Self help: Preparation

Author: Katy Zikking

If you are facing divorce or separation and you are involved in a dispute regarding money, property or children I would advise you to: Think Deeply, Reflect, Own Your Own Story. What I am actually asking you to do here is begin to think like a lawyer from the beginning. I can hear you say, “but isn’t that what I’m paying you for?” which is fine, but… bear with.

Can you provide your lawyer with a coherent and consistent narrative of the situation in which you find yourself?  It will be of great significance to the success or otherwise of your case if you can.

Think really carefully about the history of your relationship. If you haven’t done so already begin writing a journal to note down dates and important events or conversations. Try to be objective. Try to reach the root of a bad decision or conversation which led to any larger event. I understand this is going to be very difficult to achieve. The more emotionally distraught you are the more difficult it will become. You may want to consider counselling or other forms of Family Therapy to help you make this is achievable. However, I cannot over-emphasise the importance of you knowing and owning your story completely.

If you are fortunate enough that your case is being dealt with collaboratively, then this preparation will provide you with the best opportunity to feel confident about the round-table meetings with your ex-partner and respective lawyers. You will know that the issues important to you will be aired, discussed and resolved. The end result of the Collaborative process is intended to be as ‘whole’ as possible and if you are fully aware of all the issues you wish to be resolved the outcome will be so much more complete. As an additional plus – if you have spent considerable time on this, then your lawyer will not.  Your legal fees will be considerably reduced.

If reaching an agreement amicably is not possible, your case may need to be heard by the court. If your case proceeds all the way to a final hearing, then your story may need to be set down on paper and placed under the harsh, unflattering microscope of your opposing barrister. If you are able to feel confident about the root of your journey – your story, how things have ended up as they have – then you have nothing to fear. You will be able to recall important facts, events, and conversations. You will be able to fully explain your position without any difficulty.

For those clients that are, for whatever reason, unable to carry out this exercise, they are invariably more stressed, anxious and fraught. I recall a memorable case on this point, which went all the way to a three-day, final hearing. It involved a very complex narrative history relating to a property dispute between an unmarried couple. I worked with my client to ensure she had a very clear, calm recollection of events, unclouded (as far as possible) by the emotional fall-out from the breakdown of the relationship. This was the case when we prepared her written statement and also in court. Her evidence in the witness box was, almost, bright and breezy. It was certainly uncomplicated and persuasive. The opponent, her ex-partner, on the other hand did not have anywhere near the level of detail that my client was able to provide. As he gave his evidence in the witness box, I remember thinking that he came across as very sullen and despondent. He was an adult, but was presenting as a grumpy teenager. I wonder whether this was partly a result of his lack of preparation rather than anything more revealing or relevant? As a result the amount of persuasive evidence his barrister was able to draw out was minimal. By almost shocking contrast our barrister was able to bring very clear and therefore persuasive evidence from my client. Verdict – The Judge found in favour of our client. I believe a large part of the reason for this success involved my client’s deep acceptance and knowledge of her history.

Katy Zikking is a specialist family solicitor. You can contact her now by e-mail at: mail@harbourfamilylaw.co.uk or by calling 01179 055141 or 01275 390458.

The news articles and blogs contained on this website do not constitute legal advice in relation to any particular situation. While Harbour Family Law aims to ensure that the information is correct at the date on which it is added to the website, the legal position can change frequently, and content will not always be updated following any relevant changes. You therefore acknowledge and agree that Harbour Family Law Ltd accept no liability whatsoever in contract, tort or otherwise for any loss of damage caused by or arising directly or indirectly in connection with any use or reliance on the contents of our website to the extent that such liability cannot be excluded by law.