How to Survive Court – Part Two

As I sit down to write this, the seventh set of Proceedings that I have been a Party to (yes…there’s been yet another one folks!) have come to an end. For only the second time in 3 years and six months – I am not in Proceedings.

Indeed, the reason for such a gap between Part One of “How to survive court” and Part Two of the same is because I have needed “time out” afterwards, to recuperate, to repair and to reflect. Having taken a bit of time, I now feel far more able to serve you all better and I hope this next post is useful for any families facing court, and any practitioners looking to understand and empathise better with what a parent goes through during Proceedings.

 

Part Two – How to Survive Court

In Part One, I tried to deal with the practicalities of how to navigate your way to the Court, both physically and emotionally. In Part Two, I want to look at the experience of a Court Hearing, what to expect, and how to cope with it in the best way.

 

Being Called
You will be called, either over a tannoy, or by the Court Clerk, to go into the courtroom itself, often by your case number. Your barrister will know to listen out for it so don’t worry about missing it. It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with your own number if you can, and actually a good focus when you’re sitting waiting to go in.
In my experience, it tends to be two letters at the beginning, followed by a series of numbers and then another letter. It’s a bit like your National Insurance number and if you’ve got a better memory than me, you’ll recognise it on your court paperwork.

You may never have been into a Court before and may not know where to sit, or how it might look. I’ve designed two floor plans (thank you to floorplanner.com) below to hopefully help you to see how it is all set out. You can click on the image to make it larger. I hope. I’m not very good with technology.

Family Court Floorplan 1
Family Court Floorplan 1

 

The first plan is what, in my experience, many courtrooms look like. The Judge sits “on high”, in that their seats are raised up. Some people might feel a bit intimidated by this, but try to think of it as being designed so that the Judge can see everyone in the room clearly.

 

Family Court Floorplan 2
Family Court Floorplan 2

The second floor plan is something I’ve also experienced, and it feels a little less formal. The Judge tends to sit on the same level, and all of the Parties sit around a table. The rooms themselves can be the Judge’s Chambers which are the “Office” of the Judge where he or she can hear certain types of cases instead of in “open court” as in Floorplan 1. How commonly this is done, I don’t know, but I only experienced it in my first set of Proceedings in 2012, and only in the earlier Hearings where there were no witnesses to give evidence.

 

As you can see in Floorplan 1, it is clear where to sit. The solicitors or barristers (also known as “Counsel” – see my Glossary here for more information) sit on the front row, whilst the parents, the Children’s Guardian and the Social Worker(s) sit in the row behind. It may be that there are more “Parties” to Proceedings such as Grandparents, or Aunts/Uncles. They will have their own representation who will sit at the front and everyone else fills the second row with spare seating being used in the public gallery.

In Floorplan 2, it is less obvious, but if you are presented with this set-up, follow your barrister’s instructions on where to sit. However, in my experience, you sit on the opposite side of the table to the Social Worker.

The seats themselves can be nothing more than wooden benches – they are often not the most comfortable of things. That’s why it’s doubly important to wear something you can sit comfortably in for long periods of time.
There will almost always be water in jugs on the tables with plastic cups. It’s a good idea to pour yourself a cup whether you’re thirsty or not, before the Judge comes in. Once things get underway, it’s best to try and sit as still as possible and you might well find the anxiety of the occasion may leave your mouth a little drier than normal.

It is also a very good idea to take a notebook and a pen into court so you can communicate with your barrister. You cannot speak during a hearing unless directly addressed by the Judge and I personally would avoid whispering to your barrister as it can distract the Judge and the other parties. Writing a quick note if you don’t agree with something (or you want to raise a particular point) and passing it to your barrister is a good way to communicate with them.

 

And so it begins
If your case is heard in open court (as in Floorpan 1), the Clerk will be in the courtroom as you enter, but the Judge will still be in “Chambers”. You are given a few moments to put your bag under the desk, and for the barristers to get their files in order before the Judge will knock on the door from their Chambers to the courtroom.
At this point, you must “rise”, or stand up.
It is a mark of respect to the Judge and must be observed. The judge will then look to the barristers, give a nod, they will bow their heads back and then everyone can sit down.
This might seem a strange thing to do, but it is an etiquette of the court and, to be fair, court is a strange old place to be.

