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TOPIC: Guide to Representing Yourself In Court

Guide to Representing Yourself In Court 2 years 5 months ago #10255

  • Yoji
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Guide to Representing Yourself in Court

You will have now submitted your C100 form to the Courts and any additional documentation relating to your case.

This Guide to representing yourself at Court is for those who have automatic Parental Responsibility. Others on here can give more advice for those few cases where Parental Responsibilities are not there (for whatever reason).

The Courts

The Courts can be a daunting process and representing yourself dependant on your own circumstance will definitely test your mettle. The Courts have a duty to the Child and before a Court will consider whether Contact should resume, increase or even in some cases cease, they will consider the following:
• The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding
• His physical, emotional and educational needs
• The likely effect on him of any change in his circumstances
• His age, sex, background and any characteristics of his which the court considers relevant
• Any harm which he has suffered or is at risk of suffering
• How capable each of his parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his needs
• The range of powers available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question
[size=85:2r9vahib]Childrens Act 1989 S1 (3 a-g)[/size]

It should therefore be assumed that proceeding with a hearing that your case or the wishes of your application be in consideration of these.

Meeting the Defence

It is around 6wks since you sent off your C100 and you are now about to go for your first hearing. Go suited and booted. These hearings are much more formal than they would otherwise give themselves credit.

You are now acting on your own. It is good support for you to bring along a family member, one who won’t get heated and likewise one who will listen and let you take matters forward yourself. I myself took my Father who 22years ago was in my position. It was Sigmund Freud who wrote that people have a natural action to repeat what happened to them in their lives...

As your are representing yourself you will need to have a case prepared. It is a good idea to keep a “Bible” as I once called it. A folder containing everything relating to your case, diaries, receipts, pictures, letters relating to Contact Matters, emails and similar.

The first person you will come into contact with will be your ex-partners Solicitor or Barrister (or both), most often funded from Legal Aid. I have to say at this point the advice I can give is going to be limited as you will be talking about your case, as unique to you as it could be to every other.

Just like in the movies, you will now have to speak privately with the Defence, it is imperative you remain calm and collected. From this point on, all your actions need to be impeccable. Swearing, aggressive body language and even bad views will go against you. Be prepared as the Defence’s Barrister may bring up things that *i) you have never been informed of before ii) things that have never been an issue previously iii) things that you would need to comply with before she “allow” this Order/Application and finally iv) instances questioning your parenting and often relating to harm you may have caused your child.

Simply state your position, agree or disagree with what the Defence says and if you feel it getting too much… simply end the discussion politely and leave it for the Court room.

The First Hearing

The First Hearing is a directions hearing. In general Mothers can take two lines in this First Hearing. They could cede that yes, an order is to be made. Or an Order should not be made until she feels certain criteria are met. Those where the latter occurs, you will need to expect you will be in this process for some time.

As is usually the case and assuming that there have been no serious safeguarding or welfare issues raised you will sit in a Court with a Legal Adviser and on almost certainly this occasion a CAFCASS Officer, to act on behalf of the Child/Children of the case.

The Legal Adviser will essentially listen to your case. You will be asked to state what you want and why. You need to say what it is exactly you are asking for. Your Ex (or rather her representation) will make a statement and usually include the mentioned points that you would otherwise be unaware of (above *). You need to address these. If an agreement is not reached or there is a reason to not allow contact immediately the Legal Adviser will set an Order to attend Mediation and PIPS (Parenting Information Programme). It is important for you to say that “Any agreement reached in Mediation, I wish to be put into an Order by the Courts”. The Legal Adviser may question as to why this is, but if you state that this is due to it only being a verbal agreement and previous ones breaking down, you are seeking guaranteed time here.

A session is usually then made for 2-3months time to recoup the position.

Mediation

If you are fortunate to be able to afford Mediation (costing from £75+VAT per hour to £150+VAT per hour often once a fortnight) then it is worth attending at least a few sessions. The same as with Court, ensure you keep calm at all times. Remember to tell the Mediator(s) at the first meeting of your intention that any agreement made here will be taken back to court to be made into a legally binding order.

One thing to bear in mind, the vast majority of Mediators are exceptional people, who listen to a lot of problems every day. My Mediator was completely the opposite and immediately sided with my ex, and it was clear from the outset that what I was asking for from Courts, that overnight Contact was completely unreasonable. My reasoning fell on deaf ears and even my question of “Why can’t I have her overnight” was met with the response from the Mediator for my ex not to answer.

Remember, if you are unhappy with how a Mediator is “Mediating” you can request for the meeting to end, under the view that you believe that there are elements of bias toward and against you. I personally argued that a Mediator not supporting a Right to contact, and indeed trying to keep the poultry few hours at weekends in place was somehow acceptable to both my ex and the Mediator.

