A day in the life of a McKenzie Friend
I have been a McKenzie Friend for three months fitting it in alongside my children and a part time job. I find it extremely interesting and have taken the training course with Simon Walland. I now feel much more confident that I know what I am doing and how to prepare straightforward cases.
I am in court today with David. He has been told by Amanda, his ex-partner that he can’t see his son, Jake, because he isn’t paying enough money to her. They only split up six months ago and they are both angry and keep trying to score points off each other.
I had a sit-down meeting with David and he seems a decent man. He is upset that Amanda has moved her new boyfriend into their old home. The boyfriend is collecting Jake from school each day which David used to do.
We have spoken a few times on the telephone, and I have helped him to write a Position Statement. He wanted to include things that I now know aren’t important for the Judge. Between us we have managed to put together a clear and logical statement. It explains the situation well and shows what David wants the court to do.
I arrive at the court, and after going through security I look at the notice board to see which Judge we have. I am pleased to see that it is District Judge Davies. In a hearing with him a few weeks ago, the mother I was helping started crying uncontrollably, he was very kind and understanding. I think all the Judges here are nice, but I do prefer him.
I see David is already sat in the waiting room, so I go across and sit next to him and we check the Position Statement again. I ask David to sign it and then I go to find the usher to book us in.
David points out Amanda to me who is with her new boyfriend and I go over and introduce myself. Sometimes they will talk to me, other times not, but Amanda seems to want to argue with me. I point out that I am only here to help David and if we can agree on things we can save arguing in court. She says she is happy for David to collect Jake from school and to go back to the original agreement that had. She is worried about David not taking Jake to football practice on Saturdays which is why she stopped his contact. (No mention of money).
That is news to me, so I go back to David and explain the situation. He feels that he only see’s Jake at weekends so why should he have to stand in a field in the rain on his time. I point out as delicately as I can that it is Jake’s time and Jake might like playing football. David doesn’t agree but would be happy to go back to the original arrangement and collect from school again and so we discuss the football.
It turns out that David’s family live some distance away and they often have family gatherings. He won’t be able to take Jake if he has to go to football. We discuss alternatives and I suggest that maybe the family could meet on a Sunday instead and then Jake could go. David thinks it might work but he has to have Jake back by 4.00pm and that wouldn’t leave enough time with the family. If he could return him at 6.00 it would work.
I go back to Amanda and say how pleased David would be to go back to the original agreement and explain the family issue and the return time. Amanda says she can’t agree to the later time as Jake needs to do his homework and get ready for school on Monday.
I discuss this again with David but he is adamant that he needs to return him at 6.00. I go back to Amanda and say that the best thing is to go back into court and explain the problem to the Judge. He can decide what time Jake is returned which she said was fair.
I then sit with David waiting to be called into court. I know from my training with Simon that if David went outside for a cigarette, or I bought a coffee from the vending machine, we would be called in straightaway!
After about half an hour, the court door opens, and a young couple come out of their hearing. The usher calls for David and Amanda. (I could have had a coffee after all). We go across to the usher, she tells us to switch our mobiles off and we walk into court.
The court has about 5 long rows of seats. We are directed to the front row and to sit on the left while Amanda sits on the right. Judge Davies is already there, and he smiles at us all and says good morning to me. He then checks that he has David and Amanda and then asks what the problem is. He has read our Position statement and is not impressed about David not being able to see Jake because of money. David and Amanda start to talk at the same time and the Judge stops them. He has grasped that the situation is now different. He looks at me and asks me to explain. (This is the first time I have been asked to speak in court and my knees are knocking together).
I explain the issue of contact being reinstated and that the only issue seems to be that neither party can agree on the return time on Sunday. Mum wants 4.00 and Dad wants 6.00 and Jake gets to go to football. The Judge looks at David and asks if I have explained it properly. He nods his head and he asks Amanda the same and she says yes.
The Judge then asks David why he wants 4.00. He explains about the distance and the Judge asks him where he has to go and how long it takes. He then he asks Amanda why she wants 6.00 and she explains about the homework etc.
The Judge then says that he suggests that Jake is returned at 5.00 and that Dad takes him to football. Dad has to make sure that Jake has finished his homework before he is returned.
David and Amanda both agree that is a fair compromise. The Judge congratulates them on reaching an agreement. He then thanks me for assisting and smiles.
I walk out of court feeling a million dollars. I have made a difference which will not only make David happy, but Jake as well. The feeling of having done some good and feeling confident about what I have done is incredible. I thank Amanda and David and drive home with a big grin on my face. Not bad for three hours work.
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