But around the age of 16 years he found the confidence to phone me and at last we began a (secret) mother/son relationship.

I moved on with my life and gained a psychology degree with the Open University and began and working with autistic children. Sadly this job ended this year. But with a lottery grant MATCH Mothers opened a free phone line to help and support mothers apart from their children. I also began a job as the Project Worker for matchmothers.org as well as acting as secretary.

Non resident mums face the same problems as dadsMATCH Mothers knows that there are many more mums struggling to cope with separation from their children and from many situations besides divorce.

Our aim is to reach and help each of them throughout the UK. Our charity will be celebrating its 40 year anniversary in 2019. Beginning in London by an English mum separated by miles as her children were taken to the USA by her ex-husband.

As with my own situation and many others there is reconciliation. The positives and rewards that can happen are our motivation to have this necessary charity.

A MATCH mother now living in Australia moved away from her daughter at the age of 3, the ex-husband had residency but no communication with the mum existed as the child grew up. With our support and recommendations to always keep communication open, never affected by the distance, the mother sent a letter every month to her daughter and kept phone contact open though never used.

At the age of 18 her daughter phoned the Mum and 48 hours later the excited mother flew back to the UK. She spent 10 days with her daughter and now her daughter lives in Australia with her.

Myself I don’t have residency with my 3 children but I do have open contact and the ability to talk with my children at any point of time.

Alienation

An issue which we deal with in 98% of cases is parental alienation. This occurs when the residential parent stops the non-residential parent seeing their child/children by alleged negativity and destruction.

In other words abuse.

We aim to keep up to date with this issue and attend the government’s debates on this and the legal profession’s acceptance or ignorance to this form of manipulation.

On the 27th June 2012 I attended a PA parliamentary meeting in the House of Commons for Mr Nick Child, A family therapist and expert in Parental Alienation, and three senior Family Court were present. Unfortunately little or no progress developed from this meeting.

Reconciliation

I had a difficult case; I was concerned my eldest son’s father had been painting a bad picture of me as a mother. However on that first meeting with my son, aged 17 years old I found out the truth. We went to dinner in a fancy restaurant and while sitting across the table my son said ‘I’m sorry’.

‘For what?’ I asked.

I then was told how he had been treated. Every time he was naughty, ranging from forgotten homework to kicking a football through a window he was told the same thing:

‘That’s another year you won’t see your Mum.’

12 years in total. How I still had dry eyes I will never know. I immediately told him it was not his fault, all boys are naughty at some time.

I am a mum and very proud to be the secretary of MATCH Mothers. I can tell all these mothers apart how special they are too. I am very proud of their aims and their achievements.

A McKenzie Friend is just a link in the chain

Don’t waste your money on a McKenzie Friend

It can be pointless using a McKenzie Friend

What’s the point of a McKenzie Friend? I know what you’re thinking here. I’m doing the old `Tell them to do the opposite of what you actually want them to do’ shtick aren’t I?

But think about it. There are plenty of good reasons why you shouldn’t get in touch with us. Or any other McKenzie Friend for that matter. Or a solicitor but that’s explained below. for

We come in all shapes and sizes. Some of us are jacks-of-all-trades. There are those who specialise in certain areas. Some are legally qualified, some aren’t. Others are stunningly charismatic, charming and intelligent like your truly along with the other intellectual giants who are part of Family Law Assistance. Or not.

You get the picture.

But regardless of who you choose to assist you (if at all) there’s one constant in your court case.

A McKenzie Friend doesn’t run your case. You do.

Actually…that’s also true if you are paying a solicitor in excess of £250 an hour . It’s your case. Your kids, money and life. You get to live with whatever decision the man or lady behind the big desk makes. We will become ancient history very quickly while you deal with it year in, year out.

Of course, this means you are free to take whatever advice you like…or ignore it at any point. But ask yourself this: If you’re paying for advice and doing nothing with it, it may be worth you saving your money.

Any McKenzie Friend who assists you is only one member of the team,  only part of the chain

A McKenzie Friend is just a link in the chainAs the old proverb goes – a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

Make sure it isn’t you.

If it is, legal qualifications, experience, leg work or anything else will make no difference to your case.

So with no further ado here are…

4 ways to waste money on a McKenzie Friend

Make sure you are unavailable for as much time as possible. Vanish at crucial points during your case. Send an urgent message to your McKenzie Friend and do the communication equivalent of being the victim of an alien abduction being taken to the Andromeda galaxy. If you have a court deadline submit a document in 4 weeks, vanish until 11pm the night before and then ask for urgent assistance before 8am the next day to impress on us the urgency of the situation.

Listen to advice and then ignore it. OK…you’ve got us. We can offer advice and you can ignore it. The same is true if we were a big money solicitor who is charging you several times what we currently. Of course Practice Guidance clearly states we are to offer assistance only. But ask yourself this: `If I disagree with so much of the advice I am given would I be better off not paying a McKenzie Friend at all?’

We’re not precious nor offended if you ignore what we say. It’s your case but we would agree with anyone who arrives at this conclusion.

And another two!

