How do I represent myself? Confidence is a good start!

How do I represent myself in court? How to do it in 2018

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”

How do I represent myself? Confidence is a good start!

2018 – New Year, new you? Or the same old issues you feel chained to for many years to come?

It’s easy to feel powerless when you are involved in the family or other civil courts. Easy to feel a hostile ex partner pulls your strings, casts a shadow and dominates your day-to-day life.

It doesn’t have to be like that.

Ask yourself `If I represent myself in court how would that help?’

Some good answers here:

  • Because you can.
  • You’ll empower yourself.
  • You will be stronger and more confident after doing so.
  • No one knows the case quite like you.
  • Or cares.

Oh…and you’ll save a lot of cash too. If that sort of thing interests you.

It’s normal to think your situation is unique. That your ex is doing new and inventive ways to break court orders and that he/she will continue to do so until Doomsday without any consequence.

But the truth is that nothing is new under the sun. Whatever your position someone has gone through it before and learned whether their response to it has worked or not.

You can learn too: Is what you’re doing working? Has it made things better? Worse? Or made no difference?

Represent myself? Some basics.

Represent myself? You can do it - but it's a marathon not a sprint.Put aside your feelings. Yes, I know it’s a bit Zen…in many cases we’re talking about your children here aren’t we? But if you are the sort of person who would do anything for your kids would that include keeping your mouth shut at the optimal time, focusing about your goals, being realistic about what you can achieve or not lashing out at anyone who is nearby and being patient?

You have way more power than you could ever imagine. And you are defeated only when you give up.

So make 2018 a year things change. Take control of your life. Take control of your own actions and know you cannot change anyone else. The information is out there.

It’s yours to lose. What you going to do different this year?

Unless you have Doc Brown as a friend `child custody' will never mean anything.

A very good reason why you shouldn’t ask for Child Custody

If you are going to be dealing with the family courts make sure you don’t ask for child custody. There’s a good reason for this.

`Child Custody’ has no legal meaning in England & Wales

In fact it has had no meaning at all since 1989 when the Children Act became law. That’s when the Berlin Wall came down, the first GPS satellite was launched and Back to the Future II was released. Great Scott!

`Child custody' went out in the same year the Berlin Wall did.So walking into a court and asking for Child Custody is on a par with trying to book a Pan Am flight to take you to East Berlin. At best you’ll get strange looks and told there is no such thing. At worst you’ll be sent away with nothing.

It’s no surprise though. The term is used elsewhere. But not in England and Wales.

Using the term `Child Custody’ is vague too. What does it mean? Does it mean whoever gets it doesn’t have to let the kids see the other parents at all? Or stay overnights? Or is able to call the police and get them back at any point (you can’t do that with modern orders by the way).

You can hardly blame the court if you aren’t clear about what it is you want. You’ll likely be asked as a litigant in person but you’ll also probably get something you didn’t expect and don’t really want.

Be clear about what it is you want and what the court can and can’t do.

Unless you have Doc Brown as a friend `child custody' will never mean anything.Don’t ask for something the court can’t order. If you want `residence’ (another term that no longer has a legal meaning but is snappier than describing who the children live with’) know what it means. Hint. It has nothing to do with how long your kids are with you and the ex.

If you want contact (again…a redundant term but like `residence’ still understood by the court) make it clear. And understand that the two are independent of each other. And complicated by the fact that being a resident or non resident parent again has no bearing on either of the previous too…

So be clear what is you want. Make sure you know what terms to use and not to use. If you don’t and you don’t like the result it’ll be no surprise if the unexpected happens.

The Family Law Assistance Advent Calendar. Learn how to represent yourself with our video guides!

Represent yourself – the Family Law Assistance Advent Calender

Represent yourself in court. Speak to some and there will be a sharp intake of breath and a suggestion that doing so is like doing DIY brain surgery or trying to launch yourself to the Moon in something you knocked up in the garden shed. Experts and our learn’d friends will counsel you not to do so and to seek the assistance of a professional.

