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I do not have good relationships with legal professionals

(71 Posts)
GreenRedBlueYellowPurple Fri 31-Jan-14 17:31:44

Oh dear. Due to me being a creative type and going through a very emotionally difficult time, I seem to have TERRIBLE relationships with all my family law solicitors. The first few I left as they weren't giving me a very good service but the last one was unhappy with the fact that we 'weren't understanding each other very well.' It's true! She never answered questions directly, told lies, omitted informing me about very important things (well that last part was the barrister.)

Please, please help me choose a new one. How do I go about choosing? Time constraints mean that I may have to take the first one that agrees to take on the case.

Or does my personality mean that I'll have to represent myself?

Please any insights or advice generally welcome! It's an extremely difficult time for me.

Clouddancer Fri 31-Jan-14 22:58:52

I just took a second opinion on my case, and I chose someone who had written and published in the field, had a personal testimony on her webpage and came on a recommendation. She also is involved in leading CPD training etc. All this was on the website. She was lovely, very gentle manner, and gave me very honest advice.

The second opinion has given me an objective clarity of the situation. Very expensive, but I wish I had done it a couple of months ago, because while my solicitor is following broadly the same course, she did not talk me through it so well, or if she did, it got lost in the firefighting that was going on before, and my absolute disillusionment at one aspect which was badly handled all round.

ladyjulian Sat 01-Feb-14 09:03:11

Family law can be a really difficult area to advise in because the emotions involved are often so raw. This in turn means that clients don't always hear what is being said. OP, I mean this in the nicest way, but if you've sacked "a few" solicitors and then the latest one has sacked you, do you think the problem might be that you're a difficult client?

There are some ways you can improve your relationships with lawyers:

* Don't call every ten minutes. I had someone this year call me on xmas eve to ask if there was any progress (no) and then call again on boxing day, as though I might have had a progress update from the other side by owl post on xmas day. This only serves to annoy. Once a week or by email should be enough unless there is something urgent like a hearing coming up.

* Be realistic. "I want a residence order for the children I haven't seen for two years, and I want it tomorrow" isn't going to happen, and then you're going to be angry and disappointed.

* When being realistic, listen to the advice you're being given. When your lawyer tactfully says "I think that might be optimistic" does she mean "not a hope" or does she mean "if you're optimistic enough it'll happen" (clue: it's the first one).

* If there is bad news or negative advice, how do you want it presented? If you would rather they cut the tact and just told you "not a hope," say so at the outset. This is particularly so if you struggle with communication, this is nothing to be ashamed of, you're not alone, and we would rather you told us this to start with. If on the other hand you are feeling very vulnerable and want a lot of handholding with your bad news, tell us that too.

* Please, please, please, tell your lawyer what you want. She isn't psychic. Don't say "All I want is X" when actually, this is the bare minimum that you want. This is a very female thing to do - we are so conditioned not to appear greedy or grasping or selfish or any of those 'bad' things. Your lawyer is not going to judge you. Tell her what you want out of this and then she can a) get it for you, b) tell you it's unrealistic or c) try for it and come up with a Plan B if it isn't going to happen. If you can't say it with your mouthwords, write it down and hand it over.

* Make notes if it helps you. Coming to an appointment and vaguely saying "I just want it sorted" isn't helpful. Write a list of what you want to discuss before the appointment. This will also save you from phoning five times the following day. If you like, email the lawyer before your appointment saying "These are the points I want to discuss."

* Your lawyer is not your BFF. It's very tempting to fall into that relationship because for many people, the lawyer is the first person who has listened to them uncritically and believed them and not said "but back in 2007 your ex told me…" If they can't get what you want, this is not a betrayal of friendship.

Demanding clients are fine - in fact, they can be the best clients because they arrive with an idea of exactly what they want to achieve. Spending two hours with them discussing this is what we do. Speaking to them regularly is not a problem because when they phone they have a question and they want an answer. Difficult clients are the ones who try to appear undemanding and hope that we guess what they want.

I'm not suggesting OP that you personally did any of the above, but you asked for tips so it might be helpful.

And yes, obviously there are some poor lawyers around, this post isn't intended to suggest it's always (or even mostly) the client's fault!

