I was involved today in the launch of a (free) new advice clinic for separated parents. I'd better not say anymore or the moderators will accuse me of advertising.
If there was a common theme in the parents who came to see us, it was that fathers are often much too timid and polite in going to court and making applications, and are receiving terribly poor advice both from solicitors and from McKenzies (who are often charging a great deal for their services).
Many fathers are constantly on the back foot, merely reacting to whatever the resident parent does. They need to become much more proactive, and to understand that their application is theirs, and entitles them to run the hearing at their own speed. If you need to leave the room to discuss something with your McKenzie, ask for an adjournment and do so. Don't be bullied into agreeing anything which is not in your child's interests.
Don't apply for or accept 'contact' when what your child really needs is shared residence.
Don't accept contact in a contact centre (especially supervised) when there is no evidence that you represent a threat to your child. Don't let anyone extort money from you just so you can see your own child for 2 hours a month.
Don't give detailed responses to allegations in a Scott Schedule when its only purpose is to add delay and the allegations amount to nothing more than the normal ebb and flow of imperfect parenting.
Don't wait for a long delayed finding of fact hearing when you ought to be at the court on a Monday morning applying for an ex parte order for interim contact.
Don't delay getting a prohibited steps order when your ex has just asked you for the children's passports and has bought a new set of luggage.
Get in there, assert your child's right to have you fully involved in their life and make whatever application is appropriate. Then follow it through. Do it this Monday morning. Take control of your life.
Its our childrens' lives they are PRACTISING with!!!! and when entering the Court arena (last resort excepting) whether mother or father both parents need to remember this.
In my own residence case my solicitor was (and still is lol) my FRIEND and a former work colleague. I still pull her leg now at how at the 11th hour she nearly sold me out saying I was being unreasonable and risking an Order by consent by expecting my ex husband to pay for after-school care on his CONTACT days ... errrr he gets a reduction in CSA for those days that he WANTS to see the children (but can't do because he is at work but would rather be spiteful to me than let the children just be with me and he have them whenever he is able which was he had experienced for 2 years but new girlfriend thought better for our children lol) so for me to support myself and the children I work on the days he has the kids (come on dads (HAWAY) work with me surely this makes sense) so if he can't collect them from school on those days surely the burden of the cost of afterschool care falls to him as he is having them overnight and receiving a benefit from CSA in doing so??? (my ex is a likes his cake and eat it kind of guy and didn't anticipate the fact that after walking out on me I would get a life, a better job (I always worked full-time at the beginning of the marriage then part-time when babes were born) oh and get on without him lol. Anyway back to the point, I stood there shaking, scared at challenging my ex and even more scared at challenging my solicitor (my friend) as thats not what you do is it ????
Less then 2 minutes later she came back, sullen and sulking (we don't speak about it now but she does occasionaly tell me I am a pain in the backside as a client as I don't ALWAYS follow her advice and why ... because its MY LIFE SHE IS PRACTISING WITH) !!!!! lol and consequently so did my ex.
I couldn't agree with you more as a resident mother and non-resident mother (my eldest son lives with his dad and my daughter and youngest son live with me).
Just read your post about your son ... can't think of appropriate words right now other than blumming brilliant news (self moderated lol).
Not that I've ever been anywhere near a court in relation to my kids.However,from what I see on here the judge seems to order these things once you start the court stuff and drag it out to all these CAFCASS situations and contact meetings etc.Finding of facts hearings etc etc etc that are scheduled for months later.
So I don't see or know how you can possibly dictate anything to a judge.Seems like it's the process rather than anything else.
All the best
My ex DIL took my son to court with a probibitive steps order. It was a complete pack of lies as she was suggesting that my son was about to abduct the children. She also tried to involve the school by saying they had the same concerns. The school knew nothing about it and in fact had tried to mediate on my son's behalf when DIL stopped contact. The Judge did not follow through these false allegations as he merely wanted to ensure contact was established.
She offered contact on the day of the hearing but fortunately it ended up a shared residence, but not 50% which my son wanted. He is aggrieved about this but glad he has a shared residence.
It has worked OK so far but it is change of schools for the eldest next year. No discussion has been held - ex has collected the eldest on my son's nights on four occasions to view schools without involving my son. On two separate occasions she has kept him overnight on my son's night so that he can practice for the exams. In principle my son does not disagree, but he feels he should have been involved, perhaps taking his son to the schools himself. He was not asked if he minded his son staying over with his mother on his nights - he was just old it was in the interests of his son. He felt it might be appropriate for her to swap the days, but no response to that. She has also suggested that my grandson would like to do 'this or that' on my son's evenings instead of leaving it for my son to decide.
He's starting to simmer a bit as he leaves his ex to do her own thing when she has the children.
I totally agree with everything Forsetti has said above.
I spent 3yrs in and out of family courts.
