The background to the above Tweet is that I had a dad call in to see me today who had not seen his child for 3 weeks, and who had convinced himself that he wanted to make an application to court to get to see his son. He was certain that his ex couldn’t be mediated with, and that only an order would do. I wasn’t so sure, as to me it was a bit of a non-dispute, that had it’s root in both of them failing to understanding the difference between clear consent and ambiguity of intent.
I asked him for his phone and started to draft a text to his ex. I let him read it through, and he ok’ed it being sent. Within a minute an encouraging reply came back. I repeated the process twice more, with the result being that he will be seeing his son as before, with contact resuming this Sunday.
If my client had been to a solicitor, he would have been at the beginning, not the end of his journey back to having contact with his son. Litigation would have put that dad on a hamster wheel of letter tennis, adjournments, contact centres, stress, bills and frustration. Many months would have passed and any trust that existed on either side would have long been extinguished.
As someone who normally deals in very high conflict cases; those that are (in my view) incorrectly categorised as ‘intractable’, this is not uncommon. And whilst I don’t want to give my magic secrets away, it isn’t the first time I have made contact happen this way. It is however, the first time I have blogged about it.
My message to the McKenzie friending and lay advice community in family law is NOT to feel compelled to rush to expensive mediation or litigation to resolve a dispute. The great lie that the vocational legal community are loathe to talk about is that consent needs willing parties, not warring lawyers.
My sagely advice is to try to understand the nature of the dispute from both sides first, and don’t fall into the error that solicitors fall into with their ‘my client, my client’ mentality. The parent and his or her children will thank you for it.