Love, Power and Strategy in the Family Courts

By Andrew Baines, Solicitor and Mediator, Family Law Department

It’s good to have a strategy when love and power are pitched against each other in the Family Court. A strategy is needed because whilst court guidelines are clear in their wording they are wide in their interpretation. “The welfare of the child is paramount” is one such clear guideline but the consequences of applying the guideline are often unclear. In the face of this uncertainty, love and power can run amok. They need to be restrained and a good strategy will do this.

The role of the lawyer is to advise their clients as to the range of possible orders the court can make and then seek to persuade the court to adopt outcome the wished for by their client. For the parents themselves, the court proceedings are not an arid intellectual exercise, but rather an intimidating and chaotic prospect. They may have ended up in court as their love for their child prevents them from agreeing to the other parent’s proposals. They may have ended up in court because their spouse simply won’t engage in any discussions about their finances. The power exercised by the court is needed to bring matters to a conclusion.

They say love is blind, so simply following the dictates of a parent’s love for a child is unlikely to bear fruit in litigation. (I love my children so I know what is best for them.) Similarly exercising power because it is there will not always be the best way forward. (I can sack you from the family firm tomorrow if you don’t do what I say.) A lawyer will use a coherent strategy to work their way through this minefield.

What does the strategy involve? In brief, it is strength applied to the most promising opportunity. To achieve this the lawyer will discuss with the client what opportunities are open to them, what strengths their case has, and what resources are available with a view to working towards the most promising opportunity – a diagnosis of the situation. The next step is to make use of those strengths and resources through a coherent policy of action. The policy chosen will be the one most likely to cope with or overcome the obstacles identified in the diagnosis. This policy will be clear as to the objectives to be achieved – connected objectives, not ones working against each other. This preparation is put into practice through coherent action. So, rather than throwing everything including the kitchen sink at the court process, the lawyer will select a set of coherent actions co-ordinated with one another to accomplish the client’s goal.

Love and power make a tempest of the court’s process. Adopting a good strategy will bring the client’s ship safely into its favoured port.

Experienced Solicitor and Family Mediator Andrew Baines assists clients seeking to resolve issues following separation including disagreements relating to children and finances. To find out more about Andrew, click here.