‘Oooh I’m not too sure I can draw one of those’ was my response to having been set up as aunty in charge of drawing activities for the evening by my godson Ethan’s mum. His response was ‘aren’t you an artist then? Mummy said you were’. I suppose to a 7 year old my cartoon cat scribbles probably do qualify me as a professional artist but it set me to thinking how would I explain to him what I really do for a job? What does a 7 year old understand of lawyers and courts unless they have had the misfortune to be at the centre of a contact dispute or caught in the crossfire of matrimonial proceedings? So this is what I think I would say if asked:
A law is a rule that everyone has to follow. It tells people what they should do and what they can and can’t do. If people can’t agree about something a judge uses the law to tell them who is right and what should happen, and then they have to do what the judge has said. A judge works in a court. When people ask the judge to help them sort out something they can’t agree about it’s called a court case.
In court cases each person has a lawyer. The lawyer’s job is to tell the Judge what that person says has happened and what they say should happen now, and to help that person and the Judge understand what the law says (this is called representing someone). When the Judge has heard what all the lawyers have to say she decides what should happen.
When mums and dads can’t live together any more sometimes they can’t agree who the children should live with or what should happen about money. A Judge can help them make a decision about what is best for the child, who should live where and what to do about money. I help mums or dads explain to the judge what they think is best for their kids so the Judge knows as much as possible before deciding what should happen. Sometimes my job is to tell the court what the child thinks should happen or what the child’s Guardian thinks is best for the child (a Guardian is someone who tells the court things from the child’s point of view). Because the lawyers know what the law says they can also help tell the person they represent what decision the court might make and can help them to try and agree with the other people what should happen instead of leaving it up to the Judge. Its nicer if everybody can agree after all because when the Judge has to decide for them one person is probably going to be sad. The Judge will try and make a decision that makes everyone happy but their most important job is to do what is best for the child, even if its not what the mum or dad want. Together the lawyers help the judge make a fair decision by making sure that the Judge has heard everything that each person wants to say and has understood why they are saying it.