Christmas contact - don't risk an empty house.

The Season of Goodwill – Christmas Contact

Christmas contact if you have a hostile ex partner is…special. OK, OK – Christmas is meant to be special. But not in that way, eh?

Christmas contact - don't leave it too late to sort it out.If you’re not seeing your kids over Christmas it can be just about the worst time of year. A time of year you quite frankly want to see the back of. You want everyone to put away the tinsel, stop banging on about it being `for the kids’ or anything else to remind you that you’ve been thrown out of `the parents club’.

You want it gone. The New Year to start. And to get on with life.

If the above sounds scarily familiar or likely to occur you have time to do something about it.

But not long.

Deal with Christmas contact issues now

Along with the summer holidays we always get a rush of calls in December from parents who realise they’re not going to see their kids on or around the 25th. By the time they do…it’s too late. We can’t help. Nor can anyone else.

Christmas contact - don't risk an empty house.It’s because the the court staff are taking time off for the holidays…and spending time with their kids. And because other people have anticipated the very problems that we’re discussing here and have beaten you to it.

They are going to avoid the situation of being told by the ex there is going to be no Christmas contact and if you don’t like it you can take him/her to court for it….which in reality will be when you’re throwing out the left over turkey at best and after ringing in the New Year at worst. You’ll get a court date at some point in January to discuss you wish for Christmas contact – we’ve seen it happen.

It’ll be too late.

How to make sure Christmas contact happens

So assuming Christmas contact isn’t specified in order, you need to work on things now. The same applies if the ex tells you you’re not seeing the kids over this period or refuses to discuss it at all.

You’ll need a plan. Here it is:

  1. Contact a mediation service such as National Family Mediation ASAP. Today is a good day to do it.
  2. Complete a C100 form for a Specific Issues Order. You’ll be applying for contact over Christmas this year as well as order that provides for Christmas Contact for every year going forward.
  3. Hand deliver the forms and submit your fee. You can always chance your arm at an emergency ex parte hearing for the same later down but this is risky and you may well find yourself turned away being told you shouldn’t have left it too late (and it’d be a fair point…).

If you do nothing, nothing happens. It’ll be you sitting alone. Make sure that doesn’t happen.

Don’t hesitate people!

Allegations - don't make things harder for yourself.

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.

Learn how to represent yourself in the Family Court

Ready to empower yourself in the Family Court?

Family Court hearings are not to be feared.Join us in our new Facebook support group to learn how to represent yourself in the Family Court today!

Great news: You can represent yourself in court and do a great job too.

Even better is that you will be empowered. You’ll be the one in the driving seat. You won’t be passive, sitting in the background while someone who doesn’t know you, your situation or your children speaks about you as if you aren’t there and leaves you wondering what is going on.

You will be playing a full role every step of the way.

The Family Court is not to be feared.

Steven and Michaela, here to help in the Family Court.

Especially if you know what’s going on. And you will. Because we’ll help you. You’ll know who is who. What is going on, what your options and the best way to make the most favourable outcome as likely as possible.

Join us today and learn how to take control!

 

A rose by any other name...as 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 name...as 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.

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 for that matter. Or a solicitor but that’s explained below. for

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 your 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 chainAs 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.

An appeal has a number of hurdles

How do I appeal?

A better question to start with is almost always `Should I appeal?’

An appeal has a number of hurdlesIt’s entirely natural to wonder what options are open to you if a court orders something you don’t like and/or want. Particularly when you have just walked out of a hearing and the adrenaline is still pumping through your veins.

So asking the court to come up with a different decision is understandable.

But let’s be clear.

An appeal isn’t a legal way of saying to the court `Can you make a different decision cos I don’t like the one you’ve already made?’

Appeals are not a second bite of the cherry.

There is a very easy initial way of seeing if you should make an application to do so: If your first question is Can we appeal?’ and not `We should appeal because of XYZ?’ you are already on shaky ground.

Even in many situations when an appeal would succeed it’s not worth doing so. These include scenarios including:

  1. The court agreeing that the court that made the order was wrong but that it would have made the same decision anyway (this happens).
  2. When there is an ongoing case and your appeal is liable to adversely affect it (such as slowing it down).
  3. If there are other options.

But I also want to point out that there are times where you should absolutely think about appealing. Carry on reading for this!

Appeals are deliberately hard. Namely because if they weren’t it’d encourage anyone who didn’t like an order to nip down to the court office after the hearing to put the forms in. And because of this they almost always fail.

So when DO I appeal?

`Grounds for appeal’ is the operative phrase here. What are your reasons for appealing in the first place? As I’ve said too many times now not liking an order is not a reason. If you have boxticked the above then you are ready to move on to the next step.

