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.

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.

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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Documents don’t belong in carrier bags

You’re representing yourself. You’re going to see more documents than you’ll ever want to see. By the end of it you’re going to say a few words of prayer for the many trees that have died to make all the paper you’ve used. For the more environmentally responsible amongst you out there you may want to plant a few trees to reduce your carbon footprint.

Burning documentsYou may want to celebrate the end of your case by having a large bonfire at the end of it all and dance around it with the beverage of your choice a la `The Wicker Man’.

But until that day comes you better make sure you have all your paperwork in a logical, easy-to-get-to format that will make your life as easy as possible. Because it’s going to be hard enough as it is.

Here at Family Law Towers we specialise in bringing order to chaos. Present us with a carrier bag of dog-eared, random pieces of paper you have shoved in the post or brought to us and we’ll give you an organised and logically-presented set of documents that you can refer to at any point in your case.

You’re not going to need it for every hearing (OK, OK…you are technically going to need it for every hearing seeing as Practice Direction 27A now says that a bundle is required for every hearing but it’s overkill in a lot of cases). Practice Direction 27A also says that as a litigant in person your ex’s solicitor is going to have to do it (or it’ll be you if you’re the applicant and he/she doesn’t have a solicitor). And to complicate matters it’s often worth you doing your own bundle in any event but we won’t go into that here.

Don't put your legal documents in carrier bagsWe’ve assisted at any number of hearings where we’ve seen litigants fishing through their `carrier bag of life’ looking for a document the judge would rather like to see but it can’t be found.

You know…the documents that swing the entire trajectory of your case. That sort of stuff.

Preparation, preparation, preparation.

Further to what I say above you will need a bundle for a substantive hearing (although it’s common for the court to request just a witness statement from LiPs). That’ll be the time to present the evidence we’ve advised you don’t throw at the court in a directions or review hearing (because no one will want to see them there).

Ring binders

Even if you aren’t going to have a substantive hearing (and if it happens if you agree an order with the ex) it’s well worth organising your files as such:

  1. Get a ring binder. A big one. Get file dividers too.
  2. Single-sides please. Copies, not original documents. Keep them elsewhere.
  3. Group your documents. Applications & Orders. Statements.  Reports. Correspondence.
  4. Put each group of documents in chronological order (oldest at the front, newest at the back).
  5. Put dividers in the folder, with the group of documents. Applications & Orders in B, Statements in C, Reports in D, Correspondence in E. Section A is for other docs you’ll need to produce yourself (we’ll discuss these at some point in the future).

That’s it for the moment. Congratulations! You have a half-prepared trial bundle and your documents to hand at all hearings.

Hearings are complicated and stressful enough as it is. Don’t make it harder for yourself.

Help! What happens at the first hearing?

So the mediation didn’t work if you even got there. Your ex has refused to discuss things with you, has delayed and or refused mediation and you’ve had no option but to submit at an application to the court.

It’s something you’ve tried to avoid but you had no other option and you’re dreading it. The first hearing is looming. What the hell do you do???

OK. It’s easy for me to say this because it’s a) not my children and b) I’ve assisted in more cases than you’ve probably had hot dinners but…don’t panic. Scratch that…try not to panic. Like I say, it’s easy for me to say that. It’s not a comfortable place and if there is a coffee machine let’s just say it isn’t likely to impress any experts.

If you’ve got a solicitor (a barrister would be overkill for a first hearing and the only thing more extreme is to take both a barrister and a solicitor but it does happen from time to time) things can be easier in some ways. They’ll sort out everything on the day or at least they should. After all – that’s what you are paying them in excess of £260 an hour, right?

If you haven’t, you’re either on your lonesome or you have one of our talented, charismatic and good-looking team members by your side who’ll make sure that any surprises you’ll face are kept to bear minimum.

You’re first hearing will be a FHDRA (fer-hydra as they pronounce it – a First Heading Dispute Resolution Appointment).

Here are some basics to remember:

  1. Write a position statement beforehand (we can help). 2 pages maximum. No, really. Two. Pages. I don’t care how complicated your case is. No one will read your own take on `War and Peace’ in the ten minutes before the hearing. Your position statement will have a brief history of the situation. It’ll have the issues you are facing. Finally it’ll say what you want ordered. This last bit…if you are asking the court to order stuff it can’t you are wasting your time, printer ink and a good opportunity to make a good case. I don’t want to see stuff like `I want my ex to acknowledge what he/she has done‘ or `I want what he/she has done on public record‘. It dilutes you’re case while making you look petty. Take at least 4 copies on the day, handing one to the usher (the ones in black robes…if you can find one) before you go in.
  2. Get there an hour early. And take a book and/or music. There is usually a lot of sitting around.
  3. Find out what court room you’re in. They’re usually on the wall with your case number (make sure you have it before you go to court). Check in with an usher so they know you are there and where you are.
  4. Very often a CAFCASS officer will be there to see if any agreement can be made. Be child-focused at all times but clear about what it is you are seeking. Don’t agree to something unless you are really sure you do agree. This is important (and make sure the court is clear on this when you go into the courtroom too).
  5. If your ex has a solicitor be nice. Whether you feel they are being helpful or not behaving badly will likely come back to bite you one way or another. They’re doing a job and don’t have a personal dislike of you – they kind of have to believe what their client (who as I say is paying them £260 an hour) is telling them. If there are things you can agree…great (you don’t have to agree on everything but it’s all to the good if you can reduce the number of things you’re arguing about). If your ex doesn’t have a solicitor it’s often worth waiting until you get into court to avoid risking inflaming an already tense situation.
  6. You’ll either see one judge or (usually three) magistrates. Call them sir’ or `madam’ as appropriate. You won’t be criticised for using the wrong words if you are using common courtesy.
  7. Use your position statement as your basis for why you are there.
  8. Don’t get sidetracked.
  9. Make sure you take notes (although I’d say you should never go into court alone unless you can speak, listen and take notes at the same time). Note what is said, who said it, times and what is agreed.
  10. Make sure you get an electronic/paper copy of the order before you leave. The order will list what contact, etc. is ordered, when the next hearing is and anything else the court has decided to happen.

