Top 4

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.

Court and pearls of wisdom

4 ways to improve your chances in court

You are not a victim in court. You are not powerless. It is far too easy to see yourself at the mercy of your ex, the court and the rest of the cloud of people you will come into contact with when you wish to change a situation you are not happy with.

I don’t blame you though.

Because when you become involved the Family Court you will make a huge chorus that say you are doomed. They could include:

  1. The ex’s solicitor. He or she (paid handsomely by the ex) will tell you stuff that would make any right-minded person throw the towel in before the first metaphorical shot is fired. Why do you think he or she does that?
  2. Friends, family and people you have never met from social media. A huge club who combine ignorance of the facts, ignorance of the law and personal agendas. It’ll include the bloke who told the judge like it is – the one who is as mad as hell and isn’t going to take it any more…and has no contact.
  3. Some of the court staff. Be it the CAFCASS officer who tells you that contact only really works if the parent who has the child agrees to it. Or his/her counterpart in Social Services saying the same thing (who may tell you that absolutely positively have no choice but to sign that Section 20 if you are mired in a public law case).
  4. Organisations pushing an agenda about bias and incompetence in the system. I’m not going to make a judgement about that one. But again – listen to that sort of thing and you’ll end up feeling like a long walk off a short pier sounds mighty attractive.

It’s enough you to want to go and join the French Foreign Legion or something isn’t it?

You have more power in court that you think

Court and pearls of wisdomThat applies even if no one in the courtroom apparently likes you. Even if the judge has seemingly decided he/she doesn’t like the look of your face the moment you walk in. Even if you have been threatened with a £20,000 costs order, no contact with the kids ever and a day in the stocks on the village green while you wear the latest in fermented tomatoes on your face.

Court – things that can only ever help

Despite all the relentless negativity so far (you’re still reading?) there are some absolute pearls of wisdom that will help you no matter who or where you are, what the situation is or how seemingly hopeless it all seems.

If I were going to get all `Gunnery Sergeant Hartman’ on you at this point I would point out that there are no exceptions here. These points are by and large common sense…and again – we get it. That’s part of the reason we do the job we do – to help you focus when things are hard – many McKenzie Friends ended up doing the job after personal experience of this all.

So what are these pieces of enlightenment? Here goes:

Cast iron habits to help you in court

  1. Don’t give up. I know, I know, I know. But consider this. You have a 100% chance of getting nowhere if you walk away. There aren’t many guarantees in court but this is one of them. You may say you have no chance if you don’t give up…but I’ll also guarantee you it’s less than 100%. Only you decide if you give up – no one else at all. Own it!
  2. Sell the solution. The court will take the easy option. If that means you walking away…that’s marked as a success (because you have obviously come to an amicable arrangement with your ex…obviously). If it means ordering no contact because you got yourself a non molestation order, a caution or a PIN or whatever because you `kicked off’ at the wrong time in the wrong place…that’s marked as a success. Remember kids – even indirect contact is considered a success!
  3. Focus. At the start ask yourself this: `What do I want out of this case?’ If it is anything other than building a relationship with your kids you’re probably not going to have much fun or luck. Because that is the only topic for the court arena. Don’t get distracted either – keep your eye on the ball. Don’t concentrate on the ex’s 493 ridiculous, fictitious and painful allegations. If the court wants to entertain them, they’ll order a Finding of Fact.
  4. The court does expect you to be an angel but...Be whiter than white. If the ex has dirt on you, it’s a fair bet it’ll be discussed in court to justify denying you contact (because it beats him/her saying `Yes – I did deny contact without legal basis. I’m doing it to punish you’. Don’t give your ex ammunition or justification for his or hers actions – which could be backed up with screen prints of your abusive messages, police reports of your arrest or witness statement of the nice old lady next door who saw and heard you shouting threats through the letter box while demanding to see the kids.

Court – it’s up to you

It’s more than practical stuff too. A positive mindset will help immensely. It’s hard enough as it is without you shooting yourself in the foot from the outset.

Stay calm and carry on, chaps.

Don't ruin your own case1

4 more ways to ruin your own case.

You’ll ruin your own case in a way your ex could.

Don't ruin your own case1You’re going to ruin it. With friends like these, who needs enemies? Except this enemy is you. You’re going to shoot yourself in the foot, spike your own guns and hand your ex as much ammunition as he/she needs to be able to prove without a shadow of a doubt what a terrible person you are.

You can’t control what your ex is going to say and do but you sure as hell are going to take control of what you say to do.

And it’s going to be like watching a slow motion car crash.

You’re going to get aggressive with anyone who doesn’t agree with you. You’ll tell them they don’t understand. That they are weak for not being as angry as you. And that you’d do anything for your kids.

Apart from winding your neck in, presumably. That’s one thing you can’t do.

