Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Trouble With The Family Court

It’s almost difficult to know where to start because in my view there are so many problems associated with the private law family court that it’s not easy to know where to begin.
Perhaps it doesn’t matter.
My partner (who had been dragged through the family court for years simply because she’d had the temerity to leave the father of her child) once asked me a couple of years after her child had reached the age of sixteen, who from the courts is there to pick up the pieces brought about from the devastation they were subjected to from the child’s other parent, after the court process has come to an end.
And the truth is, that the courts aren’t. They consider it’s their role to make a decision and then leave you and the other parent to get on with it.
Now this is fine, when as the court’s expect, you are both reasonable well meaning parents, but of course the reality is that a number of parents just don’t fit that profile.
Even when it should or would be abundantly clear to anyone with an inquiring mind what the motives of some parents are if the court bothered to allow parents sufficient time to argue and put their case, this does not happen and children and parents are left very short changed by a system that’s meant to be about the wellbeing of the child but in my view consistently fails to do anything more than meet its own needs.
The failure of the family court to give even a cursory amount of attention to past events and allocate sufficient time to each case is in my view and I believe many parents’ views also, one of their biggest failings because the decisions made by the court are frequently made by hearing scant information which barely scratches the surface of what’s really going on.
The family court looks to Cafcass as the experts to make decisions which are in the child’s best interests. But all Cafcass really do is check that there aren’t safeguarding issues. When they check that there aren’t safeguarding issues they just check the obvious matters… in other words have either parent come to the attention of the police or authorities.
This however means that huge numbers of parents who are clever enough to avoid becoming involved with the police are free to wreak carnage in the lives of their children and ex partner’s.
Frankly Cafcass and the courts have this set view that children should see both parents throughout their minority, which in itself is not, in my opinion wrong, but when applied indiscriminately across the board without looking into the details or merits of each case far more thoroughly; merely gives rise to more problems and harm than they appear to either realise or care about.
Anyone who has ever studied human nature knows that history is one of the key or prime indicators of future events. This does not mean, of course that people don’t or can’t change, but it takes concentrated and consistent effort to change ingrained habits and habits related to how you behave and treat others, just like other habits, tend to endure.

What Does It Mean To Be A Parent?

You probably think you know all about what being a parent entails, especially if you are already one or have been so for quite some time.
It’s difficult for parents to admit to themselves or others that perhaps their parenting needs to improve in certain ways.
Every couple who are blessed with the ability to be able to produce a child automatically become parents but what actual preparation if any do couples receive when they’re expecting a child?
It’s still the case that barring physical or gynaelogical problems, pretty much any couple can give birth to a child. So physically you may be capable of producing children but does this say anything about your readiness together or singularly to give your child the type of care and nurturing environment that they need in order to grow up to be healthy, independent and reaching their potential?
If I’m honest, I know that I was not ready when I first became aware that the woman I was cohabitating with was expecting our first child together.
I look back at that time now and realise how very unprepared I was in a number of ways to take on the role of being a parent.
Just who did I think I was?
I wasn’t ready for the type of commitment with my partner and mother of my child. I wish in hindsight that I had been but the fact of the matter is that I wasn’t.
As a result of my own immaturity everyone suffered. My child suffered because I behaved in ways which lead to the break up of the relationship with the mother of my child. This meant that I didn’t see her every day, since I no longer lived with her.
I was no longer able to play the type of role that I wanted to play with my child. To be with them all the time, care for them, safeguard them, teach, play, discipline and love them.
It wasn’t long before my ex partner got a new partner and now my child was going to have a step parent.
That was very difficult to deal with and something I had never even considered when I was behaving in a manner which gave the mother of my child no option than to end the relationship.
With a new man on the scene I had to begin to grow up fast. I had to learn to stop thinking about my unhappiness and focus on helping my child cope with seeing me every weekend and coping with a man who saw things very differently than I did.
For quite some time I was in conflict with my ex and her new partner. We didn’t see eye to eye initially and to an extent I blamed my ex for getting involved with someone who smoked cannabis, which was something at one stage she would not have condoned.
But on reflection and over time I realised that when you separate, you get involved with who you get involved with and that although I didn’t like the thought of cannabis being round my child, there wasn’t a lot I could do about it.
I had to let all of those feelings go as long as my child was being cared for properly and for the most part she was.
My role was to be consistent such that my daughter always knew that when I said I was coming I invariably did so. I also made sure I played as important a role I could in my child’s health and educational needs.
It has taken me a long time to realise that your role as a parent never ends, it changes over time as your child grows and develops but once a parent always a parent – until the day you die and perhaps beyond.
My early experiences taught me many things but most of all, I learnt that as a parent you have to learn to see things from your child’s point of view. It’s no longer all about me, when you love your child it’s all about them and meeting their needs.
It involves thinking about your behaviour and the examples you are setting your child by the way you behave and about recognising that you’re in a very responsible and powerful position in relation to your child.
Being a parent is not always about doing everything right, but hopefully it’s about learning from your mistakes and being both honest enough and willing to admit where you were wrong and put what you can right.

