Quotes for mothers at family court – We are not alone!

According to UK statistics 65,714 new cases were brought before the family courts from January to March 2017. (source: www.gov.uk)

That’s 65,714 UK mothers feeling the same overwhelming stress, dread and anxiety. Can you imagine what the number of mothers across the globe might be?

We are not alone!

Though family court can seem lonely, we are not alone. Mothers from across the world are sharing the same experiences and feeling the same feelings. For those mothers I’ve put together some quotes. Sometimes it’s the little things that matter and a few words of encouragement can go a long way…

Quotes for mothers at family court…

strength

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, I lived through this horror, I can take the next thing that comes along. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Fear can make it easy to want to hide from family court. Bury your head and hope that it goes away. Don’t. Ready yourself to be a mother that stands up for what she believes is in the best interests of her child. Prepare to speak up and tell the magistrates your side of the story. Look fear in the face and do what you think you can’t.

Stay strong…

inner strength

“When a toxic person can no longer control you, they will control how others see you. The misinformation will feel unfair, but stay above it, trusting that other people will eventually see the truth, just like you did.” – Jill Blakeway

There might be a lot of animosity in your case. A lot of negative things might get said about you in and out of court. Don’t rise to the bait. The truth speaks for itself so keep it classy. Rise above the bad thoughts and negative comments. Remember who you are and what you stand for. Illegitimi non carborundum -don’t let the bastards grind you down.

Free yourself…

healing

“People start to heal the moment they feel heard.” – Cheryl Richardson

Telling your side of the story might just be the release you need. Speaking openly and honestly to the court will be a cathartic experience for many mothers.  It was for me. Sharing my concerns and my reality to strangers with the power to validate my feelings felt good. Don’t fear your court hearings. Instead, relish the opportunity to get your voice heard.

If it works for her….

mum power

“Just do it. You force yourself to get up. You force yourself to put one foot in front of the other, and God damn it, you refuse to let it get to you. You fight. You cry. You curse. Then you go about the business of living. That’s how I’ve done it. There’s no other way.” – Elizabeth Taylor

Through all the stress, the mounting paperwork and looming hearings, you are still a mother. Your children still need you to be their safe place, their shelter from the storm. Despite your darkening mood, you are still the brightness in your children’s lives. Illegitimi non carborundum!

And finally…

surviving

“It always seems impossible until it is done.” – Nelson Mandela

Family court is not forever. Your case, like thousands of others, will come to an end. You will not always be living with the stress levels you have now. Representing yourself at family court is hard, but it’s not impossible. Focus on the outcome you want and work towards it. Nothing more, nothing less.

Do you know any quotes to encourage and empower another mother at family court?

For more of the quotes I’ve found, check out 3 Quotes to Inspire the Proper Conduct of Mothers at Family Court

Amazing things happen when women support each other. #mothers4justice2

 

Personal Support Unit – Who, What, Where and Why?

Finding free support when you’re representing yourself at family court is hard if you don’t know where to look. McKenzie Friend – giving a helping hand or just a bad plan?  explores one avenue of help available to litigants and this post will explore another.

Personal Support Unit

Who are they?

Personal Support Unit is a charity who has volunteers in some courts across the country. They provide free, practical and emotional support to litigants in family court.

What can they do for me?

They can’t give legal advice but they can give information about court procedure. They can help with filling out court forms or help to organise your paperwork. They can help you plan what you want to say at your hearing, attend with you and take notes.

Where are they?

The volunteers are not in every family court. They weren’t in mine so, sadly, I didn’t know of them when I represented myself. This service is one I found when researching for McKenzie Friend – giving a helping hand or just a bad plan? Their volunteers seem to be based in all major cities: Birmingham, Cardiff, Exeter, London, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle to name a few. A full list is available on their website.

Why Personal Support Unit?

Because, as a litigant, you’ve got absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain from giving them a call. Maybe they’re not close enough to attend court with you but, maybe they can answer some of the questions you have. They may also be able to point you in the direction of other help and organisations.

I remember, in my own case, when my ex’s solicitor informed me that I would need to file my bundle with court. I had no idea what she was talking about and though I googled it, my head was all over the place. I visited family solicitors in my town and left every one of them crying. No-one had the time to explain what a bundle was and I didn’t have the money to pay for their time. It sounds stupid to me now, but that was my reality back then. If I had of known about Personal Support Unit, I could’ve phoned the office closest to me and asked for help. What is a bundle? How do I file with the court? Give them a call and see what they say.

