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Navigating the Family Courts

Firstly, if there is anyway you can avoid entering the court system, do. Go to every length imaginable. The Family Court system in the UK is more akin to something Dante might have conjoured up than any idea of justice you may be innocently harbouring. It's worse than your worst nigthmare – unless you err towards the narcissistic/psychopathic personality traits, in which case, you may just enjoy the ride.

What I write about my experience in the family courts is necessarily circumspect out of respect for my daughter for whom this whole messy drama was supposed to serve. What I can say categorically, is that it did not serve her. It stole ten years of her childhood and subjected her to trauma no child should be made, by the state, to experience. I was also subject to all sorts of arcane gagging orders which may or may not still hold sway. The effect being to silence the victims of abuse that those who have experienced abuse within families and more abuse in the family courts will certainly recognise.

Everything I thought about myself, what I imagined safety and justice to be was so thoroughly challenged that it was as if I had been thrown into the fires of hell and was being moulded anew. What was essential in this devastating crucible was that the molton liquid of my being had a mould of my choosing to pour itself into, and didn't inadvertently shape itself around the warped justice system.

I was lucky to have a beautiful friend who introduced me to the work of Byron Katie at this critical juncture in my life, and this turned out to be a mould of such value that it has continued to serve me in the aftermath of the court case during which time the true horror of what the misguided orders led to, unfolded. Byron Katie asks us to question, Is it True?, to whatever is causing us distress. The answer can only be yes or no and there are no wrong answers. The very question introduces enough instability into our concrete world view, that the subtlest possibility of something else can arise. Through the decade of proceedings, that tiniest possibility kept me going. It formed the bedrock of my emerging spirituality. It was so elusive that I often lost sight of it but the relentlessness of the hearings and the absurdity of the judgements meant I had a steady stream of experiences and beliefs to which to ask the question, Is it True? Now, when I look back at the court case I remember it with a mixture of horror – because it was truly awful, and gratitude – because out of it came a deep desire to experience the love that underlies this mirage of terror and suffering.

The page above from my journal at the time gives expression to how I felt about the court case and the overwhelming lack of trust I had in the Cafcass officers and Judges to keep us safe. The utter hopelessness arose as my respect, agency, freedom and ability to protect my own child was stripped from me. I have grieved so bitterly for what happened, for what was lost, for the cruelty and irretrievable innocence. At the time I wouldn't have described what I was feeling as grief because there were no deaths (not that death wasn't threatened and an emergency system of bars and alarms placed by police and fire service on our flat to keep us save against the bizzare orders of the court to allow access). My journey since the court case has brought me to the Grief Recovery Method and the question I now ask alongside, 'Is it True?', is 'What is incomplete?'

Grief arises after any loss, death or change in a familiar pattern of behaviour. It's a mixed bag of conflicting feelings. The question, What is incomplete? helps me, and all those who use the tools of the Grief Recovery Method, to identify where the hurt remains and what needs to be done to bring peace and healing. The action steps of the Grief Recovery Method have enabled me to experience transformative love as I have implemented the healing tasks of forgiveness and apology. And, love has a way of changing us and putting us in touch with what is meaningful and whole – a far cry from the hopelessness I felt before.

If you have experience of the family courts, please give yourself the gift of recovery. Grief, by its very nature, remains within us building up and limiting our capacity for joy and poisoning our relationships. It doesn't just go away with time, we have to take action to bring this pain to completion. The court system gives rise to so much suffering – don't lug it around with you like a rucksack of rocks.

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