As a grandparent how can I obtain parental responsibility for my grandchild? By Claire Colbert

Claire Colbert, Lawyers blog As a grandparent how can I obtain parental responsibility for my grandchild?

By Claire Colbert, Freeths LLP

As a grandparent you do not have parental responsibility for your grandchild.  The parents would normally have parental responsibility and as a result are able to make the decisions about the day to day care and welfare of the child unless the Court makes an alternative order.  Therefore unless you make an application to the Court, or the parents agree, your grandson would need to return to his parents’ home.

To make an application to the Court you would initially need to apply for “leave” which means the right to ask the Court to be heard about this issue.  This is normally granted for grandparents when a grandchild is living with them or there is a dispute about where the grandchild would live.  In some situations if there are serious welfare concerns about how parents are caring for children, social services can also intervene and this may be an option to consider.

If a court application is made by either you, the parents or social services, when deciding where your grandson should live, the judge will use the welfare checklist set out in the Children Act 1989 to make his or her decisions.  This checklist requires consideration of:

  • The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child.
  • The child’s physical emotion and educational needs.
  • The likely effect on the child if circumstances change as a result of the Court’s decision.
  • The child’s age, sex, background and any other characteristics which would be relevant to the Court’s decision.
  • Any harm the child has suffered or may be at risk of suffering.
  • The capability of the child’s parents (or any other person the Court may find relative) in meeting the child’s needs.
  • The powers available to the Court in the given proceedings.

Each case is determined based upon the specific child’s welfare which is paramount.  The Court will not make an order unless it is necessary and deemed appropriate.

If an application is made to the Court and social services has  been involved with the family they may be asked to write a report having met with all parties concerned including the child. If social services has not been involved, and if the child’s welfare is at risk, it may be that a CAFCASS officer will be appointed to meet with the child, the parties involved and prepare a report to the Court.

Claire Colbert is a Family Law Partner at  Freeths LLP. To find out more about mediation, court applications and parental responsibility visit www.freethsoxford.co.uk/children

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I am a kinship carer plus – so they say

Alice Taylor (Award June 2016)I am a kinship carer plus-so they say.

My name is Alice Taylor, I’m 53 years old and a mother to three adult children.  When my eldest daughter fell pregnant it was just as we were moving home. It was a rocky road from the beginning. I remember it well, at the antenatal clinic my daughter was being asked if she wanted to keep the baby. I said to her, “if you keep the baby it is your responsibility to look after it” -oh how I was wrong.

When my grandson was 6 months old, my daughter was sectioned. She went in and out of hospital for the next four years. In October 2012 my daughter was sectioned again, and it was then I realised she would never be able to look after her son on her own. I felt under pressure and reduced my working hours as my health was deteriorating. Eventually, we ended up with a private arrangement with the paternal grandparents to share care of my grandson.

Two years later I decided to leave work to be a full-time carer for both my daughter and grandson. It was a scary time and I wasn’t sure I was doing the right thing.

On 25 December 2015, my mum passed away – it was a real shock. During this time, my dad also moved in due to his ill health and I became an unofficial carer for my ex-husband. Looking back to when I said ‘yes’, I don’t think I really understood what ‘yes’ involved.

As time passed, I began to notice that something was not quite right with my grandson’s behaviour. A teacher at the school was a great rock and knew how to handle him.  Sadly in September 2016, his teacher retired and our new puppy died. His behaviour deteriorated very quickly and the school were unable to cope; which lead to him being excluded for a short period. Thanks to the head teacher going the extra mile, my grandson was diagnosed with ADHD and went on medication.

I first joined the Relative Experience Programme in October 2013. On that day I was saved – it was like an angel had been sent from heaven. At the time I did not know I was classed as a kinship carer, and I was informed about befriending. I agreed to accept help, and have not looked back.

The Relative Experience Programme truly saved my life. After receiving support from my second befriender, I then went on to volunteer with the programme.

I was grateful to have found someone that listens. My befriender gave me the chance to offload, clear my head and talk about the people around me. I don’t always feel I’m able to talk to friends and family freely about my kinship care situation so being able to share my worries was wonderful. My befriender also helped me with practical issues and shared ideas in a non-judgemental way. I felt supported which boosted my confidence, especially when managing my grandson’s behaviour.