GreenRedBlueYellowPurple Sat 01-Feb-14 09:03:54

So I should do some research and shop around? My confidence is so low and I'm not very good at standing up for myself. I'm losing my case and I fear that no solicitor will have the time to turn it around before the next hearing!!! :-(

GreenRedBlueYellowPurple Sat 01-Feb-14 09:08:06

Thanks Lady. Cross posts there. That is helpful. I haven't got a CLUE what I want!

Bunbaker Sat 01-Feb-14 09:10:33

What has being creative got to do with it?

GreenRedBlueYellowPurple Sat 01-Feb-14 09:12:14

My ex has dragged me into court lying about neglect and abuse (not the extreme kind, but still!) Now he's posing as Superdad. It's risky business because the courts look like they want to give him joint residency and do you know what, if he was a reliable, nice guy that would be great! A break! Yay! However his lying, abuse and clever scheming to get what he wants tells me that this is not the case and that he is duping the courts. They are falling for this hook, line & sinker. My fear is that he will go on to make up more lies and end up by applying for full residency just to kill me off completely. I fear he wants to crush me.

GreenRedBlueYellowPurple Sat 01-Feb-14 09:16:38

Being creative probably has little to do with it but being an artist with ideals, integrity and morals means that I find the 'justice' of the legal system appalling. I'm frustrated. It also means that I am lost in the legal jargon as Lady pointed out above. I am exactly that optimist and have these exact communication problems. My ex on the other hand loves to play these kinds of games. sad

bakingaddict Sat 01-Feb-14 09:33:16

I'm not a lawyer but you seem to have pre-conceived ideas and a 'it's me against the justice system temperament' which will always put you at odds. Next time why don't you engage with your solicitor and actually listen to what they might be telling you.

Sometimes what you believe to be very important information to solicitor's isn't really because they are trying to formulate a legal argument

GreenRedBlueYellowPurple Sat 01-Feb-14 09:35:05

As for what I want, I want for him to look after the children properly when they are in his care. No mind games, controlling, emotional abuse, saying things about me, taking care of them physically, keeping them warm, taking note of their boundaries and capabilities, supervising them properly so that there aren't accidents, avoiding alcohol at all costs. The likelihood of him doing these things however (I know from experience) are very slim!

I also want for him to be satisfied with the contact he gets and not go and put another application before the court for full residency.

I know, however, that I can't control what he does or doesn't do. I am stuck between fighting him all the way and pointing out all his ineptitudes (again. The court dont listen) or finally just letting him have the contact he wants now, (thus making myself look reasonable and agreeable to the court) , making the most of my free time and trying to recover from it all.

ladyjulian Sat 01-Feb-14 09:35:35

Okay, so in the "what you want" category you have: you want full residency and you do not want him to have residency, joint or otherwise.

Do you want him to have contact? If so, how much?

If the ideal world situation is I just want him to fall down a drain, discover he likes it and stay there forever, reset it to what could you live with? Contact? Overnight contact? Weekends and holidays? Could he take them away for a week over the summer? (bear in mind i have no idea how old your dc are!)

If he is playing the system, you need to know how to come across as reasonable. A mother who says "I don't want the children to see him because he's a lying barsteward" is not going to sound reasonable, she's going to sound as though she's taking her own anger at her ex out on him via the children. Whereas one who says "I would love him to have them from time to time but I want it to build up slowly, I think immediate residency would be too much too quickly" is much more reasonable.

Get a scrap of paper and put three headings on it: What I Want, What I Could Live With, and What I Couldn't Live With. Use that as the basis for instructions when you find a new lawyer.

If you can't find a solicitor at short notice then you could try a Direct Access barrister.

GreenRedBlueYellowPurple Sat 01-Feb-14 09:39:33

You're right baking addict. Any ideas as to how I might go about changing my 'me against the legal system' stance? I feel so disempowered. I need to either find new legal representation VERY soon or else represent myself.

GreenRedBlueYellowPurple Sat 01-Feb-14 09:42:57

What does 'joint residency' actually mean in practical terms? He has been given 1 overnight every Saturday night

GreenRedBlueYellowPurple Sat 01-Feb-14 09:44:31

The next thing he is after is joint residency and 2/3 overnights and this will be decided at a hearing on 28 Feb

GreenRedBlueYellowPurple Sat 01-Feb-14 09:50:48

At this hearing, it's probably best if I say 'Look. This is very soon for joint residency to be awarded. I feel that his parenting abilities have not even been looked at. I also think there is a risk that he might abduct the children, as he has threatened to in the past. Why give him all this control when I have had to protect the children from him in the past?'

