Do not choose to be a victim in a Family Court case for your children or finances
Being involved in a case to Family Court may not be a pleasant experience. But by following these simple guidelines you can make it easier for yourself and your family.
Choosing to go to the Family Court
You are not powerless. It is far too easy to see yourself at the mercy of your ex, the court and the rest of the chorus of people you will come into contact with when you wish to change a situation you are not happy with. Listen to the horror stories and you may be tempted to surrender before the first metaphorical shot is fired. Who would choose to get involved in all that?
Factors against you in the Family Court
Because when you become involved in the Family Court you will meet a huge cast who will say you are doomed. They could include:
- The ex’s solicitor. He or she (paid handsomely by the ex) will tell you things that will make throwing in the towel seem like a sensible option. Why do you think he or she does that? It’s almost like they’re – I don’t know – working for your ex.
- Friends, family and people you have never met on social media. A huge club who combine ignorance of the facts, ignorance of the law and personal agendas. It’ll include the bloke who `told the judge like it is’ – the one who is as angry as hell and isn’t going to take it any more…and has no contact….but there was nothing the judge could say apart from `Thanks. Off you go’. The bitter divorcee who fought a 15 year battle with the ex over the house or the kids. The gender war advocate who wants to strike a blow against the other sex.
- Some of the court staff. Be it the CAFCASS officer who tells you that contact only really works if the parent who has the child agrees to it. Or his/her counterpart in Social Services saying the same thing (who may tell you that you absolutely positively have no choice but to sign that Section 20 if you are mired in a public law case). Amongst others.
- Organisations pushing an agenda about bias and incompetence in the system. I’m not going to make a judgement about that one. But again – listen to that sort of thing and you’ll end up feeling like a long walk off a short pier sounds mighty attractive.
It’s enough to make you want to go and join the French Foreign Legion, isn’t it?
More power in the Family Court than you think
That applies even if no-one in the courtroom apparently likes you. Even if the judge has seemingly decided he/she doesn’t like the look of your face the moment you walk in. Even if you have been threatened with a £20,000 costs order, no contact with the kids ever, losing the house you inherited or worked so long for and a day in the stocks on the village green while you wear the latest in fermented tomato on your face.
Family Court – the positives
Despite all the relentless negativity so far (you’re still reading right?) there are simple things you can do – that don’t require a legal background to help you prepare and keep you in the right frame of mind even if it all seems hopeless.
I would point out that there are no exceptions here (although everyone I come into contact with is a `special case’ with the strongest case/worst ex/whatever). These points are by and large common sense…and again – we get it. That’s part of the reason we do the job we do – to help you focus when things are hard – many McKenzie Friends (a type of paralegal who can help you represent yourself in all aspects of your child custory, finance or divorce case) ended up doing the job after personal experience of this all.
So what are these pieces of enlightenment? Here goes…
5 Top Tips to help you in the Family Court
- Don’t give up
But consider this. You have a 100% chance of getting nowhere if you walk away. There aren’t many guarantees in court but this is one of them. You may say you have no chance if you don’t give up…but I’ll also guarantee you it’s less than 100%. Only you decide if you give up – no one else at all. Own it!
- Sell the solution
The court will take the easy option. Make sure you are the easy option in their eyes. If you tell the court you’re walking away from it all, that’ll be seen as an easy option and they won’t try that hard to stop you. They’ll close the case and for all intents and purposes it’ll be considered a success – because you’ve come to an arrangement with your ex without the need for a court order. If it means ordering no contact because you got yourself a non- molestation order, a caution because you `kicked off’ at the wrong time in the wrong place…that’s marked as a success. Remember, even indirect contact is considered a success!
Make sure what you’re proposing is clear, simple, fair and actually doable – both in terms of practicality and in line with the law.
At the start ask yourself this: `What do I want out of this case?’ If it is anything other than building a relationship with your kids or an equitable settlement that doesn’t leave your ex living under a railway bridge as punishment for being so awful you’re probably not going to have much fun or luck. Because the court will be irritated if it thinks you’re using it as a weapon against your ex. Don’t get distracted either – keep your eye on the ball. Don’t concentrate on the ex’s 493 ridiculous, fictitious and/or painful allegations.
- Keep it clean
If your ex has dirt on you, it’s a fair bet it’ll be discussed in court to justify their actions. Because they’re not going to say `Yeah – I’m only being unreasonable because I wish to punish him/her. Don’t give your ex ammunition or justification for his or her actions – which could be backed up with screen prints of your abusive messages, police reports of your arrest or witness statement of the nice old lady next door who saw and heard you shouting threats through the letter box while demanding to see the kids. If they want to find something to criticise you for…they will. Don’t hand it to them on a plate.
- Be nice – Even if it kills you
There’s a line somewhere like `If you can interpret something in two ways and one of them upsets you I meant the other way’. Don’t rise to stuff. Choose to assume that the other person has the best of motives. If you know that is the case ask yourself `Is my response liable to escalate things or dial them down?’ What you do and say now could well affect your life for years to come.
The Family Court and you
It’s more than practical stuff too. A positive mindset will help immensely. It’s hard enough as it is without you shooting yourself in the foot from the outset.
Keep calm and carry on.
About the author Steven Wade
Steven Wade is a Family Law Specialist, assisting people in child custody, financial matters and divorce for over a decade in courts around in England and Wales – from magistrates all the way to the Royal Courts of Justice.
He works with his partner, Michaela, for Family Law Assistance and lives in Mid Wales.
Born in Essex, he worked in various sectors including finance, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications and the oil industry after gaining a degree in geology. He became interested in family law following his divorce and court case involving his son.
Relocating from the South East of England to Wales he volunteered with a parenting charity and quickly gained a reputation helping parents in family law matters both in and out of court before deciding to do this on a full-time basis. More recently he has added coaching skills and qualifications to his CV to further assist his clients in mindset issues to accompany his legal background.