The Do’s and Don’ts of Divorce Without a Solicitor

divorce

This post is inspired by a conversation I had with my mum recently. She told me of a woman who wants to divorce her violent husband without a solicitor. In her infinite wisdom, Mum informed the woman that she would need two years of separation before filing for a divorce. I am an absolute stickler for the facts and Mother always thinks she knows best. So, following a brief but fiery debate on the validity of her information, I decided to research the matter for myself. Here’s the do’s and don’ts from what I’ve found out…

1. Do know your facts.

UK divorce law is contained within the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 available at http://www.legislation.gov.uk

Solicitor’s websites contain a wealth of useful information on the aspects of the law that they practice, for example:

A divorce cannot be applied for until a couple has been married for at least one year…There is only one legal ground for divorce, which is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The one who starts proceedings must prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down by establishing one of the five following facts: Adultery, Unreasonable Behaviour, Desertion, 2 years separation with consent, 5 years separation with no consent – www.linnitts.co.uk

Mum is certainly not always right but solicitors often are. A Google search of family law solicitors will uncover a trove of well-written and informative sites. Read four or five of them and you’ll soon start to feel confident about handling your own divorce.

2. Don’t cite adultery.

If you cite adultery then you’ll have to prove it, including that intercourse took place. Suddenly, ending the marriage morphs into a world of private detectives and covert filming. Life is hard enough without all of that. Thankfully, there are more simple and less antagonistic ways of getting a divorce. In her book, Family Courts Without a Solicitor (2011), Barrister Lucy Reed explains this point to perfection. Though I cannot use her exact words due to copyright, she basically says, AVOID! AVOID! AVOID! For a litigant in heels with no solicitor, there is no advantage to citing adultery – just a long and exposing road.

3. Do follow in the footsteps of the strong women who have gone before you.

Unreasonable behaviour has consistently been the most common ground for wives petitioning for divorce since the late 1970’s. – Office for National Statistics http://www.ons.gov.uk

Unreasonable behaviour could be anything from physical violence, verbal and mental abuse, drug-taking, alcohol abuse to refusing to pay for house-keeping and cheating. Basically, unreasonable behaviour is anything that makes remaining married impossible.

4. Don’t shoot to kill.

A divorce doesn’t have to get messy. Providing a list of every, single, horrible thing your husband has done to you is not going to help. All you need is enough information to ensure that the grounds for divorce are met. Examples are necessary but avoid anything that’s likely to provoke a reaction from the other side. Divorce rivalry and point scoring only leads to the speed of the case slowing down. If he doesn’t agree to your reasons then he’ll have to respond in writing and at a hearing— tensions can quickly escalate. Financial matters are unaffected by your reasons for divorce so, there really is nothing to be gained by shooting to kill. Your revenge, should you need it, is getting the divorce quickly so you can get on with the rest of your life.

5. Do agree on contact arrangements for children.

Childcare and contact arrangements are part of the application for divorce. If your ex agrees to the arrangements outlined in your application then it is a mere formality for the courts. Any disagreement will inevitably slow the divorce process down. The court will need to arrange a hearing in order to question your disagreements and encourage a resolution. Divorce is often tough on the kids of separating parents. An agreement on new routines will make transitioning from old life to new life easier for everyone.

Do you have any advice on divorce or an experience to share?

Amazing things happen when women support each other, so comment in the box below!

Free Legal Help – The Tale of Rosemary’s Missing Gold

free legal help

Getting free legal help may sound like the impossible dream. I’m here to tell you, it isn’t. How do I know? Because I’ve had the free legal help. It’s not easy to get but, with determination and pride cast aside, it is possible. Let me take you through the three avenues of free legal help available to any mother representing herself at family court.

1. Pro-Bono

pro bono

Pro-Bono is Latin for, done without charge. This option is a law firm taking on your case and offering to represent you without receiving payment. Surprising though it may seem, there are legal professionals who give their time for free. Getting help Pro-Bono requires a ‘don’t ask, don’t get’ approach. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write a really good letter.

What should the letter say?

Your letter is your story and the facts of your case. Your letter needs to leave it’s reader feeling compelled to help. What makes your case different? Put yourself in legal shoes, why does your case warrant free help? Your individual circumstances will need to be unique for a solicitor to represent you for free.

