Published on May 2, 2024

Family Court

If you are in or heading towards family court, it is best to be prepared. The journey can be long and draining so to be forewarned is forearmed. Court is an emotional and alien environment for most and can leave even the strongest litigant feeling bruised from the process. Have a read of the tips and suggestions below to ensure you have the best support and guidance to assist you throughout your journey, with the collective aim of reaching the best possible outcome with the least possible impact emotionally, financially and psychologically. So, here are some tips on how to survive the Family Court Process.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Support Network

At the earliest stage it is important to carefully consider your support network who collectively can support you through every area of your breakup and divorce:

  • Legal Advisor
  • Financial Advisor
  • Friend / Family Member
  • Exercise Buddy
  • Divorce Coach

Depending on your situation, for example, is it amicable?, is there abuse involved?, children?, financial issues to sort?, you may or may not need all of the above. Talking your situation through initially with a trusted professional can alleviate your concerns and together make a personalized plan of action, ensuring you have the correct support from the start.

Understand The Do’s And Don’ts

Do

  • Choose your support team with careful consideration. Do you want an amicable approach to resolution / a specialist in abuse / a specific budget? Don’t be afraid to talk about costs upfront.
  • Check if you are entitled to access a lawyer through Legal Aid.
  • Use your support team wisely! Legal advisor for legal issues – not emotional support.
  • Talk through the process with a professional who specializes in family court. Understand what each hearing means and what outcome(s) can be expected.
  • Consider a McKenzie Friend to assist with your journey if you are a LIP. Professional and experienced McKenzie Friends are a low-cost option at court and can offer significant support throughout the process and attend court hearings alongside you.
  • Keep all your correspondence child focused.
  • Remove any emotion from statements and other forms of communication. When checking your communications consider “what would the Judge think if he/she were to read this”.
  • Plan regular and consistent time in the week to concentrate on your case, including reading relevant paperwork, organizing evidence and preparing statements.
  • Know your case as well as possible.
  • Remain calm in the hearing and if you haven’t understood a question, ask the Judge to repeat for clarity.
  • Turn off your mobile phone.
  • If there is domestic abuse, request special measures in the court. This can be separate waiting areas and / or screens in the court room.
  • Arrive early (you may be required one hour early for pre-hearing discussions).
  • Keep a diary of significant events.

Do Not

  • Talk about the details of your case with anyone other than your professional support team as you could be found in contempt of court.
  • Post on social media if it relates in any way to your case.
  • Respond to any communication with anger or aggression.
  • Miss a hearing – make sure you double check your hearing date, time and venue.
  • Interrupt the Judge or argue with anyone in the court room.
  • Pull faces as the other party is giving “their side” or shout out against their narrative.
  • Film or record any part of your proceedings.
  • Discuss the case with your children or involve them in adult issues.

Mediation

Before applying to court, there is a requirement for parties to attend mediation – a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM), with the exception of those involving allegations, a history of domestic violence or concerns of child safeguarding. The Government were, until recently, consulting on mandatory mediation but has scrapped the proposal given the concerns raised about the adequacy of proposed safeguards to protect victims of domestic abuse. Please see outcome here (26th January 2024):

  • Mediation is a voluntary process and can be  a cost-effective and successful route when both parties are willing to negotiate a suitable and fair outcome for all.
  • Plan ahead and know what it is you want to achieve before the meeting.
  • Be willing to negotiate and always make suggestions with your child’s best interests in mind.
  • Understand you can take the time to consider proposals and suggestions and can return to unresolved issues at a future meeting.

Preparing For Court

The court like to see that you have tried to resolve your differences in an alternative way before issuing an application. Some applications, for example for an occupation order, prohibitive steps order or non-molestation order, do allow for court intervention immediately, to safeguard and protect the applicant as necessary.

There are numerous types of hearings in family court – not all hearings are the same. It is important to be clear on the format of each hearing, what to prepare and what to expect. Specifically, what is the aim of the hearing and what is being discussed.

  • Speak to your professional support and discuss what you would like to achieve.
  • Present relevant paperwork and evidence to the court (and the other party) in time.
  • Discuss a strategy and be open and honest about your case from the start.
  • Understand what is going to happen on the day to reduce stress and overwhelm.

Self-Care

Breakup and Divorce results in a difficult roller coaster of emotions and is thought to be the second most stressful process to go through, following the death of a loved one. Understanding the loss cycle can help you make sense of your emotions and how and why they change (sometimes so quickly), dependant on what’s happening on any given day.

  • Talk to a professional regularly to help you dial down the intensity of your emotions and reduce the overwhelm.
  • Focus on you, your health and wellbeing and exercise regularly.
  • A healthier you means a greater ability to make the right decisions at the right time.
  • Maintain healthy friendships and interests to remind you about the positive things the future holds.

Small Steps

Everyone goes through this process at different speeds, there is no “one size fits all”; however, small steps mean you are moving in the right direction. Working with an experienced Divorce Coach will enable you to get clarity on many aspects, take back control and continue to move forward towards your new, exciting and fulfilled life.

You may find this site useful as it has lots of information on what to expect at Family Court.

This video from the National Association of Child Contact Centres looks at the impact of separation on children.

This article looks Attending Court When Representing Yourself

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Choosing The Right Professional Support

Choosing the right professional support is one of the critical decisions you can make during a divorce and separation. Get it right, and you will be grateful for the rest of your life. Get it wrong, and the results can be catastrophic. It's that important.

What to look for when appointing professional support?

Ideally you are looking for professionals who are going to support you to find amicable solutions so that you can avoid the stress, costs and delays in court. There are many different experts who can help you, you may find you need more than one. Doing your homework is key and we encourage you to take your time. You will find a lot of support on this hub to help you in choosing the right professional support including: descriptions of all the professionals you can choose from, what they do, what they don't do, why you might choose them, who else they work with, tips on how to choose the right one for you and a directory where you will find many to choose from.

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