At the moment, my grandson is doing really well and is also performing better in school. He is making friends and developing social skills, all of which is a remarkable achievement.

Alice Taylor started befriending with Relative Experience in August 2014, she went on to receive a North Tyneside Council Chairman’s Commendation Bronze Award in June 2016.  Alice received the award in recognition of the invaluable befriending support she has given to kinship carers and for the time she’s given to the development and running of the Wallsend support group.

 Alice also received Volunteer of the Year from VODA (Voluntary Organisations Development Agency) in November 2015 for work with The Relative Experience Programme.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Kinship Care Matters

It’s election time: Kinship Care Matters

By Lucy Peake,CEO, Grandparents Plus

FH000030Elections have a way of dividing people – red or blue, in or out – but with every election there’s also the chance to come together and speak out about what matters to us.   That’s why throughout this election period, Grandparents Plus is working with the Kinship Care Alliance, to put kinship care on the agenda, and fight for a fair deal for children and kinship carers across the country.

Through our advice service and Relative Experience programme, we speak to kinship carers every day.  The stories we hear are depressingly similar – too many kinship carers are struggling financially and are unable to get the support they need to give children the safe and stable homes they deserve.  Our 2017 survey shows that 52% of the children in kinship care have experienced parental abuse or neglect, and over half have special needs.  Yet getting the help they need to thrive is all too often dependent on untangling red tape and challenging a system that doesn’t fully recognise them.  When you consider the fact that there are 200,000 children in kinship care – over twice as many as in local authority care, it’s pretty clear: too many children are falling through the net, carers are fighting tooth and nail to make ends meet, and it has to stop.

Earlier this week Janice, a grandmother who’s taken on care of her two grandsons, came to visit us in the office.  Two years ago, she was at breaking point, having fought to keep the children out of care while her daughter battled complex issues.  She describes how she had no one to turn to, struggled to cope and lived in constant fear of losing the boys forever.  Janice called our advice service, and thankfully found the lifeline she needed to get back on her feet.  Her grandsons are thriving, and Janice is now running kinship coffee mornings to help reach and support other carers in her area.  Hearing her passion when she says that no one should go through what she did is a reminder both of the thousands of other families like hers who are struggling alone, and how better recognition of kinship care would change everything.

Together, we can put an end to the isolation and fear, and let these children know that they matter.  Get involved and push for change with your local parliamentary candidate using the link here.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Reading with children during the school holidays

HartyReading with the children during the school holidays

We understand that grandparents play an active role in childcare during the school holidays, and when trying to decide on activities to keep your grandchildren entertained, it is always nice to find something that they will enjoy which also benefits their education.

Reading books is the perfect example of this, as not only does it improve their literacy skills, it also keeps them engaged, and gives you some much-loved quality time with them if they are young enough to require some help.

However, encouraging children to read when they consider it to be school work can be a challenge, so we’ve put together some tips for making it a pleasurable activity for them.

Five reading tips during the school holidays 

  • Providing your grandchildren with space to read is an important step in encouraging them to do so. Try creating a comfortable reading nook for them in a bedroom or living room with plenty of blankets and snacks. Or make a reading den in the garden if the weather permits.
  • Being able to choose their own books really encourages children to get reading, so take a trip to the local bookshop or library and let them decide on what they want to read, as suggesting books to them can make reading them feel like a chore.
  • It doesn’t have to be books that children read over the holidays, a magazine or comic is just as beneficial, and may also include extra activities to keep them occupied and engage their brain in their time away from school.
  • Encouraging your older children to read to their younger siblings or cousins is a great way to make them feel grown-up, and gives them the opportunity to share stories and have a lovely bonding experience.
  • Add a competitive edge to reading during the school holidays by offering small prizes for the number of pages, or books, read in a given time. Some libraries also hold their own reading challenges over the holidays so it might be worth investigating this too.

By following these tips you can ensure that your grandchildren spend at least some of their school holiday reading, and hopefully learning that reading books is a fun and worthwhile hobby too.