Example…

To the outside world your ex is the perfect partner and father. However, behind the scenes you are a broken woman. You ended your relationship because it was mentally and emotionally abusive. Your ex was controlling and dominated every aspect of your life, and your child’s life. Since the relationship has ended he has continued his abuse and controlling behaviour with you and your child. For your own sanity and the mental well-being of your child, you’ve stopped contact. Your ex has applied to the family courts for shared-residency, accusing you of parental alienation. There’s been no physical violence so you never thought to report your ex to the police. (In the UK, no record of domestic violence means that you do not qualify for legal-aid.) You feel that you cannot adequately represent yourself because of the mental and emotional damage done to you by your ex. You simply don’t have the strength to summon the warrior woman within.

This is a unique set of circumstances and there is clearly a case to be heard. Written in the right way, the facts of this case have the potential to provoke a response. The purpose of your letter is to convince a solicitor to help you for free. Put yourself in their shoes, does your case warrant free help?  If the answer is yes, write your letter and send it out. After all, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

2. Face-to-face Advice

free initial appointment

Wherever you live, there will be a law firm that offers a free initial appointment. From the solicitor’s perspective it is worthwhile giving you a free hour of their time. They have the opportunity to build a rapport with you. In other words, they can subtly convince you to use their firm. However, just like any other service that you pay for, you are under no obligation to commit there and then. It’s because of this that the solicitor will have their best foot forward at your free initial appointment. You can gather a lot of useful information for yourself.

In offering their services, the solicitor will tell you the strengths of your case. They will highlight any weaknesses, likely outcomes and their plan of action. In short, during your appointment you could find out everything you need to know in order to represent yourself.  The plan of action that they would take is the plan of action that you can take for yourself.

Making the most of the free legal help

Be prepared. Take a notebook and a pen that works. At the beginning of the appointment ask if they mind you taking notes. Prepare what you are going to say in advance to avoid wasting the hour over-talking. The solicitor will want to know the facts of the case. Take the relevant paperwork. If there are specific questions you need answers to, write them down so you don’t forget. At the end of the appointment thank them for their time and let them know you’ll be in touch. You can call them back to let them know you’ve decided to represent yourself, if you like – they might offer more advice. But don’t feel the pressure of having to. Let it go, there is no crime in exploring your options.

3. Email Assistance

email assistance

This type of help rests upon the law of averages. Send out ten emails in the hope of getting at least one reply. The odds may not sound in your favour but believe me, the one reply could be invaluable to your case. The email that you’ll send out is similar to the Pro-Bono letter but shorter. Lay out the facts of your case and ask for the advice that you need. What are the strengths of your case? What are the weaknesses?

Some will reply, some will not. One might go above and beyond the call of duty…

The Tale of Rosemary’s Missing Gold

In the weeks before my court date I couldn’t speak without crying. Unfortunately, I didn’t know about the free initial appointment. I trawled the family law firms in my area filled with emotion and water streaming from my eyes. I would have been grateful for any scrap of help thrown to me but it didn’t happen.

Since I’d exhausted the law firms in my area, I decided to widen the net. I emailed law firms within thirty miles of where I live and hoped for the best. Out of the ten emails I sent: eight didn’t reply, one replied detailing services they could offer for a fee and one replied offering more help than I could have ever hoped for. The solicitor’s name was Rosemary.

Rosemary highlighted the strengths in my case, and that gave the points to build my case around. She drew my attention to the weaknesses – this allowed me to prepare answers for everything. Rosemary told me to keep my first statement to one page – this told me that the right word in the right place is top priority. Finally, Rosemary told me that my case was strong. She saw no reason I couldn’t present it to the magistrates without a solicitor. The email from Rosemary gave me the advice I needed and the confidence to carry on. Though I never took her up on the offer, Rosemary offered to reply to any further questions I had via email.

The missing gold?

Well, I represented myself, the case came to an end and life went on. A few months later Rosemary emailed me to find out how things went. We mused over whether there is such a thing as success at family court (that’s for another post). I detailed how invaluable her advice had been to me and I offered to pay her. Rosemary, bless her, politely refused. Instead of paying her, she suggested I make a small donation to a a charity she supported. I’m ashamed to admit that the charity has seen none of my money to this day. That’s the tale of Rosemary’s missing gold.

