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4 ways to ruin your own case.

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

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

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

Because you’re special. Your case is unique.

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

But not you.

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

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

So – lets’ help.

What you’re going to ruin your own case

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

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

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

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

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

Represent yourself – you have the power!

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

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

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

`Resident parent' doesn't mean `First prize'

What does being `the resident parent’ mean?

What does this actually mean???

Every time someone has told me they absolutely, positively have to be the resident parent I have always asked `What will a residence order allow you to do that you can’t do now?’

I usually get a blank stare. Or told something that isn’t true. Often that’s by the other side’s solicitor or barrister. If it’s a parent it’s usually something about being able to call the police and get the kids back if the non resident parent refuses to hand them over.

Problem is that it’s not true – if you want the thin blue line to get involved you’ll need an Emergency Protection Order (form C11) – covered in Section 44 of the Children Act. Or they’ll have to be convinced the child will suffer significant harm if not removed (that’s section 46). Most they’ll do (or the most they should do is a Welfare Check).

Pro-tip: Don’t think about trying to use these except in very, very extreme circumstances.

A resident parent has precisely no powers to demand a child is with them other than going through the courts – they are in exactly the same position as a non resident parent. Which is why if you phone 999 and demand your children are returned you’ve got a good chance of being told to speak to your solicitor and/or take it to court.

So in light of the above I present you with a comprehensive list of things that a resident parent can do that a non resident parent can’t. Here we go.

  1. A resident parent can remove a child from jurisdiction for up to 28 days without the permission of the non resident parent.
  2. That’s it.

A non resident parent does need permission of the resident parent.

Many people see resident parents have `won' first prize in a court caseWhat’s the point then? Let’s be honest – it’s a nice title innit? You’re the RESIDENT parent. The main one. The boss. It doesn’t matter that little title means almost precisely nothing – doesn’t affect when your kids are with you, who is in charge, education, medicine or anything else like that. That doesn’t mean that many of the people and agencies you deal with will agree with me on this…but that’s their ignorance and not based in law.

So what do you do when you are faced with an ex who demands they get this title? Ask them (or their solicitor) What harm will the child come to if this order isn’t granted?’ Expect to be told something along the lines of It’s a well established principle’ (rubbish). `The law is clear on this‘ (Ask them which law – there ain’t one). `It reflects the reality on the ground‘ (irrelevant). `The order HAS to say who the child lives with‘ (no it doesn’t…).

The No Order’ principle states the court must start from the position that no order shall be made unless the court consider that doing so would be better for the child than making no order at all’– or in other words `Prove that an order is needed’.

Of course the `go to’ most solicitors will use for this is to say that such an order will make the primary carer (usually Mum) feel more secure if such an order is made which of course will impact the children.

So consider this. While a residence order is of little significance or relevance to you as a contact parent it is often the case it means a great deal to the primary carer.  With this in mind you can agree…or disagree that such an order should be made. You may wish to agree to such an order on the proviso that your goals for contact are agreed to. Otherwise you’ll have no option but to point out there is little benefit for such an order to be made.

(One final word – they’re not called `residence orders’ any more. It’s about Who the child lives with’. Same thing, different name – but `residence order’ is a little easier to say and everyone still calls it that in court).

How do I stop my ex moving away with the kids?

We get this asked a lot. From our (own biased) point of view there is a good chance that following the separation of their parents a child will be moved a distance away from where they were previously by the resident parent (or since the changes in the last few years `The parent the child lives with’).

Please note this post only related to moves within jurisdiction (i.e. children habitually resident in England & Wales who are being moved away – including to Scotland and Northern Ireland. There’ll be a post about kids being uprooted to Australia and the like in the future).

Why? Well – it doesn’t really matter when you get right down for it, but the following jusitifcations are used:

  1. I want a fresh start somewhere new.
  2. I can move closer to my family and/or support network.
  3. I want to.
  4. Because my new partner has a job 400 miles away and he/she can’t get a new one.
  5. Because I have been offered a job 400 miles away and I get one anywhere closer.

So how do you stop them? The answer is `With great difficulty’. You’ll need to submit a C100 to ask for a Prohibited Steps Order – or a C2 for one as a variation if there is a live case.

If you are a non resident parent (as was) don’t think a contact order won’t effectively be torn up will stop a move. It will be if you aren’t careful.

If it results in contact reducing or stopping the court won’t care. It will probably not order the resident parent to do the travelling either…that’ll be down to you. Like it or lump it. Which means the onus is on you. Your options are therefore:

  1. Make an application for a PSO (recommended).
  2. Make plans to and follow through with moving too (recommended).
  3. Accepting a reduction or stopping of contact (guess)

Don’t get me wrong. You will almost certainly fail in your bid to get a PSO granted. It does happen but don’t count on it. Hope for the best, plan for the worst and all that. Use the time that the application takes to do your research. New places to live, new places to work, support networks to build. Applying for a PSO will do the following:

  1. Give you extra time.
  2. Give you more information about what is going on.
  3. Register your disagreement with the move (not doing anything counts as agreement, kids!)
  4. Provide you with additional evidence of the hostility towards you (if that is the case).

So what are good reasons to oppose a move?

Your children will be uprooted from their family. From their school. From their friends. From the home they have known for so long. To an area they don’t know filled with people they don’t know. This argument is stronger if your children have strong links to the area they live in – lots of friends, families, activities and an education that will be disrupted by being removed from one school and placed in another (particularly if exams are in the offi

As always, use the Welfare Checklist as your guide.

And as always the above is all about judgement. Which is where we come in.

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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!

It’s amazing how often this comes up. And how many people will justify this. And will argue the toss. But this is a very simple one.

