Checking Facebook and other things more important than your child contact case

Child contact or Facebook?Finding that lost dog in Arizona or contact with your children?

Contact with your children is the most important thing in the world to you. Not seeing them has caused you to fall into depression. Put you into debt. Ruined friends and relationships. Generally turned your world upside down.

And yet when it comes to doing something about it you do stuff that isn’t going to help. This includes (but isn’t limited to):

  • Going on holiday during a crucial part of your case.
  • Deciding to print your documents the morning of the hearing.
  • Not asking the boss for some time off to do stuff that needs doing because he may say no.
  • Turning up late.
  • Not looking after crucial documents .

Rabbit in the headlights?

Every action has a reason behind it. When people do this sort of thing it’s usually because they don’t want to go to the damn hearing or deal with the horrible paperwork. We don’t blame them for that. It’s a normal (and sane!) reaction when faced with something unpleasant. (It’s different for us. It’s our job and we stay neutral when you’re feeling under pressure).

But how would it be if dealing with these horrible jobs made you gain the feeling that you’ve seized control of the situation? That you’ve ticked something else off the list of things that need to happen to achieve your goals.

And this is something you can do that will help your situation with zero legal knowledge, help from people like us or anything like that. It’s free.

Things to do instead of working on your case?Catch-22

The above is easy to say but can be more challenging to do. But it is possible. Because it’s a mindset thing. And you’re in charge of your mind. Whether it is deciding to give the ex’s solicitor both barrels, telling the judge like it is or choosing to be happy when others wouldn’t be – it’s down to you.

The longer we’ve assisted people the more we’ve realised the more responsibility you take for yourself, the more power you have.

This post comes off the back of a conversation with a colleague who said how frustrated when people seemingly do things to damage their own situations. If the above applies to you…what can you do to make sure you’re making it that little bit easier?

Court cases and why it’s ALL your fault!

Not for those of a nervous disposition

We’re not going to apologise for saying stuff that you don’t want to hear. #sorrynotsorry

We’re going to be told we don’t understand how hard it is. How we’re kicking people when they’re down. Comments about how we’re meant to be helping people and not giving them a hard time. If we’re really lucky we may get a few nasty messages (it happens).

But what do you really want?

Tea and biscuits?

Tea and biscuits?

Someone who agrees with you, tells how awfully you’ve been treated and how biased the court system is…and then goes on to make an amazing cup of tea while offering you selection of nice biscuits?

That’s not to say there isn’t a place for somewhere to share experiences – consoled by the fact that others know how it feels and to swap war stories.

But there is more to it than that. Much more.

 

Are we just kicking you while you’re down?

You know that saying about a true friend being the one who tells you what you need to hear rather than what you want to hear…? Someone who is ready to have that hard conversation with you because they value you enough as a person to want you to do well?

There are thousands of people who will tell you what you want to hear and a multitude of Facebook groups jam packed with people who write long post over long periods about how their situation never changes.

If we’re honest it’s why you won’t find us posting in any of the many Facebook groups that exist to support parents and others in the family courts. It’s easy to be drowned out by people posting convenient platitudes rather than the inconvenient truths you’ll hear from us.

We want to help people…who are clear and serious about achieving goals that can be achieved with the court system. We’ve got a vested interest in doing our utmost to those we help get the best result possible.

All your fault

And here we are at the final bit of this post. The Jerry Springer – style soundbite past the clickbaity headline is this:

The outcome in a court case is influenced greatly by you. For good or bad. Your behaviour and actions have more impact than you’d think if you’re a big fan of those Facebook groups dominated by that man or woman who tells you how awful it is, how they were skinned alive in their court hearing but forget to mention how they told the judge or a barrister he/she was a c**t in the final hearing – it happens – we’ve seen this.

The man or woman who was focused, considered and did what was needed…they’re not posting in that group. They’ve moved on and working on building a better life and not telling everyone about how you may as well give up.

And your reaction to this post will be telling too. Are you now thinking `Maybe I could do some things better?‘ or are you already formulating the response about why it is someone else’s fault?

Which is it to be?

How to lose friends and alienate people (in court)

Fallout Shelter sign

Mutually assured destruction – when destroying the other side is more important than your own survival

We often tell people that family law is more of an art than a science. There are few guarantees. Lots of variables. And a hefty dose of catching the right judge at the right time.

But there are a few sure fire ways to help or hinder your case.

Today. An object lesson in what to do if you really want to shoot yourself in the foot when you make an application.

Number one: Give up

The absolute best way, guaranteed to achieve nothing. Say the courts are biased, that they won’t enforce their own orders, listen to what your mates say and decide to save yourself the hassle. It doesn’t matter if these are all true.

But if you only do one thing to fail…this is it.

Number two: Talk about your case on social media

It’s a winner! You’ll give your ex ammunition to use against you (and his/her solicitor too), possibly give them a heads up against what your situation is and allow them to spend the entire hearing discussing this rather than stuff like contact. It’ll irritate the court too. It may even cause you to face contempt of court charges.

…but you at least you can say you had your say.