That’s not to say her gold will forever stay missing…

Have you had free legal help? How’d you get it?

For more information on finding legal help check out: Personal Support Unit; Who, What, Where and Why?

Amazing things can happen when women support each other.

#mothers4justice2

Donate to the cause and help Rosemary get back her missing gold…

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Contact – A look at 5 things that contact is definitely not!

contact

Disputes over contact make up the majority of cases brought before the family court. If your reading this post then there’s a chance that your case is a clash over contact too. The number of cases that result in an order of no contact for the non-resident parent is small. So small that it’s almost unheard of. For a mother representing herself in a contact case, the biggest challenge will be to separate her own feelings from that of her child.

Every family is different. Yet, everyone’s emotions run high during and after the breakdown of a relationship. Regardless of the reason for the break-up, we are all in that same boat with emotions. Things get said out of spite and feelings get hurt. Actions create reactions from the other person and all too quickly things spiral out of control. The truth is, sometimes it can be hard agreeing and maintaining a contact arrangement. Sometimes, we get so caught up in the drama that we lose sight of what matters. What’s important is that your child maintains a loving relationship with both parents.

For your contact case to be strong you need to show that you’re acting solely in the best interests of your child. Resolution is the order of the day in family court. So, in order to better understand your contact case it could be helpful to consider the 5 things that contact is not:

1. Contact is NOT a parent’s right.

There is no entitlement to 50% of a child’s time and it would be naive for a non-resident parent to presume so. For a contact arrangement to work it has to be practical. School routines, after-school clubs, activities and social commitments all have to be taken into account. Things get difficult when a mother feels pressured into unrealistic demands for contact because her ex feels it is right and fair. Without a solicitor a mother could feel at a disadvantage. Luckily, any orders made in court are flexible and can be altered to suit the personal needs of each family.

2. Contact is NOT a weapon.

Punishing the ex by restricting or removing contact will never be accepted by the court. Whether it’s you punishing him or whether it’s him punishing you, contact is not a weapon. It is difficult to be rational when emotions are in control. Pull back the reigns. For success in court, a litigant in heels has no choice but to keep a level head. How you feel about the father of your child is of no relevance to their right to a relationship with him.

3. Contact is NOT linked to money.

Whether your ex pays maintenance or not, your child has a right to contact. By law, your ex has a financial obligation to his child. His failure or inconsistency in paying is irrelevant to your case. Don’t give your ex the opportunity to show the court that money is linked to how much contact he is given. With the exception of divorce proceedings, disputes over maintenance are dealt with by the Child Maintenance Service and not family court. If you do  have a dispute over the financial arrangements for your child, you should seek advice from Child Maintenance Service.

More information: http://www.childmaintenanceservice.direct.gov.uk

4. Contact is NOT a game.

Life is unpredictable: kids get ill, mums get ill, dads get ill, holidays sometimes happen. Undoubtedly, at some point contact arrangements will need to be changed or cancelled. In the eyes of the family court, these times are the exceptions. Whether their parents are in a relationship or not, kids thrive on routine and consistency. Keeping to a regular contact arrangement is important for your child. Exceptions will happen but, from your side of the case, show the court that they are not a regular occurrence.

5. No contact is NOT an option.

Even if it’s child safety that concerns you, there is the option of fully supervised contact (depending on the seriousness). The circumstances would have to be extremely unique for the court to issue an order of no contact. With so many ways to facilitate a contact arrangement, it would be difficult for the courts to agree that no contact be in the best interest of the child. There will be exceptions, of course. If you really feel that contact is not in your child’s best interest and you can back up your argument with proof, fight your case!  In all other cases, I think it’s best to enter court knowing that there will be some form of contact. Put yourself in a position to negotiate a frequency and duration that would suit family life and commitments best.

And finally…

Remember, all orders can be personalized to suit the specific needs of your individual family. For more on contact, check out: Contact—Whose right is it anyway?

If it’s your emotions that you are struggling to take control of, read: Emotion & Reason; 5 Steps to Creating a Balanced Argument for help on how to keep a level head.