The Family Law Assistance Advent Calendar. Learn how to represent yourself with our video guides!And yet plenty of people do it and do a good job too. This includes some of our team members. As well as our clients of course.

It isn’t impossible to represent yourself.

Neither does it have to be hard. It can be. Some cases can be tricky. Or the stakes are higher than some. Parental alienation. Leave to Remove. That sort of thing. That said…we help enough people to know that’s also more than possible.

It’s also a myth that people representing themselves do so as a `last chance saloon’ – that they can’t afford a solicitor or barrister so they have the tempting option of either doing it themselves or walking away from something they can’t walk away from. Many do so because they feel that no one knows their case like they do or cares as much and they’re right.

Learn how to represent yourself with our video guides

With this all in mind Michaela Wade will be posting a video each day – maybe a minute or so with the nuts and bolts on what to do, what not to do and how to do it when you are representing yourself.

She’s doing it from Facebook live from our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/familylawassistance. The first one starts on the 1st December – that’s this Sunday. Look forward to seeing you there!

Represent yourself with our help

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!

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.

Court - nothing like Game of Thrones

4 things that never happen in court

In some court some thing never happen…

…but you’re in your own little world. It’s 3am. You’re snuggled up in bed after a particularly hard day and along with the dreams about fabulous wealth, world domination and other things we’re much too polite to discuss here at Family Law Assistance Towers. Before long your subconsciousness gives you nudge in the direction of the legal process you find yourself in…

4 things that (may) happen in your dreams but almost certainly won’t happen in court.

Your 30 minute 10am hearing finishes 10.30am

Court - nothing like Game of ThronesYou get to the court, having parked just outside in glorious sunshine just a few steps from the front door. Even better, it’s free! You don’t need to take a book, avail yourself of the wonderful coffee (it is a dream, remember!) and you have a lovely chat with the smiling and helpful court staff who welcome you like an old friend as you enter through the doors…

You get the ex’s solicitor to admit their client is a dick

A king (or queen) among men (or women), your ex’s legal representative greets you with a cheery smile and wave, telling you how nice it is to see you. How much weight you have lost. How much they love your outfit. They’re almost apologetic that you’ve taken time from your busy schedule to be in court instead of where ever you would rather be.

After this, they lean forward and tell you conspiratorially that while their client, your ex, has refused to agree to anything they can only express their sincere apologies because your ex is an unintelligent, selfish liar that they despise intensely.

During cross the examination the ex, the judge, CAFCASS or social worker admits it’s all their fault and/or a huge conspiracy against you.

Rumpole has nothing on you! It’s like knocking down skittles today isn’t it? Your questions are incisive, intelligent and utterly logical. The tissue of lies in front of you falls away like, erm, tissue. Stunned by your cross examination the poor sap on the stand is forced to admit their many character faults and incriminates themselves further whilst reeling from your verbal assault. Even the judge is open mouthed in shock and blurts out `You should be a barrister!’

You are going to remember this day for many, many years. And so will you. Chances are it’s going to bring down the whole rotten system. You’re going to end up on Love Island. Newsnight and before a House of Commons Select Committee to assist in reforming the whole Family Law system.

The court tells your ex it is entirely their fault and that you are as pure as the driven snow.

The Family Court isn't the criminal courtBut before that the court is going to rip your ex a new one. If the judge had a gavel he or she would most certainly be banging it to keep the assembled crowd that should be watching proceedings to keep quiet. When silence and decorum are restored he’d likely put on his/her black cap to pronounce his/her sentence of death read out the judgement.

Your ex stands in the dock, their head bowed in shame before they are put in stocks to have rotten tomatoes thrown at them. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan they’d be walking through Kings Landing with a nun walking behind them intoning `Shame!’ and ringing a bell from time to time.

Courts don’t work like this

See, we’re big on focus here. None of the above is realistic is it? If you’re out to crusade, punish or control a case you are a hiding to nothing. It doesn’t matter how strong, intelligent, tough or determined you are.

The courts are designed to work with awkward people. If that’s the box you get put in, you will lose.