That’s it. Don’t be surprised if any of the above doesn’t happen, is done differently, etc. Different courts have different ways of doing things and the real secret is to be able to keep abreast of what is going on as it happens. Most of the action takes place outside the courtroom – with our assistance many of our clients have been able to negotiate an order by `consent’ (agreement) which is the best outcome by the time you are actually in the court system. A consent order is also often seen as stronger because the parties have agreed on it.

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Contact Denial – What to do and not do

Contact denial is one of the most common matters dealt with in the Family Courts. It’s the most common reason a non resident parent reluctantly fills in the forms (usually a C100), pays their fee and sends it in.

The anatomy of contact denial

Right off the bat, let’s establish something fundamental.

Anyone denying contact between a child and someone who has PR for them without a court order preventing it is acting with no legal basis whatsoever.

Being the primary carer, resident parent, mum, dad, whatever doesn’t confer the right to tell someone who has PR for a child that they can’t see them.

The circumstance of how contact is denied varies however. There is no set pattern. Sometimes they haven’t met their child since birth. Or they had been permitted a sporadic and limited relationship which has ended. Often contact has stopped suddenly and without warning.

Why does contact denial happen?

And the justification for this? I don’t like your attitude. The kids don’t want to see you. You’re a bad parent. I don’t have to let you see them without a court order. I don’t like your new partner. My new partner is daddy/mummy. You’re not paying me enough cash. Or something else.

So…as a parent facing a scenario like this what you do?

Delay is the worst thing you can do if you are facing contact denialThe first step is do not delay. Doing nothing is just about the worst possible thing you can do. It won’t make anything better and it will quite possible make it worse.

In our experience things don’t get better on their own – they don’t `blow over’

Instead what happens is a  a status quo of no contact is set and the contact denier feels emboldened that they are able to continue with this course of action without problems. If you do nothing they’re right of course.

No one cares about contact denial apart from you

And the longer you leave it the more irrelevant any kind of previous relationship you had becomes. Seriously…the court won’t care that you were the resident parent and it’ll care less the longer you do nothing/write a letter/organise mediation/compose your latest symphony.

The moment contact has been denied address it. Organise mediation ASAP. Organise it. Don’t text your ex to see if she/he will attend. Because you won’t get an answer. Or they might be able to make it in 3 months time. Maybe.

If the place is open now (Google is your friend) stop reading this blog right now and phone them. If it’s out of office hours do it first thing tomorrow. If it ends up in court you’ll be required to attend a MIAM (a `Mediation Information Meeting) in any case. And besides it’s always worth trying on the grounds that court should be the last resort.

If (or when because more often than not it either fails or doesn’t happen in the first place, you’ll need to submit your form to start the whole process.

But the take home here? Do not delay.

False allegations

How to counter allegations in court

Abuse allegations are common in the Family Court.

If you’re a non resident parent and an applicant there is a good chance you have had allegations of abuse made against you. They may be of the sexual, domestic violence or child abuse type – but really it doesn’t matter which type you face.

Anyone withholding a child from someone who has PR for them has no legal basis for doing so unless they have a court order – and it is possible that such allegations go some way of providing whoever has the child with a flimsy justification for their actions.

Because the correct approach for someone who believe such allegations is to contact the police, social services, doctor, etc. and to seek an order for no contact between a child and the abuser.

There is just one response to allegations you don’t accept

I wrote a long post to this before deleting the whole damn lot. So here goes. Are you ready?  I need you to read, re-read and read again the best kept secret of how to respond to any allegations you dispute:

Keep calm and refute all allegations

Now…I’m aware this is probably a bit of a let down here.

Sorry. But this is an absolute gem.

Simply put…you don’t have to prove that something didn’t happen. The other party has to prove it did. Now I hear you say `You can say that but I was accused of all sorts and it stopped contact’.

I don’t doubt it.

That’s because the court is obliged to investigate any allegations that may impact on the best interests of the child (if it’s a Children Act case that is). If it’s a finance matter (anciliary relief as it’s known in the trade) behaviour is seldom a factor to considered, not that it stops people trying. If the court is interested in evidence…it will ask. If it wants to hear your side of the story…it will ask.

So let me give you a game plan here.

If you are accused of something that isn’t true use this magic phrase. If you have (or can get) evidence to disprove allegations, do so – and take it with you. Should it look like these allegations are going to delay matters you will be able to deploy this evidence as needed.

If it looks like they court is seriously interested – ask for a Finding of Fact hearing (also called a `Re: L’). At this sort of hearing the other party will be required to provide evidence for their allegations and you will get an opportunity to prove they are false.

Do this and the other party will have to choose between providing their evidence. Or dropping it quietly.

Allegations – a summary

False allegationsSo that’s it. Don’t waste your time producing a 57-page rebuttal of everything flung at you (ever see `The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’…that’ll be you, in court, with no time to discuss what it is you want to ordered but with an ever growing list of your alleged misdeeds that the other party `remembers’ as time goes on). Don’t do it even if you really, really want to, because of `the principal’ or even so `he/she can see how he/she likes it’.

Be clear from the off what it is you want to achieve and don’t be distracted at any point. Keep your eye on the ball.

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