What is a McKenzie Friend?

A McKenzie Friend is an officially accepted legal term describing people who help litigants in person (LIP’s) during or throughout their court case.
A litigant in person is merely someone who is not represented by a solicitor or legal representative.
So, how can a McKenzie Friend help litigants in person?
They can help with providing the LIP with information and practical support regarding making applications, completing forms, assisting with communication, advising on the most appropriate strategies to support the LIP’s application, writing or helping with court statements and attending court.
Can the court refuse to permit your use of a McKenzie Friend?
Well, in almost all cases LIP’s are entitled to have the support of a McKenzie Friend.
You can really only be refused under exceptional circumstances such as circumstances in which the judge decides that in the interests of justice and fairness that the LIP should not receive such assistance.
The final decision of course rests with the judge, but there is a strong presumption in favour of LIP’s receiving this support.
If you want a McKenzie Friend to accompany you to court you have to contact the court and inform them as soon as possible, including indicating the identity of the McKenzie Friend.
The proposed McKenzie Friend is required to produce a short statement or curriculum vitae outlining their relevant experience and making it clear that he or she has no interest in the case and understands both the role and duty of confidentiality.
Just so that you are aware, witnesses in court proceedings cannot be a McKenzie Friend and of course family members would not be suitable since they would likely have an interest in the case.
So, who can be a McKenzie Friend?
As a McKenzie Friend does not need to be someone who is legally qualified, they can be either lay or professional people.
What role can McKenzie Friends play at court?
McKenzie Friend’s are not allowed to speak at court(they do not have “rights of audience”) or play any part inside or outside the court with regard to the other party. Their role is confined to whispering to the LIP, prompting him or her, taking notes and helping with the organisation of court papers.
Only in exceptional circumstances may a judge grant a McKenzie Friend “rights of audience” – the McKenzie Friend would then be allowed to address the court and conduct the LIP’s case for him or her.
The McKenzie Friend role was set out clearly in the 1970 case – McKenzie Vs McKenzie.
For further information about the role please consult the Practice Note 3/2012 McKenzie Friends (Civil and Family Courts)