Another tradition within the court is the different names used to address the Judge, depending on their status or the type of court or hearing it is. This can get a little confusing, so I have put together a table below to hopefully make it simple:

 

Howtoaddressjudgejpeg

 

Your case will very likely be heard by a District or a Circuit Judge, so check with your barrister which and try to remember the correct way to address them. This is particularly important when you are giving evidence, as it shows respect.

 

The opening gambit – and how to deal with this
As it is the Local Authority who are making the application to the court, they will speak to the Judge first. This is often a very difficult time for the parents; essentially you have to listen to a barrister list the reasons why they think your child or children should be made subject of a Care Order (or whatever Order is being applied for) and – usually – why they should not live with you anymore.

I can’t dress this one up in any way – it hurts to hear these things. The opening speech from the Local Authority will be quite detailed as they need to very clearly explain their actions. You will inevitably hear things that you don’t agree with, you may hear things you think are lies, or exaggerations and you will probably want to react and respond there and then.

You absolutely must stay calm for the following reasons:

1. Care proceedings are the battle of your life. You have to show strength and resilience that you never knew you had, and you must show it again and again and again. It’s like anything that is emotionally draining – if you do not develop a coping strategy (see below), you will burn out extremely quickly. If you react and respond explosively every time you hear something you don’t agree with, or that hurts, you will burn out extremely quickly. Think marathon, not sprint. The benefit to this is that it will very positively impact upon your parenting because when you learn how to cope in such high-stress, traumatic situations such as these, you also learn not to “sweat the small stuff”.

2. Your actions and reactions are being watched. This element of care proceedings cases really personally frustrates me, because you are under intense, incredible pressure so naturally that’s going to have an impact on you – but you are undoubtedly judged on the way in which you conduct yourself throughout. It shouldn’t be like that, but it is. If you react aggressively, or you are emotional to the extreme, it will be used as evidence against you.

Coping strategies
These are some of the things I used, and I know of other people using, to have got through this difficult part of the process. One, some or all of these may help you during hearings.

1.  Shift your thinking
It is awful to hear bad things about you being said out loud. It is even more awful when they relate to your parenting or your children. It is even more awful when you know you can’t respond, particularly when you’re probably pretty angry with the ones who are saying it.
.
However. Try to think of it like this… The court is a theatre. The actors are playing to the audience, which is the Judge. There will be some dramatic language used to make their points, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. Making an application for a care order, or whatever order they are going for, is taken very seriously by the court, and Local Authorities would be in pretty hot water if they didn’t have a good reason for doing it. So remember that when they are explaining their case, they are also justifying their actions. Don’t forget, there needs to be solid evidence for a Judge to make an Order. His or her head won’t be turned by drama. So, let them have it, let it go. Don’t let what they are saying get to you. Keep this key word in your mind: evidence.

2. Understand your position
It is very natural that, when someone says bad things about you and your parenting, you want to prove them wrong in whatever way you can.

However, try to remember this: the Local Authority have their plan, and they will say things that will back up that plan. But, by the same token; you have your plan, and your barrister will say things to back up your plan. This is something that was taught to me by an incredible lady who attended a meeting with me when the Local Authority were saying some terrible things about me. My whole body was itching to respond, but this lady just kept saying quietly to me: “they have their plan, and we have ours”. I can’t tell you how much it helped. So, try to remember that when you are having to listen to these difficult things.

3.  Trust your barrister – and if not, change them
It takes around six years to qualify as a barrister. That’s a hell of a commitment and a very long time spent learning about the law. As such, your barrister is very well placed to not only advise you, but conduct your case to their best of their ability. Trust them to do this especially when you are hearing very difficult things and you want to object to them, or respond in some way. Write your barrister a note and trust that they will know when is best to raise your points.
Most of the barristers that I have met have been absolutely dedicated to their client – my own most certainly was. They’re also not naive; they know the system is flawed and many of them are trying very hard to change that (organisations such as The Transparency Project, for example).
The two key points to remember are:
a) whilst you instruct them, they are there to advise and help you
b) you are the expert in the subject of your own life, but be mindful that they are the experts in the field of law.

If you’re are not confident about your barrister, discuss this with your solicitor. It might be that they can talk to the barrister about why you are unhappy, or it could be that if the trust is gone, you are able to instruct a new one.