Number three: Label your ex as a narcissist or a parental alienator

You may be in court to discuss contact and not your ex partner’s mental state. You may not be a qualified psychologist, nor appointed by the court or an impartial figure. But you can use the time to pin a label on your ex.

Bonus points for taking in news clippings to back up your views but the court won’t be interested in them.

Number four: Fighting fire with fire/telling the court like it is

You’ve been labelled as angry, aggressive and contrary – and to show the court this isn’t the case you’re going to fight everyone. Every step of the way. You’re going to counter allegation with allegation. Do things `on principle’. Do stuff to see how your ex partner likes it. Tell the court what you think of it.

You won’t get contact or time with your children…but at least you didn’t bow down to anyone.

The Jerry Springer-style wrap up

The family law courts are full of angry and upset people.  It’s quite possible that you’re one of them and reading this has made you angry and upset.

But the courts are set up to deal with angry and upset people…it’s something they’re really good at doing. As always – it’s all about focus. What are you in court for in the first place?

Think carefully before you act.

Paperwork madness: What do I do about bundles and statements?

Represent myself? Won't there be too much paperwork?Court cases and mountains of paperwork…

…but is it all really necessary? Will it actually make any difference to your case?

It’s a great question. It’s possible that you can turn up at your next hearing with nothing at all, that the court will listen to you, take into account that you’re a litigant-in-person who doesn’t understand the bedroom reading that is Practice Direction 27A and make an order that you feel is fair and in the best interests of your child.

In the same way it’s likely that on the way to the hearing you won’t need the restraint of your seat belt because you’re not going to drive into the back of the car in front of you. We’re guessing that despite this you usually buckle up when you go for drive though.

Clunk click every trip.

Overkill? You decide.

It’s all about the judgement isn’t it? It’s a risk you decide is or isn’t acceptable. Some things are worth punting – some things aren’t.

Court paperwork can be like a seatbeltWhen you’re in the family courts it’s your how much money you’ll be left with when the dust settles from the divorce or separation. Or when your children will be able to see you. You know how important it is to you. When you ask us, we’ll tell you if we think it is worth putting together than trial bundle. That statement. Anything else.

We can be a cautious bunch here at Family Law Towers. We’re great at doing things on the fly. Which is useful when it comes to helping you in negotiations. When you’ve got the police knocking at your door. When you’ve been pole-axed by a piece of information at precisely the wrong moment.

But when that sort of stuff isn’t happening we like to prepare, organise and decide what an acceptable risk is. The decision is yours however and we’ll support you in whatever way you choose…

Divorce, money and children – three strands in one.

Divorce? It’s easy to forget: Not everyone has the same area of expertise as you and doesn’t take for granted the same stuff.

We’re called `Family Law Assistance’. Because unsurprisingly enough…we assist people with Family Law. It’s something we deal with on a daily basis.

Divorce consists of the divorce itself, financial arrangements and can involve children.

But despite the bulk of our work concerning children, arrangements concerning them is just one of the three different strands (if you’re married) that need dealing with.

These three strands are:

  1. The divorce itself.
  2. Financial arrangements.
  3. Child arrangements.

How these are dealt with depend on your own particular situation. Things like…do you agree on them? Are you amicable? What the circumstances of your situation? What is the situation with assets? Liabilities? At least two of them can apply to unmarried couples too (for our more legally minded friends we’re talking about TOLATA and Schedule 1 Applications).

Timing is crucial too…so it’s often a case of judgement and not simply knowledge of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 or what forms to fill in and how.

The three strands of divorce: Spot the odd one out

OK, OK. Bit of a trick headline there.

But the court really wants you to agree on things without it having to get involved as much as possible. They’re overstretched, under budgeted and besides…you’re much more likely to stick to an order if you are actually happy with it – which is where agreement comes in.

But for the sake of drawing a line on a marriage there does need to be a certain amount of paperwork.

So there does need to be a piece of paper that says you’re actually divorced.

And there needs to be something that says you’re not the financial liability or beneficiary of your (now ex) spouse’s money woes or otherwise.

Children though…agree the arrangement between yourselves and it’s not the business of anyone else’s. You can (and should!) work with your ex partner to raise your children as best as you can despite going your separate ways.

You don’t need an order for your children. You don’t need use to help you with that if you agree with your ex and you don’t need a solicitor.

Divorce: The wrap up

The take home from this post is straightforward:

  1. When most people talk about `divorce’ the usually mean the whole lot – divorce itself, money and children.
  2. Unmarried people can (but don’t have to) deal with money and children.
  3. Agreeing stuff is better, faster and cheaper than involving us or a solicitor.
  4. It is possible.

As always…keep things amicable where ever possible!

5 things we’re always asked

McKenzie Friends: What we’re always asked.

We get asked all sorts of questions. Some of them are complicated, some are simple – it kind of goes with the territory of what we do on a day to day basis.

But we hear quite a few myths about McKenzie Friends – many of which are untrue. They confuse people so without further ado here’s a run down on the biggies.

Can you represent me?

