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After all, it’s a divorce, not a vivisection (!) and there is no reason why two people should be emotionally and financially divided to the point where the parties will never be able to recover from their ordeal. Going through a divorce is hard enough without having to fend off irrational Court Orders, disorganised lawyers and angry bank managers. There is a way to get through your divorce, the way you want to (and no, that does not include letting the air out of your partner’s tyres or maxing out their credit cards :). The Manual will provide you with all the information you need to manage your divorce. Good Luck. Just a Note: This manual is quite long, so for anyone who wishes to have a quick peep, check out the Shield Sections, at the end of every chapter. They include little 'bullet' points :), designed to give you a quick summary of each chapter. Enjoy. (The Manual is a work in progress and does not provide legal advice but rather offers the self represented applicant and the represented applicant who wishes to take control of their divorce the most up to date and helpful resources available at any given time in order that he or she may explore the best resources for their given situation. Any posts from members of the public wishing to detail specific grievances, as may be posted on the Wall of Shame, will not include personal information in relation to details of judges/lawyers etc that may contribute to the post. This is because the site does not wish to promote antagonistic feelings towards the Family Courts; the site is foremost about raising awareness of the problems in the system and trying to address those problems. I hope that with a better knowledge of the court system, divorcing couples can make the difference and feel the difference at the same time. Together, we have the power) INDEX OF CHAPTERS Chapter 1 ‐ Introduction: The Art of War Chapter 2 ‐ The Process: Mapping out the Odyssey Chapter 3 ‐ Armour: One Size Fits All Chapter 4 ‐ The Lost World: Navigating Dinosaurs and Trap Doors (Tips and Hints) Chapter 5 ‐ Legal Aid: A Knight Short of a Horse Chapter 6 ‐ Mediation: The Torture Chamber Chapter 7 ‐ Lawyers: A Fish Best Served Cold Chapter 8 ‐ Children: Angels of Mercy Chapter 9 ‐ Fathers: Held to Ransom Chapter 10 ‐ Mothers: Mother Nature Will Set Us Free
Chapter 11 ‐ Rehabilitation: It's All in the Mind Chapter 12 ‐ Ongoing Negotiations: Kissinger v Stalin Chapter 13 ‐ The Ceasefire Chapter 1 The Art of War The system itself is without structure which just means that while the Family Courts in Britain can lay claim to having one of the largest volumes of legislation to work with, most of it does not make any sense when read together so that even the lawyers and judges can’t follow the logic of the laws passed. As a result, the very people we look to to advise us on how to best deal with our problems, are in actual fact very ill equipped to do so. Once your divorce becomes subject to these laws and finds itself in the hands of the courts, it becomes a game of Russian Roulette. Solely at the mercy of the judge's discretion, two parties with exactly the same problems can come to court and find that the solutions given vary widely and are more often than not completely inappropriate in relation to the reality of the situation. Again, the court is unable to ascertain with any clarity or efficiency what the parties really need and more importantly whether the facts presented before them are an accurate representation of the status and history of the parties. This is because most of the 'evidence' given in family matters is based solely upon what the parties say rather than what can be proved with fact and so the process can only come down to the judge's gut instinct about the parties rendition of events and which party seems most believable: a highly dangerous tactic to employ when one party can appear more convincing than the other but may not necessarily be telling the truth. With discretion being used as a cure‐all and broad brush laws that are incongruous, the only thing the courts can guarantee is that the process that is used to guide you through your divorce is a blunt instrument at best. It would be a cop‐out for the system to retaliate by saying that two parties in a divorce are never happy with the compromise reached; the problems in the system are too numerous and seminal to allow such a fob‐off to carry any weight. We are always hearing traumatic stories of divorces gone ‘badder’ in the divorce courts. It is tempting to blame the distraught and often angry parties but the court needs to take responsibility for its adversarial system. Any modern day system being used to deal with two separating parties that implicitly uses opponent‐based processes is at fault. What kind of an example are the courts setting if once you step into the system, you feel like you’ve stepped into the boxing ring? The system needs to address this point and modernise its philosophy. Parties should feel that they have entered a safe‐haven to help them pick up the pieces of their lives and put them back together again via a sophisticated and intelligent process, so that couples and young children alike feel as if they have placed themselves inside the headquarters of the United Nations, where the ethos of cooperation and toleration are perpetuated. When a marriage has felt like a war zone with its own zip code, the last thing couples need to feel is as if they have to become the latest disciples in the art of war. Yet, in order to survive the process as it stands, that is exactly what divorcing couples have to do.
Chapter 3 will give you all the tools you need to fight a fair fight and to achieve the impossible ‐ a genuine ceasefire with no casualties or prisoners of war.The following chapter sets out a basic map of your war zone ‐ what you can expect to happen throughout your divorce and possible issues you may meet along the way. Shield for Chapter One:‐ The Family Courts are not able to offer you a good level of service because they are not funded very well and because the laws do not make sense. This makes it very difficult for lawyers and everyone in general to sort out divorces in a good and logical way and to protect people who are being badly treated in their divorces. ‐ Divorce Manual is here to help; there are chapters, like Chapter 3, which will tell you where to get help and advice, especially if you do not have the money to hire a lawyer. Chapter 2 ‐ The Process: Mapping out the Odyssey So here we are; you and your spouse have separated and at least one of you will feel that you do not wish to be with the other person any longer. You've had your crisis talks; you've promised not to put laxatives in your in‐laws' coffee when they come round for tea and he's promised not to look at another leggy blonde :) But somehow, that's not enough. If you are at the stage where you feel that divorce is the only solution for you then this chapter will show you what you might expect once you step inside the process. It is a basic map of your journey. So, fasten your seatbelts.... Stage One Usually, the spouse who wishes to separate starts the process by preparing the initial documents that will signal the start of the divorce proper. This does not have to be the case, but is the most common way to start. At this point, both spouses are in a state of shock, to relative degrees, and gearing yourself up for another round of talks can be daunting. You might want to think about hiring a solicitor to handle the administrative aspects of the process ‐ solicitors are generally there to offer you the best possible advice on what papers you will need to file and when, and if they are very good, the necessary information the court will need to help advise you. (You will see that The Manual does not recommend using solicitors unless your divorce is either acutely hostile or complicated or you simply would prefer to have someone guide you through the process because you do not feel up to taking the courts on yourself. Please refer to Chapter 7 for more information about solicitors and their optimal use).If you feel you have the strength to handle your divorce yourself or you simply do not have the funds to take on this expense (and at every level the fees are more often than not unreasonably high ‐ another point The Manual feels needs to be addressed by the government), then you will need to be able to call on some solid resources to guide you through. Chapter 3 is a resource‐heavy section, jam‐packed with details of the best libraries, web sites and organisations that promise to help you with your queries, free of charge. (Divorce Manual will be undertaking an in‐depth analysis of these resources throughout the course of the year and will
review each one in turn. Any feedback in relation to these resources by members of the public would be very welcome). Stage Two At this point, statements will need to be prepared and arrangements will need to be made in relation to your immediate dilemmas, whatever they may be.If you have a solicitor they should be making sure that these documents are filed and that the necessary arrangements are taken care of. Your solicitor should always keep you up to date in relation to everything he has done on your behalf. If you do not have a solicitor and don't intend to use one, don't panic. If your spouse is using a solicitor, that solicitor is obliged to help you along your way if you are representing yourself (aka, a Litigant in Person, hereon in referred to as an 'LIP'). However, in the present climate, The Manual would not recommend you leaning too heavily on your spouse's legal help.The system is still an adversarial one, which just means that at the end of the day, if your interests conflict (which they always will) your spouse's lawyer is duty bound to protect their client's interests. This just means that your spouse's needs may well take priority over your own. And in a system where genuine facts are an enigma, this is not an ideal position to find yourself in. Any time you get stuck and need help, Chapter 3 should have some ideas on how to get you back on the road. Stage Three Once the right documents have been prepared, they are then filed with the court.Stage FourIf you are experiencing immediate financial hardship, for example, the basic suggestion that the courts make is for you to apply for what is known as an Interim or Temporary Maintenance Order at this point. This just means that the court will make an order as to how you are to be maintained until the facts are fully considered. This is something of a contradiction, clearly, for how can the system even make an interim order if it does not even have the chance to consider the facts? When you also factor in the reality that you might not actually get to go in front of a judge to make such an order for at least a few months due to the back‐log, the question then is, what do I do in the meantime and once I get in front of the judge, how on earth are they going to be able to help me without all the right information? These are big questions and they are dealt with in Chapter 4. For now, try not to worry (every problem has a solution) and let's move on.... Stage Five Once the papers have been filed, the court should send you or your solicitor copies of the papers and instructions on what to do next. Stage Six If you don't have a solicitor yet and you have decided that you would like one, now is a good time to find one. (Chapter 7 offers suggestions on what to look for when finding a solicitor). Stage Seven
If you or your spouse has a change of heart or one of you just simply does not want the divorce to take place, it is usually at this point that any objections to the divorce are made. Stage Eight A form is filled in, called the Acknowledgement of Service, which just lets everyone know that all the papers have been received. Stage Nine If no‐one objects the court notifies the applicant (that's the spouse who registered the initial papers with the court) and tells them that they can proceed with the case. (Once again, the fact that the courts refer to a particular divorce as a case is psychologically not very helpful; it does very much give the impression that there is some great mystery to solve, when in fact there in no mystery at all. It is almost supercilious of the court to think that it is somehow discovering facts in this context. You know the facts already and far better than anyone else! And unlike in a Criminal Court of Law, you and your spouse are not being tried for the commission of a crime ‐ although the process can sometimes make you feel that way). Stage Ten More statements are prepared to confirm that the previous documents are all accurate. Stage Eleven These statements are then filed with the court and the court is asked to give directions on how to proceed with the divorce. Stage Twelve The Judge will then consider the case. At this point, depending on your circumstances, you may find that the court has booked you and your spouse in for financial hearings and possible child‐related hearings.If you are unrepresented, then the following chapter will help you find your bearings and build you your suit of armour to help protect you on your journey. Shield for Chapter 2:‐ This chapter gives you an idea of how the first few steps are made towards processing your divorce. It is a rough idea of how the courts handle your divorce in the early stages ‐ Stage one: usually the spouse who is asking for the divorce starts the process by filing the first form, which tells the court the name and details of the parties. It is not always the spouse that wants the divorce that starts filing papers first, but this is usually the way it is done. If you would like to hire a solicitor to help you or to see if you can get one on legal aid, this is a good time to look for representation. If you want or need to go through your divorce without a lawyer, The Manual is here to help. See Chapter 3's Shield for resources. You are not on your own. ‐ Stage two: papers will get filed with details of the divorce and the grounds for the divorce (i.e. the reasons why you want to divorce). If you have a solicitor, they will organise all of this for you. If you don't you can ask your spouse's solicitor for a little help, but they cannot represent you as this would cause what is known as a 'conflict of interest' and means that they can only offer you basic help with filing documents and getting things ready for court. If you have any questions at this stage, you can