4. Some key strategies:
a) Breathe.
Remember to control your breathing when times get tough. As I said in my previous post, a good way to do this to to inhale through your nose, pause for a second and blow your breath out of your cheeks. This might sound a bit silly and maybe simple, but under pressure such as this, you’d be amazed at what you forget to do. I couldn’t have told you my name at some points of my proceedings.

b) Drink.
Water – obviously! Although, you’d be forgiven for wanting something stronger, quite frankly. Court hearings are very draining, the buildings can be hot and stuffy, and it’s important to keep yourself hydrated. It also provides a useful focus in my experience.

c) Eat.
Whilst you cannot eat during a hearing (I wouldn’t advise chewing gum either, out of respect), you must try to eat a little before you go in in the morning, or if you are there all day, during breaks. I was very lucky during my proceedings to have people with me who would remind me to eat, and I will be forever grateful as it fuelled me to keep going physically when emotionally I felt I couldn’t.

d) Sleep.
Clearly not through the proceedings! But proceedings can mean sleepless nights, understandably. If you’re struggling with sleep try one or more of the following:
i) Sleep App
If you have an iPhone I can recommend: “Digipill” and “Relax Melodies: Sleep zen sounds”
If you have an Android I can recommend:”Relax with Andrew Johnson” (a miracle in my opinion) and “iSleep Easy Meditations Free”
All of the above are free and have far more brilliant advice on them I could ever fit in here.
ii) A good bedtime routine. Whether that’s a bath, a book or a warm drink, think how much better children sleep when they’re in a routine and translate that to yourself.
iii) If all else fails, try Kalms night (here), Rescue Remedy Night (here) or Nytol (here)

d) Write.
As I said above, it’s a very good idea to take a notebook and pen into court to communicate with your barrister. However, it can help some people to take notes during the hearing on what is being said. It can provide a focal point if things get heated or intense, or what you are hearing is particularly painful.

These are some hints and tips that may help you through a hearing. Above all else though, keep in mind why you’re there; your children. The desire to be with them, or keep them with you should be at the forefront of your mind at all times. Remember why you’re fighting – for your family. Remember the bigger picture.

Giving Evidence
Lastly, I wanted to give you a few tips on how to give the best evidence you can. I remember very clearly during the Final Hearing of my Proceedings when I first took the witness stand, the Judge turning to me and telling me that this would be the single most important piece of evidence in the whole trial and to try to relax. Thanks Judge (!).

Here are some tips I picked up along the way:

1. Prepare well
What’s that saying…”fail to prepare and prepare to fail”..? Well, it’s not a bad sentiment in this case. If you know that you are going to be giving evidence, you need to try and take some time out to think about exactly what it is that you want to get across. Think very carefully about what it is that the LA are saying; what is their argument? And then prepare your defence to that argument. When you have spare moments, think again about the key points in your argument and how you would get them across to the Judge.

2. Before you go into Court
Sometimes, when you are under intense amounts of pressure, it can truly affect every part of you, including your memory! So, one thing that I personally found useful was to sit quietly for 20 minutes before I was due to go back into court and give evidence and reread my final statement to court. I asked my barrister and everyone else to leave me alone (in the nicest possible way!) and just sat and absorbed what I had written only a few weeks before. Initially it was like someone else had written it; I couldn’t remember a thing, but the more I read, the more I remembered and the more it made sense. So I would be inclined to do something like this if you can, just to refresh your memory.

3. Ask for advice
Your solicitor and barrister have almost certainly been through a parent giving evidence before and will have a good idea of what to expect. In the weeks leading up to you giving evidence, listen to them, ask as many questions as you can and take notes of their answers. If there are particular areas you’re frightened about, or not confident, focus on these as they’ll certainly come up and you need to be as prepared as possible. Lean on your legal team for this part – that’s what they’re paid for.

4. Honesty is the best policy
You might be worried about aspects of your case and that if you are asked about them and give an honest answer, you might lose your children.
For example, if your child has suffered harm or neglect and you know deep down you could have done more to protect them against that harm – it is always better to say so. In fact, you might be surprised; it is more likely to go in your favour than against you as it shows you’re willing to take responsibility and you’re able to be honest. I know how difficult it is to do this, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes in my experience, and it’s actually quite liberating in the end.

