Beacon Hill Training

“Where knowledge meets experience”

Essential Guide to the Childrens Court

Children’s Courts, what do I need to know?

If you’re going to a children’s court you can’t just turn up and hope for the best!  It’s a scary place with lots of very confident professional looking people rushing around speaking their own language and Jargon, it is generally expected that every day people have no idea what is going on!   No one has the time or the inclination to put you at ease and to explain everything, most people just go and hope for the best having no idea what to do, or have any idea of what is actually happening, you can tell by the lost look most people have on their faces!

If you’re having to go to court for yourself, you need to at least have a basic understanding of how it works and what is going on.

You need to know:

  • What it is actually like to go to court
  • How the system works, step by step
  • Know what all the key words / terms used
  • Who all the professionals are – where do they come from, what do they do
  • What everyone does (their roles and responsibilities)
  • What each type ‘court hearing’ does
  • What type of ‘reports’ could be asked for
  • What could happen, what the judge might want to happen
  • What all the Court Orders all mean and do
  • What Court Order you need

It’s hard enough for someone used to going to court, but for just everyday people it is daunting confusing and frankly terrifying!

So what can you do?

Well one thing you can do is to find out as much as possible before you go, forewarned is forearmed!   You can find this information out in a lot of ways, you can do your own research on the internet, or ask other people who have already been to court.  The problem with these is that every day people just don’t really know what to look for when looking on line, the same thing goes for asking someone who has already been through a court case.  Do they actually know what everything means or did they just blunder on through it in a state of confusion and hoping for the best!?? … would they admit it if they did!!    ….  It’s nothing to be ashamed of, the system isn’t really user friendly and most people are not really expected to know what’s going on – but rather to do as they are told!   A really good eBook (£2.90) is The essential guide to the children’s court stem, you can down load this onto a phone or kindle, the book is compact but tells you all the basics, all the research has been done for you and has an easily navigable menu (which means you can flick from one section to the next really quickly – and keep up with all the jargon and professional talk that’s going on).  The best thing about this book is that it is written by someone who has worked for years for the courts and who has actually successfully been through there own court proceedings!

If you know what to expect and roughly know what you want to ask the court for you are in a really great place! ...  And a better place than most!

What if you don’t have or can’t afford a solicitor or barrister?

A lot of people just can’t afford solicitors and barristers and are going to court hoping for the best.   The cuts in legal aid have been huge and the courts just aren’t set up for people representing themselves.   I have seen cases where one side has a really good Solicitor or Barrister and the other side is representing themselves, you don’t need me to tell you how that can work out for the unrepresented person!

It might work out for you but then it might not.  Even people used to going to court all the time are often confused.  If you want my advice, you need to know how it all works and what is going on, or to at least know what you want, and have an idea as to how to get it.   If you can’t afford a solicitor you need to make up for this by knowing what you need to and how to go about getting it – or in other words to have a plan!

McKenzie friend

A McKenzie friend is a fairly new role, basically this means you can take someone with you who is allowed to help you, but their role is limited.   They don’t have to have any special qualifications or experience, so you could take you aunt Mable as a McKenzie friend if you wish, or someone who actually knows what they are talking about. 

There are a lot of people out there (especially online) who have their own axes to grind, who have been through the court process and want to keep fighting the system through you, and at your expense.  It is often the case that they don’t really know everything they should or worse are convinced that they do!!   Do you want someone like this?  Personally I wouldn’t, a word of warning is to be very careful who you take on, you need someone who is actually going to help you – not someone who is going to antagonize the court, you don’t want to be seen in the same way as them! 

The problem is that some people have set themselves up as a ‘professional’ McKenzie friend who actually know very little yet will overemphasize their abilities.  Please be really careful!!  They often have really good professional looking internet sites, yet despite their claims to the contrary have no actual qualifications or knowledge.  They can also charge for their services!  From talking to some of them I really am worried about the effect they can have on a case, just be careful!

Sometimes it is just better to represent yourself, but my advice is:

  • Be prepared, do your research
  • Know what to expect
  • Know what you want and what to ask the court for
  • Have a plan

I hope this blog is useful to you, here are some links that might be useful:

Comments? Questions?