Going to court: A parents perspective

Posted on Sunday, 30th Aug, 2015 at 06:42:45 PM
What happens in court?
Its stressful so be prepared.
For many people care proceedings are the first time they have been in court . They may have an idea from watching courtroom dramas on TV , after a couple of hearings they quickly realise that the programmes are nothing like the family court.

I can best describe the stress as similar but more severe than attending a very important job interview. In fact it is the same only that you are being assessed as being a suitable candidate to still parent your children, rather than an alternative candidate whether its the local authority or a family member taking over the care of them.

Just as you would for a job interview, work out the route to court and how long it will take you to get there. Dress smartly but comfortably. If you bring someone to support you make sure they are someone who will calm you down. If your hearing is early in the morning it may take another 15 minutes or so to get through security so factor this time in as well.

You should be able to find your solicitor,and barrister if you have one who after talking briefly to you and passing any paperwork to you will then be likely disappear to talk the other lawyers in an advocates meeting. Look at the paperwork and see if there is anything you disagree with. The court waiting area may be very busy and if your solicitor has found a private room it may be a good idea to stay in it. After the advocates meeting your lawyer will come back to talk to you and this is when you should point out anything wrong in the paperwork.

Rarely do you actually go into court at the appointed time, there is normally at least an hours wait quite often more and your stress level may rise at this time. It is useful to do something distracting or some relaxation exercises such as deep breathing or simply slowly counting to ten then counting back to one. It pays not to drink coffee as this as the same effect on the body as anxiety does. Keep well away from anyone who may upset you such as social workers or your ex mother in law for example.

When you are called into court ,it is in a rush so no time to pop to the loo or phone your Mum. Your phone must be switched off not put on silent.

Going into the court room
Normally when you go in the judge will not be there , but there will be between one or two members of court staff. You will be told where to sit . If you only have a solicitor you will sit directly behind them. If you have a barrister, sometimes called counsel, as well they will sit in front of your solicitor and the solicitor will sit next to you. After a couple of minutes one of the court staff will go and ask the judge to come in. As the judge comes in they will bow and everyone bows back. The judge will not be wearing a wig and normally does not wear robes but will occasionally. Judges are quite often middle aged men. They can be abrupt in their manner to both the lawyers and you. All hearings are recorded so be very careful what you say even as you leave the courtroom.

The local authority solicitor or if they have a barrister will stand up and will introduce everyone to the judge at least at the initial hearing.It all feels very formal and intimidating.

The judge is addressed differently according to what level of court you are in . Do not worry about this, you will soon catch on and you do not have to talk anyway at this stage. The local authority lawyer will make a speech to the judge , then the other lawyers will. The judge will ask some questions. It is a good idea to take a notepad to note down anything you disagree with. You communicate with your lawyer by tapping them, gently, on the back then pass them the note.

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