Posted by The Family Law Company on 19th December 2011

An article by Bob Grieg, Director of OnlyDads.

The aims of this short article are varied. In essence I hope it will:

My own journey through the Family Law Courts

I found myself talking with a family solicitor for the first time in May 2004 with tears spilling down my face. My marriage was ending, I was in a state of abject grief, confused, and if I am honest more than a little panic stricken. I was very scared about the process ahead of me. My solicitor was reassuring and kind, but I didn’t understand what she was saying to me – not on this occasion. The backdrop to this first appointment was further complicated because my two daughters were so upset at their parents break-up, I just knew that I wasn’t doing my paid job properly, I wasn’t eating properly, and generally life was in a mess. A big mess.

I found myself in a Family Court a few days later. The environment was strange and so very formal – I remember reading instructions on the seat in front of me informing me on how I should address the Judge if spoken to -“Your Honour” if you are in front of a Circuit Judge, but only “Sir” for District Judges. Definitely not Dave! While not necessarily unfriendly, the whole scenario seemed to have little to do with modern Britain. I was reminded of scenes from those old black and white films shot in headmasters’ studies in minor public schools. Oh, and during the 30 minutes proceedings I felt that I was largely ignored.

I was nervous throughout the court hearing – and when we walked out I had little understanding of what had been agreed. My solicitor was with me though, and once outside she was able to explain to me that “everything was OK”.

Everything wasn’t OK. What was happening in that court room was just one part of an unravelling life. Or should I say lives?

Things get worse

Months after separation and well into the court process I found that I had lost two stone in weight, I was having “little chats” with my boss at work on a regular basis. Every evening at home I was on the ‘phone updating people as to what was happening. I was getting increasingly exhausted. My GP was telling me to sign off sick – I explained that I couldn’t because I would lose my job, and the house was a mess, and my children were still crying in the night and I started to feel that I couldn’t go on. Every time I picked up court papers from the “other side”, I read and re-read that I was supposed to have done really terrible things – and the frustration is you can’t really reply at that precise moment. You just have to bottle it all up. And when you do get to court, you will hear judges and solicitors say things like “we put your children first”, and you want to scream at the top of your voice that you (and perhaps only you) put your children before everything else…The situation and the sense of utter frustration can became unbearable.

And then worse still

Sometime later, while at work I started to feel dizzy. Very dizzy. My heart was pounding and when I got up from my seat I could barely stand, and I became convinced that I was having a heart attack. Suddenly I became desperately frightened…I really did think that I was going to die that day. When I eventually got to my bed that night I was crying again – my tears and fears had worn me down to breaking point.

And I think this is important. Family break-up will impinge upon every area of your life – make no mistake. This process of negative life change will be punctuated by court hearings. They are important moments – but they are just that. Moments. And the build-up and your sense of frustration and anger and willingness for the truth to spill out will need to be diluted and channelled through formal documents and through words carefully chosen by your solicitor. If you are anything like me you will sit there praying that “His Honour” will break into proceedings and put his arm around you and take you to one side and just say something like “tell me what’s this really about son – tell me the truth – you’ll be alright”. But they don’t do that sort of thing, and I so wish they did!

And out of this bitter experience it seems almost illogical to try and offer survival tips – but I did survive (and not all men do). And for what it’s worth have a read just to see if it helps.

And finally, don’t be afraid to seek help – sometimes the pressure of it all can get to us – and knowing where that help is available and how to access it can be so important. Talk to your solicitor, or friends, or contact us at info@onlydads.org or visit your local citizens advice bureau…you need not suffer alone.

I have titled this piece “surviving” and on reflection, I think that is the word to use. For those dads who are just about to start the process, please take care of yourself to the best of your ability. You will need strength in the years ahead.

And above all remember – there is a generational thing going on here and your children will want to learn one day that you thought through the issues and worked hard and tried everything you could to put their interests first. And that is all anyone can ask of you.

And to finish the story…

Well, having been made redundant, and with bags of care from my GP, and four years on, the girls and I are getting back on our feet. I now run www.onlydads.org and the girls are doing well at school and fill my life…!

But guess what, I’m back to court next month for another “Directions Hearing”! Many of you reading this may find that the legal process you are in can go on and on. And on…

The Family Law society accreditation in Advanced Family lawImage of The Law Society Accreditation of Children Law.
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