Names of children. A rose by any other name...?When can someone change the names of children? 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 child.
  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. Getting away with something doesn’t mean it is legal.

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?

Finishing Line

Contact Denial – What to do and not do

Contact denial is one of the most common matters dealt with in the Family Courts. It’s the most common reason a non resident parent reluctantly fills in the forms (usually a C100), pays their fee and sends it in.

The anatomy of contact denial

Right off the bat, let’s establish something fundamental.

Anyone denying contact between a child and someone who has PR for them without a court order preventing it is acting with no legal basis whatsoever.

Being the primary carer, resident parent, mum, dad, whatever doesn’t confer the right to tell someone who has PR for a child that they can’t see them.

The circumstance of how contact is denied varies however. There is no set pattern. Sometimes they haven’t met their child since birth. Or they had been permitted a sporadic and limited relationship which has ended. Often contact has stopped suddenly and without warning.

Why does contact denial happen?

And the justification for this? I don’t like your attitude. The kids don’t want to see you. You’re a bad parent. I don’t have to let you see them without a court order. I don’t like your new partner. My new partner is daddy/mummy. You’re not paying me enough cash. Or something else.

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

Delay is the worst thing you can do if you are facing contact denialThe 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 – they don’t `blow over’

Instead what happens is a  a status quo of no contact is set and the contact denier feels emboldened that they are able to continue with this course of action without problems. If you do nothing they’re right of course.

No one cares about contact denial apart from you

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 care 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. Because you won’t get an answer. Or they might be able to make it in 3 months time. Maybe.

FlagIf 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.

If (or when because more often than not it either fails or doesn’t happen in the first place, you’ll need to submit your form to start the whole process.

But the take home here? Do not delay.

When should I post about my case on social media?

If it’s on social media it’s known to the Family Court

OK – that’s a slight exaggeration but if you are in the Family Court be care. It is a good assumption to make. If you put it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Instragram, etc. everyone can see it.

Social media provides useful information in the Family Court`But I have locked down my account and no one can see it!’ I hear you cry. It’s what everyone always says in court, just after they have faced hostile questions by an aggressive solicitor or barrister. Or what they say when they’ve just seen the screenprints of that Facebook post where they have given their honest and considered opinion of the judge, solicitor, barrister, the ex and the CAFCASS officer. There may be pictures of you `refreshed’ after a night on the town to get over the hearing where your ex accused you of alcoholism.

The Family Court will take the information it has into consideration.

So the answer to the question `When should I post on social media about my case is easy’.

The answer is `…whenever you are happy for anything you say online to be read and used against you in court’.

Of course you have a right to post whatever you like online as long as you’re not breaking the law. You can point this out to anyone who will listen. You can talk about complaining to the manager/regulatory authority/your MP about how your right to privacy has been breached.

The Family Court doesn't expect to be an angel but...The Family Court won’t care – it is interested in the best interests of the child and not your privacy. You may be told that it’s a separate matter you should deal with elsewhere (as in `not in this court room’).

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. 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, very happy if the result is one they like and you don’t.

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.

Posting on social media is one of the worst things you can do to damage your case. Don’t do it!

False allegations

How to counter allegations in court

Abuse allegations are common in the Family Court.

If you’re a non resident parent and an applicant there is a good chance you have had allegations of abuse made against you. They may be of the sexual, domestic violence or child abuse type – but really it doesn’t matter which type you face.

Anyone withholding a child from someone who has PR for them has no legal basis for doing so unless they have a court order – and it is possible that such allegations go some way of providing whoever has the child with a flimsy justification for their actions.

Because the correct approach for someone who believe such allegations is to contact the police, social services, doctor, etc. and to seek an order for no contact between a child and the abuser.

There is just one response to allegations you don’t accept

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.

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.

If it looks like they court is seriously interested – ask for a Finding of Fact hearing (also called a `Re: L’). At this sort of hearing the other party will be required to provide evidence for their allegations and you will get an opportunity to prove they are false.

Do this and the other party will have to choose between providing their evidence. Or dropping it quietly.

Allegations – a summary

False allegationsSo 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.

A McKenzie Friend can help to banish the `black dog'.


`Why should I use a McKenzie Friend?’

Because a good McKenzie Friend will empower you.

A McKenzie Friend can help to banish the `black dog'.The outcome of the court case you be a life changer. When your kids will be allowed to see you. Where you’ll live. What legal challenges your company faces. How much cash you’ll have.

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


Don’t be daunted. Most people are able to do a great job of representing themselves. What they may not be family with is procedure, law or negotiation.

Why should I use a Family Law Assistance McKenzie Friend?


Our team members have personal experience of litigation in Family and Civil courts. They also have legal qualifications and extensive experience assisting people in courts around England and Wales.

It’s also our passion.

We know what works and what it it feels to be involved in a stressful court case.

You feel powerless. Outgunned. Overwhelmed. Bullied.

You’re be tired, at the end of your tether and unable – your life put on hold. You cannot face the future.

You feel walking away is the best option – even while your argument is very strong. You are nervous, drained and exhausted. The 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 leaves you paralysed.

We can help.

A Mckenzie Friend will help you sleep at night.

We will give you the tools to run your own case and tell you how to use them. You’ll know what is likely to happen at court, what your ex may do to do next and how to avoid the usual pitfalls.

Because no matter what situation you face it has happened a thousand times before to someone else – and we have helped them face it.

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.

Our help can range from checking your position statement before a hearing to assisting you every step of the way.

The sooner you act, the sooner you can get on with your life. Don’t hesitate. Contact us now for a free consultation.