I managed to get a Prohibited Steps Order, interim contact order, contact order, penal attachments, enforcements of contact orders, varies to contact orders and eventually a Shared Residence Order.
Psychologist assessments have been carried out on both my ex and our daughter.
CAFCASS and social services have been heavily involved in our case.
I have had to attend contact centre to be "refamiliarised" with my daughter.
I self represented the Prohibited steps order case and my case for Contact, sometimes using solicitors for corrospondence and a Barrister for my shared residence main hearing.
I have had to return to court making applications for enforcement and holiday contact on about eight occasions.
So I suppose you could say I have been well and truly "through the mill" of the family courts.
For me going to court was initially a nerve wracking thing.
To me court was for criminals, a place where people face punnishment.
Judges, Jurys, police, prison.
Things I took great measures in my life to avoid.
Now here I was, a tiny new fish in a huge aquarium.
After the first hearing you'll feel more at ease.
You don't have to be great at speeches, if you get nervous and start feeling like you're going to fall apart ask for a drink or a short break.
Judges are generally understanding and realise that appearing in court can be very daunting for people.
You're not on trial there, your just there to show the court that you love your child enough to fight to stay in thier life.
I'd like to add a few things to Forsetti's
Do not be bullied into aggreeing to less than you want by either the ex's or your legal representative.
These people are colleagues and often friends who will make life as easy as possible for eachother at your expence.
Make sure that any order is defined,
all dates and times to be included, especially holiday dates.
This is often overlooked in court as in my case by the euphoria of winning the case and the thoughts of finally seeing your
Chances are, you'll end up back in court again soon for enforcement or clarification.
When dealing with CAFCASS be very very careful how you present yourself.
These people will make or break your case at a whim.
Your whole case really depends on thier report, don't believe anyone who says otherwise.
As much as you feel you need to tell the judge the whole story, forget it, he won't be interested in the injustices you have faced, or the terrible deeds your ex has carried out against you unless thay contribute greatly to the outcome of the case.
He'll be interested in the "here and now" and what's going to happen from now on.
So keep statements short and concise.
Do not be carried along with the tide of the events, get your oar in and become a central player in the proceedings.
Always keep in mind the fact that the reason your there is to stay in your childs/childrens lives,not because it's a court battle with your ex and the best liar wins.
Don't have the attitude that "Men are always on the backfoot" in the family courts.
Each case is different and the courts are at last waking up to the fact that they must consider the rights of our children to have two parents, and if both those parents want to be part of thier childrens lives then the courts are compelled to try to find a way to make that happen.
Most of all, tell the Absolute truth.
If you start lying you'll be found out.
I firmly believe that the reason I won every single case and got more than I expected at every hearing is that I told the truth every time and kept my emotions and anger supressed. while in court.
I also dressed appropriately, always turning up in a suit and tie, even for short hearings.
In fact I was asked a few times by court Ushers "who I was representing" when I turned up at the court.
My ex on the other hand often turned up at court looking like an extra from a Snoop Dogg Video.
I firmly believe this work against her too.
whilst i am sure that some men are 'bullied' by their ex wives, i am sorry but that post, to me, reads like a recipie in how to crucify your ex wife.
please can we refrain from all the misogyny? as a mother to a little boy, i am not out to 'get' my ex (but he has been extremely vindictive towards me and 3 years on, still is), but I will do whatever I can to protect my son - please respect the difference. i mean, just because in the past i've refused to be bullied into agreeing something the ex tried to bully me into agreeing, does not make me hostile to contact...
from my personal experience, it is fathers who have the upper hand in court, and it is fathers who are FAR more resourceful than mums, and they have the funds to get better and faster help. they also, sadly, seem to get far more empathy than mums who have left an abusive ex partner.
so please, consider that next time. many women on here suffer bullish, vindictive men. i am one. and its taken ten years off my life. it is not just women who can be evil, though I appreciate that since adam and eve, we've gotten a bad rap... thanks. (and i will take your advice, which was intended for men, cheers) x
There is nothing misogynistic in my posting, Dani, and if any of the advice I give can help mothers that's good. I'll be even happier if it can help children retain two involved parents in their lives. I stand by the observations I made and decided to share with the forum.
It is dangerous to take our own cases as evidence of any general truths, there will always be exceptions. My own case is far from typical and I wouldn't use it as illustrative of the system generally. The fact remains that if a child loses a parent after separation it is far more likely to be a father.
I'll accept that fathers - on the whole - will have more money than mothers to spend in the family courts, though mothers are more likely to get legal aid. I'll also accept there are more groups set up to support fathers and coordinate McKenzie Friends, but that is a consequence of the greater risk to fathers that they will lose their children, and most of these organisations will support mothers equally.
As the author of a handbook to guide fathers through the courts I approached a mothers' group to help produce a version for mothers, but I received no response. So please don't call me a misogynist.