The majority of people do manage to come to an arrangement. So whatever your view, do not rest your thoughts on my situation. Yours may be completely different and it is worth going in with the view that something good will come of this.

I cannot afford Mediation and do not qualify for Legal Aid… Now what?
- If you do not qualify for Legal Aid it would be quite costly. Remember however that upon Court directions the first session is usually free
- If you cannot afford absolutely you will need to be able to back this up 100% with bank statements of your outgoings, wage slips to show income. The next hearing(s) and Final Hearings will expect you to have clear reasons why you have not given Mediation your time (and as we know time is money).

Second Hearing

It is now several months later, and you will have the outcome of the Mediation, successful, or not. If successful, requesting the Legal Adviser to make this Direction upon an Order (Contact Order) you will then begin to have what you may have agreed upon.

Should Mediation not be successful, you can request that your hearing progress to a Bench. This is where you will sit in front of a Panel of Magistrates, a Legal Adviser (to advise the Magistrate on the particulars of the Law) and a Court Usher. Should this happen, below will highlight what steps you now need to take:::
- A Legal Adviser will give instruction that you (The Applicant) will need to submit to the Court and the Respondent (via way of her Solicitor) a Statement to the Court. This called: The Position Statement

It should be said that often a Legal Adviser might first try and appoint a third hearing to go ahead under the direction of contact being for a trial period or indeed more contact being allowed (although not to your specification).

Preparing for the Final Hearing

My case took 5months to come to the Final Hearing. This was I would argue owed that I was a very forceful LIP (Litigant in Person) and pressed for hearing dates to be brought forward by a week/two weeks and likewise if I had not heard from the Courts a week afterwards I was on the phone asking where my Directions were. Also booking onto PIPs and Mediation at the earliest opportunity.

For the final hearing I will be assuming that your ex partner has a Solicitor acting for them. If not you will need to post in the Legal Eagle section. As such, for the final hearing you will only need to prepare your Position Statement. This is to be submitted by the Court and the Respondents Solicitor by the deadline date. It is a very formal process and stern questions will usually be asked as to why you/both parties cannot come to an agreement.

You Statement needs to have the following:

A Cover Page to detail: or have something of the following as similar:

[size=150:2r9vahib]In the [NAME OF COURT][/size] Case Number: [CASE No.]

FAMILY DIVISION

Relating to [CHILDS NAME] born [DATE OF BIRTH]

BETWEEN

[YOUR NAME] (The Applicant)

AND

[YOUR EX’S NAME] (The Respondent)


STATEMENT OF [YOUR NAME]


[size=85:2r9vahib]At the base of the page needs to be included the following sentence:[/size]
I [YOUR NAME] of [YOUR ADDRESS] make this statement believing the contents to be true, accurate and in the knowledge that it will be put before the court and that it may be examined on the basis and points for which are enclosed.

The Second page should then read:

BACKGROUND

Note: I have included some bullet points as reference idea’s, but don’t be scared to put anything additional.

• Following separation of myself and [YOUR PARTNER] on [DATE YOU SEPARATED] we had left with an arrangement on the best interests of [YOUR CHILD]. I had been an involved and supportive Father to [CHILDS NAME] and their needs

• The agreements relating to contact after this time was that [STATE WHEN YOU HAD AGREED YOU WOULD HAVE CONTACT]

• [YOUR EX] stopped in the family home of [ADDRESS] and Maintenance was agreed via way of [HOW DID YOU COME TO A MAINTENANCE/SUPPORT AGREEMENT] and it was for [HOW MUCH MAINTENANCE DID YOU PAY]

• Changes in Contact occurred on or around [DATES OF ANY CONTACT CHANGES] and and Contact [CONTINUED/CHANGED/WAS DIFFICULT etc]

• State any other changes in Contact that occurred after that…

• Contact has continued until my Application to the Court on: [DATE YOU HAD CONFIRMATION OF YOUR APPLICATION C100 REACHING THE COURTS]

• Detail anything you have done to be supportive of contact

DETAILS SINCE COURT HEARINGS

• The scheduled hearing on [DATE] it was directed that: [WHAT WERE THE DIRECTIONS (As per your Letter from the Court)]

• The scheduled hearing on [DATE] was rescheduled to [FOLLOWING DATE] owed to [WHY WAS A HEARING CANCELLED] (Common examples are Medical Reasons, Work, Holidays, Family Occasions, Doctors Appointments and most are just reasons to prolong the Court Process)

• On [DATE] I attended Mediation and an agreement was made/was not made.

