We’re getting a lot of enquiries from people who are on the way to court hearings and are nervous about what is going to happen.
Michaela talks about what you can expect to happen…
We’re getting a lot of enquiries from people who are on the way to court hearings and are nervous about what is going to happen.
Michaela talks about what you can expect to happen…
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…
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yes. 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.
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.
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…
1.) Thou Shalt Not Slag Thine Ex off on Social Media
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.
Believe me, a Non-Molestation Order made against you is the cherry on the cake.
Things are hard enough as it is: Your children not allowed to see you. Your work is being affected by the upset you’ve suffered – and the unexpected emails, phone calls and other stuff that means your life is on hold. Your finances are trashed – maybe you’ve been paying a solicitor (and being shocked by the £600 you’ve had to pay on account even before the action starts); you’re not cooking so you’re eating out (if you stomach food – because the `Divorce Diet’ that involves nausea, vomiting and chronic lack of sleep means the pounds are just going to fall off). Maybe you’re driving long distances to sort things out.
Things couldn’t get any worse could they? Don’t count on it.
In a lot of respects an application for one of these against you is a side show. For a start, they’re not covered under the same statute as the one that covers contact disputes – that’s the Children Act 1989. But it will impact a child contact dispute.
A Non-Molestation Order falls under the Family Law Act 1996.
That doesn’t mean they don’t often come visiting together however because:
Did you see what I did there?
You’ve gone in an instant from being a parent who is being denied time with his/her legal time to a violent and abusive nutter who would have to see the children in an environment they aren’t familiar with with an ex who has legal representation.
Oh yes, you could end up with a PIN. Or a caution for criminal damage, a breach of the peace or something else – so many amazing offers. But a Non-Molestation is the top prize. So to speak.
So, if you would like to see your name up in lights…sorry…on a court order ordering you not to molest your ex and advising you risk imprisonment if you ignore it try some (or all if you really fancy your chances).
The first you’ll probably know that you’ve `won’ will be when you are served with an ex parte emergency interim order. That’s a sudden hearing made without you being there. You’ll be invited back in a week or so to find out what your take on things are and whether the length of this order should be extended or dropped.
Rhetoric aside – don’t do this, OK? Seriously. There are genuine reasons why Non-Molestation Orders are made. There are genuine victims who need them. You are stressed and chances are your ex is – and if there are kids are involved it’s not going to help them either. A silly and small mistake can escalate very quickly into a serious and big one.
See taking this advice as good for a few reasons:
Your case is likely hard enough as it is. This is an `easy win’ for you not to make it even harder. Keep your nose clean, stay out of trouble and do everything you can to make things easier for all concerned and not harder.
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.
You 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.
We’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).
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:
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.
Narcissists. The bane of the life of too many people who are in the turmoil of a Family Court case. A `domestic terrorist’ – someone who comes across as charming, lovely and nice when with others but takes their human face mask off when the doors are locked. A superior-acting snowflake who will take advantage of anyone who shows them any empathy, who needs their every wish followed precisely and will say black is white if it suits them.
Sound familiar? I mean…if the court knows about the true them you’ll turn the case very quickly won’t you?
Of course, if you tell the court about your ex’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder, I will put money on the fact the following will happen:
Read it here, people: Don’t go to court to try to prove your ex is a narcissist. No. Really. Don’t.
Let’s assume I’m onboard with your diagnosis, Dr Freud. Let’s assume that when you open ` Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders‘ and flipped through to DSM-5 there’s a picture of your ex and a caption that says `Case study in Narcissism’ and that any number of psychologists with big offices full of certificates agree with you.
Let’s assume you are right – this personality disorder is driving this case. That it’s harming your child. That it’s the reason you’ve split up with your ex and why he/she managed to get you arrested leaving you to sit in the cells for a few nights.
There’s some very good reasons it won’t do you any good to mention this.
In short, if you pursue the `my ex is a narcissist’ line you’re choosing time, effort and quite possibly money to fight a battle you can’t win and isn’t going to help your case whatsoever. If you want to diagnose your ex (and I would say that it’s a bad idea in itself) that’s your prerogative. But it probably isn’t going to help you that much.
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