Monday, 30 January 2012

I don't want him to see the children, ever again!

What do you do if your client comes in and tells you that they never want the father of their children to see them, ever again?

For starters, laugh long and hard at them.  Then bring them down to earth with as much thump as you think they can bear, because if they keep on with that attitude... it is going to be a looong matter.

I think it comes back to managing your client's expectations.  You can give them all the long speeches about the law and the children's right to be known and loved by both parents, but unless you make them understand that they are not going to get what they want, you are going to struggle with them.  And then, when they finally get orders for shared parental responsibility, equal time, and her paying him child support, they are almost certainly going to complain.

I had finalised my first matter last week, and it involved a 2 year battle to convince our client that the father was going to spend time with the children.  She JUMPED at supervised time, but was amazingly hesitant to allow him to see the children alone.

The solicitor who was (then) managing the matter kept repeating and repeating that the father was going to spend unsupervised time with the child in the end, no matter what.  He had ticked all the boxes and jumped through all the hoops.  Our client just wouldn't see it.  She raised more and more objections, getting more and more hysteric, until finally, after about 18 months, the Magistrate allowed the father unsupervised time on a gradually increasing basis.

Well, this was a catalyst.  All of a sudden our client deflated, and capitulated, agreeing to a reasonable set of consent Orders for shared parenting.

I wonder if there was any better way to convince her of this 6 months ago?  Was there any way we could have driven it in to her any harder?  It would have saved her money, and lots of trips to town as well.

As a post-script, the devil is in the details.  After the in-principle agreement, it took another 6 weeks to agree on the exact terms of the Orders, involving challenges with handovers, child support, and all sorts of other foibles that just seemed irrelevant back when the biggest matter was whether the father would see the child alone.  The final agreement wasn't reached until 7pm the night before the final hearing before trial.

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