always ask The Manual in the forums below or use any one of the resources listed on the site to get you going. It's not as hard as it seems! ‐Stage three: Once papers are ready, they are filed with the court. ‐ Stage four: At this stage you can ask the court for immediate help, if you need financial assistance for instance and they will try to sort the initial problems out. ‐ Stage five: the courts should send you or your lawyer instructions on what to do next ‐ Stage six: If you decide then that you would like the help of a lawyer, you can get one at this stage too (in fact, you can do this at any stage). ‐ Stage seven: if you or your spouse object to the divorce or the grounds of the divorce, this is usually the stage at which any objections are raised. ‐ Stage eight: A form is then filled in, if no objections are made, called the 'acknowledgement of service' and just tells everyone that all the papers have been received by you and your spouse in turn. ‐ Stage nine: If noone has objected to the divorce then the court gives the parties (you and your spouse) the go ahead to process the divorce. ‐ Stage ten: more statements and documents are filed with further details ‐ Stage eleven: the court then gives directions on how to process the divorce ‐ Stage twelve: the judge will then, at a later stage, consider the issues in your divorce and try to come to a suitable decision on how to help you both move on. Chapter 3 ‐ Armour: One Size Fits All Once upon a time, in a more organised legal system, there was a library and this library was only for Litigants in Person. It had all manner of books, leaflets and volumes designed to help the LIP going through their legal dilemmas. Sadly, this library was closed and all the LIPs in the kingdom had to find their own way of getting help. To this end, The Manual has listed a host of organisations that may be able to equip you with the tools you need to stay calm, cool and collected.... Public Libraries British Library: Social Sciences Reading Room Address: 96 Euston Road, London, NW1 2DB Nearest London Underground: Euston / King's Cross St. Pancras http://www.bl.uk/ Hours: Mon 10am‐8pmTue, Wed, Thur 9.30am ‐ 8pmFri, Sat 9.30am ‐ 5pm Collection includes: legislation (laws passed), law reports, Lexis Nexis & Westlaw (computer‐based search tools that can explain how the divorce process works and also show you how to find cases, judges etc), Civil Procedures (Aka The White Book, because the volume is white! This book also tells you how the divorce process is supposed to work) Info: You will need a Reader's Ticket to access the reading rooms but membership is free; all you need to do is to bring some documents with you to show proof of ID. This is a reference library, so if you want to take materials home with you, you will need to make photocopies (the library can help you out with this). Guildhall Library: (Reference only) Address: Corporation of London, Aldermanbury off Gresham Street, London, EC2P 2EJ Nearest London Underground: Bank
Web: http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/guildhall libraryHours: Mon‐Sat 9.30am‐5pm Collection Includes: Law reports, citators, Halsbury's Statutes/Laws/Statutory Instruments... (don't be put off by the names of the texts ‐ they are all very useful volumes with laws in them and cases on divorce, which may give you a feel for what your personal circumstances might bring to light in court and also what a particular judge's views are on various matters. There is no reason why you should not get to know the judges who are going to get to know you, albeit superficially!). If you get lost in amongst the volumes, just ask a nice librarian; librarians tend to be very helpful and very nice! If the prospect of going into a libary and rifling through books and computer databases seems too much, the librarian will do it for you. For example, if District Judge Roberts is sitting in on your hearing, ask the librarian to help you locate any of her judgements on Lexis/Nexis. All you need do is tell the librarian what information you want and they will help you to find it. It's that easy :) Hammersmith Reference Library: (Reference Only) Address: London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, Shepherds Bush Road, W6 7AT. Nearest London Underground: Hammersmith Tel: 0208 753 3817Web: http://www.lbhf.gov.uk/Directory/Leisure_and_Culture/Libraries/Hammersmith_library/15408_Libr aries_Hammersmith.asp Hours: Mon, Tue, Thur 9.30am‐8pmWed, Fri, Sat 9.30am‐5.30pmSun 1.15pm‐5pm Collection Includes: law reports, citators, Halsbury's publications, practitioners' texts, Human Rights and European Law. Holborn Library: Address: London Borough of Camden, 32‐38 Theobalds Road, London, WC1X 8PA Nearest London Underground: Chancery Lane/ Holborn Tel: 0207 974 6345Web: http://www.camden.gov.uk/holbornlibrary Hours: Mon, Thur 10am‐7pmTue, wed, Fri 10am‐6pmSat 10am‐5pm Collection Includes: law reports, Atkins court forms, Encyclopaedia of Forms and Precedents, selection of journals and textbooks. The library is currently moving most of its legal resources online, so it is worth calling them up first before you go and visit them or alternatively just check their catalogue online, if you can. If you want to use Lexis/Nexis, they have the system in their library but it cannot be accessed online so you would need to go to the library.If you feel a little anxious at the thought of going to visit a library by yourself and having to navigate your way around, why not bring a friend? Even better still, if you have any other friends who find themselves in the same position as you, why not go along together for the afternoon? (The desire for groups of men and women to come together to discuss their problems and gain strength and support from one another is indeed something The Manual believes is much needed. In a world where family has become so nuclear, support is essential. There are few informal support groups during this difficult time and yet most people feel they would like to be able to talk to others going through the process about their situation. Meeting groups of like‐minded people to do
something constructive like gaining an appreciation of the family courts and becoming familiar with the process might be a very positive way of getting support and lifting morale). Westminster Reference Library: (Reference Only) Address: City of Westminster, Ground Floor, 35 St. Martin's Street, London, WC1 7HP Nearest London Underground: Leicester Square/ Piccadilly Circus/ Charing Cross Tel: 0207 641 4634Web: http://www.westminster.gov.uk/libraries Hours: Mon‐Fri 10am‐8pmSat 10am‐5pm Collection Includes: Legal texts, law reports and statutes, statutory instruments, Hansards, Halsbury's, Encyclopaedia of Forms and Precedents.There is also a a publication called "CAN's" which stands for Citizens Advice Notes, in this library. More volumes can be found at the Marylebone Information Service (which is a library by Baker Street) as well as lots of books on Family Law. CAN's will give you information on how the divorce process works (one volume is entitled "Divorce and the Nullity of Marriage) and there are volumes written about finances too ("Divorce and the Dissolution of Marriage). The library site is located at:http://www.westminster.gov.uk/libraries/findalibrary/mis.cfm Document Supply ServicesDocDel: Sweet & Maxwell's document delivery service This service is available to the public; it allows you to call up and order copies of articles, legislation and law reports for a fee. This is a good service if you do not want to spend time photocopying or do not have the time to.A list of journals available for copying is located on their website: http://www.sweetandmaxwell.co.uk/online/docdel.html British Library Document Supply The British Library offers a similar service, which can also be done online or by phone with a debit/credit card Web: http://www.bl.uk/services/document/articles.html Online Resources The British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII)This web site offers free access to cases and legislation. It also has a legal aid calculator on it (don't hold your breath though! See Chapter 5 for the scoop on legal aid). Web: http://www.bailii.org/ British Library Electronic Resources Guide for Law This site offers a collection of links, including free and subscription services (which are only available in the library reading rooms).Web: http://www.bl.uk/collections/social/eresources/subject/law.html Her Majesty's Court Service Has a selection of Court of Appeal and High Court Judgments. Web: http://www.hmcourts‐service.gov.uk/
Office of Public Sector Information For UK legislation. Web: http://www.opsi.gov.uk/ Government Websites Directgov Government information service with links to all government services and departments. Web: http://www.direct.gov.uk/ Her Majesty's Court Service (As above). Legal Advice Advice Now An independent, not for profit website providing accurate, up to date information on rights and legal issues. Web: http://www.advicenow.org.uk/ Citizens Advice Bureau This is the Bureau's online site. A good starting place to have your questions answered. Web: http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/ Community Legal Services DirectProvides free information, help and advice. Web: http://www.clsdirect.org.uk/ Tel: 0845 345 5 345 (Helpline) Although there will be lots of friendly people who work for these organisations all willing to help you, you will want to familiarise yourself with Legalese at some point.... Ask anyone who has been or is going through a divorce in Britain and they will all tell you the same thing: it is as if the process alienates you to the point where you can actually feel that it is not your divorce at all. It is almost like standing back and watching a terrible car accident take place before your very eyes and you have no power to stop it. For a start, most couples do not speak ‘Legalese’. This is just the lawyers’ made up language they use to describe perfectly normal and every day terms to express court processes or divorce matters in general. Well that’s fine; after all every industry has its jargon. But is it fair or right under the circumstances? The answer is of course not. Unlike other industries, in the divorce courts you are presented with human beings that do not speak the language of the industry. This does not occur in any other industry. Everyone participating in a dialogue, be it in the world of finance, teaching or IT for example can understand each other because they have all been taught the same industrial ‘language’. In other industries where the participants are not able to speak the language, like medicine for instance, there is a strong ethos in place to make sure that non‐speakers are explained everything in plain
English. This is also supposed to happen in the Family Courts and the Divorce process as a whole, but what usually happens is a brief account of what the lawyer or judge thinks you ought to know and this is where the system becomes controversial, because unlike the world of medicine, the onus to take responsibility for the operation that is about to occur on your life is all on you, not a kindly doctor who will nurse you through an invasive procedure and take in hand all of the after‐care for you, especially if you are representing yourself in your divorce and therefore have no solicitor to guide you. The first step therefore is to become familiar with the terminology used, so that when you arrive at the nasty accident that is your separation, you will feel comfortable that you have the ability to decide what needs to be done and if you are using a solicitor, to be able to talk to him in a way that allows you to ask the questions you need answered but were unable to ask before because the language barrier was so daunting. The law really needs to be used a tool, not as a metaphor for punishment and retribution, which is so often how it is depicted to the public, perhaps in an attempt to glorify the profession or to make it seem somehow lofty. It is far from lofty; the main purpose of every lawyer and every judge in court is to share their knowledge with you so that you can make the right decisions for yourself. As they seem a little reluctant to let us all in on the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, let’s just gate crash it instead shall we? Speaking Legalese is Legaleasy! To make the exercise more fun, you could try putting on your bath robe and shower cap (to mimic the judge’s gown and wig) and take your hairbrush or comb as a proxy gavel and say the various legal terms aloud (with an overly serious voice and if you have spectacles, this exercise works best if they are placed at the farthest tip of your nose). Say some phrases out loud like “Has the Respondent submitted a bundle?” or “Court is adjourned!” (For this one you will need to bang your proxy gavel against your wall three times and look slightly uncomfortable). Once you have removed the fear factor from the process (most people are very nervous about going into court as the thought of the courts often conjure up the notion that they are big and imposing ‐ they are not imposing at all. Most of the time the court room will look like a slightly less tidy version of your office conference room), you can start to learn the meanings of these terms and you will then feel at home in the court room (or at least as if it’s a Monday morning in the office and your boss has unexpectedly started Fancy Dress Friday). The Manual lists a number of sites and organisations that are happy to offer resources that share and explain the language of the courts. Please refer to the links below for further details. The site does not have its own list of legal terms and their definitions purely because this could be a site in itself and as every couple’s divorce will vary some terms will be more used than others. It is therefore most efficient if the parties who wish to familiarise themselves with the family courts log on to the various organisations listed on the site for the relevant resources to explain the terms that will be used in the differing sections of their divorce (for example a couple with children who