Sasha Davison is Marketing Manager at BuZZy Friends Productions, creators of the BuZZy Friends children’s rhyming book series written by Michael Walter for children aged 3-5+.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Putting my best foot forward

file-1  Putting my best foot forward

By Eleanor Nderitu

Late last year I decided to take up the challenge and run the Brighton Marathon – I thought I had months to train and to get in shape but somehow the big day is just around the corner. The year before last, I took part in a half marathon which I thought would put me in good steed– oh how I was wrong!

As it turns out, being a first time marathoner is a far bigger challenge than I had anticipated. Training has been eventful to say the least. I spent last weekend running around in circles trying to dodge hailstones and wound up getting lost in Epping Forest. Lucy, our CEO who I talked into running with me has sustained a few cuts and bruises along the way too.

All I can think about now is crossing that finish line in one piece. This weekend, I managed to clock up 16 miles (without getting lost) which was a real confidence booster in itself.

Moments after I completed this weekend’s run, I grasped both knees in sheer agony and thought to myself: why am I doing this?  The more I train, the more I start to agree, that running is nothing more than a series of arguments between the part of your brain that is determined to keep going and the other that desperately wants to stop.

But I do know why I am putting myself through all the training and rising to the challenge. I joined Grandparents Plus last September and I am astonished at the fantastic work that the charity does. Daily, I’m taken aback by the stories from grandparents and other kinship carers whose lives the charity has touched.

Our Advice & Information Service means grandparents and family carers do not face financial and parenting struggles alone. Everyday, Jo and Nicola, who work on the advice line, assist kinship carers in a range of ways, from offering professional advice to information and casework support-the work they do is life changing.

In my role I have the pleasure of speaking to kinship carers and many tell me about the huge difference speaking to our advice team has had on their life. Many talk about the advice line being their ‘lifeline’. Lucy and I have set ourselves a goal of raising £5,000 that will go towards our Advice Line – if we reach our target we will be able to reach another 250 kinship families.

But we need your help to reach our ambitious target!

The work we do depends on charitable donations. There are 200,000 kinship carers raising 300,000 children in the UK. Last year, we obtained 101 grants for families and helped 31 kinship families to go on their first short break together in over 4 years, supported by Family Holiday Association. These are just some of the ways we helped families struggling to cope – this year we want to do more!

If four people donate £5 each we can reach another kinship care family.

To make donation click here http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/grandparentsplus 

We really appreciate all your support and thank you for any donations.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Kinship Care – do you care?

With Aunty BethKinship Care-do you care?   

By Mathew Douglas Trueman

I was very fortunate as a child to have a very stable and loving upbringing – from the age of 10. Prior to that, things were difficult, including a stint in foster care. From age 10 onwards, I was part of a loving, stable family (cancel the violins playing!). However, I wasn’t aware until recently, that I was brought up in Kinship Care – the term used when non-parental relatives such as Aunts/Uncles or Grandparents raise their niece/nephew or grandchild. To me, it’s just my family.

On reflection, my family made a great number of sacrifices for me. My 16 year old Cousin moved her bedroom into the dining room so I had a place to call my own, my Aunt and Uncle took on an increased mortgage to move to a 3 bedroom house (along with all the other financial burdens an extra child brings). Plus – I came with a whole load of baggage when I first moved in (I’ll spare you the trauma). Now – I would describe myself as a relatively ordinary person who contributes to society while holding down a job and caring for my family. I doubt I would be any of those things had my ‘Kinship’ family not stepped in.

Kinship Care doesn’t always result from bad parenting. Many times there is a parental death or severe health issues (or both). And even if it is down to poor parenting – so what? Every child deserves the best opportunities, despite the circumstances they are born into. Kinship Care is on the rise in Britain, and unless you have lived through it, you may not appreciate the nuances and difficulties that come along with it.

Today, in Teesside, there are many families who aren’t as resilient as mine were in order to handle the situation. They struggle with a lack of income, inadequate housing, and a lack of access to other resources such as legal advice (very important).

