What to expect in court(28 Posts)
Has anyone been through the court process, and can tell me what I should expect?
I have the first court date in a few weeks for a child arrangements order. I'm self representing, and am the applicant.
What actually happens on the day? I'm told it's normally quite short, but not sure what I will be expected to do!!
The Ministry of Justice have this video on YouTube.
Thank you HeadDoctor. That's perfect!!
Stay calm and be reasonable at all times. Go in with your best and worst options and try and agree with your ex a childcare plan before hand. Better you can agree a plan together if possible. Google Parenting Plan CAFCASS...its really good. Usually in court clerk chairing n magistrates may come in at end. Stand up if magistrates enter room. Dont expect them to want to get into details or consider the past. U need to be seen as taking things forward.
Above all things stay calm n measured. Good luck.
Stick to the facts , keep calm , do not interrupt ex when they are talking even if it is a load of crap, practice biting your tongue a lot !!. Take evidence with you emails , agreements , anything that might be relevant get a folder and put it in date order so it's easy to put your hands on. And remember the judge is not interested in what is good for your or your partner it's all about the child and only the child. And try not to get too emotional. It's a draining experience but if you have all your info to hand and know what your aiming for you'll be find just be prepared to compromise , work out a what if and worst case scenario ....
be prepared for sitting in a court waiting room whilst his solicitor goes between you and your ex to see if they can get an agreement before you even see a judge.
Stay calm, stay factual, judges do not do emotion and don't want to hear a lot of 'I said this, he said that' The past is definitely past as far as they are concerned, try to demonstrate that you are moving forward and always call the child 'our' son/daughter, not 'my' son/daughter.
If asked by a judge what you think the child thinks about your ex, always stress that you know the child loves their dad and their dad loves them. Judges are not interested in what a terrible person your ex may or may not be, only that he is a 'good enough' parent and how contact can be best sorted out.
I agree with inthename, if you can strike a deal with your ex's solicitor beforehand, then it will be a lot easier process for you. This means sitting in a room and staying calm and focused on your overall aim. Their solicitor will talk to you about a plan. Thats why its a good idea to have a really clear idea of your best and worst outcomes.
Consider what is the one thing you really are aiming for, and be prepared to compromise. Don't be too fixed otherwise you will leave yourself open to challenge and not looking like you are taking things forward.
Everything that has happened is done - all they care about is what is in the childs best interests now.
The one thing I found really hard in the process was that they were not interested in any evidence I had of DV or my ex's mental health and the trauma he put me and our son through. I had witness testimony's, long list of diary notes of times ex let DS down, independent risk assessment by DV charity, emails sent in the middle of the night telling my best friend how scared i was and what he had done to us, text messages from him threatening to kill himself, a personal statement of all the times he put son at risk, photos of the state of the house with whisky bottles and guns. They didn't look at a thing. Unless you are going to challenge the courts decision and take to the stand to be cross-examined, the only thing any evidence will be good for is in the pre-court negotiations with your ex's solicitor. This will hopefully proove to their solicitor of any genuine concerns.
Best of luck
Agree with the keeping calm and biting tongue pp have said. They care about the child not your relationship and getting in a tizz is what ex wants to make you look unstable. Ignore, be polite, speak up (that was the hardest bit for me) and stick to the facts. Simple sentence answers will stop you deviating into he said/she said territory. Good luck.
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Thank you all. Really helpful. (and I have reported that last comment)
I have already attempted to reach agreement with ex - via email. He is adamant he doesn't even want to discuss it.
The sticking point for me is handovers. I don't want to have direct handovers with him, unless in a 'safe place' (I have suggested outside the local police station where there is CCTV etc) as the last time we did handovers he got very aggressive and intiimidating and then called the police and lied and said I had tried to run him over! The police chose not take any further action fortunately.
