In our case we had several district judge pre-trials and after the first one we made sure that for each of which we had carefully worded position statements about G4. These statements included appendices where we backed up all our arguments with supporting information including a map to show that the distance he travels to pick up every other week isn''t significant (I commuted it daily for three months).
All our attempts to make sure contact was available and documentation to prove this were completely ignored by magistrates who received the papers 10 minutes before an all day case and then didn''t bother to read them properly and just extend the start time by just 10 minutes.
The only questions asked by Magistrates had already been answered really clearly in both our statement and the detailed points! This included our offer of additional holidays and that we welcomed G4 going to him on Friday nights from the summer after school broke up.
In court, he lied that we had blocked contact (despite 22+ emails sent by us offering additional above alternative weekends) and that he has had her every other weekend for three years (since he broke up with my (now) wife. When challenged on the blocking he had no answer on specifics. He also admitted getting angry and shouting at her (resulted in her defecating bed that night)
His mother & current girlfriend also made accusation of blocked contact and refusal to communicate amongst other things (all of which we have evidence against) in witness statements provided on the day. We were given no opportunity to challenge or have them rejected. As it is, all their points would have been covered if they had bothered to read our statement submitted 4 months before!
Finally, due to another screw up by the court system, I as a co-defendant wasn''t allowed to talk because they forgot to include me on the notes! This meant I was told off by the lead magistrate for trying to talk and then had one of them glaring at me for the rest of the trial. Telling the legal person who is supposed to be there to help about this resulted in absolutely nothing happening (or them even being told about it!)
We now have a direct contact order imposed on us so that wife now has to do a 3 hour round trip with a baby as well as G4 on a Friday night during rush hour to save him 45 minutes! It will take him longer than any saved time just doing the M25 during rush hour. We don’t have a car so this has to be done by train which is why contact order specifies a station!
We are appealing on grounds that all the evidence in statement ignored and not all the points listed by the district judge (there were only 6!!) were covered i.e. he wants to take her to south of France again.
The French trip involves 13 ½ hours strapped to a car seat without a break (distance>John o’Groats to Lands End in ONE journey (cattle max 8 hours)) which we totally object to not least because nearly 700 miles in one journey is dangerous.
That journey took G4 two days to recover from each way last time. He also earns £170k and could afford to fly! We also objected to him taking her for 14 nights as had never had for more than 1-2 nights but offered several individual weeks for him to build up a relationship with her first. This was rejected and another statement containing a lot of lies was accepted on the day of the case including that he had “had her for 10 nights” (this was over a three month period NOT consecutively!!!!).
We had a barrister then and in exasperation at the end of the case she actually told the judge that the case was unfair (after request for appeal rejected) because the judges opening words to my wife were “you don’t seem to have much of a case”. Previous domestic violence (another reason for wanting him to spend time with her in shorter blocks) was also deemed irrelevant even though the judge accepted it had probably happened and was of the “worst kind”. G4 now gets really upset at thought of going back to France.
We have no problem with him taking her on holiday and then as now were completely open to it as we believe fathers should have contact. It was just the mechanism for how he did it that we objected to (she was just 3 at the time).
It seems that whatever you do to keep records, give additional contact, keep communication complete and focused on the child only - ignoring any personal feelings is irrelevant. At the moment we feel mugs for believing that there is any concept of justice and have now got this stupid contact order and despite asking for appeal information got nothing.
Wife rang court yesterday to ask for appeal forms as we were on holiday second week after case and hadn’t received final paperwork before leaving. Court told her that they “didn’t know what paperwork to send so will just send our standard appeal pack and you have to ask a solicitor if it is the right one” – WTF????? Isn’t it their job to know what form to send out? Also told that there isn’t a deadline. Got the documents today and discovered is just 21 days so now have just this weekend to write appeal.
Rant over! - Finally, the questions which we don’t have the time or money to speak to a solicitor about as the appeal must be in Monday...
Is the standard appeal form N161 the correct one for a case that was judged in a magistrate court?
There is no information in the judgement sheets about exactly how they arrived at their decisions.
Why would did they consider that it was fair to disrupt a baby’s sleep pattern just to save a maximum of 1½ hours despite the time taken to get to the venue & parking removing any time saving made for him?
Why would they write that we were not in agreement with contact when we had already agreed additional holiday contact and the previous judge had even remarked on their being agreement in the notes directing them what to talk about?
The only item disagreed with was travel arrangements which were listed as a separate item
Does the court not allowing me to speak despite being listed as a co-respondent due to an administrative error class as a procedural error as in section 30.12 of the family procedure rules?
Is completely missing one of the items they were directed to make judgement on a strong appeal reason and what would be the legal term for it?[/li
Thanks in advance for any help. Sorry for length of frustrated rant but we have now been punished by the courts twice and are at the end of our tethers with the whole thing!
It''s not possible to appeal just because you don''t agree with the judges decision. You and your wife would need to show that that the judge has made a decision no other judge could reasonably make.
In contact cases the courts it important to present a case briefly and focused on the children because the judges don''t have time to read reams of evidence. The family courts are well used to allegations and counter allegations and without evidence from independent professionals a judge will have difficult choosing between two versions of the same story. Evidence from friends and family isn''t considered independent and tends not to carry that much weight. Judges aren''t that interested in the whys and wherefores and concentrate on solutions.
Many people underestimate the importance courts attach to contact. Even when the behaviour of a parent leaves much to be desired by most peoples standards the courts will weigh up any harm a child suffers against the harm they suffer when their relationship with the other parent is compromised. Apart from a few exceptional cases when there is evidence from professionals (social workers, doctors etc) that children aren suffering significant harm (i.e. at a level authorities would be involved) contact is invariably ordered.
If you think you have grounds to appeal you should really seek advice from a lawyer first. My guess is Mum moved away and that is why she is being expected to do the travelling. If this is the case it isn''t a decision no other judge would make and I think you will have difficulty appealing successfully and because with appeals there is a general court rule that the unsuccessful party pays the successful party''s costs there is a risk of being ordered to pay costs.
To make an appeal you would use Form N164 Appellant''s Notice. Information about what you need to attach to the appeal notice can be found in the notes that go with N161(N161A.
In this case, the magistrates missed a whole point that the District Judge had ordered them to look at as well as an irregularity in the paperwork which resulted in me not being allowed to talk/ask questions even as a joint respondent.
Contact & access for biological fathers is incredibly important to us too which is why we have never blocked it and have always offered above what would be required so the grandparents could see G4 too. This was noted by the District Judge which is why she felt she could pass the case to the magistrates below her.
We have completely put aside our feelings about ex because it is also important to be positive about him in front of G4 (not reciprocated). On the court day though, his GF and mother put in witness statements consisting entirely of lies about us blocking contact (despite us having a full email trail which proving this)
Our statement was deliberately non-emotional and utterly focused on the needs of G4. It was also backed up with appendices showing for example a map of the distance which I commuted daily for 3 months. Unfortunately because the papers were late turning up, the magistrates didn''t appear to have read them at all because the few simple questions they asked had already been clearly answered in our summary. Our only disagreement was travel and the transport mechanism for the trip to france.
The final judgement reasons document was contradictory and the imposed contact order was neither proportionate nor necessary.
Unfortunately the 21 days for appeal ends Monday so there is no time to talk to a solicitor. We do have to do this and take a risk however because the over prescriptive contact order will affect both our children so negatively over time.