5. Don’t argue and don’t bitch
It is the Local Authority’s (or Children’s Guardian’s) job to put to you difficult questions. Some barristers do that in a careful way and are mindful of not making the process any more unpleasant or upsetting for you…and some barristers just don’t and will ask difficult questions to get a reaction (sorry to my legal followers but we all know it’s true). These barristers will push your buttons and this is your time to rise above it, keep calm and quiet and answer their difficult questions with grace and dignity. Have that as your mindset from the beginning, know that difficult questions will come up and welcome them as an opportunity to show that you are not interested in an argument with anyone, you just want to make your points, that’s all. Try to remember that for the barristers, this is not personal. They are just doing their jobs. So let them do it.
It’s a learning curve, but you could ask your barrister, your solicitor or any of your friends and family to “role-play” with you in the weeks leading up to you giving evidence.

6. Think about the question and stay focused on it
When you are asked a question, think about your answer before you open your mouth. Think about exactly what the barrister is asking you, and only answer that question, clearly and concisely. It is likely that whoever has asked you the question will wait after you have finished your answer and simply look at you. This is a tactic used to try to get you to feel awkward and then start talking more and hopefully trip yourself up! It’s not something that’s exclusive to barristers, employers do it when interviewing, the Police are known to do it in interviews, and politicians are subjected to it daily – so don’t take it personally. Answer the question that has been asked of you and no more. This changes the dynamic and puts the ball firmly back in the other person’s court (excuse the pun…).
For example; if someone asks you how old you are, you would answer “21” (if you’re lucky). If a silence follows, you would probably feel awkward wouldn’t you? You would think that asker was perhaps judging you, and it’s human nature to avoid that by filling the silence. However, if you were to keep quiet, the asker would almost certainly start speaking first as they would themselves feel awkward. So, try to remember that!

Summary

  • What are the key points of the LA’s case and how can you answer them?
  • Reread your final written statement to refresh your memory
  • Ask your legal team what questions to expect from the LA/CG and practice different ways to answer them
  • When it comes to it:
    – be honest and open
    – don’t fill silences, use them to your advantage
    – speak slowly and concisely
    – when you’re asked a question, pause and think about what you’re about to say before you say it
    – stay calm and as relaxed as you can
    – don’t argue with anyone and don’t give bitchy answers
    – keep your children in mind at all times

I hope this post helps those of you attending court, and perhaps giving evidence. These are simple strategies I myself used to great success. I wish you well with them, and I wish you well with “surviving court”.

How to Survive Court – Part One

After well over three years, my sixth – and hopefully final – set of Proceedings in the Family Court came to an end last week. There were times over the last three years I thought it would never be over, times I thought I simply wouldn’t survive. But I did, and I have, and I hope I can help other parents to survive, too.

As I walked into Court last week, I was reminded of how it felt to attend my first Hearing, that I didn’t know what to expect, where to sit, when to speak, why I wasn’t allowed to respond when the Local Authority said upsetting things about me to the Judge. It was like an alien world where everybody spoke another language and knew the etiquette; I was a stranger in a foreign land.

As such, I wanted to write a “Guide To Surviving Court” to try and give some practical advice to parents who are facing Proceedings and perhaps feeling that same rising panic in their throats as I once felt. I’m splitting this into two parts; the first dealing with the practical issues of attending Court, the second dealing with what actually goes on in front of a Judge. I hope that this may help parents to feel a little less afraid, a little less confused and bewildered, and a little less alone.

 

Part One – How to Survive Court

  • Getting the right advice

The first, and possibly most valuable piece of advice I can give parents is to find a good,reputable legal representative. The first starting point I would use would be The Law Society’s “Find a Solicitor” page here – scroll down to Family and relationships in thchildrenlaw-99x60e “Legal Issue” box, input your postcode and up should pop a list of local solicitors. Look for the icon to the right which shows that the solicitor is accredited by the Law Society Children’s Accreditation Scheme.  If you struggle with the internet you can also ring the Law Society on 020 7320 5650.

I would always advise you to research your solicitor as much as you can; recommendations, word of mouth and a Google search all help, but most solicitors will be prepared to meet with you for around 30 minutes either face to face, over the telephone, or by email. I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to get the right advice. In my own case, after sacking my first legal team, I went out of the area and chose a national firm specialising in Care Proceedings. This turned out to be a very wise move and I’m not sure I would have had the outcome I did otherwise.