Valuing Absent Parents

This post may be more personal than normal because I’m going to talk a little about my background.
I grew up not with a mother and father, but with my mother because my parents separated sometime during my formative years.
I do know however, that during my first few years of life that I was attached mostly to my father.
It took me years to figure this out and I didn’t actually realise this until just a few years ago.
So why am I telling you this?
Because, I now realise many years later, just how profound those early formative years were in shaping much, if not all, of my life.
I grew up with something inside of me urging me to meet my dad. I didn’t understand it, I only knew as a teenager that I had to meet with him gain.
I did meet with him some three or four times, whilst he was alive.
For those of you who are curious about my view of him. As a person he had a magnetic personality that was hard not to warm to, but as a father he left much to be desired.
What it has taken the vast majority of my life to realise is that my first attachment was hugely significant as it is for virtually all of us in one way or another.
For me losing the person I was most attached to at early age meant that it affected all my relationships with women until I was able to fully understand what was going on inside of me.
But that’s another story!
The important thing I want to highlight in relation to this post is that (although my first attachment was with my dad)I was fortunate enough to have a mother, who did not run down or berate my father – at least not in her children’s presence.
She was not a child care professional or someone educated specifically about the needs of children, but she was incredibly warm and empathic.
Instinctively she knew and cared about her children enough to know that, she would harm us by talking derogatively about our father. Because however you look at it your children are part of you and a part of the other parent.
It would have been very easy for her to have warped our thoughts about our father but she never did and for that reason and many others we are so grateful we had the mother we did.
But what’s the significance of this for you?
It could’ve been that we grew up with our father and our mother was the absent parent, or the parent that for one reason or another we did not see.
The point I’m making is that if you have the main task of caring for your child without the other parent, it is a huge responsibility and you have to recognise that whilst your children are young you can easily warp the way they think about the other parent. But in doing so you will inevitably be harming them and your actions are highly likely to have long term negative consequences for your children.
When children don’t see the other parent, whether there’s a good reason for their absence or not, children can’t help but believe that it means that they aren’t loved and this plays havoc with their sense of security, identity, their emotional wellbeing, and mental and physical health.
Many parents feel they have a right to talk negatively about the other parent due to whatever went on in their relationship, but when you do this you’re only harming your child.
Leave them in their own good time to find out who their other parent is. In damaging their view of the other parent you also damage and undermine their view of those of the same gender as the missing parent. Whether your children are girls or boys.
To grow up to be as healthy as possible children need a sense of balance and you are best person to give them this.

What Does It Mean To Be A Father?

  • Is parenting best left to mothers or should fathers be playing a full and active part?
    Your position on this question may very well be affected by your own childhood experiences and the way your parents or main carer parented you throughout your formative years.
    Although for each of us our experiences may differ in a variety of ways, for a number of reasons, I would argue that there is a very pressing need for fathers to play an empathic, nurturing, responsible and guiding role in the lives of their children.
    In my view there are many fathers who would want to be ‘good fathers’ and play and active and supportive role with their child and the mother of their child whether they, as parents, were together or not.
    It is equally true, in my opinion, that there are lots of men out there who have physically fathered a child, but who have very little idea of how to parent them well and show virtually no commitment to learn how to improve the care they give to their children.
    Sadly, for many children there are father’s out there who show no commitment whatsoever to their child. Father’s who do not know or have no understanding of how their behaviour impacts on their children; not just currently, but more seriously in the longer term involving harmful consequences for their children’s future.
    Some of these same fathers would argue it is their right to do what they want with their children believing that they know how to treat them.
    But what does being a ‘good father’ really entail?
    I would say that it involves being with your child from their earliest moments on a consistent basis. It maybe for whatever reason that you have split up with the mother but you need to be a consistent figure in your child’s life in whatever way you can be.
    It’s no good seeing your child every day some weeks and then not seeing them again until months down the road. For a child to grow up healthily they need your consistency, which eventually becomes their ability to be consistent.
    But that’s not all they need, they need you to bear them in mind all the time. Yes, that means even when the mother is really p…ing you off; when someone cuts you up whilst driving (whether your child’s present or not); when you’re out with your mates drinking to excess or using drugs that impair your judgement; or even when you see a stunning woman that ‘knocks you off your feet’ you still have to think about them all the time, being mindful of how what you do will directly or indirectly impact on them.
    As a father one of the most important things you can do is show and tell your children how much you love them. This is not about being effeminate or weak, your children need all the love they can get and in particular whether your child is a boy or a girl they need you, their father, to show them that you love them.
    So many adults today are weaker, less healthy, less stable and secure as a direct result of the lack of love and care they received from their fathers.
    They will also need this love and demonstration of love in ways that are appropriate and that they can understand because all too often the image of men in society is one which supports the view of men being aggressive, selfish, violent and uncaring.
    It is this view which further perpetuates the view that men or fathers have less of a role to play in their children’s lives. This view hurts not only children, but fathers and mothers also.
    Your children need your maleness, your resolve and determination to guide and prepare them for adult life, but they also need your gentleness, patience and humility. They need all of what it means to be a man and a father. All fathers have masculine and feminine traits (just as women have both feminine and masculine sides) and your children require both sides of you to grow up healthy and strong.