are unable to decide on how to share their children may need to familiarise themselves with the Children’s Act 1989; another couple may need to look into financial matters and will wish to find resources that explain the financial jargon used by the courts and so on). The resources on this site do cover just about all the needs of divorcing parties in terms of getting to know the system and the language it speaks.http://www.manches.com/practices/family/service.php?id=134 http://www.hmcourtsservice.gov.uk/infoabout/glossary/legal.htm http://dictionary.law.com/ http://www.lemonandco.co.uk/jargon‐buster.htm Shield for Chapter 3:‐ You will need to look at Chapter 3 above to get all the details for the organisations that can help you understand the divorce process... ‐ There are libraries, web sites and organisations that offer you books that explain how the Family Courts work and what you can expect. Some sites offer free advice while others give you access to more resources. ‐ There is a wealth of information for you to lay your hands on. Don't be shy! It's your future and your have every right to get inside the divorce courts and into the mind‐set of the system. ‐ If you're up for a bit of reading and some research, Chapter 3 has all you need to get familiar with the issues you will be facing. Any queries? Just ask The Manual in the Q&A forums below. Chapter 4 ‐ The Lost World: Navigating dinosaurs and trapdoors (tips and hints) This chapter deals with the reality of the court process. Anyone needing a good giggle will find this section amusing; you simply will not believe what goes on in these courts. Pop corn at the ready.... Pacing Themselves... The family courts are slow. Real slow. You are lucky if you can get a court hearing date in a few weeks; the norm is a few months (i.e. three or four or more). Interim Maintenance Orders? You know, the ones where you ask the court to prevent your spouse from cutting you off financially so that you don't have to take that night job at Lilly's Dancing's Dollies? Well, they take time and often you will be advised not to make one! This is because of the cost involved and by the time you get your hearing, it is time for the final hearing anyway. Brilliant stuff. Loans Never mind. The courts suggest that in the meantime, to avoid possible starvation (which some ladies may not mind as divorce tends to do wonders for the figure :) you should borrow money from friends and family. Another genius suggestion. Why? because instead of there being one or two people out of pocket, an entire family or friends network finds itself skint, waiting for the court to free up so that it can finally cast its weary eye over the problem at hand. Not good. If you do have friends and family who are willing to lend you money, you will need to find out if they
need to be repaid. More often than not the answer will be yes, so you will need to think carefully about how you can achieve this. You might think that the court will sympathise and let you repay these types of loans from any settlement you might get. This will depend largely on how much money you have in the pot at the end of the process. Under the present system, if lawyers are involved and if you are part of the average income band, there will not be much left. You will probably need what you have to re‐house one of you and some of the money may even be used to pay off the lawyers (and in such proceedings, not surprisingly, they take precedence even over banks at times).One way of getting around this problem and protecting the people who have been kind enough to help you at a time when the courts have let you down, is to arrange with a bank to lend you the money instead. If you have sold your family home, the bank may feel that that is enough collateral for them to offer you a loan facility. You will need to work out how much you need. Much of the bank's willingness to help will depend on the financial climate as well as the assets you have to secure the loan. If a friend is prepared to act as a guarantor (that is someone who the bank will call on to satisfy your debt if you are unable to pay them back), that friend will then have helped to create a hard loan. This is the kind of loan that the courts cannot ignore. The banks have excessive powers which even the courts have little authority over initially (and again the system here is a mess) but in any event you will have protected your friend and acquired a loan that the courts will not be able to ignore and will in fact have a duty to discharge. Remember though that you can only borrow what you can repay. Checking your funds and your assets before you embark on acquiring a hard loan is important, to avoid unreasonable debt and angering the court, who will then be less sympathetic towards you (despite the fact that they aren't so hot on their math either)!!This type of hard loan differs from a soft loan. This is where a friend or relative lends you money direct and here the court generally feels that such soft loans are not priority and will more often than not feel there is no need to ensure that such monies are repaid. This makes perfect sense of course :). Deep breath everyone... So, the moral of the gory story is, if you need to borrow money, go to the bank and if you need a guarantor, ask family or friends. Golden Rule: if you do have a kindly friend who will act as a guarantor and they happen to run a business or have assets, make sure that the money the bank lends you goes directly to you and not via the friend or relative. This prevents your spouse from claiming that the loan is soft and therefore does not need to be repaid. In other words, do not let your friend run the loan through his company if he has one. This tends to make the loan look like a soft loan even though the money is coming from the bank.If you do not have any assets and have no friends or family who can help, then you will need to represent yourself and this is inherently an immoral aspect of the system. At this juncture your spouse may have hired a solicitor and if you are unlucky one that is married to a
member of parliament :) (and therefore has connections or is regarded by association as respectable ‐ or politically useful more like!!!) then you will need to play the part of the downtrodden spouse... Lights, in‐Camera, Action! As previously mentioned, lawyers mix with judges and they all talk to each other and to various people in other family court organisations. They get to know how they think and how they feel on various matters related to divorce and if you have a solicitor, if he is 'sociable', he will know many of the judges and lawyers who come to court. This gives you an advantage because the solicitor will gear your statements in such a way that the judge will identify with your dilemma. This is sneaky, isn't it? Not what you expect when you enter the home of the scales and blind justice. It would appear therefore that the scales are swaying violently from one judge's philosophy to another and justice, well it would appear that she has had her vision restored and is making all sorts of judgements about people purely on how they dress...Yes folks, how you dress will have an impact on our overtly irrational courts. You may find that if you are a mother, you will be advised to dress 'mumsy' even if you are the sort of mummy who feels that out of respect for the court you should dress in black and if necessary, borrow your sister's work suit to do so. Careful now; the judge will think that you are mocking the court, that you are in fact so wealthy that you do not really need the small sum a month you are asking for to survive on. Irrational? Absolutely! Want to avoid being judged? Then take a trip to your local charity shop and buy a 1980's Laura Ashley throwback. Not joking. The family courts are also fond of using social stereotypes as templates; this just means that the courts, with very little evidence and relatively little persuasion, will allow themselves to judge a case based on these stereotypes, because it does not have the time nor the competence to deal with a case meticulously, so stereotypes are a 'fast' and 'easy' way out. Well, you know what they say about "more haste, less speed"??!! It is good to remember this when you are in court. For example, if you are a husband, you may find that the courts treat you harshly in the finances even if you are telling the truth about your financial position. Being as open as possible with the evidence you have to bolster your position is the best way forward. Show the court everything, so there can be no debate. Again, there is too much discretion being allowed and not enough hard fact. And as we can see that the judges are not really able to discern the truth based on statements alone and basic bank statements (and to be fair, nobody could do this without real evidence), this is not right. As a wife with a child, you may find that you are sneered at in court if you try to explain that you are not trying to turn the children against their father, if that is what the father is alledging. Too much of what is said is being interpreted too freely by the judges and this is causing major problems. If you can spot these stereotypes before they become an issue and address them, you will have started to unravel any untruths that are being thrown around in your divorce and being taken as gospel. Keep a diary, write nice letters to your ex, do whatever you can to document the truth. As your divorce is nothing more than a war of words on paper, the more you note down, the better
chance you have of not being mistaken for something you are not.A cautionary tale to anyone contemplating manufacturing evidence; men and women who do this in court end up tripping over their own untruths; why? Because the divorce process is long and drawn‐out and one lie that leads to another and then another ends up criss‐crossing over and making the 'evidence' worthless. The only way to achieve consistency in this way is to tell the truth. Then, your evidence becomes effortless. And you have the guarantee of knowing that you will never contradict yourself. After that, I am afraid that it is down to the judges and how intuitive they are. As with everything in the family courts, there are no hard and fast rules, at all, so one judge may feel one way and another may feel another way. This is clearest when considering how emotional you are in court. Some mothers, for example, sob their hearts out during contact hearings. Some judges sympathise, others are horribly callous. The most important thing is to be yourself and to try to remain calm. In a system where people are constantly adding two and two together and coming up with ten (and this does not just apply to the financial calculations) staying neutral increases your chances of not being misunderstood. If you have a meanie for an ex‐spouse who is fabricating evidence or is telling lies about you, stay calm and remember to address those points nicely in court. You need to make yourself heard. Insanely, if you do not address a point that your husband has made and the judge does not have the wherewithal to investigate the claim or to at least ask to hear your side of the story, you will need to clarify things for the judge otherwise they will take the allegation being made as true. For example, if you state that you know something and your spouse says it's a lie, you must tell the judge how you know. The judges can be inclined to avoid being thorough; there are lots of reasons for this. They may be late for a dinner party or perhaps they think the meagre paperwork before them is enough for them to understand the situation at hand. It is your hearing; you have paid for it in one way or another, so be bold. Clearly and politely, if you are on the stand, tell the judge how you know what you know. Judges Although there are some wonderful judges in the system who are bright and knowledgeable and genuinely care about the people who come before them, many, especially in the lower courts where most of us end up, are simply not up to the job. There is a tension in the court between the judge who has no real advocacy experience (but who oddly enough spends a good fifteen minutes summing up their decision, which often sounds like a jumbled dictation of personal sentiment and ill thought out directions, which often need to be addressed by the barristers) and the barristers themselves, who know the law and direct the judge. How is it that in a system which appears to be given so much gravitas, it is possible for such individuals to be given such positions of authority and responsibility? The answer revolves around