NB Often you are represented at Hearings by a barrister and you may not have ever met this person as you will ordinarily deal day-to-day with your solicitor. This can mean that when it comes to the day of the Hearing, you’re not sure who to look for.
The first thing to do in this instance is ask your solicitor to describe the barrister, in advance of the Hearing. If, for whatever reason, your solicitor is unfamiliar with this barrister, there are two options here:
1. Google the name of your barrister as often Chambers ensure up-to-date images of their staff are kept in the public domain. Input (for example) ‘John Smith Barrister Liverpool’, and 
click on images.
2. Approach the Court Clerks and ask if they know who this person is. As barristers are in and out of Court daily, it is likely someone will be able to point them out.

 

  • Plan your journey

Once you’ve found your solicitor, it’s time to prepare for Court. It’s very possible that you’ve never set foot inside a Court building before, you might not even be sure where your Court is. A good place to start is here at the Court and Tribunal Finder. You enter your postcode and your nearest Court(s) are listed.

Once you’ve found your Court, it’s a good idea to plan, in advance, how to get there. If you don’t drive you can try this link – this is Traveline and it’s a journey planner for the UK.You simply input your postcode, the postcode of where you want to travel and the time and date and a complete journey from door-to-door is displayed for you.

  • What to wear

I’m sure no one needs to be reminded that Court is serious business. Even though it is probable you won’t actually speak to the Judge, he or she will certainly be aware of your presence, so it’s very important to make a good impression. It also helps you mentally, in my experience – if you’re dressed smartly, you hold yourself differently. It might be a small thing, but every little helps.

Men: You don’t need a three-piece suit! Just some smart trousers or chinos, a smart shirt and shoes (not trainers) will help you to hold yourself with confidence.
Women: Dress pants, or a skirt with a smart top work well. Remember to keep necklines high and hemlines low!

It’s very important that you’re comfortable, too. You’re likely to be there for quite some time, so wear something that isn’t going to irritate you. I can’t wear heels myself – I can’t walk in them at all – so whilst I was always very smartly dressed for Court, I would wear flat shoes. It sounds daft, but you need to be completely focused on what’s going on – not that waistband digging in, or your feet bunched into tight shoes. Courts seem often to have their own climate – either freezing or boiling! – so I’d advise you wear layers.

Things to take with you

  • Support
    I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to have good support around you during the child protection process. Whether you are part of a couple, or a single mum or dad; you will need a strong network of support and this is extremely important when you attend Court.
    Unless you are a “Party to Proceedings” (see my Glossary here), you will not be allowed to enter the Courtroom itself, but just having someone with you in the waiting area will help so much. There is an awful lot of ‘waiting around’ during these Hearings; sometimes emergency matters come up that the Judge must deal with first, and it is quite normal for your case to be listed at the same time as two or three others. I’ll be honest with you – the waiting is the worst part.
    When considering who could attend with you, think about what you will need. In my experience, you need someone with you who is level-headed, quiet and calm. If you think your mum will end up more stressed than you – leave her at home! What you really need is someone just there to listen, without judgement, and to hold your hand and carry your pain.
    Independent advocacy services are – unfortunately – very very rare for this type of situation, but charities such as Families In Care (based in  the North-East) and the Family Rights Group (based in London) work immensely hard to support parents faced with the child protection process.
  • Relevant paperwork
    Whilst this doesn’t mean that you need to take every document you’ve ever received from the Local Authority, it is a good idea to take anything you think might help your barrister or solicitor. So, if there has been a recent review meeting, or care-team meeting and you have any reports or minutes, do take them along.
    It’s a very good idea to purchase a lever-arch file for this purpose. Not only does it keep everything in one place so you can easily find important information, but it also helps you to feel like you’re doing something in the darker days.
  • The basics
    As I already mentioned, there is an awful lot of waiting around when you attend Court. For example, at one of my recent Hearings, I arrived at 9.15am, and didn’t leave until 1.30pm – and that’s reasonably normal. The waiting can be very difficult, so I would advise you take some things with you to pass the time. A magazine, a book (or a Kindle), a puzzle book – anything that’s quiet and will focus your mind.
    I would definitely advise you take a bottle of water with you, or a cool drink of some sort. Just bear in mind that glass bottles are likely to be taken by security staff as they can’t be taken into the Courtroom.
    Some Courts have a small cafe, others just a tea machine – either way make sure you have some change to get yourself a cuppa. It’s amazing how much a hot cup of tea made me feel better during my Proceedings!
    I would also advise you take a snack, some fruit, or nuts, a cereal bar, or some chocolate – Court is draining and you need to keep your energy up. Just remember not to eat in the Courtroom itself!
    Other things I would always have with me would be tissues, mints, a pen and some paper, some paracetamol and Bach’s Rescue Remedy (click here for more information) which helped me to stay calm. I also always took a small picture of my children with me to remind me to stay strong.

