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Contact Hearing Tomorrow

(19 Posts)
Smo2 Wed 10-Apr-13 09:59:42

Short Story - ex is an arse, has been a nightmare over contact, eventually I lost the plot and applied to court to force him into mediation. THe day after I served him with papers, he completely changed into the worlds most reasonable man.

I'm just a bit scared, I've never done anything like this before and I'm representing myself. Anyone done this before? Any advice?

Thanks xx

lostdad Wed 10-Apr-13 10:41:37

Yes. Don't go in alone. You'll need someone with a cool head and able to take notes as you can't talk and write at the same time. You really should have sent a letter to the court to inform it you are using a McKenzie Friend (lay assistant) by now but most courts won't have a problem if they are reasonable - in theory it shouldn't be someone who has an interest in the case (i.e. family member or friend but now legal aid has dried up and there are more litigants in person some courts seem to be OK with this).

Get there early. If you can agree something before you see a judge/magistrate great - it can just be rubber stamped and you can all go home and get on with your life.

If it comes to a court order make sure it is drafted tightly to stop him messing around the conditions of it (i.e. if you agree `every other weekend' make sure you both agree what constitutes a weekend...he may think it may mean collection and handover at school, you may say it's Saturday morning until Sunday tea time, etc.)

If you ex has a solicitor it is his/her job to help you and not to mislead and/or bully you. Be nice to the solicitor but don't be intimidated - they're there because your ex is paying them to be.

Don't agree to anything you will regret because if you do and it goes back to court the first question will be `Why did you agree to it in court if you weren't happy with it'?

Bottom line - be polite, be civil but don't be expected to know legal terms and procedure. Most judges/magistrates will help you quite happily as they know what the score is.

The golden rule though is: Be child focused. It's not about what you want or need - it's about what your child needs - `The interests of the child are paramount'. So it's not about your ex's `right to his kids' it's `your kids' right to their father' for example.

Hope this helps! wink

Smo2 Wed 10-Apr-13 10:49:29

Thank you SO much. It is all about trying to get a better deal for my children who are desperate to see more of their dad. So i have been very child focused. I will use that turn of phrase, great. I don't know if he is bringing his solicitor or not. She is VERY difficult, and actually responsible for alot of the difficulties we have had. Numerous letters etc from her to mine, which is in the end once the divorce was done, I finished my dealings with my solicitor to stop his solicitor continually driving up costs.

I hadn't thought to take someone, I'm normally quite confident, this is just scaring me a bit....would it be reasonable to email the court and let them know I'm going to bring a friend?

I'm hoping to agree too so a court order is not necessary. I've written that all over the notes. What I want is mediation leading to an agreed flexible contact agreement that allows for his odd work pattern but stops him taking advantage of it, which he is doing at the moment, which is very unsettling for the kids.

Thank you very much, you've made me feel a bit more confident.

lostdad Wed 10-Apr-13 12:09:21

You're probably a bit late emailing them - strictly speaking you should send them a letter informing them of your intent to use a McKenzie Friend with a CV of their experience as a courtesy and once you get there it will be decided if you can use one (although in practice it is very uncommon for them not to be permitted these days).

If you'r ex's sol is there (and I would imagine she will be) there is a chance she will do what she can to get someone with you excluded from the court if she's as awkward as you think she may be but that will be for the judge to decide and not her.

Be clear about what you want to - mediation isn't legally binding - only a court order (and if truth be told courts don't enforce their own orders either) so you need to make sure you are happy with what's in it. You say you want flexibility too - court orders can only make orders and can't make people flexible!

Good luck!

STIDW Wed 10-Apr-13 12:22:56

If you want you can take someone who is articulate and organised to assist with taking notes, help with paper work and give moral support. A McKenzie Friend is supposed to submit a CV to court at the earliest opportunity but a judge may allow them in court on the day - Google the Family President's Practice Guidance: McKenzie Friends. However if you don't take a MF it isn't too difficult to represent yourself as there isn't a great deal of law involved with the run of the mill contact case. Most of the issues are ordinary parenting ones. A MF can be a liability if they have their own axe to grind, ratchet up grievances, overheat emotions etc.

At the hearing the first thing is to see if any agreement can be reached. If not the judge will decide what more information he/she will require, if any, in the form of reports. A timetable is set for future hearings and the judge may make an interim order. It isn't necessary to produce a position statement unless the judge asks for one but lay people often find one helps them keep focussed on the issues. A position statement lists a brief history, your concerns and requests of the court and if you prepare one you need copies for the court and the other side. It would be useful if you can think of arrangements to propose such as x number of days contact per month to be organised in advance depending upon when your ex works shifts.

There is a requirement that in most cases the applicant to proceedings arranges a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting to establish whether mediation is appropriate. IF this hasn't been done there is a risk the court won't hear the case until you have organised a meeting.

Good luck and let us know how you get on.

Smo2 Wed 10-Apr-13 12:23:33

Exactly, so it may be that he's ordered to have the kids every sunday and he'll have to make his own childcare arrangements, that's what I'll push for if he doesn't play ball. I am aware mediation isn't legally binding, but because of the nature of his job, it's in the kids best interests that the flexibilty element remains, my daughter is disabled, so I would prefer he or I are caring for her. I've got several options, one requires him to be reasonable, and one if he continues to be very difficult.

There is also a request for a prohibited steps order as his partner won't stay out of it, and has even barged her way in to my daughters medical appointments, apart from it being none of her business, he spent 5 years sleeping with her behind my back, so I need her to butt out.

