Brian Jones was not in the best state of mind when he had arrived at court late, having been held up by traffic, and his mood had not improved when he discovered that the well-dressed woman his solicitor had been sharing a joke with was Liz's solicitor. Now he was being told that Liz's solicitor was not prepared to enter into any discussions about him seeing the children, in advance of him and Liz speaking to the Cafcass officer.
"The Cafcass officer will just have an informal discussion with the two of you, without lawyers present." David reminded Brian. "She will want to know exactly what the problems are, and whether there is any possibility of resolving things without having to ask the court to make a decision. At the end of the meeting, she will call the lawyers in, explain what has been discussed, and then prepare a note for the district judge. The judge will read the note, and then call us in."
"But will I get to see my kids after today?" Asked Brian.
"That depends upon how the discussions go. If some agreement can be reached, then yes."
"What if no agreement can be reached? Will the judge make a contact order?"
"No, not today." Relied David. "But he will give directions for your contact application to proceed as quickly as possible." He added, hopefully.
"But you said that could take months!"
"Well, yes. But if we can't agree any contact at all today then we can come back in the next week or so and ask for an interim contact order, as I explained to you before. Look, let's just see what happens when you talk to the Cafcass officer?"
The two men fell silent.
Eventually, a slightly dishevelled-looking middle aged woman appeared and introduced herself as the Cafcass officer. Brian followed her into a side room.
Twenty minutes later the woman reappeared and summoned David and Liz's solicitor into the room. Inside, David found Liz dabbing tears from her eyes with a tissue, and Brian staring at him with a face like thunder. David's heart sank...
* * * * *
"Do you admit that you hit your wife?" The district judge directed the question straight at Brian.
"Well, yes, but..." Brian began to reply, but the district judge interrupted him.
"There are no 'buts' about it, Mr Jones. There was no excuse for hitting her, was there?"
"No... Sir." Admitted Brian.
"No indeed. Well, in these circumstances I think that contact at a contact centre is the best way to proceed, pending a full Cafcass report. Do you agree, Mr Charles?"
David knew there was no point in arguing, despite what his client thought. He nodded his assent.
"Good." Smiled the district judge, mentally ticking another case off his long morning list. "Then I shall give the following directions..." He said, removing the top from his fountain pen.
As David scribbled a note of the directions, he glanced sideways towards his expressionless client and wondered whether he would still be instructed by the time the matter next came before the court.