My name is Michael Watson, I am an expert in the family court and at assessing the needs of children and the parental capacity of parents and caregivers.
I have been expert in the family court for the past nineteen years and have worked in a variety of settings as a qualified social worker for the past 26+ years.
It is only over the last five or so years that it has dawned on me that I don’t work with children and parents who are separating and experiencing distress by chance.
I realise I was drawn to this work because of experiences within my own childhood, involving my parents separation and divorce. Events that happened so many years ago but yet had such a profound effect on my life in so many ways- affecting all of my relationships.
Why have I shared this with you?
Firstly because I want you to realise that break ups are common, but what’s crucial is how you manage the separation for yourself and especially for your child.
Secondly because many parents just don’t realise how their behaviour impacts on their children. It’s almost like stamping an invisible blueprint on them and almost guaranteeing they will have the same kind of relationship problems that their parents had unless something intervenes in the form of therapy or some other support.
Thirdly because your child’s childhood is so important to their wellbeing as an adult. You have to do your best to give them the very best care you can offer them. It’s important to realise that even children who have very bad starts in life can and often do make the most of their life and in so doing improve the lives and future of their own children.
In my view because of the stresses of modern life and a whole range of other issues, parents often don’t recognise their own power or ability to influence their child in positive ways even if they only see them once a month, or once a year. Obviously any mother or father would want the maximum level of contact with their child but the key thing is to make that time with him or her very special, so that they will remember the good times for a life time.
I have written this book and set up this website to offer information, support, consultation and coaching to people who are or have separated and are in the position of needing to, or have made the decision to represent themselves at private law family court proceedings.
Going to the family court can be very stressful and frightening, but with the right support, coaching and much practice you can begin to feel a level of confidence and gain the skills you need to successfully represent yourself at court.
I also act as a McKenzie Friend for parents who require that level of support at court.
Tel. 07960 077063
I am the published author of ‘How To Represent Yourself In Family Court’ which is available on amazon.co.uk and at various book stores.
The book focuses on providing advice, knowledge and coaching to parents who need to represent themselves in private law family court proceedings.
It brings together much of the knowledge, skills and experience I have gained during my twenty seven years as a social worker (this includes seventeen years as a Children’s Guardian and twenty years as an independent Social Worker).
The book is child-centred throughout; there is a section on the Children act legislation and an essential section focusing on good parenting.
I have a clear and working understanding of the Children’s Act 1989 and Adoption legislation. I also have an understanding of the 1998 Human Rights Act, as well as knowledge of child development.
I have a very clear knowledge of the type of care, parenting and behaviour children need consistently to enable them to reach healthy independence having achieved the five outcomes identified in the 2004 Children Act legislation of Every Child Matters.
Having been an expert witness within the family court for the past twenty years I have substantial knowledge of the needs of children and am an expert in both assessing children’s needs and parental capacity to meet those needs.
Due to my many years of experience I have developed considerable knowledge concerning presenting evidence at court and managing cross-examination within the family court.
My professional and personal knowledge of the family court system lead me to become a published author as mentioned below.
As a result of working intensely with children, adolescents and parents for over twenty four years, I have developed effective listening and communication skills, including the ability to identify and use my power in ways which our consistent with enhancing the quality of the lives of the people I work with.
For a number of years I was fortunate enough to work with and learn from some excellent Diversity trainers. I was involved in facilitating training courses on Diversity and Managing Diversity. The skills and experience gained certainly complimented and enhanced my practice.
In the work I have been involved with over many years, I have demonstrated an ability to work within strict deadlines. I positively enjoy working with diversity. When making assessments of adults or parents I consider it crucial to have an understanding of my own culture, assumptions and possible prejudices that may impact on the assessment process. I believe it is important to highlight weaknesses, strengths and the multi dimensional nature of people. As a black professional man I am very much aware of the role discrimination can play in the lives of children and families. As already noted I am conscious of my potential to be discriminatory and endeavour to ensure my assessments and conclusions are evidence based.
In addition to the above, due to over twenty four years working with children and families and within the family court arena, I have gained considerable skills in identifying not only when parents are not able to meet their child/rens various needs, but also how their behaviour is likely to impact on their relationship and thereby impact on the level of care provided to their child.
As part of my role as a Children’s Guardian and Independent Social Worker I have honed my skills at giving evidence at court in a clear and cogent manner.