money. Judges just don't get paid as much as lawyers and so the job is seen as a lesser one. The sad truth is that very few judges are respected these days because they are either out of touch with the world, misled by ill‐ conceived policy or simply just don't have the requisite instincts. One way to get around the 'judge' minefield is to look up the judges who are going to hear your case, whether in the financial hearing or if you have children in the contact hearing. You can research these judges and the decisions they make in the family courts using Lexis/Nexis for example. This is a database which you can access in certain libraries (see Chapter 3 for suggestions) and it lets you look up your judge by name and read his judgments. Although you may find that later on your judge has been changed (another flaw in the system as there is no continuity or feeling that there is a personal element to the process and makes the process rife with confusion) if you are able to look up the judge and get a feel for how he or she thinks, you have an advantage. For instance, if the judge is sympathetic towards women who are being treated unreasonably by their angry estranged husband then if you are a woman you can expect the judge to identify with your dilemma. If you are a man, you will need to make sure that you have genuine reasons for your conduct. It might seem arbitrary to study your judge, but it is just as arbitrary to rock up to court and be surprised and humiliated by the logic being used to settle your difficulties. There is no reason why a supposedly diplomatic system should utilise the element of surprise to do its job; that's just lazy and unethical. Style over Substance It is often said that the family courts decide your case by the contents of your case and how you come across to the judge. In a process where the facts all appear to be the same on the surface (largely due to the implementation of stereotypes to move the cases along and a new fandangled 'no fault' approach which confuses the issue and although a good idea in principle sits awkwardly with how the courts actually process divorce), the judges' answer to this is to judge the parties. This is a very dangerous game to play. Those of us who know people who are great at the art of deception can come across as sincere and earnest. It is often the more emotional party on the stand that it most harshly judged. This seems to be an irrational approach. When you are emotional, it is hard to focus on the hearing at hand. After the hearing, you may think of lots of things you could have said to correct the judge or to explain yourself better. This is normal and even people who are relatively confident can feel at a loss for words when they are on the stand. Those of you who feel emotion and have genuine responses to situations will find the court process bizarre. Again, it is a game of chance. One judge may understand your dilemma and sympathise, while another may take the facts in a completely different way. So the safest thing you can do is paint a rational picture and try to stay neutral in your approach. The whole concept of having to go onto the stand to state your piece in divorce hearings of any kind
serves no purpose other than to encourage political manoeuvring amongst couples and offers the deceptive spouse, if there is one, the chance to get away with murder. However it is part of the macabre battle that must be waged and so to remain calm and neutral is the smartest option. Evidence In another weird twist, the court appears to be evidence shy. If your spouse is hiding money or assets amongst friends or in a foreign country or shuffling them around so that they are distributing them to relatives in an attempt to appear asset poor, hiring a private detective or going about trying to get the evidence, in a legitimate fashion, is considered poor show. One then has to ask what the point of going into court is at all, if collecting evidence in a system which is adversarial by nature, is considered taboo? In other words, why are parties being pitted against each other and then being denied the opportunity to show wrongdoing? It would be far better to have a system which concentrated on the collection of hard fact rather than the amalgamation of subjective statements, leaving the judge to try to piece together a multi‐ layered puzzle with only a fraction of the evidence. How ironic that a spouse collecting evidence of another spouse's dishonesty is viewed as antagonistic and underhand by the courts. Perhaps the courts should be given powers to do their own research, instead of putting the spouses in an impossible position where they know of each other's wrongdoing but cannot illustrate it to the court. This is where negotiation comes into play. If you do have evidence of your spouse's dishonesty and the evidence can rebut your spouse's allegations or at best reveal the facts as they stand, giving you the ability to be able to say with certainty "Actually, my wife/husband is not telling the truth", then you can use this evidence outside of the courts. You can either notify your spouse or his lawyer that you have this evidence or your lawyer can negotiate on your behalf. Do not give the original pieces of evidence to your spouse, for obvious reasons! Send copies always. The courts may want to be prissy about evidence, but you have the right to be heard and to be treated fairly and if you say you have evidence of wrongdoing in negotiations, it will make the other party nervous about going to court and they may well settle out of court with you. Discretion The notion of discretion is nominally, an interesting one. It is supposed to give the judge flexibility when making decisions and is meant to allow the judge the opportunity to tailor the judgment to the case. This would be a fine tool, if it weren't for the fact that by the time your case goes before a judge, he has neither had the time to read the whole brief nor has he or she had the privilege of having accurate and concise documentation put before them. Most of what they read will be statements and nothing more. Oops. So, it is worth reading up on your judge and their philosophy towards your circumstances. There will be 'like' cases to study, via Lexis/Nexis and if you get stuck, just ask a librarian. They won't let you down :)
The Grand Gesture Another problem with the system is that it requires you to make gestures. If you are seen as unwilling to do so, you will be labelled hostile and you will pay a price. For example, if you have children and your lawyer suggests that you go to see a CAFCASS officer (more about these crazy chaps later) and you refuse, you will be seen as hostile, regardless of whether or not you know your child well and know their needs. Another example is the referral for mediation. You will see in Chapter 6 the problems inherent with mediation, but for now as an example, if you do not wish to go to mediation, again you will be viewed as hostile and may well be penalised. This is ridiculous. Most people going through a divorce know whether or not their spouse will ever communicate with them nicely and during the divorce process when you are forced to become a tactician and to engage in battle, mediation is hypocrisy. The spouses often feel pressure to appear civil whilst at the same time trying to score imaginary brownie points with the mediator by trying to lay blame at the other spouse's door and just generally to be miserable to the other spouse! The funniest part is that nothing that goes on in mediation is supposed to be disclosed in court, so your spouse could be vile to you and pass revelations about their state of mind (i.e. "I don't want our child near you or your family ever again!") and the courts will never know! Mediators are distanced from the legal world, so the chances are, your mediator may never talk to your lawyer and disclose what they know. You and your spouse could turn up to court and your spouse could make out that they acknowledge your importance as a parent, and the judge could be convinced. Not very satisfactory, under the circumstances! In any event, the twist in the tale is that mediators are results orientated. This means that their concern is short term; it is about getting a resolution, whether the parties are happy or not. Mediators can be forceful, often trying to put pressure on the softer party and although they mean well they can often allow their own agendas to get in the way of the spouses and or the parents and children’s' needs. And again, like the judges, they all have their own views on what constitutes good parenting. If it's not a judge trying to free up a back‐log, it's a mediator trying to score a resolution. There's nothing for it I'm afraid, other than to make sure that your voice is heard and that you employ the above tac‐tics to ensure your needs are understood. You will need to take up suggestions the court makes; be enthusiastic! Even if you know it's a farce, you can never be reprimanded by the court for being un‐cooperative. Theatre anyone? Not Worth The Paper... Another disheartening reality in the Family Courts is that sometimes when a court makes an Order, it can be made redundant initially because of other superseding legislation. One good example of this is where the court orders that your spouse indemnify you from a debt of some kind, like an overdraft on a joint bank account, which you and your spouse have together. This means that the court effectively says that you are no longer responsible for paying that debt off. The trouble starts when the bank starts to press for repayment. Here the law is loopy; it is indeed a
loopy loophole :) What then happens next is that despite the Court Order, the bank is fully within its rights to proceed against the so called 'protected' or indemnified party to satisfy the debt. At this point, if your spouse does not comply with the Order, you may find that the bank will affect your credit rating, as well as your spouse's. This then means that you will have difficulty throughout your life raising loans from banks, acquiring mortgages and so on because the bank will have notified all credit agencies that you have an outstanding debt with them. The very Order that sought to protect you in the first place is rendered useless. So, what happens next? If you get a sensible judge, they will understand that your spouse is in breach of a court order. If there are no legitimate reasons for that breach, the judge should order your spouse to comply and pay off the debt and if the judge has any heart, he will make sure that your spouse pays for your legal costs for having to come to court, disrupt your life and go through the emotional heartache of having had sleepless nights over this issue. This still does not resolve the fact that your credit rating has been affected. How awful. You just keep trying to scrape yourself up off the floor and to move on and your angry ex‐spouse manages yet again to bypass the courts and ram raid your life. In the first instance, what can be done to protect your rating is the following: if you have a court order which says that you do not have to satisfy the debt on the account, call the most senior person at the bank where you have the joint account. Tell them what the situation is and ask them if once they see a copy of the court order they would be kind enough to remove your name from the account. This may not always work as the individual you talk to may not be clear about the position the bank should (not could) take, so they may decline your request to have your name removed, even if they see the Order! Don't lose heart; keep calling different people at the bank until you get someone sensible. What should then happen is that the Order should be faxed to the bank, who will forward it to their legal (litigation) department and once they have seen the order (the whole order; not just a part of it), they should then remove your name from the account. You really should not have to do all this, but as the system is currently unable to enforce its own orders, I am afraid that you will need to play the part of the wet nurse to a very ailing system! The Manual calls for a change in the law. How can the British Public have any respect for the courts and the legal system, if a bank can trump a court of law? What message does that send to the public? And is the government aware of how traumatic all these glitches in the system are for the passive ex‐spouse? Be Careful What You Wish For.... The way the courts ask parties to express their desires is arguably one of the most distressing aspects of the system; for example, if you wish to ask for financial support (maintenance), the process actively encourages you to ask for more than you really need. It is part of the negotiation/opponent based culture the court has fostered. There is a savage quality to this approach; it causes the financially responsible spouse to feel unwarranted pressure. This cannot be conducive to good relations between the parties in the future and if children are involved, may well impact on the time the pressured parent spends with that child.
