You have the power!

Empowerment isn’t just a word used by hippy life coaches and ever-grinning American motivational speakers with unblinking eyes.

Mindset is everything!

I hesitate to type this. Because in the wonderful world of Family Law the weary troops in the trenches will inevitably say something like `It’s easy for you to say’ or `Yes but it’s hard’.

Yes…it’s hard. And we have personal experience of it. We’re not belittling you or the struggles you’re going through. But in a period that you feel utterly powerless, demoralised and done-to rather than doing the merest spark in the dark can make a huge difference. It can give you hope. Something to build on. The knowledge that it isn’t completely and utterly all bad.

The little things count here, OK?

You have power over your mindset

You’re responsible for the way you feel, how you act and what you say. Nothing more. You’re not beaten until you give up. You’re not the bad guy unless you have been shown to be. No matter what anyone else thinks. To thine own self be true as Bill wrote many years ago. You can’t be forced to give up either.

The right mindset is powerful

With this in mind…why would a hostile ex with a hostile solicitor or barrister say your application has no merit, that there is large amounts of evidence detailing what a terrible person you are and that if you are nice they may decide to drop the whole silly costs application against you which currently stand in the tens of thousands (I kid you not…I’ve seen all of these happen)?

Anyone? Bueller?

So with all this in mind (pun intended) – what’s it going to be?

To suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (sorry…another Shakespeare reference – I’m in a Tudor kind of mood tonight)? Or will you decide that you’re going to do your best and be able to look back with a clear conscience and the knowledge there was nothing more you could do?

Your call.

Thestatusquo:Stickingyourheadinthesand orthepubisn'talwaysthebestoption

The Status Quo: Going to the Winchester and waiting for it to all blow over

The status quo builds an argument to not make an order or a change in circumstancesIf you want something to change, waiting for a status quo to build is absolutely the worst thing you can do.

No mincing of words here guys and gals. The clock is ticking. And every day you wait the better and stronger the argument is that a court should do nothing to change things (it’s called `the no order’ principle).

Hoping your ex will calm down/act reasonably/see sense/get told that he/she is being unreasonable and will agree to what you want is a big risk.

Have your kids not seen you for six months? Imagine the scene in court once you finally realise you have no option but to make an application:

`Sir, my client is a little confused why the applicant has only just chosen to bring this matter before you. The current arrangement has clearly worked well and I am surprised the applicant hasn’t raised this matter sooner if he/she felt it wasn’t in the best interests of the children sooner. I therefore ask that the court dismiss this application’.

Pro-tip: Saying you didn’t know what to do or you were hoping things would get better won’t hold much weight.

The previous President of the Family Division, Baroness Butler-Sloss (and many other judges) have said over the years that the status quo is a significant factor when deciding to make an order that changes the current arrangements (whether you have agreed to them or not too…because doing nothing counts as agreement).

The status quo: Sticking your head in the sand - or the pub isn't always the best option

When is a status quo not a status quo?

This doesn’t mean you should hop, skip and jump into court either: For example if contact is denied or an order is breached in a way that doesn’t disrupt the status quo hold fire.  One (or even two) lost contact sessions doesn’t automatically mean it’s time to send the enforcement application in and/or go for an emergency one.

As always, look at the big picture.

Sometimes the status quo is a good thing

With the above in mind there are times when the status quo can actually benefit you. Do you have regular contact and it’s then stopped? Or overnights? Or regularly take the children abroad without incident only to be told you are not permitted to?

Document it. Record it. Cultivate it. Especially if it’s not in a court order.

If you can build this sort of thing up without a court case…brilliant! And if things do end up in front of the man behind the big desk you can use the status quo argument in your favour. Of course, like anything else in the family courts there are no silver bullets, no guarantees – but remember…it’s a marathon and not a sprint.

Hit the Road Jack! Do I need to leave my home?

Hit the Road Jack: When your ex wants to throw you out

Hit the Road Jack! Do I have to leave my home.Being the music lovers we are here at Family Law Assistance Towers we hear many lyrics that resonate with us because of recent conversations we’ve had with people in relation to their situation.

Just recently it was the hoary old chestnut of `The ex is trying make me leave my home – what do I do?’. Often the speaker is already out – living with parents, sofa surfing or in a worst-case-scenario living on the streets. We’ve known all of these to happen.