Of course, you’ll meet the guy who never played the court’s game…and has no contact. Or the woman who was stitched up…but is almost certainly not telling you the whole story. Or the lucky beggar who was before a judge who woke up in a particularly good mood, liked the look of his/her face and decided to thrown caution to the wind.

But don’t rely on anything other than hard work. I’d say Hope for the best and plan for the worst’ but even that isn’t exactly decent advice. It’s less snappy to say `Plan for the worst and do everything you can to get the right result’ but it’s probably more accurate – because hoping implies you are powerless and as we’ve said before, that is far from the truth.

Good luck. Be strong, be determined, but be realistic.

Court - it is seldom over until you give up

How to defeat your worst enemy in court

It is easy to defeat your worst enemy in court.

They are the one person who can make you give up. They’ll make you look like an idiot. They’ll second guess you and make you look like a fool. Finally they will completely blow any chance of getting anything like the result you would like.

You already know who this person is. Because you see them every time you look in a mirror. Yes folks…it’s you.

You are your own worst enemy in court

Court - it is seldom over until you give upI don’t want to come over all…metaphysical here. You are responsible for your actions. No one else. Yes, yes, yes. I can hear the protests now. You’re discriminated against. Your ex has made allegations that make you look like Vlad the Impaler’s less pleasant brother or sister. The court is a huge money-making conspiracy out to grind you into the dirt. I’m blaming you for the situation you are in. You were left with no option.

Not true.

You decide what to say. You decide what to do. You decide to give up. Or not. No one else. This is stunningly good news. It means you are are in far more control than you ever, ever managed.

It means you are in control ultimately.

If you decide to walk away it’s because you have chosen to. The same goes if you have given your ex, the CAFCASS officer, the judge or the security guard who scans you for metal objects your considered opinion. A 91(14) doesn’t have to stop you. Neither does a final order. Or bad behaviour in the past – if you have addressed it.

If you ex has painted you as an aggressive nutter and you kick off in court you have proven their point. If you walk away and you think that is what the ex wants, they have `won’ (at this point the more high-minded among you will put your hands together in supplication, gaze heavenward and utter softly that it is not about winning or losing…it’s about the kids. You know what I mean).

The court won’t say `He/she walked away because he/she had no choice’. It won’t even give the matter any consideration. It will close the case, probably give your ex everything they want or decide you were happy with things as they are.

So if you aren’t happy with it why are you walking away?

Walk away from court and guarantee your failure.

Court - where there is life, there is hopeWe know how hard it is. Even if you take the attitude you have a 99% of chance of not getting the outcome you want you have a 100% chance of the same outcome by giving up.

But back to the positivity for a change.

There’s a wider point here isn’t there? You’re doing what you’re doing because you believe it is in the best interests of your children. And that being the case walking away most definitely isn’t.

Maybe when it is all over you won’t get the result you set out. Maybe you’ll get one you can live with, maybe you’ll get one you can’t, maybe you’ll get one that will keep you up for nights in years to come.

But if you don’t give up, you’ll be able to look yourself in the eye in that mirror and be able to say to yourself (and anyone else who will listen) `I did my best and I didn’t give up. I did what I did for the best reasons’.

No one can give that to you or take it from you can they?

Wise monkeys - abuse allegations are a serious business

What is abuse?

Abuse allegations are extremely common in the Family Court.

But what is `abuse’? It’s a good question but the answer isn’t a simple one. It depends on your viewpoint, context and the situation you’re facing. For some people the identity of who is doing what changes things too.

In many ways it is a deeply subjective matter. However:

Allegations of abuse are common in the Family Court

You’ll probably know this already if you have been a party in a case. In terms of Children Act proceedings courts are obliged to investigate allegations of abuse – the best interests of the child being paramount. And it’s a fair point: If you were a judge do you fear more being criticised for delaying things to investigate allegations…or being effectively responsible for effectively allowing severe abuse of a child (or even adult) to take place.

