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When divorced parents can't agree

(64 Posts)
jewatson Thu 11-Oct-12 09:19:52

This is the first time I have posted here and hope that someone can help (I am deliberately being vague as I do not want to give too many details and risk outing myself)

My ex and I have been divorced for 4 years and our relationship is difficult (to say the least). I have always tried to be flexible and put the children's interests first (and I am sure that my ex believes the same thing about himself).

We have come to a point where he wants to change the status quo with regard to christmas and birthdays. I fundamentally disagree with his proposals. He wants me to go to mediation. Can he force this on me? If so, how does it work and will any agreement be legally binding?

olgaga Thu 11-Oct-12 09:31:43

Mediation does allow you to discuss matters in a structured, neutral way and concentrate on what's important. You might find that it works in your favour, if you approach it from the point of view of putting the children's case for the status quo. A lot of this will depend on their ages.

You are welcome to PM me if you like.

olgaga Thu 11-Oct-12 09:32:28

Sorry I meant to say "in a structured way, in a neutral environment".

Collaborate Thu 11-Oct-12 09:58:47

He can't force it upon you, but if the alternative is court, you really should go.

I'm going to take a wild guess here, which is that he wants to alternate Christmasses and birthdays but you won't agree. If that's the case, you should be aware that, absent unusual circumstances, this is the approach favoured by courts.

MOSagain Thu 11-Oct-12 10:05:25

Agree with Collaborate It is only fair that both parents get to spend time with the DC at Christmas, Easter, birthdays etc.
In best interests to reach an amicable agreement as opposed to ending up in Court.

jewatson Thu 11-Oct-12 10:09:28

When we got divorced we went to mediation to agree to maintenance and access. The agreement is clear - I must provide him with fair and reasonable access - one night a week and every other weekend. I do that and more (he has the children for 5 weeks holiday each year).
Given that we already have a court order that neither of us are in breach of... can he take me to court if I do not agree with mediation?
(also, from a practical perspective, surely there won't be time between now and christmas to get this agreed through a court).

Collaborate Thu 11-Oct-12 10:21:59

Yes he can take you to court at any time if you don't agree. Depends where you live and the court's backlog as to whether he could get a hearing before Christmas.

babybarrister Thu 11-Oct-12 11:35:05

agree with Collaborate and would add that in any event an agreement that is 4 years old in relation to children is likely to need reconsidering as children's needs change ...

jewatson Thu 11-Oct-12 14:41:03

babybarrister - why do you think that the agreement is likely to need reconsidering? The children are 13 and 10 and are happy with the access arrangement as it is. It is my ex husband who is looking to change the way we do things for 3 days of the year (I am sure that it is his girlfriend that is driving this which is one of the reasons I am so angry). Surely the whole agreement won't need to be reconsidered because of this?!

MOSagain Thu 11-Oct-12 15:21:17

It is very common for arrangements to change when the children get older.
I don't think it is unreasonable for a father to want to spend some time with his children at christmas and with respects, that is a view that the Courts tend to take too. Of course you are happy with it if you are having them every year but you need to look at it from his point of view too.

In my opinion, if he makes an application to the Court requesting contact alternate christmases I think he would be successful. Far better to agree it amicably than have it imposed by a Court order (and then have no money left to buy the children's christmas presents!)

PostBellumBugsy Thu 11-Oct-12 15:27:24

I think you should go to mediation. If your disagreement with his proposal is valid, then you have nothing to lose.

jewatson Thu 11-Oct-12 16:13:56

Gosh - I am not at all clued up on this sort of thing. If I understand correctly the situation is that if I refuse to attend mediation he could take me to court and I would have to pay...
If that is right it seems grossly unfair. If the court decided that the status quo remained would I still have to pay?

PostBellumBugsy Thu 11-Oct-12 16:16:59

The courts expect parents to make "reasonable" attempts to sort out their own affairs before going to court. If it looks as though you have been unreasonable (and refusing to attend mediation could be seen as unreasonable) then it is possible that they may award you with the costs.

Spero Thu 11-Oct-12 16:21:05

Mediation only works if both parties want it. It has to be an entirely voluntary process.