In short, the child may be exposed to high levels of stress, which in turn causes the child to experience dangerous levels of tension. For parents seeking more contact with their children, especially if it's a father seeking that contact, because the courts are so unclear on the position they take with fathers, fathers are often advised to ask for the maximum; in some cases that can be the request for full custody and in other instances can lead to the request for a 50/50 arrangement, so that the child is flung from one parent to the next via a hectic contact schedule. Any mother facing such a request can be left feeling traumatised, not for herself but for the fears she has in knowing that her child will not be able to flourish under such an arrangement. It is a daunting prospect for anyone and in a system where anything goes, that request may become reality, regardless of the truth and the needs of the parties. This never‐never land of open ended possibility and abject irresponsibility needs to be taken in hand. It's time for the government to react. Shield for Chapter 4: ‐ The divorce courts are irrational and you will need to bear this in mind when you go through the process Pacing Themselves: ‐ The courts process divorces very slowly. There is a huge back‐log and not enough time or judges to handle the cases quickly and properly Loans: ‐ You might find that you need financial help whilst you wait for the court to hear you case. One of the best ways to do this is to get a Hard Loan from a bank or lending institution. This is where you or a friend, guarantees the sum of money that the bank offers you (this means that if you cannot repay the sum when the money is demanded, the bank can look to you or your friend for repayment in any way it sees fit). ‐ Hard Loans are a priority in the courts and the judges have a duty to make sure that this type of loan is repaid, as far as possible. Do try to be conservative in your borrowing if you can and if you are not sure how much you will receive as a settlement. ‐ Do make sure that any Hard Loans come directly to you. If the money diverts into a friend's company on the way to you, for example, it could be viewed as a Soft Loan and may not be considered a priority. Lights, In‐Camera, Action: ‐ The courts are just like every other place of work. People talk to each other and get to know each other's views on all sorts of things. ‐ Lawyers get to know judges and how they think. If a lawyer has experience he will know many judges and what their philosophy is on a certain family matter, which may be relevant to your case. A lawyer will gear his paperwork in such a way as to identify with that judge to make your case more appealing to him. This is sneaky, but this is ultimately how the system works. ‐ The judges will also assess you on how you dress. This sounds strange (because it is) but if you don't want to give the court the wrong impression dress down, always. If you are a man, simple, basic clothes are best and if you are a mother, try to dress in plain and comfortable‐looking clothes.
‐ The judges may also use social stereotypes like " Husband equals liar when it comes to finances" or "Mother equals angry woman trying to turn the children against the father". This is very bad indeed, but in order to blitz these clumsy assumptions, just be open and honest with the court and try to stay calm, if you can. ‐ Write to your spouse during the process if they are hostile. Be kind and sympathetic if you can; and tell it like it is too. As long as you are recording the truth on paper, you will increase your chances of being heard. Try not to get aggressive, verbally or otherwise. Even if you have cause, the court's view is that any aggression is unacceptable (a little overly simplistic, but this is how it works). Keep the courts on your side ‐ try to stay calm and focused. ‐ Unfortunately, there is not much effort made to get genuine factual evidence together to show the judges what the reality is in any divorce so if you have to go to court, all you need do is relax and answer any questions you are asked. It is a messy process and you may find that a lot of things are said and asked that are untrue or downright outrageous ‐ don't worry, just answer the questions as best you can. And imagine the judge in his underwear if it all gets too much.... Judges: ‐ Some judges are very smart and can tell what is really going on in a divorce, without much information. Many though, are not, sadly. ‐ You have the right to go to libraries and research the judges that take on your case. By doing this, you will get to know how they think which will work in your favour. Style over Substance: ‐ The courts do not have the ability to understand the truth in your divorce. To get around this problem, all you can do is be neutral in your approach. This means that as long as there are no dangerous or criminal elements to your divorce, you should try to be low‐key at all times. If there are real issues of danger to yourself or your children you must of course tell the court. In general though, if this does not apply, the less you say the better. This is just because the court is very likely to interpret what you say in a way it understands (i.e the way that particual judge thinks) and most often this bears no relation to the truth. Less is definitely more! Evidence: ‐ The courts do not have the time nor the desire to sift through evidence. Ironic really, as that is at the heart of what they are supposed to do! ‐Never mind. If you do have evidence that your spouse is not telling the truth for example, it is best to raise this with your lawyer/ or your spouse and their lawyer if they have one. ‐Whilst the courts might take the view that a spouse collecting evidence of the other spouses's dishonesty is foul play (I know, it's very odd indeed) this evidence can be very powerful when negotiating out of court. Hold on to it ‐ and negotiate! Discretion: ‐ This is just a fancy way of saying that the judge will make up their mind about your divorce and how to settle it based on what they think is right. Yes, that's right ‐ what they think is right! No rules, no regulations, just pure judicial gut instinct. This is okay if the judge is super smart and savvy; most though are not, so looking up your judge and finding out how they think is a good way of preparing yourself: and of trying to get them to see things your way.... The Grand gesture: ‐ The court will judge whether or not you are a 'good' person (i.e. you are telling the truth) based on how compliant you are during the divorce process. This is highly irrational, but what can you do?
Well, here's what you can do: just do what the judge tells you! As long as your life or your child's life is not in danger, you protect your ability to communicate with the courts if you go along with suggestions and orders (even ones that lawyers make, especially if they are suggestions made by your spouse's lawyer)! It's not ideal and let's hope these half‐witted assumptions are reviewed in the future, but in the meantime, just pretend you're playing Simon Says and the judge will be more likely to view you as a genuine party who has a right to be heard. More crazy pills anyone? Not worth the Paper: ‐ Sometimes court orders fail us because there is no‐one there to enforce them or because other laws bypass them and make them useless. ‐ If this happens, stay calm and focus on getting the Order noticed. Take it to who‐ever or wherever you need to take it to show the right people that you need the Order to be enforced. Whether it's to a bank or a lawyer, persistence is the key for now. Be Careful what you wish for: ‐The divorce process puts unreasonable amounts of pressure on people, buy forcing the parties to haggle for their basic rights (contact, financial etc). ‐ It actually makes you ask for more than you need, which can make both spouses feel terribly frightened and anxious. ‐ This form of hostile negotiation needs to stop, but in the meantime, be aware that it exists and that there are no guarantees that either spouse won't get what they wish for... Chapter 5 ‐ Legal Aid: A Knight Short of a Horse In theory, Legal Aid is a wonderful idea; it should mean that parties who cannot afford lawyers should be able to have one, free of charge. This notion is incorrect and the present scheme is virtually useless. To qualify for legal aid is almost impossible and the majority of people who cannot afford to pay for solicitors do not qualify for legal aid due to their earnings or assets, for example. This means that an entire chunk of the divorcing sector is being undermined. To make matters worse, legal aid lawyers tend not to be that enthusiastic about helping you out (well, they don't get paid that much and as far as they're concerned it's just something they have to do).The scheme makes this attitude worse. Initially, whilst your claim is going through (and this can take weeks) you can only talk to your designated lawyer for small periods at a time. That is not helpful, especially at the beginning of the process when your spouse, who may be represented, is blazing ahead with documentation. Once your claim is approved (and you and the one other person in the country on legal aid have the green light to use your legal aid lawyer) you then face the probability of having to pay some or all of the fees back! From your settlement!!!! (This will probably be minimal if you need legal aid in the first place). Yes, this would be hilarious if it wasn't you living through the nightmare. As a result, with the prospect of having a junior lawyer look after you in what appears to be mounting hostilities and the prospect of having to pay for those fees anyway, The Manual might suggest that it might actually be better to represent yourself.