I've had a good think, and I'm ok to go on my own, I've not got anyone this late stage, so I won't rock the boat. Thank you xx

Smo2 Wed 10-Apr-13 12:25:54

Thank you STIDW. He has refused to attend a mediation meeting despite repeated requests from me, so I'm more than happy for a judge to insist on this!

I have done a position statement, and yes, exactly that it's more for me to focus me on the issue in hand. Thank you for your advice, that's given me confidence I'm on the right track x

STIDW Wed 10-Apr-13 14:11:01

One thing you need to be clear about is a contact order states when you must make the children available for contact rather than when your ex should have the children. The order should then be served along with a warning notice to both parties.

If your ex doesn't turn up for contact at the prescribed times the court won't force him to have the children. It isn't in the interests of children to be cared for someone who doesn't want them or can't be available to care for them. In practice a contact order may prevent your ex disrupting your family life at other times but the onus will still be for you to make the children available as per order. If your ex is irregular and inconsistent and there is evidence the children are being emotionally harmed a court may be persuaded to vary the order and reduce contact to reflect the reality of the situation.

Also the courts won't be interested your ex's affair or your feelings. You are expected to rise above it and put the needs of your children first, although the new partner barging into medical appointments isn't reasonable and it's difficult to see how it serves the best interests of the children.

Xenia Wed 10-Apr-13 15:47:31

The bottom line is you are applying to court to force this man to have the children and the court cannot make him.

Smo2 Wed 10-Apr-13 16:46:09

Actually, I'm not. I'm going to court to force this man to make reasonable contact arrangements that are not to the detriment of his children's well being and that means that they know WHEN they are going to see him and that he listens to what THEY want because at the moment they are asking to see him more and he ignores it.

I'm MORE than aware he can't be forced to do anything but frankly when i've watched my kids sobbing over the last two years, I need to do SOMETHING.

I don't want them to grow up with their dad being a part time weekend dad. If this doesn't work, at least I've tried eh?

babybarrister Wed 10-Apr-13 21:07:38

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Xenia Thu 11-Apr-13 09:54:51

So the court might order he sees them every two weeks and then say he chooses not to see them for a year. I don't think there is any penalty on him so you will have obtained an order which is worthless, although I accept that it might be a good way of publicly shaming him and making your children realise you want to make him see them and that he is the one who refuses to.

lostdad Thu 11-Apr-13 11:35:03

There is no penalty for someone not attending for contact set up in a court order. If he won't agree in court to say, contact once a week the judge won't put it in the order as it won't help.

You've for the opposite problem most people have Smo2.

Usually it's a father seeking more contact and a mother opposing it. It brings to light a fact something people (usually RPs, usually mothers) don't appreciate - a court order is a minimum of contact unless specifically stated otherwise in a order. A court isn't going to punish parents if they, say, start agreeing stuff without a judge telling them what to do (aka `Doing what most people do').

Bottom line though - if he isn't interested you can't make him and neither can a court. All you can do is to ask for a defined contact order (and defined as in `Either party can't play silly buggers with what was actually agreed in court') for regular contact to enable you to get on with things.

Xenia Thu 11-Apr-13 19:03:46

I don't agree that Smo2's problem is rare. I think there are vast numbers of mothers who want the father to be involved and he does not get involved. We all know there is no point getting a court order about it as the courts allow men to renege on their responsibilities entirely and never see their children but give them a right to see children. The courts give no right to children to force their father not even to see them never mind do 50% of the hard work of bringing them up. Absent fathers who spawn children and disappear have been a feature of this planet since Ghengis Kahn did his worst and earlier.

However it is very hard to interest the press in the issue unless it becomes one about the mothers left with chidlren 365 days a year drawing state benefitys. They are not interest in full time working mothers who have their children every night of the year and would like the absent father to have the children even for one night a year, if not half the year.

Perhaps there should be a system where if he does not have them half the time and yet the mother and children want it he is named and shamed on a public board and people see - This man has chosen not to see his children for a year and he gets weekly emails from the state asking for an explanation for his failures.

3xcookedchips Thu 11-Apr-13 19:12:45

Xenia, if you follow you last point to a logical conclusion would you promote naming and shaming those mothers who go out of their way to deny their children seeing their fathers and a notice board for mothers who have allegations of DV and SA found to be malicious and false?

There is a flaw of course - either course results in indentifying the poor children caught in the middle.

You might want to think again.

Xenia Thu 11-Apr-13 19:19:13

Absolutely. I think it is dreadful to deny a father contact.

I do not see why the law gives fathers rights to see their children but absolutely no right to a child to force the father to have a meaningful relationship with the child - it is as if fathers have rights but no duties.

It is not surprisingly rare for a contact application by a mother wanting to force a father to be a father as in the case on this thread but it's only rare because even if an order is made the father most cases will ignore it and still never see the children. It is not rare because there are few fathers who do not see their children. There are legions of them.

NumTumDeDum Thu 11-Apr-13 20:42:42

Just curious, what's the authority for MF's having to email a cv to the court? i've never heard that before.

lostdad Thu 11-Apr-13 20:54:51

It's Practice Guidance: McKenzie Friends (Civil and Family Courts)

A litigant who wishes to exercise this right should inform the judge as soon as possible indicating who the MF will be. The proposed MF should produce a short curriculum vitae or other statement setting out relevant experience, confirming that he or she has no interest in the case and understands the MF’s role and the duty of confidentiality.

http://www.familylaw.co.uk/system/uploads/attachments/0000/8125/McKenzie_Friends_Practice_Guidance_July_2010.pdf

NumTumDeDum Thu 11-Apr-13 22:03:39

Thank you

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