Here’s another 4 great ways you will end up as an object lesson to others

  1. Fight everyone involved in your case. The judge. The ex’s legal representative. The CAFCASS officers. The social worker. Your kid’s doctor and school. Make sure that everyone whose opinion may hold weight in a court case know exactly just how angry, aggressive you are and keen to make sure they all know about your rights. You get bonus points if you get yourself arrested by the police by getting stroppy in the wrong place and wrong time (a breach of the peaceis always a favourite). I mean…the ex says you are an angry and aggressive person so by doing this you’re definitely not proving them right are you? And he or she will have the police report to back it up.
  2. Fools ruin their own casesDon’t bother with stupid paperwork and evidence. Pfft! The court doesn’t need to see that killer piece of evidence to clearly back up your assertions does it? You don’t need to know where each document is that you may need during a hearing. A 10p Tesco carrier bag will be fine. Scribbling words like `Lies!’ or `****!’ on original documents are good too.
  3. Act now and don’t worry about the consequences. You may have to live with whatever happens for the next 15 years but if the ex has done or said something that really riles you make sure you file off an angry email or text message as quickly as you can furiously hammer it out. This’ll further help show what an angry person you are. The star prize will probably be a stint on the witness stand answering questions that make you look like a fool no matter what you say. Your McKenzie Friend will not have their head in their hands but they will be hoping the ground opens up swallowing them, the court but most of all…you.
  4. Go entirely alone. A litigant in person should go alone. Because you are able to listen, talk, think and take notes whilst in a sometimes highly stressful and fast moving area you have little experience of. You don’t need no stinkin‘ solicitor or McKenzie Friend. What are you…chicken?

You have more power than you realise. Don’t ruin it.

Even if you are a non resident parent who feels like they are marching to the ex’s tune. You ex has no power over you at all unless you let them. Consider your ex a liar? Prove them wrong by being reasonable in the face of provocation. Document where needed. Think ahead. Take advice.

It’s down to you.

I’m not saying it’s easy. Because it ain’t. Plenty of us have been there. We know exactly how it feels. But at the end of the day you have no control of anything other than yourself.

Your call, guys.

4 of the biggest myths in the Family Court

As sure as night follows day, the same misunderstandings about how the Family Courts work will be stated, restated, restated again and for good measure retweeted/shared/argued about.

Disregard this sort of thing and you’re not going to help yourself.

The sad thing is that many of them make things harder for people going through the whole process. It makes them do things that don’t help anyone (including their kids) or themselves, pitches them into conflicts that quite frankly aren’t worth happening and generally case trouble. Even if you know these but if the other party doesn’t it will often lead them to act in a way that seems irrational and counterproductive.

There are far more than 4 myths that do this (and I would put money on the fact I’ll be adding more of them as time progresses) but here are some of the `best’.

So here goes…

No.1 – If you have a residence order you can phone the police to get the kids back if your ex refuses to return them.

No. It. Won’t. Phone your local station and say this. Try it. Forget for a moment that this sort of dispute and the police only deal with criminal matters – not civil ones (bit of a spoiler really…).

You: Hello police? I’ve got a residence order and my ex won’t give me the kids back! Can you go round there and take them off him/her?

PC999: Do you have any welfare concerns?

You: Not really, it’s just that I’m the resident parent and he/she is breaking a court order! They should be with me! I’m the main parent!

PC999: OK…not much we can do I am afraid. You need to speak to your solicitor to take the matter back to court. Tell you what…we’ll go round there and advise him/her to hand them over and do a welfare check but that’s all we can do really.

That’s if the police follow the rules, mind. I do know of a couple of cases where officers have removed children without an Emergency Protection Order or without sufficient welfare concerns….and they have found themselves having a very serious chat with the Inspector about how removing kids from parents with PR without good reason tends to go down very badly.

So the moral of this story kids? Don’t think a residence order will stop your ex taking the kids.

No. 2 – An enforcement application will get your ex to abide with an order.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news here – because going back to court is kind of the only option you have if your ex decides he/she is going to ignore the damn thing. Statistically you have less than a 1 in 50 chance of an enforcement application succeeding.

What normally happens is you will make an enforcement application…and your ex will  justify breaking the order by saying it isn’t working. What he/she should do of course is talk to you about agreeing a change to arrangements or making his/her own application for a variation. But seeing as that’d cost him/her £215 it’s much chearper and easier just to say I’m changing things. If you don’t like it – tough’ compelling the non resident parent to either say a) `Yes OK’ or b) Filling in the c79 and paying the fee himself/herself.

Followed by your ex seeking to hijack your application and turning it into a variation matter. This happens in a depressingly high number of situations this is what happens. Should you decide to apply for a penal notice don’t think one will be ordered either. You are more likely to be accused of trying to punish your ex.

No. 3 – If you get married your new partner automatically gets PR.

Nope nope nope. Doesn’t work like that. A stepparent has no legal relationship with a stepchild. None at all. If they want PR they’ll either have to get the agreement of everyone who has PR already. Or a court order.

That’s it.

No. 4 – When it comes to financial matters in divorce you get out what you put in.

Again…no. Not true. Consider the following assets and liabilities:

  • The large family estate consisting of a portfolio of properties in the UK that William the Conqueror gave to a distant ancestor of yours.
  • An eye watering credit card bill incurred by your ex as a result of the luxury cruise he/she had to take to get over your separation, comforted only by the new partner he/she left you for.
  • The money earned by your business that you’ve slaved for while your ex has sat on velvet cushions and ate chocolates.

It doesn’t matter where the money came from. Or where it went. Or who earned it. Or who spent it. All assets and liabilities go into the marital `pot’ and are divided up according to need. Remember though – money follows the children. Their needs come first.

It’s also worth remembering that as we’re talking about the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (and not the Children Act 1989) behaviour isn’t a factor in most cases. So attempting to tarnish your ex’s character seldom makes any difference.

Take the time to learn the basics here. It’ll likely save you a lot of heartache and also give you some perspective on your own situation.