Court without a solicitor is hard but it’s not impossible. Amazing things happen when women support each other. Sharing information is one way to support another mother in court without a solicitor. Leave a comment and share your thoughts on what makes a contact agreement work. #mothers4justice2

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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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So please don’t think it rude,

If I suggest re-numeration,

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Syd Field’s help to write your statement for family court.

My interests as a writer lay with script-writing. For my degree, I’m writing an essay on Syd Field’s book, The Foundation of Screenwriting – a bible for anyone writing scripts! Re-reading the book got me thinking about how Syd’s advice, inadvertently, helped me to write my own statement for family court. This post depends largely on how your mind works. If you can imagine it, Syd’s advice can help you to write your statement too.

If you’ve read 5 Steps to Statement Success – Writing your Statement for Family Court , you’ll know how important your statement is. Your statement is your side of the story. The story of how and why you are at family court. There are principles involved in writing a script that can help you to write your statement too.

Every story has a beginning, middle and an end. Every story has characters: a protagonist/hero, an antagonist/villain and other characters affected by the actions of the main ones. All characters, like people have a past, present, future, goals, needs and wants. This basic structure of telling a story is as old as time and can be applied to your statement writing. You are the hero of your story, the antagonist is your ex and the other characters are your children.

The ending is the first thing you must know before you begin writing. Why? ..Your story moves forward – it follows a path, a direction, a line of progression from beginning to end…In the same way, everything is related in a screenplay, as it is in life. You don’t have to know the specific details of your ending when you sit down to write your screenplay, but you have to know what happens and how it affects your characters.

Syd Field – Screenplay, The Foundation of Screenwriting

Before you sit down to write your statement, know your ending. What do you want to happen and how will it affect your children for the better? What do you want the court to do? How are you going to move forward?

Beginnings…

Endings and beginnings: two sides of the same coin. Determine the ending…then design the opening. The primary rule for the opening is: Does it set the story in motion? Does is establish the main character?..Does it set up the situation?

Syd Field – Screenplay, The Foundation of Screenwriting

The beginning is where you set-up your story by revealing information about your past. A brief history of your relationship: What led you to family court? What is the main disagreement between you and your ex? Where do you stand in the disagreement? What is your position? How is your position in the best interests of your children? What type of mother are you?

Middles…

There’s a law in physics called Newtons Third Law of Motion, which states that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Which means, basically, that everything is related…In a screenplay the same principle holds true: Everything is related.

Syd Field – Screenplay, The Foundation of Screenwriting

The middle is a chronological telling of all the reasons why you need the courts intervention and/or help. It’s the proof to back up your position, for example, why is it in your child’s best interest to limit contact with their other parent? For every action there is a reaction: what led you to limit contact? If the beginning is the past, the middle is the present. The middle is your response to your ex’s application and the points he makes. It is your side of the story that sets out the problems to which your ending is the solution.

Endings, again…

If I could sum up the concept of endings and state the one most important things to remember, I would say: The ending comes out of the beginning.

Syd Field – Screenplay, The Foundation of Screenwriting

You’ve already thought of the ending that you want and now is the time to set it in stone. Your ending is the solution to the problems outlined in the middle. Everything that you’ve written has led you to this point. What order do you want the court to make? Though your personal relationship has ended, you have to continue your relationship as parents. How will an order from the court help the future of your family? What is the resolution to your story?

Amazing things can happen when women support each other. If you know another mother representing herself at family court, share the post with her. Tell her what you think or you can leave a comment and tell me what you think.

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Parental Alienation – A Warning for Mothers

If you’ve had a hostile break-up then you’ll know how hard it is to control your emotions. Anger, hurt, resentment, fear, betrayal are but a few of the feelings that come in waves threatening to drown you. In these situations it can be easy to alienate your child against their other parent without realising it:

  • Do you insist on there being no mention of your ex’s name around you?
  • Do you tell your child, ‘if your dad loved you, he wouldn’t do this and this and this’?
  • Do you openly belittle your ex’s lifestyle and interests?
  • Has your child over-heard you badmouthing your ex to your friends and family?
  • Are you limiting contact between your child and your ex?
  • Do you want your child to reject their other parent?
  • Do you question your child over your ex’s new life?
  • Do you tell your child everything about your relationship with their other parent?
  • Do you refuse to speak to your child about their other parent?