Allegations are also common when it comes to finance hearings (under the Matrimonial Causes Act) despite behaviour rarely being a factor that affects a court-determined outcome. Section 25 (which lists factors the court considers) states:

the conduct of each of the parties, if that conduct is such that it would in the opinion of the court be inequitable to disregard it;

…in other words – only in extreme circumstances. The landmark case is

And finally when it comes to divorce itself if the grounds used are unreasonable behaviour (by the far most common one) abuse is covered by the words

that the respondent has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent;

Abuse allegations - legal finger pointing?The point here is that among the legitimate reasons to mention abuse (such as they actually happened) there are clear tactical advantages to make allegations.

I want to point out that for victims who have experienced domestic abuse this can be a very traumatic time. You probably have just found your voice for the first time and want to keep you and your children safe.

Whether they are true or not is an entirely different discussion (and what Finding of Facts are for) but they very often impact how a case plays out in the arenas mentioned above. Even in areas of law where they rarely count as a factor it is innate human nature to magnify and elaborate on any dissent because it is purely human nature to believe that inappropriate behaviour should be punished in some way.

Why are abuse allegations common?

If you asked the more cynical among us they’d likely say it to be a low risk, high potential gain strategy: There is almost never penalty if allegations are comprehensively proven to be false. It may sway a court. It may help obtain a Legal Aid-funded solicitor and/or barrister. It’ll delay proceedings in a child contact case. It’ll provide moral justification for preventing contact. It’ll help fire with fire. And so on…

From the opposite perspective? It’s because abuse is so common. Because abuse is much more common when relationships end. Because abusers allege abuser to attempt to control their victim. Because it muddies the waters when working out who is the victim and who is the perpetrator. Because it is revenge.

What does the court think of abuse allegations?

Once again, put yourself in the shoes of the judge. Almost every case you hear involves allegations of abuse. You understand the whole human nature thing. You’re dealing with people who are upset, angry and doing everything to make sure they get the majority of the money/kids/sympathy/whatever. In many situations you’ll think it has no bearing; but you have to investigate it if it comes to kids.

You may ignore the allegations entirely. You may ask the accused man/woman their side of things. You may, if you consider there is any mileage in the allegations to order a Finding of Fact (or consider it a relevant factor when it comes to finance or divorce).

How to react when you are accused of abuse?

In a word: Don’t.

Wise monkeys - abuse allegations are a serious business

Other than to say I refute the `allegations’ (we’ve been here before) if you believe them to be false there is nothing more to say on the factor. The court is there to decide if they are true or a factor in the matter before it – you’re not. And this follows the same broad `Innocent until proven guilty’ principle. Furiously denying everything at every point while understandable will make you lose your focus at the same time it makes you look…dodgy.

Being in the court process can be painful. Facing allegations of abuse are common and you should take some comfort that many others in a court case also face allegations they find hurtful and insulting. It needs to be understood that courts see them day in and day out too – and they seldom have any long term impact on the outcome of what is happening.

As always…stay focused.

4 more myths about the Family Courts

Myths. In our experience people tend to believe a lot of things that aren’t true, don’t help them and costs them time and money. It’s all part of the warp and weft of being a litigant in person.

Myths may be great stories but they won't help you in courtOf course, if you have a solicitor you should avoid these problems. As they know the law (hopefully) they will tell you what is possible, what isn’t and how what you want fits in with how the law and the way the actual day to day stuff works.

As a litigant in person you don’t have this luxury however.

If you’re not using one of our stunningly talented, good looking and charismatic team members it’s down to you to read, learn and understand. The law isn’t written for you to understand. It’s written for our learn’d friends with legal qualifications, apprenticeships and time spent as a trainee.

There are many, many things to misunderstand in the legal system. Lots apparently small and insignificant stuff that can change the entire complexion and trajectory of what happens.

Another 4 myths  worth remembering…

No. 1 – Changing the names of children by deed poll doesn’t count for much.

Sorry. If you’ve spent a few hundred on one for your child in the hope you can change your mind…you’ve been done. At this point I’ll usually be told (by someone who has wasted their money on a deed poll that they aren’t a waste of paper, ink and gold lettering). It’s worth remembering surnames are considered by the court to be more important than the first name however.