For whatever reason it tends to be the male partner who is facing this situation; speculation on why this is the case is something for another day.

Typically he’ll have left under the pressure of persuasion of an ex partner, her parents, the police, her solicitor or a combination thereof.

It’s not black and white…

Do I have to leave my home? The legal position.

As always…it depends. If one of the below is true the answer is `No – you do not have to move out’:

  1. You are married to your ex partner.
  2. You are unmarried but your name is on the tenancy/mortgage.

If neither of the above is true you have a legal right to remain in a property.

Why do people leave if this is the case? It’s because of the pressure they are under. The ignorance. Because of a sense of old-fashioned duty to do `the right thing’ in terms of an ex wife/female partner and/or children. Sometimes it is…sometimes it isn’t. The devil is in the detail.

Do I have to leave my home?

When you do have to move out from a legal perspective it is because:

  1. There is a court order telling you to (including an occupation order).
  2. You aren’t married and aren’t on the tenancy agreement/mortgage and you ex partner asks you to.

Of course – that’s not say that it is quite possible to be legally entitled to stay but are in a situation where there are good and pragmatic reasons to leave but again…that’s a discussion for another day.

What is the impact of leaving your home on divorce and/or children?

In short: You have just handed a MAJOR tactical advantage to your ex partner without a metaphorical shot being fired.

You’ve abandoned the family home. Your ex partner. Your children. Voluntarily. It will quite possibly be used against you. If child contact issues, etc. are unresolved you have ensured that the children have remained in the family home giving them the stability they need. You will also be seen by any council, housing association, etc. as voluntarily making yourself homeless.

Don’t think this will make any difference in what you may consider an eventual `fair’ outcome. Trust me. It won’t. Think carefully before you leave your home. Don’t do it. Get advice before doing so.

Represent myself? It's not doing a jigsaw puzzle!

I can’t represent myself? Yes you can!

Represent myself? I can’t do that!

Can I?? <Insert stuff about legal professionals, highly complex law and you not being up to it ;-)>

This is something we hear often. It may surprise you but the reality is many people that decide to represent themselves do so for a number of reasons – not just cost. True…some do so because they can’t afford solicitors (starting at around £250 an hour) and barristers (prices available upon request) but it is true but a lot of people choose to do so because they haven’t felt they’ve been represented adequately in the past. The phrase `I sat there without saying a word while my solicitor/barrister ignored everything I’d told him/her and just agreed to stuff I didn’t want’ is fairly typical.

I am not taking away from the amazing work many solicitors and barristers do. But why would anyone want to represent themselves? Simple! They have the who, what, why and when on the tip of their tongue. If it’s a child contact dispute then no one is going to know their child better than you! If it’s finance case then no one is going to know what that £200 you withdrew law year more than you!

But I’m not allowed to represent myself am I?

Represent myself? It's not doing a jigsaw puzzle!You are. You have a legal right to do so.

Litigants in persons have got some stick over the years and have been accused of prolonging the court process. Sure, they need guidance on how court procedure – what forms to fill in, what to say in court, what they can and can’t do – but you can sure as hell bet you won’t want to be there if there is an alternative.

Courts are always a last-chance saloon. Aside from the fact that the coffee leaves much to be desired (although there is a nice cafe in Newport, Leicester has a passable canteen and the Royal Courts of Justice has a Costa stand) it is also an adversarial place. Tempers are frayed, emotions run high. There’s a good chance you are going to hear some not nice things said about you and you are undoubtedly going to feel frustrated.

As a McKenzie Friend I see this all too often. I’ve been doing it for too many years to be surprised about anything. I have seen people jumping on tables after a court hearing shouting “’It’s not fair” in a toddler style; I’ve seen grown men cry after being reunited with their children and I’ve seen a mother disintegrate on the floor after her child was removed from her care.

It’s fair to say that not much surprises me and I know how to react to drama such as this.

It also means I can provide some hints on good practice to make your legal experience easier and more successful.

Here we go.

