7 things to do to max your chances in your court case –


  1. Introduction
  2. What can I do if I have no money?
  3. 7 things to max your chances
    1. Stay whiter than white
    2. Don’t post on social media
    3. Keep your documents in good order
    4. Be clear about what you want
    5. Don’t waste time rebutting your ex’s allegations
    6. Have a plan
    7. Don’t give up
  4. Conclusion

Introduction

Speak to many people (mainly the ones who are unhappy with the outcome of their own case) will tell you that there is no such thing as justice and whoever can afford the most expensive solicitor wins.

This quote seems to sum it up:

Justice is expensive. That is why there is so little of it, and it is reserved for those few with enough money and influence to afford it.”

― Naomi Novik, Black Powder War

An eye-wateringly high hourly rate, an expensive suit, a cultured voice, a big expensive office and an intimidating letter head can be impressive and create a feeling of success, confidence and ability. But there are no guarantees in court, even if you’re seeing these things.

You could be forgiven for thinking that if you don’t have a large sum of money available to spend on legal fees you’re doomed: It doesn’t matter how strong your case is…you’re going to lose. Badly.

Fortunately – it isn’t as simple as that.

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What can I do if I have no money?

If you’re feeling beaten before the first court hearing (or even if you are halfway through your case there is some good news.

Very good news.

Here at Family Law Assistance we have a mantra: `The magic is in the prep’. It isn’t glamorous, it isn’t dramatic, it isn’t obvious. It’s something that doesn’t rely on clever legal arguments, arcane case law that turn the case on a penny or a `gotcha’ moment that leaves the court room in a stunned silence that would give a Hollywood court drama a run for it’s money.

This advice is seriously boring. But also seriously useful.

A few simple habits can make a difference. I’m not going to guarantee that this is going to win your case. But it is going to make your life a lot easier and present your case in a better light than it would do if you don’t do them. Regardless of whether you have a solicitor or not.

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7 things to max your chances

Ok – so here’s the good bit. If you’ve got no money, no legal background and no idea about what to do there are still things you can do max your prospects in your family court case. These tips are practical, simple and powerful.

Here we go…

1.) Stay whiter than white.

I’m stating the obvious here but I’m shocked by the number of people who do and say stuff that is going to look awful in court. I get it. People are emotional, upset and not thinking straight. But that angry email to the ex telling them what you think of them? That decision that clearly wasn’t child-focused but rather to punish the ex? That angry exchange at a handover?

They almost certainly will come back to bite you.

Ask yourself when acting or speaking whether you’d be happy to be cross-examined by your ex partner’s hostile barrister while you are on the stand while the judge pays particular attention. It’s the barrister’s job to paint their client’s argument in the best possible light and yours in the worst. Don’t hand them the ammo they’re going to fire at you!

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2.) Don’t post on social media

Kinda related to the previous point. If it’s on the internet, it’s in public. It doesn’t matter how careful you are about who is on your friend list. It doesn’t matter if you don’t mention your ex by name. It doesn’t matter if you use an anonymous account.

At worst you’re letting your ex muddy the waters in your case. At best you are handing them even more ammo to use at you.

It’s common to see Facebook posts with incriminating words, videos, memes and more in trial bundles and litigants to be cross examined on them. They can be absolutely devastating to your case. The gold standard is to post nothing at all on your timelines. If you do post though – ask yourself if it’s going to look good or bad in court. If you’re not sure…don’t post.

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3.) Keep your documents in good order

Speak to Michaela Wade and she’ll talk about `the Tesco carrier bag of life’! Keeping legal documents in a plastic bag is not recommended – but we’ve seen it happen.

You probably know this already, but paperwork is an unfortunate aspect of a court case. There can be a lot of it and it’s common for feel overwhelmed by more documents than you ever thought (or wished) you’d see in your life. Trial bundles may be limited to 350 pages in most cases, but there is often far more than you’re going to see in the lifetime of your case. Application forms. Orders. Statements. Reports. Correspondence. And much, much more.

It’s not unknown for litigants to turn up with a bag of paperwork and say to a judge during a hearing – I have a document you really need to see, hang on a moment – while everyone in the court waits. Often, in that scenario the judge won’t allow this at all…meaning that you could miss out on a key piece of evidence.

