Separation and Divorce

Separation and divorce - First Aid Kit

Children need ongoing reassurance from their parents that the children were not responsible for the divorce. They need a truthful explanation of the divorce i.e. what will happen and where they stand but not unnecessary details. They need to be reassured by both parents by consistent contact through visits, and phone calls. Parents should avoid criticism of the other parent to the child or in the presence of the child. Try not to use the child as a messenger between parents. You will need to move quite quickly in four areas: Any money left in joint bank accounts is often removed by a hostile spouse and in some cases men have been left with large credit card debts which only they have to pay. Stopping standing orders may appear mean, but any money paid to your ex after she leaves is not taken into account by e.g. the CSA, so you will have to pay later and there is no point paying twice. Men in crisis need someone to talk to, think of this person as like a training coach, so contact recommended organisations. You may want to review your working status. Basically if you are a father and you are working then expect to get fleeced. On the other hand if you are not working (like 79% of the lone mothers) then you get free legal-aid, dental treatment, etc etc etc. If you can't beat them then join them. Many separated men have gone overseas to work.

It is worth reading the below advice which was sent to us:
Advice from a father

Dealing with divorce / separation out of court

Staying out of the courts is a good option. Lawyers get paid more the longer a case goes on. It is therefore financially in their interests to provoke as much problems as possible. Remember that as a man there is little chance of getting justice through the courts. It may be possible to get more contact and spend less money by negotiating directly with the mother. Mediation may help here. Remember to get all agreements in writing and witnessed if possible. Remember that the agreement may not stand in any future court case. Remember also that a mother may choose not to honor an agreement, at anytime, for any random reason even when it is an agreement that she devised and wrote. However even a court order is not a protection against this kind of behavior since mothers regularly flout court contact orders with impunity and judges rarely do anything about this [Telegraph 8-Sep-96].You probably have three choices is dealing with the matter out of court: Negotiation normally relies on accepting crumbs of contact now and building this up later. Mediation is useful when both parties are hostile, but both parties will need to compromise. Brinkmanship is risky and depends on the mother having a conscience. However court orders are pretty risky too because they are often breached and very rarely enforced. Basically you can ask the mother for a reasonable deal and if she does not give you this then walk away. This may sound extreme, however don't forget that fathers have fought for years in the courts and have had no contact whatsoever.The advantage of brinkmanship is that you can often end up with good (i.e. equal) contact with any children.

Dealing with divorce / separation through the courts

What to do before court

1) You are stongly advised not to use a solicitor or barrister. Do not deal with the opposing solicitors on the telephone, if you do make sure you tape record it. Always tape record all dealings with officials from the family courts. This should include any interviews made with your children.

Prepare your case very thoroughly. Prepare for and expect false accusations especially if your ex is using lawyers. Every possible way of blackening your name must be examined and a way of countering this prepared. Always try and have evidence and backup witnesses for everything you are going to say in court.

You are advised to be a litigant in person in the court. You are best advised to take a 'McKenzie' friend who has experience of the courts and who can advise you before you go to court. If you do not know anyone to act as a McKenzie friend then an organization called LIPS can help arrange a McKenzie friend for you. To make sure the McKenzie friend is accepted take to court a piece of paper stating:

A friend in Court, in the XXXXX court, Matter no. xxxxx.
To the Clerk of the Court:
At the hearing before xxxxx on xx date it is my intention to act in person and be accompanied by a friend. Litigants in person are entitled to the presence of a friend arising from the following:

In order to avoid unnecessary delay on the day of the hearing, please will you place this letter before the court and confirm to me that there is no objection to my proposed course of action.
Signed xxx (litigant in person).

2) Always try to remember that a father has as much right to have contact with the children as the mother.
3) Be whiter than white in the eyes of the children, judge, court welfare service, any other relevant party.
4) Remember that the children's act is there for all parties, not just the children, use it
5) Stand fast and try not to listen to uninformed sources, as they are often not up to date with the system. You have to fight for your right's - they will not fall at your feet.
6) Make a parenting diary and put all past details and incidents in this diary on the day they occurred. Put down a summary of all contact, and phone calls with the children and also your ex partner. This diary can be used as evidence of your track record.

Data Protection Act 1998 You are able to access all paper and computer records held on you under the data protection act. This information must also be accurate. Accessing information held under the Data Protection Act 1998 is called making a subject access request. Authorities are obliged to respond within 40 days but are not obliged to provide this information until a fee has been received. The standard fee is 10. You may wish to re-apply, enclosing the fee and specifying what information you wish. We recommend that letters are addressed to the Data Protection Officer at the relevant authority.

Directions hearing

This normally lasts 5-10 minutes. The hearing will determine what action should be taken to determine the arrangements for the children. Where children are involved they will normally order a court welfare officer.

Court Welfare Officers Report

Make sure that the court welfare officer sees you together with the children. Do not take the court welfare officers report as gospel, they have only a limited idea of the situation, with regard to your children's domestic or educational needs. There are a few books that may help:

Family court welfare work - Probation Service work brown book
Court Welfare Work: Research, Practice, and Development by Adrian James Hull university (1992) FNF office
The Court Welfare in action - research into procedures Adrian James

Be careful of some common 'Welfare Report' inversions:

he brought his child toys ('threatened to setup an alternative home'), played with his child ('overstimulated' him), fed him at mealtimes (showing the child was 'hungry'), let him fall asleep in a car on the way home ('exhausted' him), is upset at not seeing his child (is 'emotionally unstable' and/or has 'low self-esteem'), said he would take his wife to court for contact ('threatened her').

Court hearing

The court case can vary a great deal. Very much depends on how well the parents cooperate. In general it is probably best to prepare your case very well and prepare for the worst. In some cases there can be a number of false accusations such as marital rape, and child abuse. A well prepared case and being represented by someone who operates well in court is the best defence against such accusations.

The courts are supposed to decide 'in the best interests of the children'. The best case will therefore be made around well prepared arrangements for the benefit the child. i.e. stability, security, activities, meals, and school.

Remember above all that all the studies show that a child does best when it has contact with both parents. The court may try and establish the traditional contact of every other weekend and half the school holidays with the father. A good quote to dismiss this is from Mr Llwyd in the house of Lords 17-Jun-96 in the family law bill debate. He said:

"The evidence overwhelmingly points to a lack of concern by the public and the courts about children's loss of parents. Residence orders are often understood as custody and may be in favour of only one parent. The other parent may be given a contact order to visit, or be visited by, the child at weekends, for example. That is not sufficient to exercise meaningful parental responsibility. The courts are often reluctant to enforce that minimal contact."

Co-parenting plan

A joint Co-parenting plan made by the parents is clearly best to avoid any future disagreements. There are various groups that offer support to shared parenting e.g. : Share Parenting Information Group

Parental Alienation Syndrome

The Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is the systematic denigration by one parent by the other with the intent of alienating the child against the other parent. The purpose of the alienation is usually to gain or retain custody without the involvement of the father. The alienation usually extends to the father's family and friends as well.

A web site covering this subject is also available at:
Parental Alienation Site

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