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 The first one starts on the 1st December – that’s this Sunday. Look forward to seeing you there!

Represent yourself with our help

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

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

Co-parenting with a hostile ex-partner?

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

Easy for us to say, isn’t it?

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

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

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

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

2.) Remain child-focused at all times.

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

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

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

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

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

4.) Take the long view.

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

Co-parenting is possible even with a hostile ex.

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

A rose by any other 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 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 - 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?

LGBT parents – the basics

With the increasing openness when it comes to the existence of LGBT people there’s a corresponding increase in the visibility of them in all walks of life – including as parents. Unsurprisingly enough (for some of us at least) lesbian, gay, bi and trans people do have kids.

Some of them are conceived, born and are raised in families in the *ahem* old-fashioned way, others in a more circuitous manner. It’s not an unreasonable believe to think that a non-traditional family faces it’s own unique challenges and in many respects it’s a correct one.

In terms of the law however there isn’t a great deal of difference between straight and/or cis people and everyone else when it comes to the matters concerning contact, residence (OK, OK `who the child lives with’) and everything else the Family Court is concerned with.

There are a few basic thoughts to consider here.

PR is important to LGBT people

Parental Responsibility is the key here. In short that means a) being on the birth certificate or b) having an order awarding you PR. Without it, you are at a serious disadvantage.

If you’re adopting a child, it’s something that should be taken care of. If you’re conceiving artificially, make sure you are on the birth certificate – or that the birth parent signs a C(PRA001) form to give it to you.

Rainbow flagThe nuclear scenario? You split from your partner and you don’t have PR. Your ex refuses contact and when you apply to the courts you’ll be filling in the standard form for contact (a C100) but you’ll also be needing a C2 (permission to apply) because you have no legal relationship with your child. And when you get there your ex will deny contact, deny you had much involvement with your own child and in the meantime is free to change their name, give PR to whoever they like and move to the other side of the planet if they so wish without you being able to stop them.

So get PR.

The T in LGBT

When it comes to trans parents they may well already have PR – particularly if the child was conceived/born before transitioning. It’s a sad fact to say that many of our trans clients coming out/transitioning has been at least a factor in the breakdown of their relationship with their ex’s. And often a source of hostility when it comes to children having an ongoing relationship.

Yet children are usually completely unfazed by this because Mum is still Mum and Dad is still Dad.

Furthermore in our experience the court is usually completely indifferent to a client’s status as transgender and wholly uninterested in parents seeking to use this fact to limit a child’s relationship with either parent. It is possible it will likely be an aspect discussed in any welfare report (such as a CAFCASS Section 7 Report) but will often carrying little weight overall.

But that’s no different to any other case where a child’s welfare is examined.


If you don’t have PR, get it. Whether you are still with your partner or they are now your ex. You are putting yourself at a serious disadvantage without it.

How to make your ex communicate with you

Clear, constructive and accurate communication is the way to go! It means you can avoid a court case. Or mediation. Or an argument. Or street theatre with you and your ex starring with a supporting cast of serious men and ladies who suddenly arrive stage left in cars with flashing lights and sirens.

Picture the scene. You have an ex you disagree with.  You go to the local Costa to meet him/her. Notepad and pen in hand you hammer out the issues and go home knowing that you’ve dodged a bullet. You don’t need to pay at least a couple of hundred for a court fee. Or £260 an hour to a solicitor (or much less to your friendly McKenzie Friend – contact us for details, we’re very reasonable…). You’re not going to waste holiday days from work, get sleepless nights, sitting around in a rundown court building with awful coffee and a long drive to get there in the first place. That’d be absolutely bonkers wouldn’t it? Lucky, lucky you!

No laughing at the back please because…it doesn’t always work like that does it? We can always dream!

I’ll take an educated guess here. You’re reading this because you have…the other sort of situation we all know and, erm, love.

Instead you’ve got communication via solicitor. And court order. Everything is positioning. In the old days it’d be the evening-ruining letter waiting on the mat for you when you get home (as opposed to the email that pops up on your phone and ruins your working day instead). Usually on a Friday afternoon just before a Bank Holiday weekend. We’ve all been there.

In short, the time when communication is needed the most, the more likely it isn’t going to happen.

So what do you do when your ex refuses to communicate? When you are told not to email, text, write, attempt mediation or turn up. Or communicate via his/her solicitor Oh…that’s easy. You respect that request.

