During the second world war the British government set-up a propaganda campaign to discourage people from talking about sensitive material where it could be over-heard by spies. Both British and American government agencies used ordinary women to covertly provide information while living their normal lives. Virginia Hall (1906-1982), an American spy working for the British Special Operations, famously lost her leg and taught herself to walk without a limp on a fake leg, in order to help the resistance in France. Julia Child (1912-2004) handled a wide range of top-secret documents before becoming the television gourmet chef famed for bringing French cuisine to America. (The film ‘Julia & Julia’ (2009) gives a feel-good look at Julia Child the chef, if you’re interested.)
The Walls Have Ears.
The main purpose of the propaganda campaign was to alert people to the fact that, you never know who is listening. This same fact applies to family court. Regardless of how grand or bland the architecture of your family court may be, think of it like an office. An office full of workers, each with their different jobs to complete, under the same umbrella of family court. The receptionist, the admin staff, the usher, the solicitors and the magistrates all work together in the same building. Co-workers obviously talk to each other. They take tea breaks together, eat lunch, take some fresh air— they share opinions, observations and information. That is the nature of an office and family court is no different.
From the moment that you walk into the court to the moment that you leave, the things that you say and do are being subtly noted. If there was a spy in the court it would probably be the usher. The usher is the person that escorts you to and from your hearing. An usher lingers and hovers with a clipboard, keeping things running smoothly and making mental notes. The usher is most likely on good terms with all co-workers, including the magistrates. If it’s relevant, information will be passed on to the magistrates by the usher. I think it’s fair to assume that the usher’s private opinion and observations are a key source of information as to what it happening outside the hearing room.
Keeping it real at court…
Ideally, you should remain calm and dignified throughout your day in court. To be disruptive, shouting and swearing at your ex and then acting like a pillar of piety in front of the magistrates is not going to wash. The magistrates will know differently. Similarly, sitting with your ex laughing and joking while claiming to the magistrates that you are afraid of him due to domestic abuse is also not going to wash. The best use of your time while waiting for your hearing is to go over your case. Make sure you are prepared to speak and know what you want to say. You could check your evidence, go over your list of concerns and questions— anything to keep you focused and occupied.
Best foot forward for court…
Though attending family court is not attending a job interview, it would help to think of it like that. At a job interview you want to make a good impression from the moment you walk through the door. You are polite and courteous to everyone you meet, not just the person interviewing you. This is exactly the same in family court. Make a good impression from the moment you walk through the door. Register your arrival at reception and let the usher know you have arrived. Speak to everyone with the same professional and polite tone. If your ex is goading you, walk away. The usher can arrange a separate place for you to wait. In the hearing be respectful when other people are talking and polite as hell to the magistrates. Your case is given credibility if you show yourself to be a credible person from the outset.
For more information on your first time at family court read: What to Expect at Family Court
To ask a question, share your story or to offer your own advice & tips, leave a comment below.
Amazing things happen when women support each other. #mothers4justice2