DEALING WITH FAMILY COURTS, and being a mother...
Note: The above video is based in the US but applies to the UK. Please watch and be aware this is good advise
Every case is different and unfortunately there is no consistency among court professionals, how they will react, report or deal with each case. All we can advise is there is a great deal of victim blaming, disbelief of mothers (and children) and a huge lack of knowledge on domestic or child abuse, 'old school' attitudes and fathers rights given priority. There is no doubt there is huge bias against mothers reporting abuse, especially those with little or no evidence that courts will accept.
Here are some tips
Take photos, time-dated if possible, of any injuries. Attend your doctor's surgery so they can formerly
record any injuries. Record any abuse in a diary with dates/times/location etc.
Report any unlawful incident to the police. They can provide a report to the court.
Any neighbours who heard anything can provide a witness statement.
They will probably not be allowed to give evidence of what you have told
them as this is hearsay, but can give evidence about what they
saw or heard themselves.
Always be child focused in your dealings with any court officials. State facts and back up your concerns. Educate yourself, especially on parental alienation syndrome. This is the model courts are using, its seem to be very entrenched and they may never use this term. If you are accused of being hostile to contact, this is an indication your case is heading this way.
Do not refer to your children as 'my' children. Use 'our' or 'the' children.
Refer to the father
by his name.
Provide the father with school reports, photos, medical events etc
Encourage the children to send cards for special occasions
State to court officials and in statements that in an ideal world you wish the children to have a relationship with their father.
Have photos of the father in the children rooms.
Do not talk badly about the father infront of the children, though if they express fears do not invalidate their experiences either.
Remember you are being considered guilty and have to prove your innocence in family court and/or learn to comply. This is wrong but its the reality. Understanding the way courts view mothers is a big step towards understanding the confusing and backward world you seem to have arrived in.
You need to come across as calm, reasonable, rational, fair and pleasant. This is not easy as a domestic abuse victim scared she is about to lose her children! Make as many suggestions as you can for the father to have some kind of safe contact. Indirect contact, like letters, cards, gifts, phone calls, Skype. Let the court decide on supervised contact and be aware this is often expected to progress to unsupervised. These may all be delaying tactics to keep your child safe for as long as possible. You may be lucky and the father will get bored, or you may be dealing with damage limitation.
Get support. Groups like ours, friends, family. If anyone in your life doesn't believe your experiences with court (it is unbelieveable) then you may need to avoid them for now. Domestic abuse groups, therapy and anything that helps you cope.
Some cases have used evidence that PAS etc is junk science and not admissible, though this is rare. You will need to feel confident in your knowledge and research if you follow this route, and preferably have legal representation like a good barrister. This approach has not been recently tested as far as we know though it was in Case Re L and the supporting cases (see below)
If you have any contact with the childrens father, keep all communication in writing (or recorded if face to face, like during handovers) by email, text messaging etc and keep it factual.
Learn about the Grey Rock technique-'The goal is to blend into the background, and become the most boring,
unreactive person they’ve ever met. The reason being is that if you can
quit being a source of supply for their drama and attention, they will
eventually leave you alone.'http://www.thriveafterabuse.com/going-gray-rock
If you are feeling scared by all this, know you are not alone, many of us have got through this when we thought we couldn't and you need to be there for your children. You are a good mother trying to protect your children in a system that is very difficult to navigate.
Familiarise yourself with PD12J and the new changes
from 2nd October 2017. Family courts are supposed to follow this.
Case Re L is significant because PD12J is based on this orderhttp://bura.brunel.ac.uk/bitstream/2438/5181/2/Commentary.pdf
Some good advise from the US:
10 tactics for child custody battles with sociopaths
If you’re fighting a custody battle with a sociopath, here are some tactics to follow:
1. Document, document, document.
a journal of everything that happens. Often, the craziness is so
intense that you don’t want to remember what happens. Your journal will
be important when you need to tell a cohesive story of what has been
going on with the sociopath, especially if you need to tell it long
after events have transpired. Save every scrap of paper, every e-mail,
every fax, every receipt. Develop a way of organizing the information,
whether chronological, or by topic. Keep copies in a safe place.
2. Have witnesses
is best not to deal with the sociopath alone; every interaction then
becomes he said/she said. Have a trusted friend or relative present
during child exchanges or other interactions as much as you can. You may
even want to consider tape recording and videotaping some of what goes
3. Get your own information
Do not allow the
sociopathic parent to control information about your children. Make sure
you get information directly from schools, doctors and others.
4. Hire an aggressive, competent attorney
custody cases with sociopaths are not normal cases. The sociopath will
not play by the rules. Your attorney must understand this. The sociopath
will lie in court, although his or her performance will appear
heartfelt, like he or she is “just concerned with the welfare of the
children.” The sociopath will make outrageous accusations. The sociopath
is also likely to retain an attorney who is also sociopathic.
Therefore, your attorney must be up for the challenge.
5. Do not allow lies to become part of the court record
lie. Sociopaths lie convincingly. You cannot allow unchallenged lies to
become part of the court records. Once they are, they take on the aura
of truth, and put you in a very bad position. Some lies, like
accusations of child abuse, may haunt you forever.
6. Be cautious in stating that your ex is, in fact, a sociopath
many judges really do not understand what this means to the welfare of a
child. Like the general public, many judges equate “sociopath” with
“serial killer,” and may consequently believe that you are overreacting.
So it may not be in your best interest to prove that he or she is a
sociopath. Focus on proving the behavior.
7. Stay calm in court
must present a calm, professional image when you go to court, even as
the sociopath lies. Do not allow the sociopath to make you emotional.
The sociopath will accuse you of being unstable, and you will prove it
by your behavior in court. Keep your emotions in check, at least in
front of the judge.
8. Make sure court orders are explicit
on detailed court orders. The order should not say, “parent has
visitation every other weekend.” It should specify exactly which
weekends, starting at what times, returning at what times, who is
responsible for transporting children, who is responsible for bathing
and feeding them—everything must be spelled out in detail. If there is
any ambiguity, the sociopath will exploit it.
9. Make the sociopath abide by court orders
the sociopath fails to honor the orders, do not cut him or her any
slack. Record any violation. Call the police if necessary.** Continue to
document everything that happens, because you may need to go to court
again. If you ever decide that you need to cut the sociopath out of the
child’s life, you’ll need evidence to do it.
10. Take care of yourself
will need all your resources to deal with the sociopath. Therefore,
make healthy decisions in your own life. Eat right, avoid drugs and
alcohol, get enough sleep, exercise and develop a support network. In
order to care for your children, you must care for yourself.
**Editors note-Use caution in reporting anything to the police or any other authority like social services. This can be used to show you are continuing your 'hostile' behaviour if you have no evidence.