Making a Parenting Agreement

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Parenting plans or agreements are the written record of the arrangements made between separated parents for how their children will be cared for and supported. Preparing one allows you to make your own decisions on things that suit your children and your own circumstances. Your parenting plan can include anything that you need to agree on about your children. The advantage of writing everything down is that any possible dispute over what has been agreed is avoided, and you are encouraged to focus on what is best for the children and workable for both parents. The plan can be changed at any time with the agreement of both parents.

Because a parenting plan is worked out and agreed by both of you, agreeing in this way means that you have control over the process and do not need to fight things out in court. Going to court is a traumatic, expensive, time consuming experience, which should be avoided whenever possible.

Coming to a workable agreement without going to court will save you money, time and distress and, most importantly, is better for your children. When children know that their parents have agreed what’s best for them, they feel cared for and safer, and manage the stresses and fears of their parents’ separation much better.

This book contains all you need to guide you through coming to a parenting agreement with your child’s other parent. It deals with negotiating techniques, points to consider and include in your agreement, and how to overcome problems which may arise. The advice applies to both married and unmarried parents.

Although often not necessary, the parenting agreement can be submitted to the court and made subject to a child arrangements order.

INTRODUCTION

This isn’t just a book explaining how to bring a small claim in the small claims court. There are many books and guides which show you how to do this. This book is about winning a case in the small claims court. Its purpose is to give you all that you need to successfully bring or defend a small claim.

The idea behind small claims is that small money claims should be dealt with informally by those involved, and without the need for the involvement of lawyers. The small claims court was set up to provide a simple and informal method of resolving disputes, without incurring heavy legal costs. The key words are ‘no fuss, no costs, and no appeal’. It is intended for and directed towards litigants in person.

Many of the rules which apply to other civil cases are either relaxed or not applied. In particular, the strict rules of evidence are not enforced, and disputes are decided by a district judge, with all the parties usually sitting around a table in his private room. The joy of the small claims court is that the disadvantage of the small man (or woman) who cannot afford to pay for legal representation against a large business who can is reversed.

This is all very good and fine but it presents hidden dangers. The relaxed informal procedures of a small claim may open up the courts to litigants in person (for that is what you will be considered), but cases will still be decided on the same principles as a multi-million-pound dispute in the High Court. The rules of evidence may be relaxed but cases will still turn on who is believed. The procedure to bring or defend a claim may be simplified, but it is the litigant who presents a well-prepared case who is more likely to be believed and therefore succeed. However good your case, if you present it in a half-cocked way you are not likely to win in the small claims court any more than anywhere else. Cases are won here just as much by careful preparation and good presentation as in any other court.

You are going to need a basic understanding of the law which relates to your case and an understanding of court procedure. A defendant needs to understand this, just as much as a claimant. The key is effective preparation, which will also give you the confidence needed to win by presenting your case effectively at trial.

The purpose of this book is to show you how to overcome these dangers and turn them upon your opponent. You have to not just prepare your case for court, but to prepare it in such a way that when it is looked at by a busy judge, what you are saying is immediately clear and puts you in his good books. Cases are decided on the evidence presented to the court, and the evidence you present must be compelling and directed at the legal issues relevant to your case. The court has a duty to ensure a level playing field, but some playing fields are more level than others. Yours must on all accounts be superior.

Just as important as knowing how and when to bring a small claim is to know when not to bring it and the alternatives. Even if you have a good case, there is no point if, at the end, you are not going to get your money. Also, what is unfortunately certain is that bringing a case will take up your time, and if you are a claimant there will be court costs to pay. You need to be certain that the time and money you spend on your case will be justified.

Below you will find all that you need to know to bring or defend a small claim in the county courts of England and Wales. It can be your guide at every step of the way, from deciding whether you have a case worth bringing or defending to presenting your case and enforcing a judgement. As you work through each section, there are hints and tips from experienced lawyers, who had conducted countless cases over the years. Should you still have questions having read the book, further help is available.

Contd.

Contents

Introduction 6

Chapter 1. The nature of a small claim 8
Small claims costs 9

Chapter 2. Is the small claims court for me? 12

Chapter 3. Alternative dispute resolution methods 13
Negotiation 13
Mediation 14
Arbitration 15
Expert determination 16

Chapter 4. Is it going to be worth it? 17
Will you get paid if you win? 17

Chapter 5. Pre-action protocol 19
Letters before action 19

Chapter 6. Preparing your claim 21
The parties to a claim 21
The particulars (or statement) of claim 22
How much can you claim? 24
Interest 25

Chapter 7. Issuing your claim 27
Money claim online 27
Court fees 29
Hearing fees 30

Chapter 8. After issue 31
The allocation questionnaire 31

Chapter 9. Early judgement 34
Summary judgement 35
Striking out 36
Admissions, counterclaims and set-offs 37

Chapter 10. Defending a claim 38

Chapter 11. Case management 40
Directions 40
Disclosure 41
Requests for further information 42

Chapter 12. Proving your case 44
Witnesses 44
Expert evidence 45

Case law and legal precedent 47

Chapter 13. The hearing 48
Before the judge 50
McKenzie friends 54

Chapter 14. Appeals and re-hearings 57

Chapter 15. Enforcing judgement 59
Orders to obtain information (oral examination) 59
Warrant of control 60
Attachment of earnings orders 61
Third-party charging orders 63
Charging orders 63
Statutory demands 65

Chapter 16. Claims in contract 66
Misrepresentation 66

Chapter 17. Sale of goods 68

Chapter 18. Professional negligence 70

Chapter 19. Claims in tort 71
Negligence 71
Nuisance 71
Personal injury claims 72
Occupiers’ liability 74

Chapter 20. Particular claims 75
Contractual disputes 75
Claims for an unpaid bill 75
Repayment of a loan 77
Claims for faulty goods 77
Claims for defective services 78
Building disputes 79
Motor vehicle repair claims 80
Motor vehicle purchase claims 80
Disputes between landlords and tenants 81

Appendix. Example claims 82
Claim against a builder for unfinished work 82
Claim in negligence against a builder 82
Claim against a motor dealer for a defective vehicle sold 83
Claim against a private individual for sale of a defective vehicle 83
Claim against a retailer for faulty goods 84
Claim for money loaned 85
Claim for damages resulting from a motor accident 86
Application to set aside a default judgement 87
Application for summary judgement 87

Further help 89