Last weekend before the First Directions Hearing concerning my partner''s COntact Order with his children next week and I need some help and advise.
Since our solicitor is on holidays and we haven''t heard from the barrister, we want to prepare for court on our own.
Both parties seems to want to solve the issue on the first hearing, although there is no agreement on the sharing of holidays. We received a couple of days ago a letter from X''s solicitor with a proposal that was actually laughable but in the letter they says that they want to reach an agreement (how, only God knows).
Anyway, what preparations should we make concerning evidence, correspondence etc?
What should we expect if there is an honest and meaningful attempt to agree? What will the procedure be and how can we prepare for it?
Any other advise or personal experience from a similar hearing would be much appreciated.
The first hearing is normally with CAFCASS present - sometimes called a ''conciliation hearing''. Different courts have differing practices but normally, the CAFCASS officer will speak to both parties on their own and then together. Aim being to try and sort out the issues, narrow the differences and give the judge and both parties his views.
Your ptr ought to prepare some basic arguements setting out what he wants from the order and why.
Any arguement that talks about ''fairness'' or ''his rights'' is fatally flawed. All arguements have to be child centered...he needs to say what benefits the child will recieve from the proposed order.
For example...extended holidays would allow the child a happy memory, a demonstration of how valued he is, the expereince of normal family life with his father. There may be oportunities to expereince new cultures? Building relationships with extended paternal family? A good line might be ''just because child is from separated parents dosen''t mean that he should feel less loved because of that''.
In short, the child''s wellbeing is paramount and your ptr needs to show that his proposals contribute to that.
As part of the process he will no doubt have to respond to the ex''s points. Again, everything has to be child centered. If your ptr were to say that despite a history of conflict...he wants the mum to have peace of mind and is willing to give what reasurance/information he can....for the child''s benefit (he values ex as a parent and recognises that stress to her effects the kids. That sort of line comes across very positively.
Your ptr may need to think a little tactically. If for example the ex says...our child will never be able to manage a week away, your ptr might suggest that you try it and see how he gets on, returning to court afterwards to review things. If the ex says she''d worry, perhaps your ptr could offer to provide feedback and reasurance? At one court hearing I took family photo''s to pass to my ex to demonstate how well contact was going.
If the ex slings mud, my advice is to say something like ''...i deny the allegation, am happy to put my side if you want to hear it, but to be frank im here for the kids and i want to stay focussed on them..''. Don''t get drawn into mudslinging, (it will backfire) simply stay focussed on putting forward a relentlessly child focussed case as to why the contact proposals are a good thing for the kids.