  • When Love Turns To Hate

    Picture this scene: a woman is facing her partner and father of her children, just as she has faced him many times in the past. But today she isn’t staring at him longingly, with the look of love and affection, instead she is glaring at him with the unmistakable expresion of disgust in her eyes.When she talks to him – and that requires a major effort on her part – she can barely contain her anger and vitriol that spews from her lips. 

    Whatever has gone on or happened between them to bring about this complete turn around in her feelings, appears lost on her partner who protests his innocence and seems oblivious concerning what exactly has lead up to her sudden change of heart. For him it makes no sense, as far as he is concerned nothing has happened in the recent past to explain her total change of feelings towards him. He’s been the same as always. If anyone’s changed it’s her not him.

    Fast forward just a few weeks or even days and now the male partner has begun to respond to her in a similar way that she behaves towards him; any laughter or warm communication between them, even in the presence of their child/ren now seems for either of them ‘a bridge too far’ for them to attempt. to cross.

    The scenario is not an unfamiliar one with many couples having experienced similar types of conflict or problems.

    But whose to blame you might ask?

    Is it the woman because it sounds like she’s the one who has changed?

    Or is it the man, who has failed to recognise that something has gone on that has so effectively soured their relationship?

    Does it matter? Surely the point is that their relationship is heading in one direction – spiralling out of control, speeding towards destruction and the appropriate question for them to ask themselves is not who is to blame, but what are they or can they do about their failing relationship!

    The problem for most couples who reach this point is that they don’t as a couple recognise the dire state of their relationship soon enough. By the time it reaches the point.outlined above, it may already be too late to rectify or resolve it.

    Too many couples who face such situations go down the road of trying to find the person to blame, instead of acknowledging their individual and joint responsibilities and genuinely trying to learn from the circumstances they find themselves in.

    In our scenario above, it seems likely that the woman’s feelings will have been deteriorating over a period of time. She may have tried in some way to improve the relationship or bring her concerns to his attention but if or when this did not yield the results required she may have grown increasingly withdrawn and resentful.

    The man on the other hand may simply have expected things to continue along the same path as they have always done, with out change and incorrectly assumed that her silence or compliance meant that she was happy with things the way they were.

    One of the chief things this couple may have failed to do is to both listen to each other and communicate effectively. Couples need to appreciate that if one person is unhappy in the relationship that it needs to either change in some way or it’s unlikely to survive.

    The woman perhaps, being aware she was unhappy within it needed to take charge of it and explain what needed to happen from her point of view in order to set their relationship on a safer path. In this way it would have brought the concerns to light earlier before she became extremely dissatisfied with it.

    But this is not about blaming anyone because firstly blaming others is unhelpful and secondly because the man perhaps could have picked up from her expressions and body language that she was unhappy about aspects of the relationship and taken reposnsibility of making appropriate changes well before it reached the danger point.

    What has to be appreciated that men and women do things very differently, men generally expect women to be direct, whereas women are generally more subtle and indirect. Neither is right or wrong; it’s simply about realising that you have differences and working together in ways that respect and value each other’s differences and that result in successful negotiation and renegotiation of the relationship.

    Failure on the part of one or both to work together to resolve differences in a positive way leads inevitably to the destruction of your relationship and can be incredibly distressing to your children.

    Both parties need to demonstrate their ability to be empathic to each other as well as their children, if they are going to pave the  way to long term happy family relationships..

    What Does Good Parenting Consist Of?