• The Agreement of Mediation was that: [WHAT WAS THE AGREEMENT]

• On [MOST RECENT COURT DATE] myself and [YOUR EX] attended Court and this has now resulted in a Contested Hearing

MEDICAL HISTORY

• There are currently no Medical requirements relating to [CHILDS NAME] as to which I am aware

Or:
• [CHILDS NAME] is currently under [ANY MEDICATION] and / or suffers from [MEDICAL CONDITION]

If your Child has a medical condition a supporting statement to say that: Even given [CHILDS NAME] Medical condition that this should not be a reason to defer [TYPE OF CONTACT YOU ARE AFTER i.e. Overnight] and that I would take action in the event of any Health need rising.

PLACE OF OVERNIGHT CARE

• Detail any discussion you have had previously relating to where the contact is to take place i.e. Contact is to take place at [ADDRESS]

• What provisions have you made relating to overnight contact i.e. have you prepared a room? Include a picture of this room if [you feel] necessary

REQUEST

• I seek that the Court grant me [WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING TO BE GRANTED i.e. Your Contact Timetable]

• That the Court grant in respect of the above additional time relating to Holidays, Birthdays, Christmas and similar occasions

• The Court support my opportunity to have phone calls [WHEN YOU WANT THEM] in addition to any Contact

• I would hope that over time both myself and [YOUR EX] can come to a suitable arrangement regarding future events i.e. Holidays without the need for further Court involvement

Note: The last bullet point is always worth putting on as it may serve as a useful reminder to your ex that you are prepared to use the Court again and additionally to any future cases that arise in that you had hoped things could be amicable

You then need to put a short statement at the end (not bullet pointed) to say: I feel that the above arrangement would be supportive of [CHILDS NAME] best interests and allow and support his/her right to have a relationship with all parties and their extended families.

CLOSING

This should have around 3, 3line paragraphs i) how your time is important with your child and how the Court granting the Order would support [CHILDS NAME]’s best interests; ii) How you contribute to care and development i.e. healthy meals, going to swimming; iii) How you feel things have been throughout the Court process

Finally a sentence or two to be from the heart to say that “[CHILDS NAME] has a Right to both parents in his/her life and I will always continue to support, nurture and cherish my time with [CHILDS NAME]”

Note: Feel free to put something different on the last line, it is from the heart

Total Number of Pages including Cover should be between generally and assuming there are no safeguarding issues between 7-12pages

The Final Hearing

Be prepared for a long day. The night before ensure you have everything with you. Your Bible, smart clothes, polished shoes and you could probably use a shave after the nervous last few days. There really isn't much to worry about if we are honest with ourselves and the majority of people i have spoken too are just afraid of the fact they won't understand the process.

I will try and highlight as best i can and inline with my own and the collective experience of others.

What to Expect

There is no sure fire way of knowing exactly what is going to happen.

Let it be assumed that you have sent all your forms to the correct place and called the Court to check they have received them with plenty of notice of the hearing. Also it is worth calling the day before to ensure that your ex's Solicitor has put forward a File 4. This a total track (index) of the Case ready for the Panel. It is often a tactic of Solicitors knowing they are going to lose to not submit these to the Court, thereby forcing an adjournment (usually 8wks down the line).

Firstly the Defence will come to you with some last ditch attempt at making an amicable agreement or using an increase in contact to try and divert you away from your intentions. While i should say ignore them, it is certainly worth giving their position some thought as often, if you have overpitched you can walk into the Hearing and an Order can be made almost immediately. For example, you may have requested 3nights and half of all holidays... instead you may be "offered" 2nights and half of all holidays.

Questions you are likely to be asked:
Mr [YOU] what are you asking that we do here today?
This is not a free service, why have you not attended Mediation?
You have attended Mediation why are you bringing this back to the Courts?
If a highly negative statement has been submitted[/] Do you have a defence relating to your actions concerning [PARTICULAR INCIDENT]
How soon are you wanting an Order to come into affect?
What arrangements have you made to support your Contact?

It should be noted, that in a final hearing the Panel will make a decision on the day. This of course may not have been what you have asked for.

What tends to happen is that even in your statement and almost certainly within your ex's is that there is a lot of information that the Panel will just not be considering. Some instances may be flagged up. My example was that my ex had colluded with a Doctor to write a negative statement about me (completely untrue) and upon my telephoning to question the Doctors actions, she had over the weekend contacted my ex (a day before the hearing) to report i had been abusive, threatening and aggressive over the phone. Thankfully having recorded the phone call in front of several witnesses of a calm set of questions being asked and the points challenged to a flabbergasted Paediatrician, the Defence quickly opted to agree with me and have the statement omitted (left out).

There can only really be 4 things a parent should really be asking for at a Final Hearing and as such i'll do my best to cover each one in a detailed Summary:

Overnight Contact
This is often the most common reason for an Application to be made to the Courts. The Courts will therefore focus on your reasons why overnight contact should go ahead, and of course the Defence's reason as to why overnight should not (at least not yet). As the Applicant you should be questioned first by the Defence (a Barrister), fear not, education of Law has sapped this person from moral reasoning... (that's a joke in an otherwise bland thread :) "What provisions have you made", "Why can't overnight contact wait until X is X years of age", "Why can't a trial period begin", "Will [CHILD] not find the surroundings alien", "Will you contact Mum if anything happens"... I'm sure you get the drift.