Because that’s a sure fire way to become the proud owner of a PIN. Or a caution. Or a non molestation order. Glittering prizes for all! And on top of the fact it’ll be on record you can sure as hell count on the fact it’ll end being used to demonstrate what a bad person you are in subsequent hearings. It may end up with your ex getting legal aid too (although to be honest that’s often not a bad thing).

Truth is…you can’t make your ex communicate. So if they are clear they don’t want to – don’t even try.

The Children Act doesn’t mention that parents need to communicate. Of course, it’s in the best interests of children for Mum and Dad to actually talk to each other (unless someone has written a groundbreaking parenting book with a title like `Bringing your Children up Via Solicitor’s Letter‘ that I’m not aware of). The court will tell parents that they should communicate. It may even tell them how…disappointed it is. But it doesn’t have the power to compel them to do so.

No…there isn’t an easy answer here. But fight the battles you can win – ask the court to order what it can and don’t waste your time on something that is doomed to failure.

Appeals: A second bite of the cherry?

What can you do when a hearing hasn’t gone your way? And you can’t live with the result? It’s easy to think an appeal is the best way to try for a different outcome.

After all…you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain, right?

Thing is – that’s not what appeals are for. They’re not a second bite of the cherry; they’re not a legal way of saying to the man or lady behind the big desk `Oh, go on sir/madam – change your mind for me!’ Appeals are quite rightly difficult. Otherwise everyone would be doing them wouldn’t they?

An appeal isn’t about asking the court to re-run the previous hearing, be it for contact, residence, adoption or anything else. Go to an appeal hearing and ask the court to change the contact pattern, reverse the adoption order, etc. and you’ll be met by a blank stare. You’re there to convince the court it has made an error in law – nothing else.

If you manage to do that you’ll get your chance to do that at a subsequent hearing.

It’s important to know this. Because without a game plan all you’re going to do is waste money, paper and a few ink cartridges on something that isn’t going to get out of the traps.

Your first thought should be when considering an appeal is Has the court made an error in law?’ and not `Can I persuade the court to come up with a different decision?’ You are going to need to fill in the right form (an N161), pay the right fee, get a bundle  (with the right documents) to the right court and do all of this within 21 days of the order (although this can be extended in certain circumstances).

You will need to be clear about what your grounds of appeal are.

If you don’t know what the above means and you still want to appeal that should ring an alarm bell in your head and you should seriously consider not bothering.

Appeals are deliberately difficult. Your one can be dismissed at the first hurdle. Or heard in court…and then dismissed. Or heard in court and the court decides that while your argument has merit the court would have made the same decision…and then dismissed. Either way the whole process is very slow. Even by court standards.

In many cases it quite honestly isn’t worth bothering.

But don’t let this bring you down. Depending on what is you’re seeking to achieve in the long run (as always think of the big picture)  it may well be worth trying a different tack. A fresh application for more contact. An application for a variation or enforcement. A different take on things if your case is still open.

Don’t appeal just because you don’t like the decision. You could be making more work and problems than you already have.

When you should ask for 50/50 shared custody

I can answer this in one word.


I can categorically state this is the case for a few reasons. They being:

  1. There’s no such things as `custody’. It’s a term that hasn’t had legal meaning since Milli Vanilli were in the charts; if you’re too young to have heard of them that should tell you something.
  2. You’re probably confusing the rights and responsibilities conferred by PR (Parental Responsibility) with where the kid in question spends his or her time.
  3. You may as well tell the court/CAFCASS/social worker/the ex’s solicitor `It’s my right! I’ve got a legal right!‘ Try THAT and see what reaction you’ll get (hint: It’ll probably be one you don’t much like).
  4. Because there is more than one way to skin a cat.

Guys…this is a HUGE red flag. As well as being seen to shout the odds about your rights you’re also demonstrating said rights are more important than the kids (dividing them up like the furniture or the CD collection as the old phrase goes), that you don’t know what you’re actually asking for and that you know nothing about the actual process.

Go ahead, all guns blazing and there is a good chance you’ll be asked all about it when that nice barrister is trying to convince the court that the judge shouldn’t make an order for that by asking you questions that’ll make you look nasty, selfish, stupid or hopefully (for him/her) all three. You’re making it easy for them (or me if I am helping your ex).

With this in mind the `take homes’ from this post are simple:

  1. Learn the terminology. It’s not about custody’ these days. It’s not even about residence’. It’s about `Who the child lives with’. They are just about the same thing, true – but you want your message to be clear and not open to (wilful) misinterpretation.
  2. Understand division of time and PR are like chalk and cheese. Where a child spends his/her time has absolutely nothing to do with rights and responsibilities under PR.
  3. Prove what you want is in the best interests of the child. The most common thing parents say when asked why this is the case is `Because it will show the kids both parents are equal’. The court won’t accept this. Don’t waste your time saying it. Seriously.
  4. Be patient. If this is your ultimate goal understand that it will take time – especially if there is no contact at all now.