Further information on Personal Support Unit, including their contact details, can be found on their website http://www.thepsu.org

Since I don’t have personal experience with this service, do any of you? Leave a comment and share your experience of Personal Support Unit and help another mother in court without a solicitor.

#mothers4justice2 – amazing things can happen when women support each other.

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McKenzie Friend – giving a helping hand or just a bad plan?

Friend

A McKenzie Friend is a voluntary helper that attends court with a litigant in heels. Their role is to assist you in the representation of your case. They offer moral support and their personal opinions and knowledge. At hearings they cannot talk to the court, but can take notes and quietly advise you on questions and points to raise.

Brief History…

The assistance of a McKenzie Friend is taken from a divorce case, McKenzie v. McKenzie, where the outcome went against the husband. In his appeal he stated that it was his lack of reasonable assistance that had led to his defeat.

Mr McKenzie had legal representation. However, changes to legal aid meant that Mr McKenzie could no longer afford the solicitors. The firm arranged for an Australian solicitor, who couldn’t practice under English Law, to help Mr McKenzie as a friend. The court weren’t happy with this – McKenzie’s friend was to take notes from the side and speak to him only during breaks.

It was acknowledged in his appeal, that Mr McKenzie’s right to reasonable assistance had been breached. Because of that case, every litigant representing themselves is entitled to help from a McKenzie Friend.

Who can be a McKenzie Friend?

Anyone. Since there is no legal training required for the role, pretty much anyone can do it. It could be a close friend or family member, a volunteer from an organisation or your next-door neighbour. Whoever it is, it’s important for them to understand their role and duty to confidentiality.  A lot of your personal life is discussed in court, so it also has to be someone you’re comfortable with.

You could pay for the service…

In the last five years, changes to legal aid entitlement has seen a rise in professional McKenzie Friends. For a fee you can gain access to a whole range of services: legal research & advice, case management, completing forms and document writing. It’s also becoming more common for professional McKenzie Friends to seek a right of audience – speak on you behalf.

In 2014, the Legal Services Consumer Panel published a report on Fee-charging McKenzie Friends. In highlighting some of the benefits of using a professional McKenzie Friend, the report states:

“…Family law clients, in particular, may not litigate out of choice, but are forced by circumstances to fight over hugely important matters, at a time of great emotional stress, in an environment that is unfamiliar and daunting to them…McKenzie Friends can principally benefit consumers by improving access to justice and enabling greater equality of arms, especially when the other side is represented…cases tend to progress more smoothly when McKenzie Friends can assist the court by encouraging litigants to separate emotion from facts, facilitate cooperation with court processes and other parties, help with case papers and so on.”

McKenzie Friend – helping hand or a bad plan?

David Bright was a professional McKenzie Friend who charged a fee for his services. In 2016, a jury found him guilty of perverting the course of justice. The emotional and financial cost to the parent he was assisting is unknown. As outlined in the consumer panel report, the risks associated with fee-charging McKenzie Friends include:

Agenda-driven McKenzie Friends – this includes those who deliberately set out to be disruptive or pursue a cause, with or without their client’s consent…poor quality advice…not understanding the limitations of the McKenzie Friend role…escalating fees…breach of privacy.

There are websites that claim to be vet their member McKenzie Friends. There is also list of the people interviewed by the Legal Services Consumer Panel in their report. Choosing to pay for the services of a McKenzie Friend is a personal one. I suggest researching, asking for credentials and references if you do.

Whether you pay or ask someone else to be your McKenzie Friend, you need to inform the court. Write a short letter outlining the person’s relationship to you. Include their experience and their understanding of the role and confidentiality.

Representing yourself at family court is difficult but not impossible. It’s your right to use a suitable McKenzie Friend to support and assist your court journey.

Has this post been helpful? Leave a comment and support a fellow Litigant in Heels. #mothers4justice2

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3 Things to Remember when dealing with your ex’s Solicitor

I used to think that my ex’s solicitor was a heartless cow. Her constant letters annoyed and upset me because I didn’t feel qualified to produce a proper response.

To me, solicitors hold that air of authority because they know the law and understand how to use it. I felt powerless to her and her letters because I didn’t know the law.