    It’s important to say from the outset that there is no such thing as ‘perfect parenting.’ There is no such thing, because we are all human and have strengths as well as weaknesses.
    That being the case however, irrespective of our strengths as a parent we can all learn to be better parents or improve the way we parent our children.
    So what’s entailed in being a good parent?
    What is noted below is not an exhaustive list, but I hope it provides you with clear ideas or guides which make your job of caring for your child in the longer term easier for you and most importantly beneficial for your child/ren.
    It’s essential that you demonstrate your ability to place your child’s needs before those of your own or anyone else’s. Many parents will tell you that they put their child’s needs first, but when you take the time to explore what they do in practice, you can often find that this is not exactly true.
    This is not because parents mean to behave in this way, it’s often more to do with their lack of ability to see things from their child’s point of view. Or to separate their child’s views and feelings from that of their own.
    Parents vitally need to be empathic, such that they develop their insight to enable them to put themselves in their child’s position and act in accordance with their child’s wishes and feelings, whenever such views are in their best interests.
    Parents also need to be able to offer their children clear routines and boundaries. Children need to establish physical routines such as eating, bathing and sleeping regularly and appropriately. They, in addition, require guidance about for example what good manners entails and what type of behaviour they should seek to emulate.
    Good parenting involves being able to communicate effectively with your child such that your child knows and understands in a way appropriate to their age and level of understanding what they should and should not be doing and why this or that behaviour isn’t suitable.
    Good parenting is about meeting your child’s needs, not just today but throughout their childhood. This necessarily implies that parents need to have the ability to be flexible and remain well attuned to their child’s needs as they grow, change and develop.
    Good parenting is about keeping at the forefront of your mind what’s best for them, such that even when you don’t get on or have fallen out of love with the other parent that you still have the insight to know that how you speak about or to the other parent has a powerful impact on your child’s feelings and the type of person and parent they become.
    Being a ‘good parent’ requires you to be consistent and is often emotionally taxing and time consuming, but in the long term your investment and hard work may yield dividends and benefits that you will enjoy for a lifetime.

    The Importance of Choosing Wisely

    It may sound melodramatic at first but when you really think about it who you choose to become involved with can make all the difference between you having an unhappy, highly stressful life or at the other extreme living a life of blissful harmony.

    Which kind of life would you choose?

    Yeah, I know it’s a no brainer!

    But guess what although anybody with an ounce of sense in their head would prefer not to live a life full of conflict and misery, wouldn’t you agree that there has to be something major going wrong  since so many people seem to be making poor choices with the people they choose to become involved with.

    Well, anyone can make a mistake, I hear you grumble.

    And you’re right we can all and do all make mistakes, but then what do you say about those people who make the same mistakes over and over again, and in the process hurt others so frequently that it’s frankly imore of a habitual pattern than anything  that can even vaguely be said to resembe a mistake?

    Are you one of the people I’m talking about? Have you left a trail of emotional devastation in your wake? Or are you one of those people who have had the misfortune of getting involved with someone with a disguised poor track record.

    The problem is, it’s bad enough getting involved with certain people but hundreds of times worse to have a child with them.

    Unfortunately the truth of the matter is that there are some very dangerous people out there who are really quite unwell and if you have the misfortune of forming a union with them, you are likely to regret it at your leisure for a very long time.

    Although in relationships ‘it takes two to tango.’ some of the people you can form a relationship with are extremely skilled at hiding, who they really are behind a facade of kind or helpful behaviour.

    It’s only when you are in too deep that they begin bit by bit to expose their true nature to you knowing that their real nature would repel rather than attract you. .

    There are many different types of people suffering various forms of mental ill health and personality problems, but you can’t do much worse than become attached to someone with a narcissistic personality disorder.

    People with narcissistic personality disorders  believe they are extremely important, they have an over exaggerated notion of their own sense of importance and worth. Sadly your wants and needs or even those of your child’s just don’t feature in their  thoughts. and as you can no doubt imagine if the father or mother of your child has such an illness, they can wreak untold devastation on your child as well as on you.

    If you have ever had the experience of being involved with someone that you later discover has such an illness you are unlikely to ever forget it and are very likely to be extremely cautious next time you consider taking the risk of forming a new partnership.


    Why Childhood Is So Important?

    Do you believe you’re a good parent?

    Most parents do, no matter what they expose their child to.

    Nearly every parent likes to think of themselves as being a ‘good parent’ and they have a tendency to become upset when or if their parenting is called into question.

    Yet you probably know a number of people who will swear blind that they never stop thinking about their child and put their child first all the time, but when you take the time to explore what they are really doing you find that they love their child but engage in heated arguments with the other parent; they scream and shout at each other; drink too much get into physical fights and/or abuse drugs.

    So how can parents who behave in this way argue that they are good parents?

    In my view, parents say they are good parents because they think they are, but their view of what being a good parent entails is defective. Now it’s not defective because they are crazy, deranged people. Instead it is defective because their programme of what makes up good parenting is faulty or problematic.

    And it’s problematic because the programme of parenting they received as children was faulty or harmful.