If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to any of those questions then you could be accused of parental alienation in court.

Warning!

The family courts, CAFCASS, social services and child psychologists are all in agreement that parental alienation causes emotional harm to the child affected. Causing emotional harm to a child is a form of abuse. If your ex accuses you of parental alienation in court then you are technically being accused of child abuse. Not cool.

While it is mainly mothers that are accused of parental alienation, fathers are guilty of it too. Look out for the signs: maybe your ex showers your child with expensive gifts when you financially struggling, maybe he paints you as boring and disciplined while he is fun and cool. Does he blackmail your child? Make his child feel guilty for living with you? Is there stuff that your child can’t bring home because it has to stay at dads?

 Be Mindful…

Prevention is better than cure here. The goal for separating parents is to shield their child from personal conflicts. There is no need to paint your ex in a bad light. If your ex is an irreparable menace then your child will eventually discover that for themselves. Every child has the right to make up their own mind.

It doesn’t matter how or why you and your ex separated, you are both still parents. Connect with the strong woman inside you and be mindful of the way you are handling your feelings. Take back control of your emotions so your ex has no opportunity to accuse you of parental alienation in court.

What would you say to a mum accused of parental alienation?

Leave a comment and let’s chat about it. None of us are legal experts but we can support each other with shared knowledge.

Amazing things can happen when women support each other!

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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

 

5 Steps to Statement Success – Writing your Statement for Family Court

home-office-336377_640

Family court is especially stressful for a mother who has to balance her emotions with caring for her children. Speaking coherently and convincingly during this time is going to be difficult for even the strongest among us. When your voice fails, writing is the easiest way to articulate your argument. Writing also provides a direct line of communication with the magistrates in the form of statements.

Asking for statements is a way for the court to find out about the case and the views of the people involved. When the magistrates sit down to read your statement, you want it to help your case and paint you in a good light. I hope that the following steps give you the best chance of achieving that.

1. Take time to plan and prepare.

Don’t rush into sending the first draft that you write. Your statement should look at both sides of the issue while refuting your ex’s views and allegations. Your objective is to sway the magistrates into recognising your views as valid. Once you’ve submitted your statement you cannot later claim that something you have written is a mistake. Everything you write can, and probably will,  be used against you. Take the time to get it right.

2. Structure your argument – beginning, middle, end.

Your statement should build and develop your argument paragraph by paragraph. Start with the reason you are writing the statement e.g. In response to my ex’s application for…or…to express the concerns I have relating to the contact between…etc. Next, clearly state what you wish the court to order – what do you want the outcome of the case to be? How do you see the issues being resolved? The middle is where you list all of the reasons why an order should be granted in your favour, and refute the views of your ex. In ending, your last paragraph should return to the main issue raised and re-iterate what you want the court to do.

3. Stick to the point and don’t over-write.

Number each paragraph and stick to making only ONE point in each paragraph. Though the statement is to put across your views, remember it is your child at the centre of the case. Every point you make has to reflect what you think is in the best interests of your child.

4. Effective arguments use effective language.

Keep sentences and paragraphs short. If you cannot make your point in less than five sentences, use different words to make a better point. Use a dictionary/thesaurus to find the right words to argue well. You can use emotive language to show the passion you have for what you’re writing but note, any unacceptable behaviour from your ex should be stated without emotion and in the context of your child’s best interests.

5. A strong argument has factual support.

 An argument with strong foundations has evidence to support it. Make your allegation, refer to your supporting evidence, state your ex’s defense (to show you understand both sides), conclude with your counter-argument to his defense (with your child’s best interest in mind) – point made! Any evidence you want to submit with your statement needs to be listed on a separate sheet of paper. Like a contents list, give each piece of evidence a title and a unique reference number e.g.

  • 001 – copy of message received 24/11/16
  • 002 – letter from GP
Your Statement should also:
  • Be typed.
  • Include the case number on the first page.
  • Include the full names of all persons involved on the first page.
  • Have numbered paragraphs.
  • End with, ‘I can confirm that the contents of this statement are true to the best of my knowledge and belief.’
  • Be signed and dated.
  • Sent to the court and the other parties involved in the case e.g. ex’s solicitor, CAFCASS.