What to expect

These are a few things I wished I’d known ahead of my first few Hearings so I could prepare myself mentally for them:

  • Security check
    As you enter the Court building itself, you will need to pass through a security scanner and then a security guard will use a manual scanner too. This can feel a bit uncomfortable but it’s essential to keep everybody safe, and you’ll see yourself that solicitors and barristers have to be scanned, too.
    It’s very likely that your bag will be searched as you pass through the security scanner – again everyone has to go through this. If you have anything glass in your bag, like a perfume bottle, it’s likely it will be confiscated until you’re ready to leave Court. You’ll be given a receipt for it though and can pick it up on your way out. Anything that could be potentially used as a weapon will also be taken, and in my experience things like chargers are often taken.
    However, if there’s something you have with you you really need, explain this to the security guard who will use their discretion. For example, I used to have to take my hospital-grade breastpump to Court, along with ice packs and a cool bag – I got a few raised eyebrows the first time I took them in, but the security staff allowed me to take them in with me. It actually became a running joke after that!
  • Waiting…
    The waiting area in Court is particularly bizarre. There is normally a main waiting area, and then lots of little rooms where barristers and solicitors take their clients ahead of Hearings. In my experience, it is somewhat of a coup to get one of the little rooms – and if you get one, you hold onto it!
    If you are in the main waiting area, you will likely hear and see a lot of human emotion. Court is a stressful business – people’s lives are being decided, so don’t be surprised to see people upset. Unfortunately, it is likely you will also hear snippets of conversation from other people cases. This is always uncomfortable, but sometimes can’t be helped.
    Try to remember that everyone there is nervous – sometimes even the lawyers! Just keep your head together and focus on your own case and why you’re there. Eyes on the prize, as someone once said to me.
  • A last (and very important!) note
    One of the things I found extremely hard to deal with was when the “Advocates” (which will likely be your barrister or solicitor, the Local Authority’s barrister, the Social Worker, the Children’s Guardian and their barrister) all disappeared off into one of the little rooms together for Pre-Hearing discussions. Very often these people work together every day and so know each other quite well – very often they will therefore have a joke and a chatter before getting down to work. In any sort of work environment this is quite normal, but for a parent, this is incredibly difficult to see. Very often, you are left alone outside of the room, knowing that the Advocates are discussing your child and your life, and there’s nothing you can do.
    I know of parents where this has been too much, and they have burst into the room, or caused a fuss demanding to be allowed to sit in and know what is being said. I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to keep your cool during times like these as any behaviour like that will go against you. You must try and stay calm and keep your head “in the game”.- Breathing. Focus on your breathing. In through your nose, pause, out through your mouth. Concentrate on the rhythm of your breath and with each breath allow yourself to relax.

– Keep busy. If you have someone with you for support, talk to them. If you’re on your own, read your magazine/book, or find something on your phone to keep you occupied – I used to play solitaire over and over (I was very bad at it) as it was mind-numbing.

– If it gets too much, get up and walk. Stretch your legs, walk from one end of the waiting area to the next. Count how many steps it takes you.
Another trick is to count back from 100 in sevens. I’m not quite sure how that helps, but I used it and it worked for me. Start with 100, minus seven to get 93, and then minus another seven and so on.
Another trick is to make words from a word you spot. So, say you spot the word “Building”, see what words you can make from it (bud, lid, nil etc)
If you smoke, go and have one. Or five, go and have five. I’m not a smoker (I actually quit during my newborn’s Proceedings believe it or not!), and I obviously don’t normally advocate smoking, but this is not a normal situation. Do whatever you have to do to get you through, within reason. If that’s five Malboro in a row, so be it.

Finally

Keep calm, and remember why you’re there. Keep your children in mind all of the time. You can do this, you will get through this. This too will pass.

 

I hope this helps some parents to prepare in their own way for Court. Part Two of this Post will deal with what to expect in front of the Judge, and how best to get through an actual Hearing, including some advice on how to give evidence.