    At this point you’re probably thinking, why is he talking about mine or other’s parenting as if we were computers with specific types of programming installed?

    Well as strange as it may sound when you are a young child, you really are like a blank computer and your parents – the people who set you examples of how you should live by the way they live their life are really offering you a parenting programme. You, like all of us, just don’t realise it because it’s so much a part of your life that you take it for granted.

    This is why children often turn out to be very much like their parents, even when they really don’t want to be.

    Have you heard the saying ‘Children are like sponges?’

    Well this is because they soak up all that their parents expose them to and the really funny thing is that lots of parents don’t realise this and wonder where their child gets this or that behaviour from.

    In later life, what your child has been exposed to on a daily basis will form part of what he or she thinks is normal. So for example if your child witnessed from his or her earliest years screaming and fighting between their parents, they are highly likely to grow up thinking such behaviour is normal and repeat it in their relationships, thereby passing on the same type of parenting programme to their chiildren.

    Your childhood then is important because what you experience or are exposed to is a type of blue print that you are highly likely to follow throughout your life unless you see the need to alter who you are and how you behave by receiving some type of therapeutic input.

    Most parents however, don’t see that there’s a problem with the way they behave and that their influence on their child may be negative and the reason they don’t see it is because the childhood or care they received during their childhood is what has been accepted as ‘normal’ to them.

    You can’t evaluate your childhood or parenting whilst you’re a child because you really have little else to compare it with . It’s only when you grow up and have seen more of life that you begin to understand that everyone’s childhood is different.

    Childhood is important because the parenting you receive can sow the seeds of disharmony or blissful happiness in later life..


    Managing Family Court Emotions

    Picture the scene, it’s a familiar one.

    You have recently split up with your partner and are still trying to survive the aftermath and turbulence of what’s gone on between the two of you. 

    This is hard enough but now you feel you have no choice but to go to court to resolve differences that you couldn’t whilst you were together, otherwise you wouldn’t be where you are right now.

    But these differences involve your child as well as you and as well as all the distress the break up has caused you now have to get your head and emotions together to ensure your child remains safe and gets the best chance to develop healthily in life.

    There are few things as emotive as how you feel about your child. On top of this however, you are going to have to manage all of your emotions and deal with matters as though you’re practically a saint, which you know you’re not because no parent is.

    And you’re going to have to do this in one of the most pressurised environments possible; whilst in court being observed, as if you were a goldfish in a dish, by the judge and other court professionals, not to mention your ex.

    Enough said?

    I think you get the picture.

    Now what can you do to help keep your emotions in check such that you present at court simply as as a parent who wants the best for your child, rather than a deranged lunatic, who should never be responsible for bringing up or having contact with a vulnerable child? 

    One of the first things to do is talk through your emotions with someone who doesn’t just see the picture from your point of view; someone who has the ability to be more neutral and certainly someone who can keep all of your child’s needs in mind.

    Even if you can’t find someone who matches those requirements, find someone who is honest and who you can express yourself to and begin letting those feelings out and get some feedback about how you sound.

    Be conscious of how you come across and remember it’s not just the words you use it’s your tone of voice, your body language, your facial expressions etc. These are all very revealing to anyone watching or hearing you.

    Just to be clear with you I’m not saying you have to robotic and show no feelings whatsoever, but you have to manage your emotions and show apporopriate feelings such as warmth, understanding and empathy at the appropriate times. Tone down your anger where possible and focus your thoughts and attention on your child at all times; at what’s in their best interests and how you are showing that you can demonstrate this consistently.

    You are unlikely to come across, as well as you could if you allow yourself to be consumed with anger and hurt about your feelings regarding your ex partner and what you feel he or she has done to you.

    You need to draw a line under these feelings and let them go. Do not allow yourself to be drawn into verbal abuse and slanging matches with your ex.

    Tell yourself it no longer matters what he or she thinks. What matters is what you do for your child and how well you manage your emotions such that your child can grow up experiencing seeing you as someone who is happy,calm, clear and focussed on their wellbeing.

    You can do few better things than let your child see you as a happy person who loves them. The benefit for him or her will last a lifetime and beyond to your grandchildren and theirs.