Represent myself in court. 3 Top Tips

  1. Represent myself? Won't there be too much paperwork?Be Organised! Don’t stick all of those papers in the breadbin! Get yourself a lever arch folder and put all of your communication in date order. This will help you in the long run.
  2. Take someone with you. Preferably a Mckenzie Friend. You may be organised but that won’t mean you will be any less emotional. Ideally you need someone to be in the court room with you so that they can explain any “legalese” or tell you to wind your neck in or to tell you to get to the point. We specialise in kicking people under the table at appropriate points.
  3. Be focused: Whether it’s child or money matters keep it focused at all times. Don’t discuss things that aren’t relevant – and know what is relevant by understanding what matters to the court and what isn’t.

The truth is that this isn’t rocket science. If you’re organised, focused and calm you already have increased your chances of success without knowing any law whatsoever greatly. These are things that anyone can do if they are determined enough – and with the stakes potentially being so high you’ll have plenty of motivation!

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

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

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

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

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

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

It doesn’t have to be like that.

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

Some good answers here:

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

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

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

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

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

Represent myself? Some basics.

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

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

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

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

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

Represent yourself – the Family Law Assistance Advent Calendar

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

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

It isn’t impossible to represent yourself.

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

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

Learn how to represent yourself with our video guides

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

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

Represent yourself with our help

Don't waste time in the family court

Wasting your time in the family court – 4 things not to do.

Don’t waste your time in the family court. You only have a limited amount of time to get your point across so make everything you do and say is relevant.

People often waste precious time, money and effort on stuff that won’t be relevant to their situation. Time, money and effort that would be better used in a focused manner.

4 ways to waste your time in the family court

1.) Submitting unprompted character references

Don't waste time in the family courtYou do not have to prove your innocence. Anyone who feels it is relevant needs to prove your `guilt’. Furthermore character references from family members, relatives, etc. are a complete waste of time unless the court has asked for them. And that is rare…

Think about it. Would you submit something to the court saying you are an awful person? From a loved one? Something that is going to damage your own case? Nope. And the court takes this as read.

2.) Labelling your ex

It doesn’t matter if your ex is a Narcissist. Or an awful parent. Neither is it relevant if he/she is a Parental Alienator.

Focus purely on the impact of your children of any inappropriate words or behaviour.

3.) Submitting irrelevant information to the court

Don’t dilute your own argument by talking about or sending the court information that has no bearing on the case. 238 pages of text message arguments doesn’t strengthen your position. It is more likely to hide relevant stuff among it all. It’ll likely make you look like an obsessive nutter too. Besides…bundles are restricted to 350 pages.

4.) Doing stuff because `it’s the principle’

Mountains of paperwork won't help in the family court unless it is relevantThis is the best way to get the judge/magistrates, the legal advisor, your ex’s representative and your ex to roll their eyes and mutter something obscene under their breath. The court isn’t there to deal with anything other than the best interests of your child.

It’s natural to feel like this of course.

But ask yourself when you do – `Does this matter? Is it in the best interests of my children? Am I making things harder with no tangible benefit?’ If the answer is `yes’ to any of these…think again.

Co parentingwithahostileex partnercanrequirepatience!

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.

Allegations don'tmakethingsharderforyourself.

Avoiding allegations in the Family Court

Allegations: If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about?

We’ve discussed allegations before. But they are a big part of the process in the Family Court so they are worth re-examining.

Allegations - don't make things harder for yourself.You’re not perfect and nor is anyone else. However if you are in the Family Court it is likely you will face allegations. Not even the man or lady behind the big desk is without fault – but they aren’t a party to proceedings. You are just an average man or woman doing their best albeit facing the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. You’ve made mistakes as you are only human.

It’s a sad truth that any mistakes you have made (and often are) magnified, illuminated and explored when it comes to Family Law proceedings.

There’s a sad inevitability here.

The court considers the best interests of the child. The court has to consider any factor that would affect this – including the behaviour and words of any party involved in the case. And considering these factors takes time and requires examination.

Avoid having to deal with unnecessary allegations

Allegations - mud slinging?It’s worth remembering too that there is seldom any sanction for making an allegation – but much to gain (if gain’ means the court making an order you like). Even if they turn out to be false. As the old saying goes `If you sling enough mud some may stick’.

As always, we’re big on personal responsibility here at Family Law Assistance Towers. Which means your ex is responsible for what he/she does or says. In the same way you are.

So in a nut shell: Don’t give the other party ammunition. You will likely have enough to deal with without making it harder for yourself.

