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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Except it doesn’t work like that.

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

The Family Court wants one thing

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

So what does this mean to you? Something simple:

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

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

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

5 things we’re always asked

McKenzie Friends: What we’re always asked.

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

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

Can you represent me?

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

As that link says:

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

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

Are you solicitors?

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

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

Can you give me legal advice?

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

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

It’s really as simple as that.

Can you come to court with me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wrap up

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

Live, Thrive and Survive in the Family Courts

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

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

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

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

A fresh start

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

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

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

Join us!

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

Among others we’ll be covering:

Tickets are on sale now here.

See you there!

You are always a dad. Happy Father’s Day

No, really. You are always a dad.

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

You. Are. A. Dad.

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

Father’s Day alone.

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

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

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

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

Happy Father’s Day whatever your situation.

Ask Us Anything! (25th May 2018)

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

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

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

 

You have the power!

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

Mindset is everything!

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

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

The little things count here, OK?

You have power over your mindset

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

The right mindset is powerful

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

Anyone? Bueller?

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

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

Your call.

Pontypridd Court – a visitor’s guide

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

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

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

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

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

Pontypridd Family Court Guide

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

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

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

Give a dog a bad name?

Separated Parents and Second Class Parent – why language is important

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t fall into this trap

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

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

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

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

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…