Representing Yourself in Children’s Court

One thing that gives me a sinking feeling is when I get instructions from a parent struggling to see their children.  I almost never agree that it is proper to prevent one parent from seeing their children after a relationship has broken down.

If the dispute goes to court it becomes an expensive way to eat into your savings.  Savings that could be better spent on the financial needs of the children.  Often times, to avoid the costs of paying a lawyer, many parents decide to represent themselves at court.  This is very daunting as many people have never been to court before  much less for an emotive issue such as seeing their child.

It is, in my view, advisable to get professional representation when dealing with the court system.  However, for those who can’t afford it, I just wanted to highlight that good manners are very important when representing yourself in children proceedings – second only, I’d say, to a solid understanding of the law involved.

In a previous post I gave some tips on how to avoid court proceedings altogether.  You can find that post here.  If, however, you have no option but to go to court by yourself, you might want to bear the following 4 points in mind:

1) Don’t Involve the Children

The court takes a dim view when adults involve the child in the dispute between parents.  So that means; No name-calling, No searching questions; and No snide remarks about the other parent.   If possible, try to avoid talking to your child about the other parent.  It may help to work on set phrases that you can easily roll out if your child has any questions about the effects of your separation on their relationship with you.

2) No Multimedia

Many parents come to my office with some sort of pre-recorded evidence that they wish to show the judge.  In my experience, judges do not look at mobile phone footage during a court hearing.  If you absolutely wish to get your footage shown then think about taking a snap-shot of the most relevant part.  If you attach it as a photograph to a statement explaining what it is then you may have more luck with introducing it into the case.

3) Ask permission

In children’s court most actions cannot be taken without the court’s permission.  So you usually cannot just send in Statements or more evidence without asking the judge first.  Often, sending the information to court with a covering letter asking permission to use it may be enough.  I know – the judge will already have seen it at the time you ask – but that’s just the way it works.  If the judge says no, just take it on the chin and think of another way to get your point across.  In child proceedings the judge that starts the case usually tries to keep it in his/her caseload – this helps with continuity.  So try to build a rapport with the judge as best you can and make a note of how s/he thinks as this will help you to plan the case going forward.

4) Silence is Golden

It can be very frustrating when representing yourself in court.  Please bear in mind, however, that you are not allowed to discuss children cases with all and sundry.  In fact, there can be serious legal consequences if you discuss the case with someone who is not involved in the case.  Remember point (2) above.  Imagine your ex coming to court waving a snap-shot of your facebook page where you’re giving a no-holes barred update of the goings on in your case.  Not nice.  So get professional help if you need to – and there are many free organisations out there – but try to keep a lid on your emotions.  It will serve you better in the long-run.

Good Luck!

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Rachel Toussaint is a Consultant Solicitor at Rogols Consultancy, Birmingham UK.  She is a human rights advocate especially as it relates to immigration, family law & civic duty.  She is also a consultant for small businesses and entrepreneurs. In her blog she shares legal tips to empower clients to quickly and effectively resolve their legal disputes. http://www.racheltoussaint.wordpress.com

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 Images courtesy of Free Digital Photos

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About Rachel Toussaint
Headed by Solicitor, Rachel Toussaint, we are a dedicated boutique niche law practice specialising in immigration for people who wish to come to the United Kingdom to visit friends or relatives; to study; to work or start a business; to join family members or people who are already in the UK and wish to stay here. We will carry out an initial free telephone assessment of your status and advise you on the best way forward to acheive your desired outcome. We have particular expertise in immigration that involves human rights and European law as it applies to the UK. Call 0121 448 9255 for your free "Immigration Status Check".

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