Don’t be honest with your McKenzie Friend. Don’t tell them anything that portrays you in a bad light, even if it has the potential of changing the trajectory of your case. Omit to mention convictions of any kind. Remain silent about allegations you have faced. Ignore looming criminal case. What are the chances that the other party that has been hostile enough towards you to make a court case a sad inevitability will bring it up in court to delay or prevent progress?

Inconceivable!

It doesn’t matter that a little foreknowledge could have potentially avoided these issues.

Choose your McKenzie Friend and then argue about their fees at every opportunity. There are an ever-increasing number of McKenzie Friend out there. Some of them are free. Some of them work for expenses only. Some of them charge varying rates.

You can use anyone you like.

Don’t worry about that though. Choose who you need to help you and then query everything. Even if you are clear about what is being charged and you are in a position to tell the McKenzie Friend in front of you to take a hike before a penny has changed hands.

Your McKenzie Friend wants you to do well

Most McKenzie Friends including us want a great result for you. Many of us began their work as a result of personal experience. We want to help others in the same situation. To ensure you avoid the pitfalls, delays and heartache that comes with being involved in a court case.

Besides, many of us have professional pride and it doesn’t look good if everyone we help ends up with a terrible result does it?

As always…focus. Be clear about what you want. And if you use a McKenzie Friend either listen to them or fire them and save your money.

An appeal has a number of hurdles

How do I appeal?

A better question to start with is almost always `Should I appeal?’

An appeal has a number of hurdlesIt’s entirely natural to wonder what options are open to you if a court orders something you don’t like and/or want. Particularly when you have just walked out of a hearing and the adrenaline is still pumping through your veins.

So asking the court to come up with a different decision is understandable.

But let’s be clear.

An appeal isn’t a legal way of saying to the court `Can you make a different decision cos I don’t like the one you’ve already made?’

Appeals are not a second bite of the cherry.

There is a very easy initial way of seeing if you should make an application to do so: If your first question is Can we appeal?’ and not `We should appeal because of XYZ?’ you are already on shaky ground.

Even in many situations when an appeal would succeed it’s not worth doing so. These include scenarios including:

  1. The court agreeing that the court that made the order was wrong but that it would have made the same decision anyway (this happens).
  2. When there is an ongoing case and your appeal is liable to adversely affect it (such as slowing it down).
  3. If there are other options.

But I also want to point out that there are times where you should absolutely think about appealing. Carry on reading for this!

Appeals are deliberately hard. Namely because if they weren’t it’d encourage anyone who didn’t like an order to nip down to the court office after the hearing to put the forms in. And because of this they almost always fail.

So when DO I appeal?

`Grounds for appeal’ is the operative phrase here. What are your reasons for appealing in the first place? As I’ve said too many times now not liking an order is not a reason. If you have boxticked the above then you are ready to move on to the next step.

An appeal takes work

A castle wall and an appeal are both deliberately difficult to overcomeMany litigants in person seem to think that submitting the right form to the court (that’s a N161 or a FP161 if it’s going to the High Court) is all that is needed. Put the form in. Convince the judge to make a different decision. Job done.

It’s not like that. Part 30 of the Family Procedure Rules explains what is needed.

Along with the right form (above) and sending it to the right court you’ll need:

  1. A Practice Direction 27A compliant bundle.
  2. Your grounds for appeal. Which can be that:
    1. The court has erred in law.
    2. The decision is outside the range of reasonable disagreement and is therefore manifestly wrong.
    3. There was a serious procedural or other irregularity thar renders the decision unjust.

Errors in law include the court:

  1. Not correctly applying statutory tests in the relevant Act.
  2. Failing to take account of relevant factors, or further or alternatively to have regard to irrelevant factors.
  3. Omitting to give proper reasons.

These grounds need to be set out in your skeleton argument, along with case law to support them.

The next step for an appeal

Once you have submitted these to the court (with your fee of course…) you will either receive a date of a hearing to discuss the appeal or a rejection of it; if you have just filled in the N161 or FP161 it may well be the thanks but no thanks letter.

Otherwise it’ll be time to explain to the court why your appeal has merit. This hearing is not an opportunity to discuss what order you would like the court to make with regarding to contact, residence, adoption, etc. The court can’t and won’t do it at this hearing.

You’re there purely to convince the court why it was wrong to make the order it did. If the court agrees you have a point there will be another hearing (effectively a trial to establish if your appeal does have merit).

All going well a subsequent hearing will address the matter in hand.

Even if you are right sometimes it isn’t worth making an appeal

There are a few great reasons why even if you categorically know you are right and would definitely win an appeal it still isn’t worth doing so.

For example…you could be told by the appeal court that there was a serious procedural error made by the court – but the same decision would have been made even so. Or that you weren’t give reasons for the decisions (judgements are read out to ensure this box is ticked) – but again the same decision would have been made.

It could be that by the time your cast-iron case for an appeal is made there has been a subsequent hearing and whatever it is you are unhappy about has been rendered meaningless. Or that it merely demonstrates the vexatious nature the other party is alleging you have is correct.

As always, look at the big picture here – it is the end result that counts and not what happens along the way.

But don’t be under any illusions that appeals are easy or just another chance to get what you want. They’re not.

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