So no, it can't be forced on you but you would be well advised to give it a go. Although you are very unlikely to be ordered to pay his costs if it goes to court, you will have to pay your own or self represent which carries a high stress/emotional cost.

And children change over time. Especially over four years! The original order may well now not be meeting their needs.

Collaborate Thu 11-Oct-12 16:58:14

Agree with Spero.

Qwertyytrewq Thu 11-Oct-12 17:05:21

From 6 and 9, to 10 and 13 aren't arrangements going to change?

At 13 my daughter tells me what's happening.

NotaDisneyMum Thu 11-Oct-12 19:18:45

watson sorry to hijack, but could you explain how you got a court order if you agreed contact arrangements in mediation?
I've mediated several times with my ex - we always come to an agreement only for it to he broken further down the line - a court order enforcing our agreement would be my preferred option but keep being advised by my solicitor that the courts have a "no order" principle and that if I want an order I shouldn't come to an agreement in mediation ????

jewatson Thu 11-Oct-12 20:04:06

I might be using the terminology incorrectly.
Before my ex and I were divorced we went to mediation in order to agree the financial settlement and access arrangements. The divorce document (which I always assumed was a court order) details all of these arrangements.
We did not discuss specific dates e.g. xmas and birthdays because there was an understanding between us that we would do what was right for the children. Until now we have always had christmas together in my home.

Bonsoir Thu 11-Oct-12 20:07:05

"I am sure that it is his girlfriend that is driving this which is one of the reasons I am so angry."

So, if I understand the thread correctly, your exH now has a girlfriend and he and she would like to spend Christmas together, with the children on alternate years?

That is what the courts will give you if it goes that far.

I've been divorced 3 years. We did have Christmas together for the first 2 years but when his long term girlfriend moved down here, we went to alternate Christmases at his/ mine. It is painful. But we were divorced, and I felt it was fair that we took turns. You can either opt to have them for the morning on the big day and maybe lunch and then he collects them, so you both see them on the big day and then switch that round the following year. Or opt to have them the whole day one year and then not the next. Or similar.

It is very hard but when the marriage is over, there does come a time when ex spouses want to do things individually with the kids, especially when they have a new partner. Are they living together now I take it? Or is it all happening too quickly for comfort perhaps and she is a very new gf?

What are his plans, what does he want exactly?

I think the fact he wants to try and resolve this through mediation is good. Mediation can work very well.

jewatson Thu 11-Oct-12 20:21:55

No, she is not a new girlfriend. She has been with my ex since we divorced and has been living with him for over a year now.
He actually hasn't said that he wants the children on xmas day. He would like to have them from boxing day for a week (he always has them for the 31st and 1st). I know that my children love the way that we spend xmas and I think that he is putting his partner ahead of our children's best interests. I know that for most people that will sound unreasonable but it's what I know is true. For the children to be away from me for a week at this time of year is not fair on anyone.

sudaname Thu 11-Oct-12 20:23:47

Do you mean you, your DCs and your Exh spend Christmas Day at your house or just you and the DCs.

If it's the former you can hardly blame his DP or your EXh for that matter for wanting to spend Xmas day together and him still wanting to see his DCs at least every other year. Hell would freeze over before l would put up with my DH spending Xmas day with 'her who shant be mentioned' grin

If it's the latter l think it's about time he had a turn of waking up to his DCs on Xmas morning dont you ?

longjane Thu 11-Oct-12 20:24:06

so he see the kids every christmas
and now he want to see to the kids every other Christmas
which is quite sad really

jewatson yes i would go to mediation
but have a list of dates yourself that you always want
mothers day
your birthday
your parents birthdays
any other day you celebrated

also divide up the bank hoildays
and easter
and the kids birthday

get a proper order writtian out
and
STICK TO IT by the letter dont do any swaps if you dont want to

Sorry but I think you are mixing up what suits you with 'what's right for the children.' It is not unreasonable of your XP to want to spend every other Xmas with his girlfriend and his children. She has been with him for nearly 4 years and living with him for over a year so the children presumably know and like her as well.

Bonsoir Thu 11-Oct-12 20:30:30

jewatson - you are being deeply unreasonable here.

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