Has this post been helpful? Leave a comment and let me know.

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Persuading with Proof makes a Convincing Case

One of the main differences between family and criminal proceedings is the way that decisions are made. For criminal court, everything relies on evidence and cases have been lost due to lack of it.  At family court, the magistrates are convinced on the ‘likelihood’ of one case being truer than the other. This means that a mother’s success at family court depends on her ability to convince the magistrates that her side of the story is truer than her ex’s. Having evidence to support any claim that you make will give your case credibility.

What evidence do you have?

Personal Statement

Could you get a statement from someone who has personal knowledge about the relevant facts or events in your case? A statement from a witness must be truthful and explain what the person has seen or heard for themselves not repeating what you have told them.

Expert Evidence

Though I have read that you cannot request a professional report without the court’s permission, you can ask an expert to write a letter on your behalf. Your doctor could confirm any illness or any medication you have to take due to stress. Your child’s teacher could write a short note on your child’s well-being. The key to expert evidence is that it remains within the context of your case. The purpose of proof is to support what you are claiming to be true.

Text Messages

Do you keep your messages? Read them again to see what can support your case.

Social Media

Sceenshots from social media can be: evidence of reckless behaviour, inappropriate lifestyle, slanderous comments and negative opinions. Remember, if you are going to bring your ex’s social media to the attention of the court, the door is open for your own account to be scrutinised.

Diary Entries

Do you keep a private diary to record your thoughts, feelings, opinions and emotions? Is there anything in your diary that could support your case? You don’t have to present your entire diary to the court. You can photocopy the relevant pages and blackout anything not needed.

To create a convincing case and persuade the magistrates that your case is in the best interests of your child, have evidence to support you. Check out

Representing yourself at family court doesn’t have to be a disadvantage. Can you think of any other evidence that could help another mother at family court? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

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Parental Responsibility – not as scary as it sounds

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What is Parental Responsibility?

If your child was born after 1st December 2003, you weren’t married to your ex and he’s not on the birth certificate, he can apply to the court for Parental Responsibility.

Legally defined parental responsibility (PR) means, “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property.” I found out during my own case that in reality, it’s not as scary as it sounds.

Your ex being granted parental responsibility gives him the right to have his say on the important stuff. This could be changing your child’s surname, medical treatment, moving abroad or what school they should attend.

No need to worry…

Parental responsibility doesn’t mean that you have to consult with your ex over every little thing. It doesn’t mean that your ex can tell you how to be a mum. By law, the day-to-day parenting decisions are made by the resident parent without interference from the non-resident parent.

Parental Responsibility and your case

In most cases there is no good reason for a father to be denied parental responsibility. Therefore if you really feel strongly about your ex not having PR, you will need to make your valid reasons known to the court. You will need to explain why you have refused parental responsibility, if you have. You will also need to convince the magistrates that they should not go against you by granting PR.

Though it’s rare for the courts to refuse a father parental responsibility, there have been exceptions. For example:

  • (Re H (Parental Responsibility)[1998]) – In this case the father displayed cruel behaviour towards his child and injured the child.
  • (Re P (Parental Responsibility)[1998])– The father in this case was found with obscene photographs of children.
  • (Re M (Contact: Parental Responsibility)[2001]) – In this case the courts felt that granting PR would undermine the mother’s ability to care for her disabled child and thus cause unnecessary stress.

You can see from the above examples that the reasons the courts had for not granting PR were all extremely valid. Your own reasons would need to be equally as valid if your desired outcome is for the courts to not grant PR. For more information on convincing the magistrates, take a look at Persuading with Proof makes a Convincing Case

Finally…

Think about what your ex having parental responsibility really means in practical terms. It doesn’t mean that you need your ex’s consent for every school trip. It does mean that he will be able to get school reports sent directly to him, is that so bad? Remember that parental responsibility is not a bat to beat you with. Day-to-day parenting is handled by the resident parent. Rational thinking can be difficult as a litigant. Let Emotion & Reason – 5 Steps to Creating a Balanced Argument show you the wood through the trees.

Has this information been helpful? Leave a comment to show your support for other mothers facing family court without a solicitor.

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