Think about it for a moment. The Children Act says:

(1)Where a [child arrangements order to which subsection (4) applies] is in force with respect to a child, no person may—

(a)cause the child to be known by a new surname;

…because a piece of paper that hasn’t been issued by the court doesn’t count.

And neither does any number of schools, doctors, dentists or whoever that will happily accept it – they don’t know the law. Simple as that.

If you have a deed poll for your kid is it of any use at all?

Partially. So you already have a deedpoll with the name of your choice. When it comes to getting a passport with this name you’ll need to send the deedpoll and a letter from everyone else who has PR saying they agree with this to the Passport Agency and it’ll all be good.

If you want to a change a name otherwise you’ll need either the agreement of everyone else with PR or a court order (a C100 for a Specific Issues Order).

There’s no other way round it.

No. 2 – Money and contact are linked.

One of the myths is that money and contact are linkedOh no they’re not! Kids are not pay per view. We’ve heard people linking money and contact repeatedly but that’s a sure fire way of making yourself look…bad `You can see the kids when you pay me!’ isn’t exactly a child-focused thing to say.

Contact is either in the best interests of the child or it isn’t. Contributing towards the financial support of a child is (somewhat unsurprisingly) always seen as a good thing. Which is why a primary carer who refuses to accept money from the other parent, refuses to hand bank account details, etc. isn’t acting in the best interests.

It’s the whole reason there agencies to handle maintenance to replace the court hearings that used to deal with it.

Of course, it doesn’t stop people doing all of the above or shouting about it in court.

It’s a scenario many people are familiar with – blackening the character of the other party in court. It is argued that a parent who doesn’t contribute or refuses to accept cash from the other parent is just showing another way they’re not thinking of the children.

It’s not unheard of by a court to be interested in this and to sometimes draw inferences, but to be blunt…they shouldn’t.

No 3 – It can all be sorted out in the first hearing.

OK, you got me. It can be. It is entirely possible to get to a hearing and for an agreement to be made that resolves the entire issue, the court agreeing that this can happen.

But I am guessing it is unlikely to happen.

What is more typical is that a primary carer will stick to their guns and offer no contact at all or at most in a contact centre. If there is no agreement the court will most likely say it cannot make an order without this – it can…but it won’t and you aren’t going to convince them.

So manage your expectations, do your homework and work on everything you can to make sure you are fully prepared for things further down the line.

No.4 – It’s a good thing if your ex doesn’t have a solicitor.

…or if you can get his/her solicitor removed if they are funded by Legal Aid.

In most cases we’d say `No it isn’t’.

Because while it is undoubtedly true that your ex’s solicitor represents their position it is also a fact that he/she really, really doesn’t want to say to a judge something like `Yes – my client is denying contact, has no child-focused reason to do so and is doing it merely to punish their ex partner‘ – defending the indefensible is never much fun. A good solicitor will advise their client when they are doing something that isn’t going to help their case and often lean on them to be more reasonable (OK…appear to be more reasonable). Pay close attention while you are in court and you may sometimes hear a barrister or solicitor being very pointed with a client suggesting in the nicest possible way that they’re about to be torn off a strip in court. Sometimes there is…shouting. I’ve heard it.

Now imagine your ex, alone.

He/she will agree to nothing. Will make allegations at random intervals…which will hold up any progression while they are dealt with. Will slow things down by producing irrelevant and confusing information.

In short, stuff you’d never hear about if your ex had assistance. I’m not saying your ex’s solicitor is your best friend – it’s fairer to consider them a double edged sword where you are concerned. Your first question should be `Would my ex having a solicitor cause me more help than harm?’ Sometimes the question is harder to answer than you think.

Myths can damage your case

A final piece of advice is this: Don’t go alone.

Use a McKenzie Friend. Or a solicitor. Either way…learn. Because no one cares about your case as much as you do. You get to live with the consquences of your actions – no one else does.