As always, there are some genuinely vocational legal aid lawyers who do care, but they should ideally have the experience needed to deal with divorce and a junior simply won't stand up to a high powered lawyer or one that is connected, unfortunately. If, on the other hand, you have the opportunity to have a very experienced lawyer look after you on legal aid, it is worth considering. Sometimes, high powered solicitors with a conscience offer their legal aid services and a lawyer with a conscience is worth his weight in gold. If you would like to have a shot at seeing whether or not you can find a horse for your knight, click on the link below (it’s a legal aid calculator). Everyone else, follow on through... http://www.clsdirect.org.uk/legalhelp/calculator.jsp?lang=en Shield for Chapter Five: ‐ Legal aid is hard to get and has many strings attached ‐ Legal aid is not suitable for everyone and often involves young, inexperienced lawyers. If you can get an older lawyer that knows the court system it is an interesting option Chapter 6 ‐ Mediation: The Torture Chamber Mediation may work for you. If you and your spouse know that at some point you will be able to communicate, mediation might speed things along. Ideally, it probably works best post the divorce proceedings when you have taken your army general's uniform off and have begun to concentrate on rebuilding your life. The fact still remains that if you and your spouse were able to communicate before the divorce you probably will be able to do so again (but that's not a guarantee). However, sometimes couples just know that they won't; the differences between you are too great, one spouse is less mature than the other, the differences in backgrounds mean that one party wishes to reject the other totally and so on, in which case mediation will be a farce. The inherent problems run too deep and if they do, you will instinctively know this, no matter how much anyone tries to tell you that these sentiments are fleeting. Gut instincts are valuable; they will help you decide if mediation is going to help. That being said, you may have no choice but to go. One spouse may insist upon it (remember, if that spouse has representation, they may well have been advised to suggest mediation to make themselves look like they are co‐operative and genuine in front of the courts. Sneaky, sneaky. Such game play is part and parcel of this awkward stage where your war is being fought. If you refuse, even if you know it's just a ploy or because you don't want to be subjected to any more abuse (after all that's why you're divorcing each other!), the courts will take the side of the seemingly angelic party. More fool the judge. In any event, you will have to go. One spouse may take the opportunity to use the sessions as a battering ram, tearing you down and making insinuations about your conduct. They may even try to sway the mediator with documents they have prepared or urge the mediator to read those documents (this does happen!). This is actually very funny, if you can stand back and laugh, but at the end of the day you may well find the sessions exhausting and frustrating. Do not be afraid. The best thing for you to do is just to stay calm. Let your spouse make insinuations, let them scream and shout. You don't have to say a word if
you don't want to, but the best philosophy to take is that you have an hour or so in this room with your ex and a stranger and if you can bring yourself to communicate superficially, you will be fine. Another reason why mediation during proceedings is futile is because as you have been thrown into a war zone, where secrecy and strategy are prolific there will be many things you will not actually want to divulge in front of your spouse, so the efficiency of mediation is significantly reduced. Of course, this only applies if your divorce is hostile. Finally, do not let the mediator bully you into agreeing anything. You do not have to sign any agreements if you do not want to and so nothing can be binding. If mediation becomes a nonsense in your divorce, all you need do is the time and let your spouse commit the crime :) Shield for Chapter Six: ‐ Mediation can work for you if you and your spouse are not so angry that you want to use the process to hurt each other ‐ Be aware that meditation can be used as a tool in divorce, to either upset one spouse or, if one spouse is unwilling to go, to make the spouse look unreasonable and therefore make the judges less well disposed to them. This is a tactical trick that is often employed, even though there should really be no pressure for spouses to mediate if one or both spouses don't want to. After all, who really wants to be locked in a room for two hours with their ex? :) (Death‐wish anyone??). ‐ If you are asked to go to mediation, it's best just to go. If your spouse is hostile, just think about your next holiday or the cutie you saw on the bus on the way to work that morning... Chapter 7 ‐ Lawyers: A Fish Best Served Cold If your divorce is hostile then you might want to consider using a solicitor. Sometimes when spouses get angry at the end of a marriage they threaten to do all sorts of terrible things to each other; some threaten to remove financial stability, others to prevent the children having contact with one parent, but more often than not, these threats are empty and fleeting and indicative of an emotional hurt that has cut very deep. Others are not so lucky. Sometimes those threats are genuine and carried out on the crest of a vengeful wave, and always born out of an inability to work through the pain and the anger. Sometimes, that pain lasts a lifetime. Your instinct will tell you straight away whether the threatening spouse is genuinely contemplating revenge. If you feel that those promises of hurt and misery are real, then you may well need a good solicitor to protect you. Another example of when a solicitor is needed is when one party decides to use a powerfully connected solicitor. The legal profession is introverted; lawyers and judges work long hours and they socialise heavily with each other. Unfortunately, lawyers also make the worst gossips and if your partner has hired a powerful solicitor, most of what that solicitor will achieve will be down to how respected he is and the conversations he engages in, which you will never know about. Connections are everything in this situation and in this respect the legal profession is the same as all others.
It is just that to say something like this about the profession out loud is deemed controversial. But why should it be? It is an open secret amongst lawyers that they all know each other and socialise with each other, just as people from other industries do. This is another reason why the process is flawed. In a system where discretion and impartiality should be sacred, they just simply do not exist. We have all read news articles about judges getting into trouble for allowing their personal sentiments to sway their judgments; in some respects, that sort of prejudice is relatively natural, but in a system that needs egalitarianism to bring to the fore the parties' own views, muddling these up with the judges' is a recipe for disaster. The only way to prevent yourself from becoming a victim in this instance is by hiring an experienced solicitor and one that is considered more powerful than your estranged spouse's. Please note that engaging in this kind of tac‐tic is a method of last resort and should only be used if your spouse is genuinely trying to either displace your children unreasonably or cut you off financially to the point where you cannot survive. It is also fair to say that this exercise will be very costly. You will need to think about whether or not you can afford to take on such a cost burden. If you are selling your family home, there may be funds available for example, but be aware that you may need those funds to re‐house either yourself or your spouse and your children. If you do decide to hire a solicitor, you will also have to factor in the possible cost of having to hire a barrister too. Barristers' costs tend to be more reasonable, but again this will depend on what level of barrister you get and as always the more expensive the barrister, the more experience they should have. You will be guided by your solicitor as to who they recommend, but be careful; do your own research on barristers too and as with solicitors word of mouth can be effective if the person recommending them has used them in exactly the same context that you will wish to. It is never practical to go on a recommendation by someone, no matter how much you trust them, if the work in question that was done was for contract law or negligence. Keeping your costs down is important. Solicitors often charge in increments of time (so they can charge a certain fee for every 6 minutes). This means that if you talk on the phone with them for 7 minutes they will charge you for 12. This is not reasonable, but it is how many solicitors operate. You will need to learn to clock watch. Make sure that you keep an eye on how long you talk and try to be concise so that you do not end up talking more than you need to. If you write letters try to be short also, but obviously not at the expense of clarity. Say all you need to say, but if you can avoid repeating yourself or elaborating, you will see that your legal costs can be managed and you will then feel in control of your affairs. It is always good to remember that although you have paid for the solicitor's knowledge (and therefore it is always prudent to listen to his advice as a starting point), you do know your circumstances better than anyone else. Lawyers tend to be number illiterate, which just means that they are not trained up in such a way that they are able to understand with a reasonable deal of clarity what your financial position is. In
fact, lawyers do not even feel that it is their ambit to comment on your finances other than to do some very basic sums to show the court what your needs are. This again is a travesty, in a system where finances should be fastidiously understood, most lawyers and judges are woefully inexperienced. This coupled with the fact that the court has no real powers to investigate the financial aspect of divorce (or perhaps more accurately, displays an embarrassing lethargy when it comes to going through this area with a fine tooth comb) means that you do need to do your homework. This can seem exhausting and frustrating but once you start to take charge of these decisions, you will feel empowered and begin to get to know the system as well as what your needs are. This gives you a great advantage ‐ you can begin to anticipate the court's reaction and provide them with what they need in a manner they will respond to. If Maths was not your strong point at school, then if you can find a friend who is good with numbers, it is always worth asking them for their help. Throughout the process and if you have hired a solicitor, you may be feeling vulnerable and scared and as you will be in regular contact with your lawyer you may feel the need to use them as an emotional crutch, telling them all your dilemmas and your heartache. There is nothing wrong with informing your lawyer about problems but they are first and foremost a tool. Your lawyer will probably have heard these dilemmas before and will be familiar with them; being upset or emotional with your lawyer, regardless of how friendly they may be can only lead to higher fees (because of the extended time you chat; they bill for that!), and possibly an irritated lawyer! You will get an optimal response from you lawyer if you try to stay calm when you talk to them and offer them any administrative help they might need (which also cuts your costs). Lawyers can be a grumpy bunch and whilst there is no excuse for this, in order for you to get the most out of them, it is always worth remaining nice, if you can. This can be done if you have a positive and sympathetic frame of mind. At the end of the day, everybody has things to worry about and lawyers are human (although it may seem hard to believe)! Most people going through a divorce are so angry that they take out their frustration on their lawyers and this often means that the lawyer is less inclined to help them out, or to go beyond the call of duty. As hard as it may be to stay calm, if you can show your lawyer that you understand the bigger picture, they will hopefully show you that they appreciate your patience. Yet none so patient as the children in divorce.... Shield for Chapter Seven: ‐ Lawyers are very useful if your spouse is hostile and wants to upset you during the divorce ‐ Lawyers know the system and the more experience they have, the more likely they will be able to steer you safely through the courts ‐ This is not a cost‐effective service though; if you want to make your money go a long way, try the following: clock watch ‐ lawyers often charge for every 6 minutes or so, so if you talk for 7, you will be billed for 12! Try to keep your chats brief, but say all you need to say; be strict with yourself
‐ lawyers are not counsellors in the caring sense of the word. Use them as a tool and talk about your emotions with your friends and family; be nice to your lawyer! Try not to shout at them or be rude to them if you can ‐ they are here to help you and even though they can be pretty bad tempered (well, wouldn't you be if you had to work with sobbing wives and angry husbands on a daily basis!) they will do that extra bit for you if you can be nice with them!! Chapter 8 ‐ Children: Angels of Mercy Children are often used as pawns in divorces, but recognising which parent is manipulating the process is not so easy. Sometimes, both parents are to blame. The court has a natural bias towards mothers, insinuating that it is mothers who are the worst offenders. This is to overlook one major aspect of parenting; mothers who have a bond with their children inherently know that that bond cannot be destroyed and therefore do not feel threatened by the father's relationship with their child. Fathers on the other hand, if they have either been working late hours and don't get a chance to be with their children as much as they would like or who simply are not hands‐on when it comes to their children, feel terribly threatened by the impact of the divorce on their relationship with their offspring. A fear that can just as easily make them worse offenders than mothers. That is not to say that some women do not wish to remove the children from the arms of their fathers if they have been hurt, but there does not seem to be any acknowledgement by the courts that a father indulging in this sort of conduct is becoming more and more common. If the father has a good lawyer, this kind of behaviour can be easily dressed up to look like a retaliation against a seemingly un‐cooperative mother, but the court's inability to work these things out mean that it's the children who suffer as a result. Once again, the system is inefficient at being able to identify the child's needs, which are paramount and take precedence over the parents. The sophistication in this process comes in being able to recognise how each parent's relationship with the child at the time of divorce affects that need, how each parent's relationship benefits the child and ultimately how to assess the extent of the dependency on each parent at any given period. Clearly this is a job for a very experienced child psychiatrist or even just a good parent. Enter the CAFCASS officers. With minimal training (effectively just social workers in reporters' clothing) and a policy which focuses little on the child's needs, this organisation has no place ascertaining the needs of little ones in the context of divorce, as it stands. The Manual fully opposes this organisation and is an active supporter of its dissemination. Should you and your child be unlucky enough to find yourself subject to their scrutiny, you will need to remember the Golden rule: stay calm and neutral. If you are using a good solicitor, he should be able to talk to the CAFCASS officer on your behalf. Technically, they are probably not supposed to engage in such banter, but they do. Here, the system is wild. The officers can produce reports and make recommendations and most of
