Advice For Parents Going Through The Family Court Process

Advice For Parents Going Through The Family Court Process

Going to the family court due to disagreements between yourself and the other parent of your child is daunting and highly stressful. In this article, Michael Watson will provide some useful tips and advice for parents who are going through the Family Court process.

Essentially, what it means is that the relationship you had with the mother or father of your child, has broken down to the point that one or both of you do not feel or believe that as parents and as people who were once in a romantic relationship, that without the assistance of an external person, you could settle your differences in a manner that is reasonably amicable and appropriate for your child.

This in itself is a serious and distressing situation. It is serious because it highlights that one or both of you are in a sense unable or unwilling to manage your differences appropriately, such that it can be dealt with without outside interference in your family affairs. It is distressing because separations frequently involve painful emotions, change and adjustments. However, when you are going to the family court, your circumstances are not only made more difficult due to your emotions resulting from your break up, but they are also exacerbated by the feelings you have in relation to your child. As one mother once said to me “people will kill for their children.”

What this means is that people go to court in a stressed, highly emotionalised state and then have to try to cope with the fact that the court itself is a highly challenging environment to manage. Given the scenario I have provided above a significant part of my role entails offering parents the opportunity to vent their feelings, fears and frustrations. It’s vital that parents are allowed the chance to express how they feel. But in my opinion, it is always necessary to help them refocus their thoughts, congruent with what they need to improve their chances of obtaining a successful outcome at court.

My work involves balancing allowing parents to vent up to a point and then attempting to move them from a ‘victim’ mentality, to a point where they can begin to accept their responsibility for the situation they find themselves in and begin to take charge of their lives. Often this involves a great deal of hard work, sensitivity, empathy, skill and time.

Parents also will commence the court process with a range of different strengths and needs. For example one parent may speak English as a first language, but have left school early and barely be able to read and write. Another may be well educated and confident at writing and speaking in English, but have no confidence at all in their parenting skills or at having to face their ex partner at court. Yet another may have the capacity to pick up all the skills and knowledge required but be hampered by their inability to manage the emotional feelings concerning their family situation.

I also have to consider to some extent with parents, how they learn best i.e. are they visual, audio or kinaesthetic, do they learn best by listening, engaging in discussions, watching DVDs or programmes, involvement in case studies and role plays. There is frankly an awful lot for any parent to learn and to a considerable extent, I feel quite strongly that one of the things I do is help them to manage their fears by consistently offering parents the opportunity to learn the knowledge and skills (around parenting, legislation and how to represent themselves at court) to help them take responsibility for theirs and their child’s life in court and out of it.

Helping parents to manage their fears about what may happen at court is nerve racking for me, to an extent, because going to the family court is a bit like walking across a minefield and their success is dependent on how well and thoroughly parents have practised what I have advised and coached them on.

Nevertheless, I maintain that the more parents learn and practice the skills discussed such as their parenting skills and the importance of being consistent throughout their presentation during the court process; the better chance they will have of achieving a successful result at court. It is definitely time consuming and at times emotionally draining, but it is also very satisfying when you see a parent grow in confidence, gaining a greater ability to manage the important relationships in their lives.


Michael Watson
Family Court Coach.

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