An appeal takes work

A castle wall and an appeal are both deliberately difficult to overcomeMany litigants in person seem to think that submitting the right form to the court (that’s a N161 or a FP161 if it’s going to the High Court) is all that is needed. Put the form in. Convince the judge to make a different decision. Job done.

It’s not like that. Part 30 of the Family Procedure Rules explains what is needed.

Along with the right form (above) and sending it to the right court you’ll need:

  1. A Practice Direction 27A compliant bundle.
  2. Your grounds for appeal. Which can be that:
    1. The court has erred in law.
    2. The decision is outside the range of reasonable disagreement and is therefore manifestly wrong.
    3. There was a serious procedural or other irregularity thar renders the decision unjust.

Errors in law include the court:

  1. Not correctly applying statutory tests in the relevant Act.
  2. Failing to take account of relevant factors, or further or alternatively to have regard to irrelevant factors.
  3. Omitting to give proper reasons.

These grounds need to be set out in your skeleton argument, along with case law to support them.

The next step for an appeal

Once you have submitted these to the court (with your fee of course…) you will either receive a date of a hearing to discuss the appeal or a rejection of it; if you have just filled in the N161 or FP161 it may well be the thanks but no thanks letter.

Otherwise it’ll be time to explain to the court why your appeal has merit. This hearing is not an opportunity to discuss what order you would like the court to make with regarding to contact, residence, adoption, etc. The court can’t and won’t do it at this hearing.

You’re there purely to convince the court why it was wrong to make the order it did. If the court agrees you have a point there will be another hearing (effectively a trial to establish if your appeal does have merit).

All going well a subsequent hearing will address the matter in hand.

Even if you are right sometimes it isn’t worth making an appeal

There are a few great reasons why even if you categorically know you are right and would definitely win an appeal it still isn’t worth doing so.

For example…you could be told by the appeal court that there was a serious procedural error made by the court – but the same decision would have been made even so. Or that you weren’t give reasons for the decisions (judgements are read out to ensure this box is ticked) – but again the same decision would have been made.

It could be that by the time your cast-iron case for an appeal is made there has been a subsequent hearing and whatever it is you are unhappy about has been rendered meaningless. Or that it merely demonstrates the vexatious nature the other party is alleging you have is correct.

As always, look at the big picture here – it is the end result that counts and not what happens along the way.

But don’t be under any illusions that appeals are easy or just another chance to get what you want. They’re not.

Court - nothing like Game of Thrones

4 things that never happen in court

In some court some thing never happen…

…but you’re in your own little world. It’s 3am. You’re snuggled up in bed after a particularly hard day and along with the dreams about fabulous wealth, world domination and other things we’re much too polite to discuss here at Family Law Assistance Towers. Before long your subconsciousness gives you nudge in the direction of the legal process you find yourself in…

4 things that (may) happen in your dreams but almost certainly won’t happen in court.

Your 30 minute 10am hearing finishes 10.30am

Court - nothing like Game of ThronesYou get to the court, having parked just outside in glorious sunshine just a few steps from the front door. Even better, it’s free! You don’t need to take a book, avail yourself of the wonderful coffee (it is a dream, remember!) and you have a lovely chat with the smiling and helpful court staff who welcome you like an old friend as you enter through the doors…

You get the ex’s solicitor to admit their client is a dick

A king (or queen) among men (or women), your ex’s legal representative greets you with a cheery smile and wave, telling you how nice it is to see you. How much weight you have lost. How much they love your outfit. They’re almost apologetic that you’ve taken time from your busy schedule to be in court instead of where ever you would rather be.

After this, they lean forward and tell you conspiratorially that while their client, your ex, has refused to agree to anything they can only express their sincere apologies because your ex is an unintelligent, selfish liar that they despise intensely.

During cross the examination the ex, the judge, CAFCASS or social worker admits it’s all their fault and/or a huge conspiracy against you.

Rumpole has nothing on you! It’s like knocking down skittles today isn’t it? Your questions are incisive, intelligent and utterly logical. The tissue of lies in front of you falls away like, erm, tissue. Stunned by your cross examination the poor sap on the stand is forced to admit their many character faults and incriminates themselves further whilst reeling from your verbal assault. Even the judge is open mouthed in shock and blurts out `You should be a barrister!’

You are going to remember this day for many, many years. And so will you. Chances are it’s going to bring down the whole rotten system. You’re going to end up on Love Island. Newsnight and before a House of Commons Select Committee to assist in reforming the whole Family Law system.

The court tells your ex it is entirely their fault and that you are as pure as the driven snow.

The Family Court isn't the criminal courtBut before that the court is going to rip your ex a new one. If the judge had a gavel he or she would most certainly be banging it to keep the assembled crowd that should be watching proceedings to keep quiet. When silence and decorum are restored he’d likely put on his/her black cap to pronounce his/her sentence of death read out the judgement.