Increasing Contact Time
Short and sweet, the second biggest reason for Contact Applications to come to the Courts. The Defence will in this be little, and often the Defence may consist of nothing more than "This affects X's routine". You need to be smart and say how children can easily adapt to new routines, and likewise you plan to do X activity with them on this Contact.

Shared Parenting
An Application for Shared Parenting usually on a two week rota to follow: Wk 1 = 3nts, Wk 2 = 4nts. Common questions are: "Why are you trying to break continuity for [CHILD]", "What happens when [CHILD] goes to High School/Primary School", The Daddy: "Is it not true you are only doing this to reduce Maintenance", "What will you do about activities that [CHILD] is booked onto"... and similar.

Contact Resuming
Often the most pressing one. Assuming you have been an uninvolved Father (by choice or by something of your ex's making) you will need to be prepared for the real heavy questions coming from the Defence:
"You have not had contact in [TIME], will this not confuse [CHILD]"
"From the last hearings when contact has happened [CHILD] came away not wanting to spend time with you"
"How can it be guaranteed that you will be involved and not a revolving door"
And some much harsher ones...

Like i say the Questions will all be to do with the reason (from above) why the Application has come to Court. You will get the opportunity to ask questions of your own concerning the particular (above 4) of your application. Now there are many questions you need to ask, but you will need to think on your feet to isolate just the ones that are relevant to the particular. If you struggle, don't worry... the Legal Adviser will be able to ask questions on your behalf to the Defence. As an example the Legal Adviser in my case (who was fantastic) fired off her first question with: "Is it true that Contact is being denied for you to keep control"... I asked a few questions: "What are your problems with the room where she's going to stop", "Would you be willing to talk about routines"... and i found the most thought provoking to be "Why has it taken Court to resolve this issue"... even when i asked my ex directly "Why?" she was defiant and fought to the last to stop anything more than my few hours from happening.

What Next

Once the questioning has happened, the Bench will usually make a statement to be addressed to the Court (inclusive of all in their) that they will look at the main points of the Childrens Act 1989 to which they are bound, etc. They will then set a deadline for the Hearing to resume.

Listening to the Outcome
You will be expected to stand to listen to the directions of the Court. There may be concessions here and there... but you should hopefully have been granted something similar to what you sought.

Once this Order is granted... you need to give yourself a pat on the back. You will have made some headway and secure a footing for your Child/Children. On another issue, it is worth remembering that when a child reaches 11-13 years of age... they will come to their own decisions about who and where they want to spend time. Often voting with their feet. It is important to ensure regular contact to support and continue with Contact into the childs teens and finally to adulthood.

A Child when young who has little interaction with one parent is not likely to have much contact with them when or as they get older. Those parents who are and have been involved from an early age will find that often Contact will increase as the child gets older. In some cases, when able to make their own choice, a Child will opt to live with the other parent. If you find yourself in this position, i would expect you (having known what it is like without contact or reduced contact) encourage your Child to still see their other parent. This is healthy for the Child, you and also puts you on the footing to being a brilliant parent.
~E=mc2~
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Re: Guide to Representing Yourself In Court 2 years 5 months ago #10257

  • Super Mario
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Hi Yoji

This looks like a very comprehensive guide - are you a lawyer or have you just been throught the process yourself?
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Re: Guide to Representing Yourself In Court 2 years 5 months ago #10263

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Hi Mario,

Not a lawyer but class myself as pretty clued up on the process from going through it myself, which of course spurned me into further reading, books, family law, reports, speaking to other people (lots of them)...

Hopefully it will be of use to somebody somewhere :)

Thanks for Stickying so quickly :-) )
~E=mc2~
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Re: Guide to Representing Yourself In Court 2 years 3 months ago #11350

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Hi, by representing yourself, how did you serve the initial papers to your ex?
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Re: Guide to Representing Yourself In Court 2 years 3 months ago #11356

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Hi, yoji's probably the best person on here to answer this so keep checking back here. You could also give the children's legal centre a call, their contact details are on the bottom of this page.
DadTalk moderator

I am not qualified in family law, or other area of family matters. I am simply a dad who has been through the mill. Any opinions I give are my own, and any advice should be checked before acting on it.
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Re: Guide to Representing Yourself In Court 2 years 3 months ago #11379

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Hi hughes,

please see the C100 guide it explains where/how to send the forms under what circumstance.

For example some solicitors call to say that you must not contact their client directly and only go through themselves etc.
~E=mc2~
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