I need a non-mol


I need protection….from lips and zips and drip drip drips…

I have recently exchanged a dozen emails (in each direction) with a litigant in person about the drafting of an order that was agreed in court. It does not matter, I have concluded, how much you explain that you are just being asked to convert the judge’s oral answer to writing – a litigant in person is still likely to raise new points or dispute things that were uncontentious in court in response to a draft order. Fortunately this LiP was very polite in his many emails. But still, I have spent longer in this case on the drafting of the order – and failed attempts to agree it – than I spent at court (a full four hours where it should have been one). I know the ship has long sailed on HMCTS actually producing its own orders (notwithstanding the provisions of the CAP which anticipate the judge will do her own orders) – but I am seriously wondering if it is really too much to be expected to exchange emails with LiPs in this way before e-filing. Experiences like this erode both my goodwill and my profitability because it is all more time spent for free – and in light of the current state of the family bar we have to maximise our capacity to spend time on paid work in order to begin to minimise the reduction in income. There is less space for pro bono work when we do so much without any recompense at all. I spent an ENTIRE evening drafting court orders and approving other people’s draft orders the other week, finishing at 11.30pm (with most of my oppos also being glued to their email for the same purpose). It is VERY difficult to say no, and since CAP / CMO a handwritten order prepared at court is really no longer feasible or acceptable. I often draft at court, but this usually results in me handing my laptop around due to an absolute 3G blackout, which is less than ideal.

On top of that we have another omnibus suite wardrobe thing – this time in relation to non-mols. Yes, the summer respite from cascading is over – personally, I haven’t unzipped the bodybag yet – It’s been a looong day and I need to offload first… We have guidance on non-mols too : “Don’t make indefinite orders”. Really? They had to ask that question? And ex partes should be made only until the return date. Really? That old chestnut? Has anybody yet worked out that this has serious resource implications? It means every non-mol will now require personal service twice. It means that in all those cases where the applicant is in person the BAILIFF will have to personally serve twice. It means that for every difficult to serve / evasive respondent there will be an applicant who is at risk of a break in injunctive cover.

I went to Scarborough last week to speak at the NAPO Conference (Family Court Section). We had an interesting discussion about McKenzie friends and attitudes to them by CAFCASS practitioners. I was interested to hear that there seem to be pockets where paid-for McKenzies are more prevalent – London and Midlands mentioned in particular. Certainly they are not very common in Bristol. One of the things I pondered was the need for CAFCASS and its practitioners to be more transparent in their ways of working to build confidence in a user group whose first source of information about their work and ethos is likely to be information sourced online, most of which will be highly critical of their perceived corruption, bias and poor practice. Hoping my FOI requests to CAFCASS and HMCTS will be back soon…I returned from Scarborough with an unidentified massive carbuncle on my hand, it was either a poison dart from one of my stalkers or an infected sand fly bite. It has been quite effective distraction for my opponents so far this week. I just have to wave my left hand across their field of vision and they lose the thread of the submissions. And when I referred at one point to the metaphorical need to “lance the boil” I got a most entertaining reaction (think Austin Powers, moley moley moley).

Still no commencement order on s11 by the way…1069825_10152314439647721_2547425078765817780_n

On to more happy things : the super amazeballs Andrew Pack (Suesspicious Minds) won the Legal Commentary award at the Jordans award ceremony last week, which is ACE. We all had a fantastic night, and it was all a bit of a love in really…

AND finally, a pic of some beautiful flowers that I found on my desk after court, from my hubby who didn’t forget our wedding anniversary after all! (my kind of stalker) They’re too lovely not to share. :-)

Anyway, back to my non-mol. What I need is not some woolly unenforceable order, I need a specific provision prohibiting all communication by email, direct or indirect, including but not limited to cascades, guidance, templates, legal updates or communication from any litigant in person. Indefinite would be nice, but I’ll settle for until next week…

Presumption displaced

[PRESIDENTIAL NEWSFLASH 13 OCTOBER 2014 : "Section 11 of the Children and Families Act 2014 (which inserts new sections 1(2A), 1(2B), 1(6) and 1(7) in the Children Act 1989) will come into force on 22 October 2014 - Wednesday next week. Section 11 will NOT apply in respect of proceedings commenced but not disposed of prior to 22 October 2014." ENDS]


If the presumption of parental involvement (A.K.A. s11 Children & Families Act 2014) is really going to be brought into force “in the autumn” as has been suggested – why is it that there is no mention of it in the TWO recent Commencement Orders that relate to that act which set out implementation dates for most of the rest of the act between now and mid 2015??

I think the presumption that this stuff will be implemented is well and truly rebutted. Just as I predicted. Long grass it is I reck’n.

Transparency for six year olds


Mummy’s Office (not very tidy is it?)

My eldest has suddenly reached the age where he is trying to read my work emails. I’ve so far not had to hide my screen or papers from the kids on account of them being cute but illiterate, and in reality he’s miles from reading or understanding anything of substance – but this weekend I thought it was time to have a chat about why mummy’s work things are private. And as is so often the case with serious chats with the kids – the conversation came back to poop.

He knows I work with families. He knows I try and help families when the mummy and daddy don’t live together any more (whilst blackberry picking the other weekend he instigated a very serious talk about why some mummies and daddies don’t live together and some people have two houses, so I took it as an opportunity to explain to him that I help those mummies and daddies to make a plan to sort things out. I also recently had to explain trials and judges in the course of reading them Alice in Wonderland which helped me introduce how I help when parents can’t agree and someone else has to decide for them). Today I had to explain that some of the things I read about families are very sad and they are having some tough times, and some of it is very private and it’s a bit too grown up for him. He was not at all convinced – obviously for him it was difficult to distinguish between the ability to read the words and the ability to manage the content and he was pleased to be grown up enough (i.e. sufficiently developed in his reading skills) to read it – “No, mummy you’re joking – I can read it!” So, racking my brains for an example of things people might want to keep private – we talked about how it might feel if you had a bit of an accident at school and you don’t want anyone to know about the problem in your pants, because it’s embarrassing. “Ah,” he said – “Now I understand”. I think that’s empathy developing.

The whole privacy / secrecy distinction that causes us so much angst on a macro scale is pretty tough on the micro level too. ‘Cos we aren’t supposed to keep secrets, or encourage shame. But we have to respect people’s privacy and it’s not kind to make them feel embarrassed or upset by telling other people private things. These are tough conversations to have with a six year old.

Anyway, it seems that some practical changes are required to my data handling now that my little ones are growing up. Otherwise I will really be in the doo doo.