I have extensive experience of working with a range of clients from different racial, cultural, religious and class backgrounds. I have worked with parents and young people who have suffered with mental health, drug and alcohol problems, learning and physical disabilities, sexual, emotional, physical abuse and neglect.
All of the work I have undertaken in the last seventeen years (as a Children’s Guardian)has involved identifying the needs of children, assessing parents, extended family members friends and carers ability to meet the needs of children.
A major aspect of a Children’s Guardians role is writing independent comprehensive child focussed reports advising the court on issues, mediating and focussing the parties towards what’s in the children’s best interests and when necessary giving evidence at court.
I also have considerable experience of undertaking Independent Social work Assessments. The bulk of this work has involved parenting assessments for children in court proceedings. Very often I have been asked to work with parents who are perceived as difficult in some way, due, for example to mental health or personality issues, or as a result of parents’ unwillingness (sometimes in my view with justification) to trust or engage with social workers and related professionals. Many of the children and families are black, mixed race or, white working class, single carers, people who have recently come to this country and do not have English as a first language and are unfamiliar with the laws and cultural expectations of or in this country.
Many of the parents of the children I have worked with, have themselves come from families where they have been abused, neglected, poorly or inconsistently parented themselves and without realising it have continued a pattern or cycle of unhappiness and despair for their children, by maintaining behaviours and habits which have been learnt and formed years ago.
I have undertaken two assessments in the Caribbean – namely Jamaica and have also travelled to Ireland to undertake an assessment of family members.
As well as assessing parents ability to parent, I am often asked to comment on issues around contact and to make recommendations as to what level of contact, if any, will be in the child/ren’s best interests.
Overall, I have very much enjoyed working with children and families and appreciate how privileged I have been to be allowed an insight into the lives of the people I have worked with.
EDUCATION &PROFESSIONAL TRAINING
1984 – 1986 Diploma in Applied Social Studies (CQSW)
1976 – 1979 BA (Hons) Economics
1973 – 1975 A levels in Sociology and Economics
1972 – 1973 7 O levels (including English and Sociology)
Aug 1994 to present Independent Social Worker
I have undertaken independent child care assessments and reporting to the court for the past fourteen years. This has included making recommendations regarding placement, contact and orders, helpful to the child and family as well as, when necessary giving cogent evidence in court.
From November 2010 I have worked solely as an independent social worker.
Jan 1994 to Nov 2010 Self Employed Children’s Guardian
My main role has been to represent the interests of children in primarily public law proceedings and write independent child focussed reports for the court. As part of my role I am required to appraise the local authority’s involvement with the family including the care plan.
I am also required to play a proactive role at Court Direction hearings in order to ensure that there is minimal delay in bringing the cases to a satisfactory conclusion.
May 1993 – Jan 1994 London Borough of Tower Hamlets, Training &Development Officer
The role involved collaborating with other partners or agencies within the consortium to develop the DIPSW Programme. I also acted as a Practice Teacher and much of my time was spent finding suitably experienced Practice Teachers and placements for students.
Oct 1991 – Apr 1993 London Borough of Lambeth, Senior Practitioner for Child Care & Child Protection.
Main duties involved managing ‘heavy’ child protection cases. I was a resource to social workers and offered consultation to area social work staff.
Apr 1990 – Apr 1991 London Borough of Hammersmith &Fulham, Senior Social Worker
Working within the Family Placement Unit. My main duties involved family finding, assessing prospective adoptive carers, writing reports and presenting them at the panel re: their approval. The role also involved providing consultancy to field social workers and counselling to young people who had been adopted and sought contact with their birth parents.
July 1986 – Apr 1990 Wandsworth Borough Council, Generic Social Worker.
Working as a field Social Worker managing a range of cases involving children and families, elderly people, people with learning disabilities as well as people with mental illness. The bulk of my work however involved child care, child protection and court work
Jun 1983 – Aug 1984 London Borough of Haringey, Residential Social Worker
Working with a range of children in care of both sexes between the 7-17 age range.
May 1982 – Jun 1983 St. Christopher’s Fellowship, Residential Social Worker
I worked with mainly adolescent young men who had a history of offending and anti-social behaviours.
The information on this site should be in no way used as legal advice, it’s primary purpose is to outline the processes, help you prepare and represent your self.
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