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.

Enforcement apps don’t work

Enforcement applications don’t work.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news and all. Because it’s a pretty grim statement isn’t it? Enforcement applications quite simply don’t work.

The ex won’t talk to you. They won’t respond to emails, texts, letters or anything else. They didn’t turn up to mediation. Or maybe they have – and they have advised you that you’ll never see your kids again and if you don’t like it you’ll have to go to court.

Which makes it nice and simple. Hey ho! It’s off to court you go.

You’ve paid your £215. You’ve possibly paid a solicitor. Or your friendly McKenzie Friend. You’ve taken the day off work, possibly driven a long distance to a hearing. Where you have convinced a court to make an order for contact. Something. Anything.

And then after all that the ex decides to break the order.

But that’s OK. Sorta. OK, OK, it’s another £155 but hey…the ex will get a rocket when you put that enforcement application in won’t he/she? Eh? Eh? Contact will resume, order will be restored and it’ll be all good.

Nope.

Statistically you have around a 1.5% chance of your enforcement application succeeding. For the non mathematicians among you that’s around a 1 in 66 chance. Chances are you’re going to be on of the 65. So sorry…

Loo RollYou’re stuck with an order that cost you £215. For that price you’d get around 200 rolls of Andrex and they’d be more absorbent than the 2-3 pieces of A4 you have.

Enforcement doesn’t work.

What more typically happens is that your application morphs (or is hijacked if you want to be uncharitable) into a variation by your ex. It’s a truth universally acknowledged by court staff. Here’s a list of what happens:

  1. You get a court order.
  2. The ex breaks it.
  3. You apply for enforcement.
  4. The ex says he/she broke the order because it wasn’t working.
  5. The court varies the order (quite often with a reduction of contact).

If I were a horrible cynic as opposed to the optimistic, philanthropic soul that I clearly am I’d say something like `Well – if you are a resident parent who is hostile to contact and don’t want to pay the fee yourself all you need do is break the order and then get a variation to reduce the level of contact closer to what it is you want (i.e. none)’.

But I won’t. Because that’d be monstrous wouldn’t it now?

So are we clear?

Enforcement applications don’t work so isn’t worth making them is it?

Nope. You absolutely should go for enforcement.

Whaaaa?’ I hear you say. `What’s the point. You’ve said that it’ll cost me money for an application that almost certainly won’t work and I’ll likely end up with an order that provides less contact than I had before haven’t you??? Make your mind up!’

It’s a fair point.

Enforcement applications are still worth making.

Broken ChainThere are very good reasons why you should make an application for enforcement if the order is materially broken.

  1. If you have no or reduced contact you likely have nothing to lose (apart from the application fee, time, effort and stress of course). Your options are to suck it up or do something.
  2. If you do nothing you’ll likely be told down the line that you were obviously A-OK with it. Because if you weren’t you would have made an application wouldn’t you? The ex will be able to argue that it was an agreed change of arrangements because you’ve come to an amicable agreement.
  3. If you do so you’re making it clear you don’t agree with what has happened and you are building a narrative that court orders are broken. And that the existing arrangement needs changing. Possibly a change in residence because the current resident parent can’t be trusted to support contact?

In short it’s absolutely worth making an applications for enforcement. But do it in the knowledge that you’re doing it as part of a long term strategy to get the order that is in the best interests of your child. In the short term you’ve got to be prepared to keep banging your head against a brick wall or just giving up.

What’s it to be punk?