Today, with the help of beautiful hindsight, I know that she was just doing her job. I also know that truth is more important than an in-depth knowledge of the law. If my ex ever takes me back to court and I have to deal with another solicitor, I know I’ll be ready. I’ve done it before and as long you remember these 3 things, you can do it too.

  1. Your ex’s solicitor is not the enemy. They work for your ex but they are not the enemy. Don’t give them ammunition to use against you by losing your temper. All solicitors have a code of practice that they must adhere to so, treat them with respect and expect it in return.
  2. Your ex’s solicitor is not your friendHowever polite and understanding they seem, they work for your ex. It is your ex’s best interests that they are concerned with because he is paying for their service, not you. Anything that you say to them, whether by letter or phone can be used against you.
  3. You are not a solicitor. It’s usual practice for solicitors to negotiate with each other outside of court to reach an agreement. That is the purpose of all the letters and phone calls you receive before your hearing. If you feel able to negotiate with your ex’s solicitor then it can be an effective way to compromise. What you agree with the solicitor can be set in stone by the magistrates at the hearing. However, you are not a solicitor so don’t try to play legal games. A solicitor knows exactly how to use the law to their advantage—stick to your truth because it’s all you need.

When I finally got to see my ex’s solicitor face-to-face, she was nothing like the heinous ice-queen that I imagined her to be. I got the feeling that I was nothing like the woman she thought I was either. Your ex’s solicitor only knows what your ex tells them. The rest of the picture is up to you to paint.

If you’ve found this article helpful, leave a comment and let me know. You don’t have to divulge your personal situation, just say hi to let me know that you’re there.

Amazing things can happen when women support and encourage each other. #mothers4justice2

 

Coping with Christmas Contact in 3 Easy Steps

Maybe it was your Christmas last year and this year the kids are with your ex. Maybe the kids will wake up with you and then go with their dad until boxing day. Whatever your specific arrangements coping with agreed contact over Christmas can be difficult. You are not alone. Take comfort in knowing that there are other mothers across the globe facing the same situation as you.

But it’s not all bad! Christmas without the kids doesn’t have to be a depressing day of despair. Consider these 3 simple steps to coping with the Christmas contact and enjoy your festive season, with a difference.

Step 1: Change your mindset and control your mood

Don’t let depression creep in. There’s no need to feel sorry for yourself. Whatever your Christmas contact arrangement, shift the focus from the days you don’t have the kids to the days that you do. If you’re not having them on  the day, what about Christmas Eve? The excitement and anticipation before Christmas day is often more magical than the day itself. What about Boxing day? It’s always been an extension of the big event. Traditionally there are twelve days of Christmas for you to choose from. There are no rules to say turkey and presents are only reserved for Christmas Day. Forge your own unique festive season. The only thing that’s important is enjoying the time you do spend with the kids.

Step 2: Accept your gift from Santa

I don’t think anyone can properly prepare you for motherhood. No-one can explain the love you have, or the tiredness, or just how hard it can be at times. Every mum deserves a break. Think of the time that your children are away from you as your little gift from Santa. Enjoy the time. Do all the things that you don’t get time to do. Sleep in late, have a long & luxurious bath, manicures & pedicures, dye your hair, pluck your eyebrows, remove other hair. Reward yourself for all the hard work you’ve put in throughout the year. You deserve it!

Step 3: Be Selfish!

The time that you don’t have your children is YOUR time to do with exactly as YOU like. Don’t feel obligated to make other people happy, make yourself happy instead. It can be comforting to be surrounded by your friends and family. The people who love you will always want to bring a smile to your face. Glam up and enjoy someone else doing all the hard work. But don’t feel pressured! If you really can’t shake your mood and don’t want to inflict your misery on others, then don’t. Stay at home in your pj’s and binge on a good box-set. Drink wine. Cry. There are plenty of take-away’s open on Christmas day, order one. But don’t let it linger. Wallow in your self-pity and move on. The kids are coming home and Christmas can really begin!

And remember, it’s never too early to start planning for next year. If the kids are with your ex this Christmas, then they will be with you for the next!

Merry Christmas!

Amazing things can happen when women support each other. Empower another mother by leaving a comment to let us know how you’ll be spending/spent Christmas.

#mothers4justice2  – because there’s power in unity.

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