Find out more

Kinship Carers Middlesbrough are a group run by local Kinship Carers. If you know a family in the area that could benefit from help and advice, or if you have something you can offer/donate to kinship carers – they can be contacted through this Facebook page:www.facebook.com/kinshipcarersmiddl…

The Relative Experience Project provides support to grandparents and other relatives who are bringing up a relatives child. All kinship carers are able to access support and information from trained volunteers who will help with the challenges of raising a child.

If you would like to get in touch with the team telephone  0191 2572504 or email relative.experience@gmail.com 

or visit the website at https://relativeexperience.wordpress.com/

Feel free to share this post and raise awareness of Kinship Care. It comes from a real person, talking about real people, who need real changes in order to give their children the best they can. Put them in touch with Kinship Carers – they really care.

Many thanks to the ongoing work of Charlie Saunders, Elizabeth Stanton, Mari Dilworth.

Special Thanks to Elizabeth Walker-hebborn and Sonya Louise Dowd for caring for me.

 

1 year before mums death

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Healthy eating habits for your grandchildren

Blog post eating habitsHealthy eating habits for your grandchildren

by Helen Burgess and Kate Veale, Little Cooks Co

The love, support and knowledge that grandparents bring to family life is absolutely crucial but, in our view, too often overlooked and under appreciated. There is an army of grandparents who have a dependent child living with them, and the childcare provided by grandparents has been estimated to be worth billions- though this is too rarely recognised in the public debate about childcare provision and costs.

We understand the powerful role you play in your grandchildren’s lives.  We were both taught how to cook by our grandparents and their wisdom and guidance is what shaped the passion we have for food and healthy eating today.  But not only this, the times we spent in the kitchen together are some of our happiest memories.  There is something incredibly bonding about cooking together – sharing the same goal, working together, the fun, the mess, and the satisfaction of sitting together  afterwards to eat what you’ve both created.

There is no time in life when it is more important to eat healthy food than in childhood as the rate of development and growth is phenomenal.  Yet it is often a time when it is hard to eat healthily –  the intense marketing of junk food aimed at children, the hidden sugars added to children’s food, unhealthy lunch options in schools and fussy eating to name but a few reasons.  And this is now being reflected in the health statistics – the rates of childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes in the UK (and across the western world) are staggering, and getting worse year on year. One in five children in the UK start primary school obese and one in three leave obese, and cases of type 2 diabetes have doubled in children since 2005.

We have set up the UK’s first monthly cooking kit for kids.  We hope it will help grandparents across the country spend regular quality time with their grandchildren, teaching them to cook and creating happy lifelong memories together.  Each kit is delivered to your grandchild and includes a healthy breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack recipe as well as games and experiments which teach children about the power of food through action.  We know kids love getting post and we believe that when our box arrives each month they will be excited about opening it and getting their aprons on; making cooking a regular part of their home activities.

FIVE TOP TIPS FOR CREATING HEALTHY EATING HABITS

  • Replace sugary breakfasts (cereal, toast with jam etc) with porridge, mashed banana and cinnamon
  • Reduce fruit juice, squash and fizzy drinks and replace with water (adding a slice of lemon and cucumber can help make it more interesting)
  • Replace sweetened yogurt with greek yogurt and berries
  • Reduce sugary processed foods (cakes, crisps, biscuits, doughnuts) – with alternatives such as homemade smoothies
  • Use butter rather than margarine in sandwiches – margarine is high in trans fats which are harmful to our health

 

Little Cooks Co was born out of a desire to create something that would help put cooking and eating together back at the heart of family life.  Helen and co-founder Kate hope that their boxes will help a generation of children to lead healthier, happier lives by teaching them to enjoy cooking and eating healthy food from a young age.  To find out more, visit www.littlecooksco.co.uk

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Family and Friends looking after children by Simon Dakers

istock_000004837317webFamily and friends looking after children

by Simon Dakers, Gordon Brown Law Firm LLP

When children cannot live with their parents, for whatever reason, it can often be family members or friends that step in to offer care. It is usually in the child’s best interests to be brought up by family or friends rather than being placed with an unrelated foster carer. Children are more likely to stay in the same school and have less disruption in their lives and the outcome is generally better. Of course, there are times when being accommodated by a local authority best meets the child’s welfare needs.