I’m not saying I don’t think shared parenting is a good idea. Quite the opposite. But if this is going to be happen, avoid the obvious pitfalls. There are enough of those without making basic mistakes.

I wasn’t married to my ex- how do I get what I am financially entitled to?

Sooo…you meet, you fall in love, you move in. Happy ever after, right? Until it’s not.That day when one of you decides that l’amour is no more.

The  truth is that YOU ARE NOT MARRIED. In the eyes of the law you are simply COHABITEES. And this is when life gets a little more tricky. Take a deep breath and learn this universal truth that THE LAW DOES NOT COVER COHABITEES.

If you were married then all of your finances would be dealt with under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.

But we have children, a house together, a mortgage, loans together, savings together. What happens to those?

There is no quick fix to getting a remedy to any of the above and there are several laws that will help. I am going to break it down as simply as I can.

CHILDREN: You can make an application under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 for financial provision for your child/ren. Don’t confuse this with child maintenance payments. Different thing entirely. An order under Schedule 1 can provide for a lump sum payment; settlement or transfer of property and periodical payments that are above the CMS calcs. These would potentially include school fees or if your child/ren are disabled and he/she doesn’t receive all or some of his/her disability benefit.

HOUSE: This can be settled under The Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (ToLATA). This Act can decide who are the legal and beneficial owners of a property, and in what proportions. If the two of you cannot come to an agreement as to what to do with the property then an application under this piece of legislation may be the ticket.

Rule of thumb: Money follows children.

LOANS: So you both are incredibly in debt, you both have loans and credit cards. You may even have loans that Aunt Maude lent you for that kitchen or that expensive guitar you’d always had your eye on. You may have left the house and forgot to take your Ming vase.

A way that you could get a remedy for this under small claims court. Thankfully the Government have made this process fairly simple and you can make an online claim.

MEDIATION: None of the above should be attempted without mediation. Who wants to go to court? NO ONE. So it is in everyone’s best interests to see if an arrangement can be achieved without the courts’ involvement.

It can be a maze out there. It is far from straightforward. In order to obtain any kind of financial remedy after you gone your separate ways requires planning and picking which would be the right application for you.

4 ways to ruin your own case.

If you represent yourself it is as much about what you don’t do as anything else…

When you represent yourself you need to avoid the obvious banana skinsYes yes yes. Not you. You may do exactly the same as a million angry men or women before you but you are going to ruin your own case.

You’re going to represent yourself. You are going to damage your own case long before the ex or his/her solicitor utters a word.

Because you’re special. Your case is unique.

I mean…I KNOW there have been many before you who have decided they are going to take the Family Justice system who have been chewed and spat out.

But not you.

You may well have no contact at all but at least you told the judge like it was. And there was absolutely NOTHING he could say. That taught him! You may have a 91(14) barring order to stop you going back to court, a non molestation order that stops you contacting your ex, visiting your kids school and doctor. You’ve got a PIN and accepted a few cautions too.

But at least they all know you’re not playing THEIR game.

So – lets’ help.

What you’re going to ruin your own case

Social media. Post about what a b***h your ex is and your considered opinion about the CAFCASS officer. Or social worker. Or judge. Make sure you have pictures of your last night out with the boys and girls. And how weed should be legalised.

Represent yourself badly and you'll be picking up the pieces

Make sure you tell everyone about your rights. How it is your right to see your kids. How it’s your rights to post whatever you like online about anyone at all (see above!) Mention the UN Convention of Human Rights at every opportunity.

Make sure you `have your say’ at every point. Your ex made 93 allegations against you? Go for it…you need to address each one in a 41 page rebuttal. Make sure the court knows that yeah – you DID give him/her a slap but that was only because he/she provoked you.

Pay for professional assistance and ignore every word you hear. Because your situation is unique – and your ex is the worst one in the world. He/she will say and do stuff that has NEVER happened before in the history of family law. Spend your time arguing with the person you’re paying cash and trying to convince them you’re right at every step of the way. Don’t worry about the judge reckons – he only makes the orders.

Represent yourself – you have the power!

We seldom provide promises round here. And we’re not providing one now – but if you want to do your best to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory make sure you follow these tips.

There are far more than 4 ways but these are the best ones….

If you represent yourself it is in your hands. As the old saying goes…with great power comes great responsibility!