The court won’t accept any extenuating circumstances for poor behaviour on your part. Reasons that won’t be accepted include:

  • He/she provoked you.
  • You were upset.
  • The ex needed to be shown what it felt like to be on the receiving end for once.
  • It was the drink/drugs.
  • You had no choice.

How to avoid allegations

Not sure what to do in any given situation? Easy. Avoid any unnecessary communication with the other party. Ask yourself at every turn `How would this look in court?’. Is this child-focused (if it’s a child matter)?

It’s as simple as that.

You cannot stop allegations being made against you. You don’t need to prove they didn’t happen. But you can control how you react.

A McKenzie Friend is just a link in the chain

Don’t waste your money on a McKenzie Friend

It can be pointless using a McKenzie Friend

What’s the point of a McKenzie Friend? I know what you’re thinking here. I’m doing the old `Tell them to do the opposite of what you actually want them to do’ shtick aren’t I?

But think about it. There are plenty of good reasons why you shouldn’t get in touch with us. Or any other McKenzie Friend. Or a solicitor but that’s explained below.

We come in all shapes and sizes. Some of us are jacks-of-all-trades. There are those who specialise in certain areas. Some are legally qualified. Some aren’t. Others are stunningly charismatic, charming and intelligent like yours truly along with the other intellectual giants who are part of Family Law Assistance. Or not.

You get the picture.

But regardless of who you choose to assist you (if at all) there’s one constant in your court case.

A McKenzie Friend doesn’t run your case. You do.

Actually…that’s also true if you are paying a solicitor in excess of £250 an hour . It’s your case. Your kids, money and life. You get to live with whatever decision the man or lady behind the big desk makes. We will become ancient history very quickly while you deal with it year in, year out.

Of course this means you are free to take whatever advice you like…or ignore it at any point. But ask yourself this: If you’re paying for advice and doing nothing with it, it may be worth you saving your money.

Any McKenzie Friend who assists you is only one member of the team,  only part of the chain.

A McKenzie Friend is just a link in the chainAnd as the old proverb goes – a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

Make sure it isn’t you.

If it is legal qualifications, experience, leg work or anything else will make no difference to your case.

So with no further ado here are…

4 ways to waste money on a McKenzie Friend

Make sure you are unavailable for as much time as possible. Vanish at crucial points during your case. Send an urgent message to your McKenzie Friend and do the communication equivalent of being the victim of an alien abduction being taken to the Andromeda galaxy. If you have a court deadline submit a document in 4 weeks, vanish until 11pm the night before and then ask for urgent assistance before 8am the next day to impress on us the urgency of the situation.

Listen to advice and then ignore it. OK…you’ve got us. We can offer advice and you can ignore it. The same is true if we were a big money solicitor who is charging you several times what we currently. Of course Practice Guidance clearly states we are to offer assistance only. But ask yourself this: `If I disagree with so much of the advice I am given would I be better off not paying a McKenzie Friend at all?’

We’re not precious nor offended if you ignore what we say. It’s your case but we would agree with anyone who arrives at this conclusion.

And another two!

Don’t be honest with your McKenzie Friend. Don’t tell them anything that portrays you in a bad light, even if it has the potential of changing the trajectory of your case. Omit to mention convictions of any kind. Remain silent about allegations you have faced. Ignore looming criminal case. What are the chances that the other party that has been hostile enough towards you to make a court case a sad inevitability will bring it up in court to delay or prevent progress?

Inconceivable!

It doesn’t matter that a little foreknowledge could have potentially avoided these issues.

Choose your McKenzie Friend and then argue about their fees at every opportunity. There are an ever-increasing number of McKenzie Friend out there. Some of them are free. Some of them work for expenses only. Some of them charge varying rates.

You can use anyone you like.

Don’t worry about that though. Choose who you need to help you and then query everything. Even if you are clear about what is being charged and you are in a position to tell the McKenzie Friend in front of you to take a hike before a penny has changed hands.

Your McKenzie Friend wants you to do well

Most McKenzie Friends including us want a great result for you. Many of us began their work as a result of personal experience. We want to help others in the same situation. To ensure you avoid the pitfalls, delays and heartache that comes with being involved in a court case.

Besides, many of us have professional pride and it doesn’t look good if everyone we help ends up with a terrible result does it?

As always…focus. Be clear about what you want. And if you use a McKenzie Friend either listen to them or fire them and save your money.