No. Only a solicitor or a barrister can do that. Its’ worth thinking for a moment what being `represented’ actually mean in a court context. Here it means someone who can speak for you in court. Respond to other people on your behalf – write to your ex and/or their solicitor. Sign documents. Solicitors and barristers are officers of the court.

As that link says:

Although solicitors must fearlessly advance their clients’ cases, they are not “hired guns” whose only duty is to their client. They also owe duties to the courts, third parties and to the public interest.

So we can’t. We can offer you advice, help with paperwork, that sort of thing – but we cannot represent you. But over the decade we’ve assist people we’ve come up with a pretty good way of both following the rules about what we can do and providing you with the help you need!

Are you solicitors?

See above. Solicitors are officers of the court (see above). They’re legally qualified.

McKenzie Friends don’t have to be qualified either but some are (Michaela Wade is a CILEX-qualified paralegal). Others have a wide range of skills and experience.

Can you give me legal advice?

Yes! 4.) iv of Practice Guidance: McKenzie Friends (Civil and Family Courts) says a McKenzie Friend can `quietly give advice on any aspect of the conduct of the case’.

Our advice is based on our legal knowledge (as I say above our team includes qualified individuals) and experience of a large number of wide-varying cases over the years. We’ll tell you what we think the best action to progress the situation is – and you are free to follow or disregard it at any point. We’ll tell you what the court has the power to do and not to do, what the likely response of the court and others involved in the case will be and how to handle changing situations.

It’s really as simple as that.

Can you come to court with me?

Yes! We’re really not sure why people seem to think we can’t. We can! Speak to many legal professionals and they’ll be under the impression that is all we do – they think we’ll turn up on the day, sit with you and go away when the hearing ends (Pro-tip: We do a lot more than that!)

The only time we can’t be with you is during CAFCASS conciliation appointments (mediation before a hearing) – but neither can your solicitor be if you have one instead of us assisting you.

So we can be with you at all points – including when it comes to going into the court room to speak to the judge or magistrates.

Can I change the judge/CAFCASS officer/social worker?

Maybe. But seriously…99.99% of the time it isn’t going to work and it isn’t going to help trying. It’s understandable especially if things aren’t going the way you’d like. The processes to achieve this are there – but for obvious reasons they tend to be a lot harder than actually working with the system to get the desired result.

It’s important to look at the big picture too. Judges, CAFCASS officers, social workers – they often move on over the life span of a case so it’s quite possible that whoever you aren’t particularly enamoured won’t be involved before long in any case.

This last one is a controversial – I know. But it’s a fact. Court cases are hard. Fighting the people involved in the system is even harder and you should conserve your energy on your primary goal.

Wrap up

If you’re not clear on what your McKenzie Friend can do – ask. Read. Practice Guidance on McKenzie Friends is the definitive guide to what we can and can’t do. Anything else you’re reading is just rumour!

Ask Us Anything! (25th May 2018)

In the first of a series of Facebook Lives we’re hear to answer any questions you may have about Family Law, contract law, CMS and employment tribunals.

We also answered questions emailed to us at steven@familylawassistance.co.uk.

We’ll be running another one in August so watch our Facebook Page for announcements!

 

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?

Unless you have Doc Brown as a friend `child custody' will never mean anything.

A very good reason why you shouldn’t ask for Child Custody

If you are going to be dealing with the family courts make sure you don’t ask for child custody. There’s a good reason for this.

`Child Custody’ has no legal meaning in England & Wales

In fact it has had no meaning at all since 1989 when the Children Act became law. That’s when the Berlin Wall came down, the first GPS satellite was launched and Back to the Future II was released. Great Scott!

`Child custody' went out in the same year the Berlin Wall did.So walking into a court and asking for Child Custody is on a par with trying to book a Pan Am flight to take you to East Berlin. At best you’ll get strange looks and told there is no such thing. At worst you’ll be sent away with nothing.

It’s no surprise though. The term is used elsewhere. But not in England and Wales.

Using the term `Child Custody’ is vague too. What does it mean? Does it mean whoever gets it doesn’t have to let the kids see the other parents at all? Or stay overnights? Or is able to call the police and get them back at any point (you can’t do that with modern orders by the way).

You can hardly blame the court if you aren’t clear about what it is you want. You’ll likely be asked as a litigant in person but you’ll also probably get something you didn’t expect and don’t really want.

Be clear about what it is you want and what the court can and can’t do.

Unless you have Doc Brown as a friend `child custody' will never mean anything.Don’t ask for something the court can’t order. If you want `residence’ (another term that no longer has a legal meaning but is snappier than describing who the children live with’) know what it means. Hint. It has nothing to do with how long your kids are with you and the ex.

If you want contact (again…a redundant term but like `residence’ still understood by the court) make it clear. And understand that the two are independent of each other. And complicated by the fact that being a resident or non resident parent again has no bearing on either of the previous too…

So be clear what is you want. Make sure you know what terms to use and not to use. If you don’t and you don’t like the result it’ll be no surprise if the unexpected happens.

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.