I have spent most of today preparing for a hearing. The case concerns two parents both of which clearly care very greatly for their children but who cannot agree the arrangements between them as to how much time the children spend with each of them. It is always sad when a case like this ends up in court as ultimately the Judge will make a decision based on hearing an hour or so’s evidence from each party and having no knowledge other than that of the evidence of the parties and probably no knowledge about the children’s wishes at all. It is always frustrating when a couple cannot agree these arrangements even with professional help. Both I and the solicitor on the other side have tried to take a sensible and constructive approach but each parent is stubborn. In one sense they have done all the right things: they have been to mediation, they have engaged solicitors to advise them and negotiate on their behalf and both have cooperated with CAFCASS (the Court appointed advisors who report on these situations).
Both parents though remain convinced that their own interpretation of the situation is the “right one” and it has not been possible to agree any form of compromise. The Courts now are quite reluctant to deal with final hearings and there is increasing pressure on clients to go to mediation and sort things out “sensibly”. Some cases though will never settle. The powers that be need to understand that in those cases the professional advisors will already have done their best to try and bring about a resolution. It can be very frustrating for an advocate to be told by a Judge that there must be yet another adjournment so that mediation can take place. Often that prolongs the dispute which is harmful to the children and all of those involved. However, what the powers that be appear to overlook is human nature. Some people are simply either unable to compromise or, are perhaps in a position where they should not be having to compromise at all. In this particular case both clients are equally convinced that they are correct and that they “know best” for their own children. In those cases the best thing that can happen is for there to be a final hearing as soon as possible so that the uncertainty that is infecting the children’s lives can be resolved. It is likely that neither party will come out with the outcome that they desire and the parents will have to accept that someone else will now have to make the decision about their children.