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Help - what to expect at return/directions hearing in family court this morning(5 Posts)
Hoping some family lawyers can help me! I'm a solicitor but in a completely different area of law and have never done any family. However I've been roped in to help a friend who is representing herself in messy situation with her STBEXH. She is fully aware that I'm no expert in family law and I'm not formally representing her, but I'm just going with her for moral support and generally just to assist with some understanding of legal process and court rooms etc.
Anyway, we made an ex parte application for a non-molestation order a couple of weeks ago which was successful. My DF has a 14 month old DS who her DH has not seen for months. They did have an access arrangement in place through a formal separation agreement. However, he did not stick to it and in the end she told him that if he wasn't going to honour what was agreed then he would have to arrange contact through the courts. This was picked up by the judge who dealt with the non-molestation order application so she said that she would ensure that the access arrangements got picked up too. My understanding of the hearing tomorrow is that it is a return hearing in relation to the non-molestation order, to give the STBEXH an opportunity to make representations as to why it shouldn't be granted, but also a directions hearing to move things towards determining the access issue.
Really my question is what to expect and whether there is anything we could/should be doing at this stage? I've already told my DF to start thinking about what kind of access arrangement she would be able to live with and how to put that across in terms of having her DS's interests at heart as opposed to just trying to get back at her ex (which isn't the case - she wants her DS to have a relationship with his dad, just doesn't want him to constantly let him down). Because of her ex's temper, she would prefer him to have supported access with his mother present with him when he has his son but not sure if that's something that can be asked for at this stage. Also, my DF would like contact to be reintroduced gently, bearing in mind her son's age and the fact that he's not seen his dad for months, he doesn't really know who he is and would struggle with overnight visits immediately with no lead in period I think.
Sorry for the very long post, but hoping someone can offer some advice. Hearing is at 10.00 on Thursday so posting this very late, but only just finished working on the day job so hoping someone is still around!
Not sure whether you'll get this in time but here goes;
1. re. the non mol; the ex will be asked to sign an undertaking not to harass, pester, threaten etc etc your friend, and will be advised by his solicitor to sign as it isn't an admission of guilt, just a promise not to do anything inappropriate in the future. As contact is at issue, the court will expect them to have at least attempted to thrash out the arrangements so that they can be referred to in the order. Although the appt is for 10am, tell the usher that you need more time to negotiate contact (if you do) and you'll be bumped down the list so the judge sees other cases before you. They are always happy to delay seeing parties who are doing meaningful negotiations.
2. the court would not expect a 14 month old to have unsupervised overnight contact in these circs. You are on exactly the right track with your/your friend's proposals.
Thanks mumblechum! In the waiting room now, I've not been allowed into court as not formally representing my friend
On the positive side, the barrister on the other side seems reasonable and has taken on board our comments regarding contact so just hope she can talk some sense into the ex.
Yes, you wouldn't be allowed in unless she asked to bring you in as a McKenzie friend
It is worth remembering that McKenzie Friends need to have no interest in the case they are assisting in - such as friends.
Saying that, what with the massive increase of litigants in person attending court alone I've seen courts allow family members to act as McKenzie Friends although it's a gamble to count on that happening.
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