Wisdom Road – Advice from a separated Dad - Part Two
"They earn their living from your troubles. The more acrimonious, the richer they get and the poorer you and your ex!"
Separated for two years, Sleekdadx is Dad to a daughter (5). He has been reading our forum while dealing with his own family breakdown and the below is his thoughts on dealing with courts and solicitors.
IT IS YOUR MESS
Your case is just one of many similar cases to your solicitor/court. I agree, your case is special and complex but only to you. Your solicitor/barrister are businesspeople. They have duty of care to be nice and friendly. They are not your friends or family and to be blunt they care less about your mess. It is your mess, and you are responsible for sorting it out. The second you step out of their office, they put your file to side and attend to the next. They review your file most times before having a chat with you to remind themselves of your mess.
ARGUMENTS MAKE THEM MONEY
They earn their living from your troubles. The more acrimonious, the richer they get and the poorer you and your ex. Do not forget Legal Aid is not always free, they will take back from your property sale or savings where these exists.
DON'T FUEL THE ACRIMONY
Be responsible, if your solicitor taps into your anger and writes something like “your ex is acting unstable and to suggest she seeks medical attention”, remove that nonsense from your letter or response. It will fuel the acrimony and the court will simply say in their mind, what makes your think you are not the mentally deranged person here! If you have genuine concern, state it and why and let the court take it from there. For example, if your ex emotions are hindering your child’s welfare and relationship with you.
LOOK AFTER YOURSELF
Get help yourself if you need it. It makes you stronger and better for your kids.
DIVORCE IS NOT WAR
Do not use phrases such as “I am fighting for myself or my kids”. Not a good presentation before the court. It is not a war or fight. The court may be slow, but they see and understand, and in time, the judgement hammer will come down on someone. I understand the bias some may have faced from children officers or social workers or the court. The systems are moving from the status quo. Mothers are naturally the primary carers from pregnancy to breast feeding. Some fathers are not helping either. Those that simply do not care and do not want to be involved in their kids lives. The statistics are clear. Unfortunately, the few that desire to be part of their children’s lives suffer.
DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY
Do your best and be child focused. I spent three pages on my childcare arrangement statement writing how valuable I am and will be in our child’s life, how our child needs me as father, the value I bring. A friend reviewed it to ensure not a single mention of my ex, let alone bad mouthing her instead I talked about assuring our child to have good relationship with both parents and that we both love and will always love our child.
BE FORWARD LOOKING
Whilst there are so many stories and extreme behaviours you would like to bring to the attention of the court, be sensible and forward looking. Do not muddy the water, complaining and moaning throughout without saying what you want. The judge may only have 10mins to read your so called complex and special case and then ask what you really want. Court is a place of facts and evidence; crying earns zero mark.
DO YOU NEED A SOLICITOR?
I used solicitor to allow me focus on my work and give me head space for other things. However, it is perfectly doable without one even in cross examination. You can write all your points and ask judge to cross examine for you. I wrote all my responses and solicitors were simply passing on information and making application and collecting serious money. This is not to say you should not use solicitor, you need to decide how you progress based on your case.
DO NOT LIE IN COURT!
Court is experienced. A good barrister will make you give several versions of lies for the same single question. You have no idea; you make yourself a joke and an embarrassment. The truth is the same and always the same. Admittance of wrongdoing is not a crime, especially if you follow it up with how you intend to make it better in future and improve.
DON'T DEMAND HEAVEN & EARTH
Do not go to court demanding heaven and earth. Equal access may be appropriate, 1 night a week and alternative weekend, daytime, etc. Be sensible and seek advise on what is reasonable. You can build on from there to what you desire but you must show why it should be changed in future. What additional value does a change bring to your child and have you considered the harm of your proposed change and addressed it.
THINK ABOUT THE LANGUAGE YOU USE
Avoid the use of 50/50 access etc. Instead use equal childcare. Also avoid using “contact plan or proposal” instead use “childcare plan or proposal”. Contact is to non-resident visiting parent. Avoid my child or my daughter, use our daughter or our child or the child’s name. Do not refer to your ex as Applicant or Respondent, use their name. The formality is for solicitors and court.
Be polite to children officers, social services, teachers, doctors, etc. Do not argue with admin or front desk staff, they know little and have nothing for you. If you are struggling getting information, write formal letter to the head, outlining the issue, attach court order if you have one and birth certificate showing parental responsibility. Be clear, clean, and forthright. Make complaints if you need to but be calm and mature. They may simply be inexperienced and erring on side of caution in best interests of your child.
Body language is important, use appropriate words, character, composure, attitude, behaviour must always be kept in checked. Your ex and their solicitor might try to frustrate and upset you. Know this beforehand and be in control. Only respond if necessary.
Every case if different so decide what is best for you and if you do not have grounds to challenge Non-mol do not go for it. Undertaken has its place and use. I will stop here. But feel free to PM me if you have any questions on Non-Mol/Occ Order, Prohibited Steps, Specific Steps, CMS, Divorce, Ancillary Relief.
About the Author
Sleekdadx co-habited with his ex until January 2020 when court proceedings began. Exparte Non-Mol/Occ Orders, Prohibited Steps Order, Specific Steps Order, as well as the Divorce and Ancillary Proceedings were filed against him. Sleekdadx has now had his final hearing, Non-Mol/Occ Order, and everything else except Divorce/Ancillary Relief discharged in his favour.
sleekdadx is a forum user, sign up here and send him a DM if you fancy a chat. He is not a qualified practitioner; just a Dad dealing with separation. His views are entirely his own from experience and studying, and you should consult a specialist at your discretion.