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Now representing myself. Need some advice please

  • Mummymoo
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03 Mar 10 #189918 by Mummymoo
Topic started by Mummymoo
Hello. I'm new to these boards so I hope nobody minds me asking for some advice please.
A little background on the case.
I have been in the thick of court proceedings for the last year represented by a solicitor. My Daughter who is just coming up to age 7 had contact with her Father (my ex husband) for 4.5 years mostly insigated by me. We divorced 5.5 years ago. She began to refuse to see him just over a year ago and was frightened of being alone with him. I still continued to encourage contact albeit away from his house so she felt more comfortable. There were some issues she raised and I thought that we could talk them through. Her Father refused to acknowlege any problems and denied any wrong doing...he also flatly refused to go to mediation to discuss anything with me.He accused my daughter of lying and making up problems. She became more and more distressed with any contact and quite withdrawn. I told him that unless we could resolve these issues contact would have to stop. He then took me to court.
We have had a CAFCASS section 7 report and have attempted contact at a contact centre as recommended by their report. We have been for 2 sessions and each time my daughter refused to get out of the car. She is terrified of him. She had since been distressed in school about the situation which has not happened before. Her Grandmother had a chat with her about her feelings. She revealed at this point that there had been some physical abuse from her Father (in addition to previous emotional abuse we were already aware of). I have asked our GP for a referral for councilling and I now feel I can no longer promote any contact with her Father.
So that's where we are in a nutshell.
Due to finances I am unable to retain my solicitor and last week took on my own case. I am self employed and do not qualify for legal aid. I am completely out of my depth and desperately need some help.
We are back in court for a review on March 18. My ex is represented by a solicitor. My questions are:
Can I write to the judge to request a later hearing giving me more time to prepare?
Would a McKenzie Friend be a good option?
Can said McKenzie Friend be a family member? If not where would I find one?
If anyone can offer some advice I would be most grateful.
Thank you in advance.

  • seagull123
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04 Mar 10 #189937 by seagull123
Reply from seagull123
I am not sure how to help with your legal questions but undoubtedly someone else will be able to soon.
Just a question? What happened at the contact centre when your daughter would not get out of the car? Did she have to see her father on those occasions?

  • melsywooh
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04 Mar 10 #189963 by melsywooh
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Have you recieved copies of the reports from the contact centre? if so what have they revealed?

It is probably a good idea to forward copies of these to Cafcass, I am in a similar situation and I demanded that Cafcass have copies of the reports and demanded that they supervise some of the sessions so they could see for them selves and Cafcass agreed to this before I would consider any change in the contact arangemnts, which are supervised at the moment. x

  • Mummymoo
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04 Mar 10 #190094 by Mummymoo
Reply from Mummymoo
Thanks for your replies so far. The contact centre staff were very good. We had been for a pre visit so my Daughter could see the centre and have a play there to ease her in. She also had the chance to feel at ease with the staff which I think helped. They could also gauge her personality too. When she refused to get out of the car, she was visibly distressed and anxious and the centre staff came out to talk to her in the car. They gently coaxed her to go inside at least for a drink but she refused. The same on both occasions. In the end she did not see her Father on either occasion. The centre is 30 miles from our home so it was a long way to go for us both.
Yes CAFCASS have copies of the letters from the contact centre stating what happened on each occasion. I believe the centre are obliged to report back in writing to both parties, CAFCASS and also the court. CAFCASS were supposed to observe a contact session however as contact was not successful they were unable to do this.
Hope this helps answer your questions.

Does anyone know anything about McKenzie Friends?

  • onamission
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04 Mar 10 #190116 by onamission

  • Uriel
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07 Mar 10 #190610 by Uriel
Reply from Uriel
Hi there.

I am not a solicitor. I only know what I know from personal experience, and offer this information to you as it is freely available to all, and may be of assistance. My advice should not replace that of a professionals.

What kind of contact did your daughter have with her father prior to the contact centre attempts? eg Was it overnight contact? A few hours on a Saturday? Fortnightly?

Is it the Final Hearing on March 18, or another Interim Hearing?

Is the court yet aware of the allegations of physical abuse? If not, please find out if a Supplemental Information Form, Form C1A, Children Act 1989 is applicable for your case.

It is imperative that the court knows of the allegations, and has the opportunity to investigate, and that this be done before any Final Hearing, as 'new' allegations introduced incorrectly (eg just 'bringing it up' at the final hearing, or on your statement before a final hearing)in Family Court proceedings can be harmful to your case. It is often viewed as vexatious and malicious. Basically, the court takes the view that if harm is supposedly happening to a child, and that the parent with care knows about it, then the parent with care wouldn't continue to send the child to the place where it is harmed. In other words, your actions have to reflect your honest belief that harm is occurring to the child.

I hope this helps.

  • Mummymoo
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10 Mar 10 #191277 by Mummymoo
Reply from Mummymoo
Hi Uriel,

Thanks for your response.

The hearing on March 18 is a review hearing not the final hearing.

I have been separated from my ex husband for 5 years now. My daughter was one year old when this happened. We agreed that he could see her whenever he wanted which sometimes was consistant other times he didn't seem too bothered. The contact was never overnight. This contact contunued until my daughter was 5 and a half. She had been quite withdrawn after visits to her Father's home. She raised some welfare issues such as the odd combinations of food her fed her (baked beans, broccoli, scrambled egg stirred in together) and shouting at her, not allowing her to use the toilet on her own and some other issues of a similar nature. We attempted to discuss these with him but he accused her of lying which hurt her deeply. Despite her reluctance to see him I suggested that he take her out somewhere rather than have her at his home. This worked for a short time, I believed until she told a family member she was only seeing him because I wanted her to. At this stage she had not told anyone of any violence. I did tell him that we needed to sort things out as I no longer felt I could send her for contact. I asked him to attend mediation with me but he refused. Contact stopped and he took me to court.
This was a year ago. In the last year we have had indirect contact ordered where he can write twice a month. Then CAFCASS made their report and suggested that we try the contact centre. We have been twice and she refused to get out of the car. She then started to become distressed at school because she was anxious about being forced to see him. It was then that she told her Grandmother that there had been some degree of physical violence. She then reported this to the police.

Sorry to give so much, I just thought it helped to answer some of your questions. If I had thought he had been physically abusive to her I would have stopped the contact much sooner. I feel so guilty that I sent her there.

I have written to the court to advise them of the situation and to ask if I need to file anything with them regarding this. The other side as yet do not know of the police involvement. I am afraid what he may do once he knows. I have also asked for an adjournment for the review hearing.

I feel the courts have a one size fits all attitude. The fact that contact was happening from the age of 1 - 5 years old seems irrelevant to them all the while finding ways of pointing the finger at me for stopping contact.

My Daughter is very articulate for her age and has made her feelings clear to CAFCASS and the contact centre people yet the other side only want to suggest that it is me who has fed her these feelings. It couldn't be further from the truth! How do I get that across in court?

What happens at a review hearing? The other side have said they want a psychologist report. While I am happy for this to happen so they can see that she is feeling how she is feeling because of his actions I am unsure what they expect to achieve by this.

My ex is quite a bully and very controlling. He will persist with this for as long as he can and for as long as he thinks it will cause me stress.

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