Will this incident get discussed do you think?
doubt it. Instead of potentially talking about a past event, have a definite idea ie 'handovers to take place at my parents' or whatever, then he has to come up with why he doesn't agree rather than you trying to get him to agree iyswim. Also, realistically you aren't going to be able to do handovers in front of a police station etc, so you need to think carefully about where the safe place is going to be or that the handovers will be supervised by a friend, parent etc
I would disagree with the comment above. The incident may not be discussed in detail but certainly raise it and propose a handover in a location with CCTV. Not sure why the poster above thinks you can't have a handover in front of a police station. I've heard of several cases where exactly that has happened.
Head, only that I've known people suggest similar and the judge then said to them that its not particularly in the childs best interest to be handed over somewhere which is often cold, wet and dark (though does I agree also depend on where the police station is located) so would have a back up suggestion, sorry x
Good lord woman, handovers outside of the police quarters???? I understand where you are coming from, but the police station is not the right place for your child, just ask for the contact centre, or pick up/drop off at school.
Thanks all. I've been trying to reach agreement with ex for weeks, and have set it all down in writing, so am quite clear what I would like to happen. Ex has refused to engage or discuss it all, so I really have no idea what it is he disagrees with.
My initial suggestion was that my parents act as intermediaries, and they have done so for a good 7 months (until a few weeks ago) but ex's constant last minute changing of arrangements and doing what he wanted (not turning up/ dropping things last minute etc) without agreeing it with anyone finally wore them down. They told me they didn't want to do it anymore as it was impacting on them meeting their own arrangements.
My Ex decided a few weeks ago he wouldn't be talking to me to try and agree some arrangements for contact, and therefore hasn't been seeing our son - hence my getting the courts involved.
I have been operating under the assumption that DS should see his Dad at least every other weekend and time in school holidays, if not more - and been trying to get ex to agree to something like this.
However, ex hasn't seen our DS in over 10 weeks now. DS hasn't really mentinoed it. I've suggested phone contact and Ex has agreed to that, so we get the odd phone call, but DS has never asked about seeing Ex or mentioned it. In fact he has indicated the opposite - that he doesn't really want to see Ex. He's said this quite clearly on more than one occassion.
DS has always shown signs of being uncomfortable about swapping between the two homes, despite not knowing any different since he was 6 months old when we split. But I can't deny that DS has been much happier not seeing ex.
So what do I do now. Should I tell CAFCASS this? At 4 is DS too young to uderstand? Too young to have his feelings taken into account? Will the courts care?
Tell CAFCASS, sure, but 4 years old is far too young for him to consider all of the implications of deciding not to see his father.
Thanks HeadDoctor. Do you think I should be looking to agree different arrangements for DS to reflect his feelings? Maybe more often for less time or something?
Is the fact that DS expressing this enough of a reason to push for something different from an every other weekend scenario?
The difficulty you seem to have is that your ex isn't particularly bothered about contact. Unfortunately, even going through the court process will not mean that he will stick to any arrangements. Cafcass will do an initial interview with both of you if asked to do so by the judge. After this initial interview, they will decide whether they need to be involved in your case at all and will report back to the judge accordingly. 4 years old is too young for his wishes to be taken into account as young childrens feelings on many things vary so much minute by minute. For example, I was told by a judge that I wouldn't stop sending ds to school just because he said he didn't want to go, and to apply the same rule of thumb to his interactions with his dad.
When thinking about the actual arrangements, do remember this is for x amount of years and lasts until your ds is 16, not only whilst he is little, so its worth thinking long term what will work when hes at school, when hes a teenager etc because the courts aim if they feel that an order needs to be made is to minimise the amount of times it would potentially need to be changed or varied. Also, have a read of the cafcass website and read up on the 'no order principal' that courts follow, because you also need to be aware that they will only make an order if there is no other way of resolving things and may not if your ex is indicating he has no interest in maintaining contact.
I'm really sorry to see you and your child are going through so difficult time and that your ex is behaving like an idiot. I understand that you are trying to arrange what is best for your child, and that your ex doesn't seem as bothered as you are about your child's welfare.
