What Happens At Meetings
This is to tell you about the FNF Thames Valley meetings
Summary for the impatient
- We aim to help those going through divorce/separation. Our primary focus is on maintaining good contact with kids.
- Meetings are approximately fortnightly, see here for meeting locations and times. During lockdown we have weekly virtual meetings using Jitsi.
- We have email lists to give help between meetings.
- What is talked about at meetings is confidential, subject to Chatham House Rules.
- You must retain ultimate responsibility for how you run your life, we can only advise.
- You are welcome to bring a friend to meetings.
- Bring relevant papers to meetings, it will greatly help us to understand you.
We aim to help you find information that will enable you to make informed decisions whether you are instructing lawyers or representing yourself. After all, it is the personalities of the players that is crucial to outcomes, and only you know those personalities.
In many instances it will be more efficient for you to refer to published materials available from FNF or commercial publishers, using our meetings to interpret some of this information and gain a perspective on your own individual circumstances. A book may seem expensive but if it can save you 15 minutes of a solicitor's time it will have more than paid for itself.
The host, the person who chairs the meeting, will not necessarily be the person with the information most relevant to your situation.
The difficulties and problems are wide-ranging and in many instances it will be the relatively inexperienced members who have recently encountered situations similar to yours, who will be best placed to tell you what did, or didn't, work for them.
For example, the father who has recently been involved in CAFCASS interviews or who has experienced contact in a contact center would often be better placed to describe events you are anticipating, than perhaps would a more experienced member.
Self-help group, help us to help you
You may just be lucky enough to find someone who has the ability to help you and may offer to give you a great deal of time and individual support outside the meeting. However, most helpers have full-time jobs and their own difficult family situations to manage, so the basic principle is that we aim to guide you so that you will be able to resource and help yourself.
And we hope that soon you will be in a position to offer help to other newcomers.
When your problems die down please don't stop coming to meetings, continue to come and give to others the help that was given so freely to you. We do see some who turn up a few times and then 'disappear' only to suddenly make a frantic 'phone call because they are in court in a few days time. This is not clever:
- Action in court, meetings with CAFCASS, ... is part of a process. You need to learn what is likely to happen and prepare what you will say, maybe doing things that take several weeks to implement.
- Listening to what happens to others is the best way of getting experience, this takes time.
- Trying to deal with these matters over the 'phone is not easy. There are often long or legal documents that need to be read, what an experienced helper reads into these is often very different from someone who is new to the process.
- A helper might be busy or have other things on his mind. An emergency 'phone call when the matter could have been dealt with at previous regular meetings is a good way of annoying your helper.
We do not charge you to attend meetings, we are a self help group. We meet in a pub, so it will be expected that you buy yourself a beer/coffee/... The Bell also serves excellent food.
We do encourage you to join the FNF national organisation to support the work that it does.
This group meets for a few hours roughly once a fortnight but most of our work continues between meetings. We have an email list (that is private to members), many members get much help through this list.
The meetings are the means whereby you plug-in and start to network.
You may be given a telephone number or email address of another member, even someone not present, but a person who may have specialist knowledge relevant to your situation. Often you will be asked permission to give your contact detail to a specialist, this is to protect the specialist's privacy, they will often contact you within a few days. Please respect others' privacy, don't give out contact details unless you have permission to do so.
If someone does 'phone you: offer to call them back so that you pay for the call, this is especially desirable if your are calling from a mobile 'phone.
You are welcome to bring a friend to meetings, that person might be a new partner, a parent or a mate. They will be made welcome.
Litigation is a last resort.
Often, we will incorrectly assume that newcomers have explored all other means of resolving their problems and information focused on court applications will be provided. Remember, and remind us if we forget, that negotiation and mediation are always preferable to litigation.
You would be unwise to go into court alone. If you do not have a solicitor, we can help you find a McKenzie friend.
For those seeking help with litigation, perhaps with drafting a reply to a solicitor's letter, it is best if you can attend with a file of documentation because the actual wording of these documents is often very important.
- Use a ring-binder, keep court orders, statements and correspondence separate and in chronological order.
- Use a hard backed note book as a diary. Do not use one where pages can be easily removed or added - this reduces credibility if you need to refer to it in court.
- A chronologically ordered one line per event summary kept on a computer is also useful.
- You may need to know these important documents like the back of your hand.
Besides the hard-copy material and information published on the FNF website, we recommend that members explore and join the two Internet forums (FNF chat & FNF self-help) to benefit from input from others around the country.
Being part of a community, not being isolated, but having the opportunity to share your troubles with others who can relate to how you feel, both during and between meetings, generally provides members with a great strength.
You will find that you 'non divorced' friends will soon start to regard you as a 'divorce bore' - it is important to you, but not to them. Do keep coming to the meetings, it is cathartic, we have been through the problems, we understand, we won't get bored.
You are likely to hear and maybe speak about intensely personal matters. By choosing to remain in this meeting you will signify that you will abide by our code of confidentiality - that you agree not to repeat any personal details heard here. When you introduce yourself you need only use your first name.
Though these meetings are open to the public you will be expected to join FNF and pay an annual subscription since your subscription money is needed to run the national organisation. The more members the Charity has, the stronger its lobbying arm becomes. By joining you make a statement and commitment to become a member of our community helping one another.
If not already a member, ask for an application form right now.
We keep an attendance register so that we have some data on meetings to report to the national office. Any contact details you supply will not be shared outside of the Meeting hosts. By giving us your contact details you will indicate that the Host may contact you.
Occasionally during the year we may use a profile register asking for information on ethnicity, age, employment status and disability, information that is essential if the Charity is to be successful in any grant funding applications.
Branch organisers cannot accept responsibility for the accuracy of any information provided at a meeting or via email.
Attendees are advised to check the accuracy of any information and must always retain responsibility for any decisions made as a result of this information. Your case is your own, only you know the personalities involved. Helpers give what they believe is good advice based on their experience.