GreenRedBlueYellowPurple Sat 01-Feb-14 09:55:56

I think he will try to get full residency as I am so weak & vulnerable at the moment. I think he will then try to turn the children against me and leave the country.

ladyjulian Sat 01-Feb-14 09:59:02

How old are the kids?

By joint residency I mean a shared residency order. Is that actually what he's after, or is it just more contact that he wants?

GreenRedBlueYellowPurple Sat 01-Feb-14 10:03:15

DD 7, DS 4.

He wants 'joint residency, 2/3 overnights, 2 weeks in summer and every other Christmas/birthday.'

GreenRedBlueYellowPurple Sat 01-Feb-14 10:04:42

Well this is what he wants on paper. The court is bending over BACKWARDS to give it to him. Then, he will say he wants full residency, I believe.

I'm falling apart. This has gone on so long already and I have NO SUPPORT :-(

SabrinaMulhollandJjones Sat 01-Feb-14 10:11:41

Always talk from the point of view of the children - do not make your ex the centre of your statements. For example:

"The children are very settled with me, and although they benefit from contact with their father at weekends, during the week/schoolnights, they would find it very unsettling to stay with their father."

"I don't think it will be in the best interests of the children to suddenly go from one night a week to 3 nights a week. They are used to a stable home with me"

I don't know if these statements match your exact circumstances - but you get the idea.

It will depend on the judge as well - my friend's just been through a bitter divorce, and her ex was pushing for 2 nights in the week. She was told that Tunbridge Wells judges don't look favourably on mid-week contact because it unsettles the children's school day to be going back and forth. This was enough to get him to drop the demand, and just have weekend contact.

Never make it look like you're battling your ex - always put the children's interests at the forefront.

I'm not a lawyer - just been through the whole thing with my friend recently, and she had a very good lawyer.

prh47bridge Sat 01-Feb-14 10:14:17

I haven't got a CLUE what I want

That's the problem you need to resolve.

Divorce is largely a negotiation about who gets what, how the finances will be split and how the children will be dealt with. Most books on negotiation tell you that you need to start with a clear idea of your ideal outcome and the minimum you will accept. The two positions need to be different otherwise you are not negotiating, you are simply issuing an ultimatum. And both need to be realistic otherwise the negotiation is likely to fail. If I want to buy a brand new Porsche my ideal outcome may be that I pay £5 and the dealer throws in tax, petrol, insurance and servicing for as long as I own the car but that isn't realistic so I need to think again.

In the business world, if it turns out that it is not possible for both parties to achieve at least their minimum acceptable deal they will walk away from it and there won't be any deal. In divorce the courts intervene. It is preferable to avoid that if at all possible so you really need to figure out what you want. Until you do you are undermining your lawyer's efforts to help you.

My fear is that he will go on to make up more lies and end up by applying for full residency just to kill me off completely

If the children are currently living with you his chances of getting full residence are minimal unless the children would prefer to live with him and are old enough for their wishes to carry weight with the court.

prh47bridge Sat 01-Feb-14 10:23:00

I want for him to look after the children properly when they are in his care

The courts cannot order that. If there is evidence of abuse or neglect they will intervene but otherwise you simply have to trust him, however difficult that is.

I also want for him to be satisfied with the contact he gets and not go and put another application before the court for full residency

You stop him from putting in an application but as per my last post he is unlikely to get full residence unless that is what the children want. And given their ages it will be several years before their views are regarded as persuasive by the courts.

He wants 'joint residency, 2/3 overnights, 2 weeks in summer and every other Christmas/birthday'

You may not want to hear this but many courts would say that is not unreasonable. The courts take the view that it is important that the children are able to have a good relationship with him.

GreenRedBlueYellowPurple Sat 01-Feb-14 11:02:00

At what age are the children's views considered?

prh47bridge Sat 01-Feb-14 12:16:48

Their views are always taken into account but the views of a young child won't carry much weight. Children aged 12 and over are usually considered to be old enough to know what they want but that isn't a hard and fast rule. It depends on the circumstances and the maturity of the child.

babybarrister Sun 02-Feb-14 22:03:28

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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