the time, the judges just stick to the report and do as the officers suggest, even though the officers base their reports on perhaps just one session (which is nothing more than an exercise in gathering statements) and sometimes without even viewing the child in question. It is just like the blind leading the blind. Children going through this organisation are seldom treated properly and the recommendations that are made often fracture the family further and cause irreparable damage. Parents beware: CAFCASS officers are notorious for misrepresenting evidence and making seminal mistakes in their reports. The Manual would highly recommend notifying your interviewing officers ahead of time that you wish to record the interview (i.e. with a tape recorder). If that request is denied to you, ask someone senior to your officers in the CAFCASS organisation. If they also deny you the right to record the interview/s make this known to the judge at your next hearing and make notes of the interview yourself as soon after the interview as possible. Much has already been said in the media about social workers and officers at CAFCASS and none of it is positive. Short of the government recognising the problem, the only thing to do is to play the system. This is done by either hiring a good lawyer (and here The Manual feels that this is money well spent) or you will have to start to think of what you will say to the officers in order to prevent them from dislocating your child from the emotional support it needs (i.e. by trying to dissuade the officers from awarding one parent unreasonable contact hours because it will unsettle the child or make them feel traumatised by virtue of being estranged from their primary carer, for example). Obviously this only applies if your spouse is threatening to take your child away either permanently or for periods of time that would be detrimental to your child's emotional welfare. Of course, if CAFCASS was filled with highly skilled individuals who understood children, there would be nothing wrong in principal with their existence. The fact that they have consistently done more harm than good is why so many organisations want to see them disbanded. The inherent problem with the system in relation to children as it stands is that it does not go back to review its decisions. It just assumes that the decision it has made is the best one possible under the circumstances. Again, this is a failure on the part of the system as it shows a lack of desire to strive for a functional and efficient system. As a result, parents all over the UK struggle with Contact Orders as they watch their children struggle too. It is disheartening to know that most people who as children were subject to such irrational Contact Orders often lose touch with the parent that forced themselves onto them as very small children and tore them away from the parent they wanted to be with. It is all a question of degree and careful consideration, but CAFCASS always seem to get it wrong. If you have a child who is a few months old up to and around the age of four or five, the phrase you might hear bandied about, is "a little and often". This is the court's way of saying that a small child should spend lots of time with his father (or whichever parent is not the primary carer) and do so on
a regular basis. The idea being, presumably, that as the parents' circumstances are changing, so too should the child's. The Manual disagrees wholeheartedly with this theory. Children should be given the right to stability and that until the child is old enough to feel comfortable with changing and dynamic contact schedules, that it should spend the majority of his or her time with their primary carer. For example, if a child grows up being looked after by his mother and then subsequently, because the court is convinced (erroneously) that the father has played a role similar to or equal to the primary carer, orders that the baby should spend long hours and overnight stays with the father, that baby or toddler will react negatively to the trauma of being taken from their primary carer. It is often referred to as 'Separation from the Mother Anxiety' and should never be tolerated. When a child suffers stress, it needs to be addressed, not waited out until the child, exhausted and afraid, succumbs out of desperation. There is no reason why a child should be displaced in divorce. It would be very easy to allow the non‐primary carer to spend time with their child in a way that suits the child. Unfortunately, when spouses get angry, they can become irrational and allow themselves to believe that the child's negative reactions are being fostered by the primary carer and as a result the non‐ primary carer will push even harder for extended contact. It is a well known fact among parents that you cannot force your children to do anything! Children are also acutely intelligent and they instinctively know which parent can meet their needs at any one time. That is the beauty of biology; it is cyclical and whilst both parents are of equal importance to the child, there is also the understanding that a child will want to spend different periods of time with each parent, depending on their age and their circumstances and at different times in their lives. The Manual is pro contact for both parents, but feels that small children in particular need to have their main home with their primary carer and to factor in as much stability as possible without compromising the relationship of the non‐primary carer. At present, unless you get a clever CAFCASS officer and a like‐minded judge, you can only hope that what is best for your child will be understood. Arming yourself with some facts about children in the Family Courts can be a helpful way of understanding the system and of getting a feel for how to place you and your family within the context of your children's needs. As a characteristic staring point, the legal definition of a child is clumsy and the language used, poor. As always there is no consistency in the terminology used and this is only heightened by the excessive involvement of international legislation. On a more positive note, the Family Courts are prepared to take a child's feelings and wishes into consideration when deciding issues like custody and contact.
However, the courts do not go as far as observing the behaviour of very small children who cannot speak fluently and this again is a flaw that needs to be addressed. Language is not the only way that a child can communicate. The courts seem to assume that a baby or a toddler cannot express itself. If you watch a baby interact with their parents, you can learn a great deal. However, this does not seem to be a feature at CAFCASS and indeed, there seems to be set rules and policies for small children that make no sense at all to a parent. This is odd for a system that prides itself on tailoring results on a 'case by case' basis. There is too much contradiction in the system and it is largely this lack of clarity that has made the issue of contact and custody a free‐for‐all at CAFCASS. You will find that if you read the most important piece of legislation passed in relation to children at present, that there is a section dedicated to the child's welfare: Section 1 of the Welfare and Children Act 1989 says‐ "When a court determines any question with respect to‐(a) the upbringing of a child...........the child's welfare shall be the court's paramount consideration. This is a good law, but the fact still remains that the court is wholly unaware of what children need. This then makes a mockery of the above law, which in principle is excellent. Finally, the court's philosophy in relation to children is simple: anything goes as long as the child in question can cope. This is simply not good enough; a child deserves not just to cope with life but to flourish by it. Shield for Chapter Eight: ‐ Children often get a raw deal during divorce and can be used by parents to upset each other ‐ The courts have a tendency to blame the mothers if the children appear to be unsettled. Mothers will need to bare this in mind and to avoid being misunderstood will have to try to be very calm and neutral in their view. Again, this is not ideal but if you want to tell the courts what your children need, you will need to be strong and focused ‐ The courts are not very good at understanding children and they use an organisation called CAFCASS to help them; they are not competent at this point in time to consider child care issues, so if you and your children have to go though them, the golden rule is as always: stay calm and neutral and focus on getting your point across rationally and compassionately. ‐ The system is wild when it comes to child care and contact issues. It is very hard to find someone who has a feel for children in the system. Even the law in this area is a terrible mess. ‐The only way of increasing your chances of looking after your child's best interests is to research the divorce courts and get to grips with how various organisations think ‐ and then to start to think for yourself about how you are going to put your child's needs across to the courts. Chapter 9 ‐ Fathers: Held to Ransom Perhaps by far the most shocking oversight of the Family Courts is the stance it takes on unmarried fathers. An unmarried father is considered not to have parental responsibility for his children.
The real jewel of the piece however, is that he is still required to maintain that child financially. The system practices a mutually exclusive principle when it comes to contact and finances and yet in this instance, the assumption that the father should maintain a child that he is not considered responsible for is ludicrous. This over simplistic approach is devastating and embarrassing in a world where thanks to our advances in biology, we now know that it takes two to tango :) How can the courts alienate a father (for that is what he is, regardless of whether he has entered into a contract with the mother, which is what marriage is in legal terms after all) and then tell him that he must make provisions for a child that he has no tangible link with? Even if the courts are trying to make the point that the right to be with a child is not quantifiable in financial terms, any father that wants to play an active role in his child's life should not be denied that right in the first instance. This is a direct breach of Section 1 of the Children Act 1989, which says that a child's welfare is paramount. How can alienating a genuine and caring father ever be in any child's best interests? At present, an unmarried father would need to either marry the child's mother; be appointed as a guardian; enter into a parental responsibility agreement; obtain a parental responsibility order or obtain a residence order to acquire 'father' status. This is beyond demeaning and beyond contempt. None of these so called solutions actually benefit anyone, least of all the child, if the parents do not wish to be married, for example. Let's look at this another way around. An unmarried father, from a status point of view only, is in exactly the same position as a divorced one. Neither lives with the mother, but they both know that they want to love their child and be there for them. There is no excuse for this legislation. One of the arguments often put forward by mothers is that the father and she were not in a serious relationship and that perhaps the pregnancy was not planned. Either way, if the father genuinely wants to care for his child, none of these reasons are potent enough to negate the fact that one party (usually the mother) decided to keep the child and in the first instance, not use protection during intercourse. We have enough information available to us today to know what happens if we engage in such activity unprotected. Ultimately, just because women conceive and give birth it does not mean that the baby was created by only one being. If a woman has decided to take responsibility for a life, she must be prepared to acknowledge that that life was created jointly. This is yet another good example of the courts giving way to political pressure by women’s' organisations who represent single mothers. The court seems to sway with the political and policy‐
based breeze, which means essentially that the 'right' thing is often relegated to the 'next best' thing. As of the 1st December 2003 however, a new law was passed which allowed unmarried fathers to be recognised as 'full' fathers in the legal sense. All the father has to do is sign the birth register of the child jointly with the mother. This is fine in principal, if the mother actually notifies the father that she is going to register the baby. There are organisations that are dedicated to helping fathers. Unfortunately, some of them get bad press due to some of the rather wacky fathers who act as spokesmen for these organisations (!). One organisation is called Families Need Fathers. They offer support to unmarried fathers and have some useful links. They are also actively involved in trying to change the law. You too can participate by becoming a member. The address for the web site is: http://familiesneedfathers.org.uk/home Another website which offers information is called Raising Kids and also offers information and resources. The address is: http://www.raisingkids.co.uk/preg/preg_dad05.asp Just as a point of interest (and please note that the site was last updated in 2002) this link shows some insightful statistics and illustrates just how many unmarried fathers are out there and how badly represented they have been. You will see that you are not alone: http://www.spig.clara.net/reform/umf.htm Another interesting article can be found in the Telegraph (from 2004) and explains the legal rights of fathers too:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/09/30/nfath30.xml The Manual is for the abolition of the distinction between married and unmarried fathers. The Manual also calls for the contractual element of marriage to be removed altogether. Marriage is not a business proposal and neither is fatherhood. Shield for Chapter Nine: ‐ One of the biggest problems in the Family Courts and Family Law in general is the definition of a father ‐ Embarrassingly, the British Courts will not recognise the father of a child if he is not married to the mother of the child. ‐ The Manual calls for the abolition of this sadistic distinction.‐ There are a number of ways that fathers in this situation can get the same contact rights that once‐married fathers have (please see chapter above for details) ‐ You can also join an organisation called Families Need Fathers to support a change in the law in this area Chapter 10 ‐ Mothers: Mother Nature Will Set us Free Natural born mothers are often caught in the crossfire of the divorce courts. They have to endure the humiliation of being told how to bring up their children, by a system that knows nothing about the child in question and even less about parenting in general.
