How to lose friends and alienate people in a family court case...
Family law often feels like it is more of an art than a science. There are few guarantees. Lots of variables. And a hefty dose of catching the right judge at the right time.
But there are a few sure fire ways to help or hinder your case. And these ways have nothing to do with statute, case law, practice direction or anything else that is the remit of legal professionals. In short they're common sense. Although in my experience of a decade plus of assisting litigants in court you'd probably be shocked how often I feel that I'm trying to metaphorically wrestle a gun out of someone's hand while they're doing their best to put a bullet through their own foot.
Here are a few basic - but shockingly common things people do to damage their own cases...
Number one: Give up
The absolute best way, guaranteed to achieve nothing. Say the courts are biased, that they won't enforce their own orders, listen to what your mates say and decide to save yourself the hassle. It doesn't matter if these are all true.
But if you only do one thing to fail...this is it.
Number two: Talk about your case on social media
It's a winner! You'll give your ex ammunition to use against you (and his/her solicitor too), possibly give them a heads up against what your situation is and allow them to spend the entire hearing discussing this rather than stuff like contact. It'll irritate the court too. It may even cause you to face contempt of court charges.
...but you at least you can say you had your say. You haven't lived until you're being cross examined by a pointy barrister asking you why you described the other parent of your child in a less-than-friendly manner with a judge looking on with interest.
Number three: Label your ex as a narcissist or a parental alienator
You may be in court to discuss contact and not your ex partner's mental state. You may not be a qualified psychologist, nor appointed by the court or an impartial figure. But you can use the time to pin a label on your ex.
Bonus points for taking in news clippings to back up your views but the court won't be interested in them.
Number four: Fighting fire with fire/`telling the court like it is'
You've been labelled as angry, aggressive and contrary - and to show the court this isn't the case you're going to fight everyone. Every step of the way. You're going to counter allegation with allegation. Do things `on principle'. Do stuff to see how your ex partner likes it. Tell the court what you think of it.
You won't get contact or time with your children...but at least you didn't bow down to anyone.
The Jerry Springer-style wrap up
The family law courts are full of angry and upset people. It's quite possible that you're one of them and reading this has made you angry and upset.
But the courts are set up to deal with angry and upset people...it's something they're really good at doing. As always - it's all about focus. What are you in court for in the first place?
Think carefully before you act.