Your ex stands in the dock, their head bowed in shame before they are put in stocks to have rotten tomatoes thrown at them. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan they’d be walking through Kings Landing with a nun walking behind them intoning `Shame!’ and ringing a bell from time to time.

Courts don’t work like this

See, we’re big on focus here. None of the above is realistic is it? If you’re out to crusade, punish or control a case you are a hiding to nothing. It doesn’t matter how strong, intelligent, tough or determined you are.

The courts are designed to work with awkward people. If that’s the box you get put in, you will lose.

Of course, you’ll meet the guy who never played the court’s game…and has no contact. Or the woman who was stitched up…but is almost certainly not telling you the whole story. Or the lucky beggar who was before a judge who woke up in a particularly good mood, liked the look of his/her face and decided to thrown caution to the wind.

But don’t rely on anything other than hard work. I’d say Hope for the best and plan for the worst’ but even that isn’t exactly decent advice. It’s less snappy to say `Plan for the worst and do everything you can to get the right result’ but it’s probably more accurate – because hoping implies you are powerless and as we’ve said before, that is far from the truth.

Good luck. Be strong, be determined, but be realistic.

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.

LTR - the nuclear option

Stopping the ex moving abroad with the kids (LTR)

It’s just about every parent’s nightmare. Leave to Remove (LTR). You’ve split with your children’s other parent. You’ve done your best to stay in their lives. You’ve jumped hurdle after hurdle put in your way. You’ve probably gone to court to get a court order. It’s cost you time, money and heartache already. You are hoping to rebuild your life, to spend time with the kids and look forward to happier time.

And the ex then announces they are moving abroad. Possibly France, possibly another continent. Possibly the other side of the planet. Or maybe you hear it from someone else.

Face this it’s reasonable to feel like the bottom has dropped out of your world.

Because it’s a game changer isn’t it? It’s one thing to be restricted in when the kids see you…but if you need a plane flight and a passport to see them that’s an entirely different ball game.

Of all the times that you need your game head, this is it.

Now of course it is possible to get kids back from a foreign country – especially if they are Hague Convention ones. Right? Well…look at it like this. You know how difficult it is as a litigant in person in the Family Court in this country?

Imagine doing it again in a different language, using laws you are unaware of, that may give ex priority (for example…if they are a national of the country they are now in). and you paying the equivalent for the cost of a holiday for each hearing until the case is over and your lawyer if you have one.

Leave to Remove (LTR) – the nuclear option

Leave to Remove - the nuclear optionAs a non resident parent you are on the back foot already even at the best of times. Once your ex has gone…well…a contact dispute in this country will look like a walk in the park and you’ll soon end up with fond memories of the `good old days’ when you weren’t flying to hearings.

For this reason it’s a different proposition. If you seriously think your ex is going to remove your children from England & Wales you need to consider carefully on balance whether you would rather fight a court fight here…or elsewhere. In an age where you have around a 50% chance of stopping a removal it is quite possible you have little to lose.

There are various outcomes in this scenario:

  1. Your ex is planning to remove your children and you do nothing – your children go.
  2. Your ex is planning to remove your children and you make an application – you have a 50% chance of stopping it.
  3. Your ex isn’t going to remove the children and you do nothing – good result.
  4. Your ex isn’t going to remove the children and you make an application – you damage the relationship with your ex.

Moral of this story? If you have serious concerns you absolutely should make that application. If not, step away from the big red button.

How to deal with a Leave to Remove Case (LTR)

The correct answers are `quickly’ and`decisively’. Don’t push this metaphorical big red button unless you are fairly sure your children will be removed if you do nothing.  If you are…push it without a moment’s hesitation.

The practical stuff?

Leave to Remove  - handle with careYou’ll need a C67. Or a C100. Depending on the circumstances and what you wish to achieve exactly and your particular circumstances – because there is more than one way to skin a cat. You’ll need to submit a position statement too in all likelihood (almost certainly if we’re by your side).

It’ll be an emergency ex parte hearing and should the court see things your way you’ll likely be back very, very soon (we’ve know it to be the next day in the cases we have assisted in).

You won’t be visiting you friendly local court either…it’ll be a day trip to London unfortunately to the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand.

and where you’ll quite possibly end up before a High Court Judge. Which should kind of give you an inkling of how serious this sort of thing is treated.

This whole post can be boiled down very succinctly. Don’t make this sort of application unless you are fairly certain there is a definite risk your children will be removed; if there is…get on with it. Don’t hesitate.

And the moral of this story is simple. Do your research. Communicate with your ex as much as possible. Simple misunderstandings can be blown out of all proportion. For the want of transparency you can be mired in a court case that only causes trouble.

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.

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