Court can make the things easier but also more difficult. But there is something to consider, courts can set a contact pattern in stone, but they cannot enforce it. Sure if one claims that the other parent is obstructing contact, they will do something about it, but if a parent has lost interest, there's absolutely nothing they can do to force the parent to see the child.
So, I would say that it is not your child who should think whether he wants to continue to have contact with his dad (he is far too young to carry the responsibility of such decision), but you.
I see your ex is acting as an arse, and you can only co parent a child effectively together if you can communicate with each other, so the question is, could you meet him half way with his requests? If so, it may be that you can get to an agreement, otherwise it seems to me that he may join the thousands of non resident parents who do not want contact with their children (having said that, loosing contact with a terrible parent is not necessarily a bad thing, so ponder about this but keep putting the interests of your child first)
I really do think that you shouldn't agree about any contact pattern until he agrees to communicate with you. It doesn't have to be verbal, an email, or even a notebook where you can note any information about the child (like he has ab party next saturday or he had a dose of calpol at 4) it is essential to avoid turning the child into messenger, a role you need to avoid as this is more damaging than going no contact.
The court process won't be easy and would be painful for all sides involved, but there are a few questions that I wish I had asked myself with more honesty when things starting to go so pear shaped with DS and his dad: am I facilitating contact with such abusive man because society believes that's the way forward? Do I believe that the current level and quality of contact is benefitting my child? And most importantly, am I bending myself backwards to facilitate contact even when it is not good for DS because I am still afraid of my ex or what the court would say if I don't allow contact?
Could I ask how contact broke down?
Your ds is 4 and has been having contact since 6 months old, your parents have supervised contact for around the last 7 months. What was happening with contact before this? I assumed from your original post thatyou were going to court to agree contact (sorry) rather than to re establish it, the judge will want to know what happened with contact previously (between ages of 6 months - now) and why communication broke down as I'm also assuming it was all mutually agreed previously and not court ordered?
inthename - Indeed. Where I struggle is that he says he is bothered about contact. Then asks for things at the last minute that suit him and when I can't do exactly as he wants I get lots of angry vindictive textx/ emails and finger pointing.
He will absolutely tell the court I am standing in the way of contact becuase of the 'unreasonable conditions' I put on it - that we need a set arrangement so we both know what we are doing, and that I want to agree arrangements for handovers that avoid repeats of whats gone on previously.
If I answered that question honestly I would say it's partly because of society's belief that DS needs a relationship with his dad, and partly because of what ex/ courts would say/ do if I just stopped contact.
Howver, I can't honestly say that I think things are so bad that DS doesn't benefit from seeing his Dad. Plus how can you make that judgement for sure anyway? It's so hard.
If he had lost all interest, I think I would be ok with that. But he hasn't. He tells me he wants to see DS, and that I'm being dreadful for not making it happen - but then in the same breath won't talk to me about arrangements, unless it is exactly what he wants - which is all about piecemeal things like a holiday and Christmas eve.
Then he is being an arse. In your position I would be tempted to sit tight and do nothing, wait for him to make the application to court etc
However, as you have a court date, then stay calm, put forward a pattern of contact and hopefully things will settle down.
One thing I would say, when in court you may feel at times that the judge is falling for everything your ex is saying. Keep biting your tongue and don'r react emotionally to any statements your ex makes about you obstructing his relationship etc, because often in cases like yours the judge will allow the other person to talk to gauge the reality of the situation (the old 'give them enough rope' adage) That way also you can demonstrate that you have your sons best interests at heart whilst your ex talks to the judge about wanting everything his own way.
Message withdrawn at poster's request.
I drafted a two page parenting agreement based on the stuff they put in the CAFCASS booklet and sent it him asking him what he thought and whether he had any suggestions.
It basically set out every other weekend school to school A week at easter and christmas and 2 weeks in the holidays. Suggested using a handover book, for important messages, and where we couldn't handover at school I suggested his parents could help out.
This was weeks ago now. All i've had out of him is that he won't be commenting ad he doesn't agree with it!
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