Natural born mothers can be found everywhere; they are at home, looking after their little ones full time or they are working mummies, who are striving to give their children the financial stability they need. Either way, you can always spot a real mummy, because her children look content, even when they are having a temper tantrum, even when they are sulking or even when they refuse to put on the silly party hat at Uncle Jerry's birthday lunch (it would ruin their street cred, don't you know). Ultimately, they are the ones who have to nurse their children through the divorce. There are also outstanding fathers who do this too, but generally speaking, mothers are left to pick up the pieces when the court gets it wrong, which inevitably they often do. Divorce as a concept is not responsible for a child feeling alienated. It is how the couple cope with it and ultimately how the court responds to each parents' abilities. The court is not very good at working out whether or not a parent is capable of skilfully supporting their child through the divorce period. It is also true to say that regardless of the mother's conduct (as long as it is not affecting the child) a young child probably will prefer to spend the majority of its time with their mother. From the moment the baby is born, a natural born mother will dedicate herself to that child. There are fathers like this too, but the court does not seem to acknowledge the overt difference between a mother's bond with her small child and the father's bond. Again, The Manual is not suggesting that mothers are more valuable as parents than fathers; both parents are integral and seminal to any child. Nevertheless a good mother's capacity to love her child in a way it needs to be loved can often be paramount in certain contexts. This is sometimes why fathers may fear the mothers of their children so much ‐ the worry that the bond between the mother and child will overshadow the father‐child relationship can exert huge amounts of pressure on the father and lead him to do some very silly things indeed. And who, then, has to pick up the pieces? Why, mummy, of course! Caring mothers, don't lose heart. The system may well not acknowledge your bond and your intimate knowledge of your child, so until it does, one thing that you can do is just keep loving your little ones. Lavishing a child with affection never hurt them. In fact, it makes them very, very strong. Regrettably, for every imposition the court makes on a child, the imposing parent will suffer by paying a price. Sometimes that price is a complete disconnection from the child, chosen by the child through their frustration at having been taken away from their mothers at a period of time when it was she they needed. This is a cautionary tale for the courts; you can never force children to do what they don't want (especially small children) ‐ if you do, you may well have played a seminal hand in destroying the delicate bond between father and child altogether. As a final note to this chapter, it should be reiterated that caring fathers also have an infinite capacity to love their children. Such fathers understand inherently that small children may wish to spend greater amounts of time with their mothers initially and their intelligence and intuition is usually rewarded with a grateful and deep love from their children as they grow older.
There are always exceptions though to every rule and some small children may indeed prefer to be with their fathers for longer periods of time, but again the real issues here are not cemented in the style of upbringing but in the court's ability to understand what each child needs at any given moment as a starting point. This is the heart of the issue and this chapter serves to highlight a definite shift by the Family Courts away from trying to work out the responsibilities of each parent in the family unit and a move towards homogenising the perception of family in a bid to make the job of divorce easier. This is unacceptable and it is this attitude that is responsible for the suffering of the thousands of children going through the divorce courts and beyond. Shield for Chapter 10: ‐ The courts do not acknowledge the bond between mother and child ‐ In most situations where the child has been looked after by the mother or the father is not particularly at ease with looking after children of a certain age, that child will want to spend the majority of their time with their mother ‐ This does not mean fathers are less important than mothers; on the contrary, fathers are as valuable as mothers but each parents' skills are often needed at different times in a child's life and to different extents ‐ Whilst there should be frequent contact with both parents always, the courts should begin to acknowledge the need for contact cycles, which would allow small children in particular, the stability to be with the 'needs‐based' parent most of the time and the 'supporting' parent for frequent periods of time but at a lesser intensity until the child is old enough to cope with more complex contact routines or would benefit from a reverse cycle so that the 'needs‐based' parent became the 'supporting' parent and vice versa. ‐ At the present time, the courts are under the impression that small children can cope with big shifts in routine. They cannot and all mothers know this. This is not a secret. ‐ The court feels that if a child can 'cope' with a contact routine then that routine is okay. A child should not have to cope with anything but be allowed to flourish instead, whatever the circumstances. As adults, we can achieve this for our children, but the courts need to realise that 'primary carer' mothers in particular, hold the key to preserving a child's stability and the courts need to allow mothers the basic right to 'parent' in this way. ‐ By preventing genuinely caring mothers from stabilising their children, the imposing parent (in this context the father) not only destabilises the child but risks destroying his bond with that child. No genuine mother wants their child to feel dislike towards their father. ‐ The courts/ CAFCASS do not factor this into their analysis of childcare. This is a cautionary tale for the courts. ‐ Mothers who find themselves in situations where the court wrongly accuses them of witholding children from their fathers or poisoning the children against them will need to stay calm and to just keep on giving their children all the love and affection they need. This is the greatest weapon against hostility and will make children immune to the harsh knocks the system exposes them to. ‐ Essentially, every family unit is different and every child feels differently towards their parents. However, the real issue here is that the courts do not understand the basic underlying principles in relation to children and are unwilling to acknowledge the individual parenting styles of each family.
The courts are also unable to work out how each family unit operates and which parent is capable of meeting a child's needs. This is causing a lot of problems. Chapter 11 ‐ Rehabilitation: It's all in the Mind The court process is impersonal; no one is at hand to give you any advice about how to take care of yourself during this time and as divorce is one of the most traumatic things anyone can go through in a lifetime, it is a wonder that the courts, who strive to involve themselves in every aspect of your life at this point do not actually take the time to see how you are both bearing up. Therefore, it is all down to you, with a little help from The Manual :) Remember the Golden Rule: If you look after yourself first, you can look after everyone else. Good mothers and fathers will naturally balk at this advice. Well, no‐one is suggesting that you look after yourself at the exclusion of your little ones, but you will need to be in tip‐top form if your divorce is a hostile one and you need to find the strength to carry your children unscathed through the process. It can be something as simple as going for a walk or having dinner with friends. Perhaps even a blind date? All you need to do, is set aside some time and some money if you want to have a little retail therapy or a bite to eat outside of your home and just remember to have fun. Laughter is a fabulous cure all. Talking to others about their funny relationships with their exes can be a great way of lightening your predicament. There is no need for you to suffer throughout this process. It is better if you can avoid suffering any more than you already have done. Exercise is great for shifting the blues as is a nice chat with a friend over coffee. Looking after your body and your mind at this time is important. Eat well, sleep well (if you can) and above all, treat yourself. How you cope with your divorce is all in the mind. The past and the present unfortunately can't be changed but you can affect your future by being positive and pro‐active. Shield for Chapter Eleven: ‐ The divorce process in the UK is tough on the mind and the body ‐ You will need to look after yourself! ‐ Keeping to the basics, if you can, like eating well and doing exercise all help ‐ Going out with friends, meeting new people (joining groups of other people going through divorce, if nothing else just to spout about your ex to new people who haven't heard it all before!!!), having a good giggle (the best cure‐all)... ‐ Talking. Talking is an amazing release. Just tell everyone. Tell your postman, your milkman, your estate agent, the traffic warden (now you can get your own back for that parking ticket!!!). It is of course better to tell close friends and family, but if you need to talk, don't keep it in. Let it out; write if you like writing ‐ keep a diary perhaps? The moral of the story is, just like any virus......Better out than in!
Chapter 12 ‐ Ongoing Negotiations: Kissinger v Stalin Divorcing a spouse when there are children involved does mean that you will be coming into contact with your ex from time to time (unless the ex does not want to see your children).This just means that you will have to try to communicate as best as possible together. Avoiding tension in front of the little ones is a good move and even if your spouse does not wish to be civil, there is no longer any need to engage in hostile communication. It is over. And it isn't. You have a choice; you can either morph yourself into Kissinger (those of you who are peaceful at heart will have no problem doing this) or you can carry on playing the Major General. Stalin never won over any hearts! Let your spouse stay mad if they want to. The key to building a better life for yourself is to move on and from time to time, to look back at your baggage just to make sure that it is still visible in the distance!!! Chapter 13 ‐ The Ceasefire Once the battle is over, regardless of whether your now ex‐spouse has threatened to drag you back into court at a later date, the main battle has been fought. With luck and perhaps a little help from The Manual, you will have been able to steer your way around at least some of the trap doors (and perhaps the occasional dinosaur) and you have made it out the other end. This is when the fun starts. You can start afresh, make new plans and take with you the astounding lessons you will have noted about the human condition and marvel at your inner resources and your seemingly endless strength. The war is finished and you now have the wonderful opportunity to be the architect in your life. The Manual wishes you luck on your way and many more days of happiness and laughter. Together, we have the power.
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