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When should I go to court?

There’s a golden rule when asking yourself this question and the answer is really quite simple. It is:

Go to court when it is liable to make things better than worse.

Its’ not rocket science. Court isn’t known or meant to be a fun place – just about anywhere is better than in a court building. Unless you’re somewhere like the Royal Courts of Justice (where these is a Costa stand) the coffee is pretty awful to start with.

But seriously.

If there is any way of getting recourse rather than relying to the nice man or nice lady behind the big desk to sort out the whole sorry mess you really need to give it a go. If it means being nice to someone you’re not particularly fond if, do it. Arrange mediation with them (don’t ask them…arrange it and go). Communicate – writing or emailing is best – to see if you can come up with something that you may not like but at least can live with.

If it turns out none of the above don’t hesitate. Contact us and we’ll tell you whether we think going to court is the best option. If it is…don’t hang about. If you want to change something, a status quo is your biggest enemy.

As Mr Shakespeare wrote in the Scottish play `If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well It were done quickly’ (Act 1 Scene 7).

Many people hold back from going to court because they believe it will inflame the situation or maybe the other party will calm down enough to resolve matters. That’s a mighty big gamble when the clock is ticking an a status quo is being set – and you risk hearing that you must have been fine with the current setup or else you’d have done something about it sooner.

In other words…if going to court is the best option, get on with it. Nothing to be scared of either if one of us is by your side…

Help! My ex has changed my kids’ names!

…and in a change to advertised programming today’s post will be about, erm, what to do when your ex has changed your kids’ names.

So. Nuts and bolts. Can the ex just do this? Here is a comprehensive list detailing every way a child’s name can be legally changed.

  1. With the agreement of everyone who has PR for the kid.
  2. A court order saying so.
  3. That’s it. There is no number 3.

Simple, eh?

This subject comes up with a weary inevitability. So do the people we speak to who have this problem. We’ve had 2 today so far which is why this post is on this topic.

Pro tip: Deed polls don’t count. They’re not worth the paper they’re written on, especially so if there is lots of gold leaf, excitingly-shaped edges, fancy writing and lots of legalese that makes it look very, very important. If you have one for your child…you’ve wasted your money. If you have one and you want to do it legally you need to go to the Royal Courts of Justice to `enrol’ it…and you’ll need one of the extensive list above to do it.

Otherwise you may as well not have bothered.

Now I know what you’re going to say `Ah…my kids have a legal name and a known as’ name. So it’s OK’. Nope. Doesn’t work like that (unless you’re in Scotland and then it does).

Or you’ll say `I told the school/doctor/whoever and they were fine with it’. That’ll be because they don’t know or don’t care about the law. It’s probably the first one out of the list.

Or possibly `My kids chose to be called by their name’. Doesn’t matter. Check the list above.

Or maybe `The other parent isn’t about – so I can do what I like’. No. You’ll need to go to court to get an order in that case.

So what do you do if you find yourself in this situation? As always the first piece of advice is `Don’t stick your head in the sand’. And as always the longer you leave it, the harder it gets to change things. As soon as you learn this happened contact the school, the doctor, where ever else and ask them to change to your kids’ real names. Maybe take their birth certificate in. Explain firmly but nicely what you would like to happen. If they do and it is left at that…great. You don’t need to do anything else.

If not…it’s time to go to court. You’ll need to make an application for a Specific Issues Order.

So it’s as simple as that. Either way – and I am aware I am repeating myself here – doing nothing is just about the worst thing you can do. A stitch in time and all that, OK?

 

What to Do When the Ex Says the Kids are Not Allowed to See you – Contact Denial 101 (Part 1).

It’s one of the most common scenarios we see here at Family Law Assistance – a parent contacting us because their children are denied any time with them whatsoever.

There’s no set pattern here. Sometimes they haven’t met their child since birth. Sometimes they had been permitted a sporadic and limited relationship which has ended.s. Sometimes contact has stopped suddenly and without warning.

And the justification for this? Because I don’t like your attitude. Because the kids don’t want to see you. Because you’re a bad parent. Because I don’t have to let you see them without a court order. Or something else.

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

The 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 – although in our experience things do not just blow over. Instead a status quo of no contact is set. 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 case 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. 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.

There are exceptions to this of course. This will be the subject of our next post.

When should I post about my case on social media?

Like my last post this is an easy one.

The answer is…

…whenever you are happy for anything you say online to be read and used against you in court.

That’s it. Another huge anticlimax, eh?

Now, you can argue it’s your right to post what you like online about your case. There’s definitely some truth to this. You can talk about complaining to the manager/regulatory authority/your MP about how your right to privacy has been breached.

It doesn’t matter how much you lock your Facebook account down either. Or how careful you are with your friends. Or how complicated your password is.

Truth is…if you publish it, it will be seen somehow. I’ve seen and heard the above a thousand times. I’ve seen and heard people cross examined on their comments.I’ve seen cases swing on a Facebook page or picture.

But none of this will matter on the day, in court, with the other party doing every thing it can to discredit your case and promote it’s own. Because – if you’re in a court concerned with Child Matters only the best interests of the child count. Not your privacy. The other party will often happily take a ticking off from the court too – they’re not going to lose their job, receive a fine or anything like that. But there’s a good chance they may make their client very happy.

You don’t want to waste your time fighting a second battle with people when you should be concerned with one and one alone – the matter in hand. Again. Keep your eye on the ball and don’t get distracted.

How to counter false allegations in court

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. You were expecting some legal pearl of wisdom weren’t you?

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.

So 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.

Introduction

`Why should I use a McKenzie Friend?’

In a word – empowerment.

Because the outcome of the court case you will quite possibly be facing is a life changer. It’s about when your kids will be seeing you. Where you’re going to be living. What legal hurdles your company faces. How much cash you’re going to be left with after the dust settles.

So it’s important to make sure that someone who knows all the facts is in control of what happens:

You.

Don’t be daunted by the prospect of this. Most people are able to do a great job of representing themselves. What they may not be so hot on is the procedure, the law or negotiation.

Which is where we come in. Our team includes qualified paralegals who have a professional background in this sort of thing – as well as a personal experience. They know what works and they know how it feels too. This feeling of being in control usually makes a big difference to the people who we help. It’s normal to be very nervous – the complete lack of certainty of the role you’ll play in kids’ life, where you’ll end up sleeping and the future quality of your life.

What we will do is give you the tools to run your own case as well as you can and tell you how to use them too. We can tell you what is likely to happen at court, what your ex is liable to do next and what you can do to avoid the pitfalls you will almost certainly face as you wend your way through the court case.

That is how it works. Your knowledge of the situation and our skills and experience to help you deploy them. Simple as that. It’s often a winning combination.

So if you don’t have the certainty in the future you need get in touch. Our number’s 07415 474503 and our email address is partners@familylawassistance.co.uk.

The sooner you act, the sooner you can get on with your life. Don’t hesitate.