If you’re doing it yourself, here’s a few tips:

  • Buy an A4 ring binder and a pack of dividers. Label the dividers A, B, C, D, E, etc. and put them in the binder.
  • Each section will have the documents in chronological order; oldest at the front, nearest at the back.
  • Section A will be pretty empty at this stage, but I recommend you create a chronology of events that goes into it.
  • Section B will be completed application forms and orders.
  • Section C is for statements – both yours and your ex’s. If you have a current statement, it’ll go in Section A – but you won’t have that until a hearing comes around.
  • Section D contains reports. CAFCASS. Social services. Medical. Police. That sort of thing.
  • Section E is compromised of correspondence and other documents – that’s correspodence with ex’s, their solicitor & anyone else. Documents that don’t belong anywhere else.
  • Section F is for correspondence with the Court and CAFCASS.

Do this and you’ll be shocked how the snowdrift of paperwork suddenly becomes very, very useful. it’s also the basis of a trial bundle if you have cause to put one together. These sections are laid out in the `rules’ where bundles are concerned – Practice Guidance 27A.

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4.) Be clear about what you want

An ugly house - if you don't know what you want...why would anyone else?If you wanted a new house you wouldn’t say to the builder `Build me a house’ and leave it at that. You’d be discussing what kind of house you want. How many bedrooms. Where the windows were. The floor plan. Leave it to your builder and you’re almost certainly going to end up with something different to what you had in mind. Your builder may be good…but he isn’t a mind reader.

The same goes when it comes to making an application to the court.

If you’ve applied to court and you’re saying things like `I want as much contact as possible’ or `I don’t really know if the court can do this but…’ – you don’t know what you want. And the court is going to do it’s best to tease out of you what you’re looking for – but it probably isn’t going to give you want you want.

Without a legal background it’s understandable that you don’t know the powers available to the court (one of the 7 points listed in the Welfare Checklist) but a good thing to do is think what is in the best interests of your children in a clear. considered and positive manner.

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5.) Don’t waste time rebutting your ex’s allegations

For whatever reason, allegations of bad behaviour in the family court are rife. Emotions are high which means people often aren’t on their best behaviour. And the more cynical among us will say that mudslinging is a thing and it is often rewarded in family law proceedings.

Either way – there’s a very simple way of dealing with an allegation that isn’t true:

Say they didn’t happen and move on.

Be clear and unambiguous. But don’t waste precious time (in a short hearing in an overloaded court system) furiously defending yourself or trying to prove your ex is wrong instead of setting out the case why what you want ordered is in the best interests of your children.

The Court is aware allegations are made every day. If it feels it is relevant it can ask you about them or even order a Fact Finding hearing to investigate them. It’s normal to want to `set the record straight’ but the goal is what is best for your children, right?

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6.) Have a plan

Don’t be reactive. That is – don’t wait for your ex, the court or anyone else to decide what is going to happen. Work on it yourself. Show initiative.

If you are asking the court to make an order for the children to be with you for the majority of their time, come up with something so that you can actually faciliate that – there is no point in making an application for this and then saying to the judge (after he/she has asked how you will manage this) saying something like `Erm…I’ll speak to my boss to see if I can get flexible working to make this happen). Or having a home that doesn’t accommodate your children and saying you’ll work it out after the court orders things in your favour.

It may seem unfair. But the court can only work with the current situation – not the one you want to happen.

Similarly if you believe that the children need to see your ex partner in a contact centre…what happens after that? Come up with a schedule that moves beyond – unless you seriously believe that the children are best served by the seeing the children in one until they are 16 years old.

The point here is – you either have a vision to make something happen or the court may decide to go with someone else’s. Which is either your ex’s or the court’s.

What is to be?

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7.) Don’t give up

It isn’t over until the final order is made. And even when it is – there is almost always the option of another application in the future. I’m not suggesting for one moment you should be planning your ex case at every given opportunity. It’s just that the option is there.

Any hearing (other than a final one) isn’t the last word. You may be unhappy with what has happened and what was ordered. But it’s important to realise that all orders are made on an interim basis until you get to that final hearing. You may emerge from a hearing shellshocked, upset and feeling it is pointless, that you haven’t been listened to and your children’s best interests are not being served.

But you can walk away to fight another day.

After that bruising experience, take time to let the dust settle and to think about what happened. It may be – after reflection – it makes much more sense and without the heat of the emotion you will look at things in a slightly more neutral way than you did on the day itself.

If you give up, there is nothing to stop you returning to it at some point too. It will likely be more difficult – because if you’ve walked away from your children or the court process for a period you will be asked what has changed and it will be considered if you are likely to do it again.

But few things are forever.

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Conclusion

None of these ideas will guarantee the result you want. Then again, even the best solicitor or barrister in the world can, either. Whether you use those or represent yourself these points will undoubtedly help your case.

It’s easy to get caught up in it all and feel overwhelmed by the process: That’s why many people choose to pay someone to represent them rather than do it themselves.

But at the end of the day, the message is plain: You usually have the power to make or break your own case!





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