A carer who is related to a child or already had a connection with the child’s family is known as a kinship carer. Kinship carers play an extremely important role across the length and breadth of the UK in providing a loving, nurturing and safe home for children; with the largest group of kinship carers being grandparents.

Arrangements can usually be made privately and informally between parents and kinship carers unless there are concerns about a child’s welfare when Children’s Services may be involved. This could be because of parental alcohol or drug use, domestic violence, mental illness or other factors. In those circumstances, decisions often have to been made quickly and it is important to obtain legal advice as different arrangements bring different rights, responsibilities and support.

An informal arrangement leaves parental responsibility [the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent has in relation to the child and his property] with the parents. Any decisions in relation to the child, such as where they are to be educated, medical treatment (unless an emergency) and travelling abroad can only be taken by the parents. There is no special entitlement to support and any financial assistance from a local authority is discretionary.

If the local authority wants to place a child with a family member or friend, the question is whether the child is “looked after” by the local authority. If so, the carer must be assessed and approved as a foster carer although in an emergency temporary, time limited approval can be given.

Foster carers don’t have parental responsibility but they are entitled to a fostering allowance and other support. They are not entitled to Child Benefit or Child Tax Credit. Just 5% of children in kinship care are “looked after children”.

Kinship carers can apply to Court for a Child Arrangements Order stating that the child lives with them [this used to be called a Residence Order]. The order would give shared parental responsibility between the carer and the parent. There is no special entitlement to support from the local authority and as with an informal arrangement, financial assistance from a local authority is discretionary.

Alternatively, a Special Guardianship Order (SGO) could be sought. An SGO provides a framework of permanency for a child. It cements the relationship between the carer and the child to a greater degree than a Child Arrangements Order and provides enhanced parental responsibility for the carer. This means that the Special Guardian can exercise parental responsibility without agreement from the other holders.

A local authority can be asked to provide a Support Services Plan. This will assess entitlement to financial support (including legal costs) and help with contact arrangements. Therapy and respite care can also be provided.  85% of children have difficulties at the point of placement with 29% categorised as, “challenging throughout placement” and it is therefore imperative that carers receive any help available. A child may also need help with understanding why they live with a carer and to cope with any parental rejection.

Kinship carers often struggle financially, feel isolated and are not aware of support available. They often have to give up work, as it can be too challenging to juggle childcare with holding down a job.  There is no doubt that becoming a kinship carer is a life changing event but the majority of kinship carers say that, given the choice again, they would still take on the caring role in spite of it’s challenges.

Grandparents Plus provides advice and information to all kinship carers. If you need support, information or advice or you just want someone to talk to then take the first step and give them a call on 0300 123 7015.

This has been a quick canter through the legal minefield of options that are often available but sometimes overlooked. Lack of information or understanding is an all too common theme. There can be no substitute for solid legal advice and this is so important to ensure that carers can make informed decisions. Remember, it’s not what you know but what you don’t know that might catch you out.

Simon Dakers is a Partner at Gordon Brown Law Firm LLP which has a dedicated family and matrimonial Team with offices in Newcastle and Chester le Street. He is a member of the Law Society Family Law Panel and Children Panel and an Accredited Specialist with Resolution. To find out more, visit www.gblf.co.uk

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fashion & Textile Children’s Trust

Funding for essentials items and specialist support 

The Fashion & Textile Children’s Trust (FTCT) has grants available – ranging from £750 upwards– to support the needs of children and young people aged 0-18years. To apply, the parent of the full-time carer must work or have recently worked (within the last nine years) in any aspect of the UK fashion or textile industry – including supermarkets, clothes shops, factories and offices of businesses selling products ranging from clothing, footwear, soft furnishings and fabric.

 

What funding is available? 

No two families are the same, so each application is reviewed on a case by case basis. But to get you started, here is a list of items FTCT can typically fund:

list-of-specialist-itemsGrants can be offered as one off or on-going payments. Part payments are also possible, if you are approaching other charities simultaneously.

