David Charles knew this was not going to be easy, but he would try nevertheless.
"Mr Jones, I would advise you to give serious consideration to agreeing to your wife's solicitor's suggestion that you go to mediation. Every reasonable effort should be made to sort out arrangements for your children by agreement, rather than risk having the court impose something that neither of you want."
Brian Jones screwed up his face. Before he could reply, David added the carrot:
"And if you can agree matters, you would save yourself the huge expense involved in contested court proceedings."
Brian was still unimpressed. "She's only doing this to delay things." He said. "The sooner we get to court, the quicker I get to see my kids."
"Why don't you give it a try? If it becomes clear that she's not serious about reaching a reasonable agreement, you can always pull out of mediation and go to court."
"Yeah, but how long would it take me to find that out?"
"You should be able to see a mediator in the next few weeks."
"Weeks?" Exclaimed Brian. "Meanwhile, I don't get to see my kids."
"She has offered contact at a contact centre, pending the outcome of mediation. If you took that, at least you would be seeing the children, as I said the last time we met."
Brian was now losing his temper. "Why should I have to go to a bloody contact centre to see my own children? I'm not having that."
"Look, Mr Jones, we need to stay calm. If you go straight to the court, it will take at least six months before the court makes a final order. You can ask the court to make an interim contact order, but without doing a full investigation the court is going to be very cautious about how much contact it gives you, and may only order contact at a contact centre anyway."
"Oh brilliant, so I'm screwed whichever way I go. No wonder they say the system is biased against fathers."
David let out an exasperated sigh. "It's not a question of bias." He said. "It's a question of what is best for your children. The court won't know that until it gets the Cafcass report, and unfortunately that takes time."
"Look, I know I shouldn't have hit Liz that time, but I'd never do anything to harm my kids - Liz knows that."
"Maybe, but the court doesn't know it, and this letter from your wife's solicitor suggests that if you go to court she'll bring up your violent behaviour. As soon as she does that, the court is going to want it investigated, and is going to be ultra cautious about what it does."
Brian thought for a moment. "Look," he said, "I hear what you're saying, but I want my kids to share their time between their parents, and I just can't see Liz agreeing to that, or anything remotely like it, in mediation. I still think I should go straight to court, and take my chances."
"OK. So be it." Replied David, with a hint of resignation.