Joanne’s story 
Joanne, is 12 years old and is cared for by her maternal grandparents, Anne and David after her parent’s marriage broke down and her mother suffered a nervous breakdown. Joanne has significant speech and language problems which has affected her learning throughout childhood, causing her to become increasingly anxious and disengaged in school.

Joanne’s mother previously worked in fashion retail, so Anne and David were able to apply for an FTCT grant towards specialist speech and language lessons for Joanne.

“Joanne is thriving, gaining self-esteem and confidence as well as increased focus and language skills. She has even gained the confidence to make friends and now takes part in school activities.” David, Joanne’s Grandfather.

*Names have been changed to protect identities

Who can apply?
To apply for an FTCT grant you must:

  • Be the full-time carer of a child (aged 0-18years)
  • AND work or have recently worked (within the last 9 years) in the UK fashion and textile industry* for at least one year.

So if you are a full-time carer, you can apply as long as you can provide the following:

  • A recent payslip/P45 to show proof of employment
  • A P60 or letter from your employer to show length of employment (must be at least one year)
  • Along with photocopies of a Child Benefit letter or proof of payment into your account.Parental trade connection can also be used, provided the same employment proof documents can be provided.

Applications for amounts above £750 will also require the following supporting information:

  1. Documents showing your child’s additional need: At least one letter from a Social worker / GP / Teacher / Psychologist etc. Reports from NHS / OT / School
  2. Either photocopies of additional benefit proof (if applicable) including, Tax Credits, Disability Living Allowance, Housing Benefit, etc or evidence of basic household spending.

How to apply?

FTCT have a small and dedicated team, who can guide you through the application process. No two applications are the same, so the grant amount can be tailored to suit your needs.

STEP 1: Give FTCT’S friendly team a call on 0300 123 9002 or fill in their online enquiry form to explain your situation and detail what you would like funding for.

Useful links:
The application process
Families FTCT have helped
FAQ’s

Call the Grandparents Plus advice team for further information on 0300 123 7015.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What can I expect if I am representing myself in court? By Sandeep Sandhu

 

sandeep-sandhu-cropped-blogWhat can I expect if I am representing myself in court?

By Sandeep Sandhu, Spratt Endicott Solicitors

Going to Court on a family matter can be a daunting experience, however, with careful preparation before the Hearing and seeking legal advice early, you can help minimise that stress.

I am often asked by clients to provide guidance as to what to expect when they represent themselves as a “Litigant in Person” and this article summarises what I would talk through with them before they attend Court.

Remember also, the Judge will know that you are not legally qualified, so do not feel afraid to ask the Judge, or Court staff, if you require any clarification on any aspect of the Court proceedings.

How should I prepare for a Hearing in Court?

  • You should have been given or sent a copy of any applications submitted to Court, as well as a Notice of Hearing. The Notice of Hearing will have the case number, the address of the Court at which the hearing will be held, as well as the time of the hearing, the time estimate and date.
  • In Family Law proceedings you may be contacted by CAFCASS a few weeks or days prior to the hearing. The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) is a non-departmental public body in England set up to promote the welfare of children and families involved in Court proceedings.CAFCASS officers are trained social workers who are contacted by the Court prior to a hearing being listed to carry out safeguarding checks with the Police and Local Authority to confirm if there are any known safety risks to the children in the case.  In most cases, a CAFCASS officer will contact the parties to discuss any concerns they may have regarding the children.
  • In some cases, you may be asked by the Court to file a Position Statement prior to the hearing. These are usually kept to a certain length and require you to set out what your position is in relation to the proceedings and what you would like to happen to move the case forward, explaining clearly your reasons why.You will need to send a copy to the other parties in the case, as well as the Court, by the deadline given.  You should also make sure the document has the case number clearly written on it as well as your signature at the end of it, along with the date on which you drafted it.
  • If you have a disability, you should inform the Court as soon as possible so that they can try to accommodate your needs to the best of their ability.
  • If you are unfamiliar with the Court’s location, it is always worthwhile to pay a visit to the Court before the hearing to see how long it takes you to travel and to see if there is adequate parking.The Court may however, change the location of the Court (for example, to the Magistrates Court) a day or two before the hearing, so always contact the Court the afternoon before the day of the hearing to ensure that there is no change.
  • There can be a lot of waiting about at Court so remember to ensure you have made adequate arrangements for any child care or work arrangements.
  • Remember to take to Court any Court papers, pen and paper so that you can take notes. You may want to take refreshments with you, although there may be canteen facilities available in the Court building.

What do I need to do when I arrive at Court?

  • Remember to dress smartly but comfortably on the day. When attending Court you will need to arrive early (the Notice of Hearing will tell you how early you need to attend) and remember that even though the hearing may be listed for 30 minutes, you could be there for most of the day.
  • When you arrive at Court and have cleared security, you should go to the usher’s desk, ensuring you have your Court paperwork with you so that they can recognise the case number and confirm that you have arrived. There may be private rooms available where you can sit and, if so, be sure to let the usher know which room you are in so that they can come and find you.  When cases are ready to be heard, the case number will usually be announced over a loudspeaker system so remember to listen out for your case number being announced.
  • It is quite likely that the CAFCASS officer or legal representative for the other party will try and find you before the hearing so that they can discuss a way forward. Sometimes, issues can be resolved before you get into Court, but, if not, the time may still be used productively to see if there has been any change in the parties’ positions.

What is expected from me at the Hearing?

  • Ensure that your mobile telephone is switched off if you have one with you.
  • The legal representative for the other side may direct you, if you ask them to, as to where you need to sit. The Court clerk may also direct you if you ask them to do so when you arrive.
  • Addressing the Judge as “Sir or Madam” is the correct way to refer to a District Judge, however Magistrates can also be addressed as both “Sir or Madam” or “Your Worships”. If however, you are addressing a Circuit Judge, you may have to refer to them as “Your Honour”.  If you are unsure as to how you should address the Court Judge, then this is also something that the Court usher can help with.
  • Make sure you speak when you are asked to speak, do not raise your voice, be courteous and do not interrupt. The Judge may be making notes, so remember to speak slowly and clearly.  Make sure you make notes, remembering to highlight any dates that the Judge refers to as well as any Directions that the Court makes.
  • The Judge may ask questions and it goes without saying that your answers should be truthful and to the point. If you do not understand a question, ask the Judge to repeat themselves.  You may find that the legal representative for the other party to the proceedings may do most of the talking.  If so, try not to interrupt them but write down the point you wish to make and raise it after they have finished speaking.

What if I am too nervous about speaking in Court? 

You may be able to bring a friend with you to attend the hearing.  This friend may be able to come into Court and sit with you, help take notes and give quiet advice to you.  Such friends are referred to as “Mackenzie Friends” and are not necessarily legally qualified.  They cannot (unless given permission by the Judge) address the Court or examine any witnesses.

What will happen after the Hearing?

  • If one of the parties has a legal representative, they may be asked to “draft an Order”. This is simply the formal task of writing the Directions given by the Judge. You may be asked to wait so that the Order can be drafted or the legal representative may email this document to you for your approval the next day or so before it is sent to the Judge for “sealing”.
  • If you are unhappy with the draft document, inform the legal representative immediately so that they have the opportunity make any necessary amendments. This is why it is important to make notes during the hearing so that you can compare your notes to the actual Order.
  • Usually there will be dates given such as when things have to be done by and when the next hearing is. Ensure that all dates are diarised, with appropriate reminders set out in your diary to remind you of upcoming deadlines.
  • Please remember that family proceedings are confidential. Therefore do not show any evidence or Court documents to anyone not involved in the proceedings.

I have many clients that are Grandparents, and I understand the worry and stress that can be caused by divorce and separation.  Instructing a solicitor to act on your behalf can ease much of the pressure and provide essential advice and guidance when you most need it.

Spratt Endicott Solicitors offers a fixed fee meeting with our clients at a cost of £95 (inclusive of VAT).  If you would like to find out more, please contact Sandeep Sandhu, Solicitor at Spratt Endicott, on 01295 204154 or email her at ssandhu@se-law.co.uk.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment