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Please help! CAO hearing, abusive ex, CMS nightmare(5 Posts)
Sorry in advance for waffling on, but don't want to drip feed. I'll try to quickly skim through the background info!
Left my exP 6 months ago; he was verbally/financially abusive (there's another thread on here somewhere but don't know how to link), he didn't want to commit and he had done some pretty shitty things in general. We weren't married. One day we had a huge row over his behaviour and he told me to get out of 'his' house. DC's and I went to stay with my parents and when I went back a few weeks later to collect some things, he had changed the locks and him and his family had boxed all my belongings up and moved them out. He was worried that I was going to try and claim some sort of rights over 'his' house (which I wouldn't have), so he was trying to allege that I'd left/never really lived there. I got abuse off his family, they refused to give me some of my things back, exP alleged he'd sold items belonging to the children etc. etc.) It was absolute hell and we were effectively homeless. I contacted the police about my belongings but they said it was a civil matter. I eventually got things back after I threatened legal action, but there were sentimental things missing that I will never ever forgive them for.
In regards to contact, I've always facilitated it on a weekly basis (ex works away during the week - But the odd time he has been available midweek; he's asked to see the children and I've agreed). We never had an arrangement as such and I feel like this is coming back to bite me in the backside now...
The first weekend he asked to see them after their afternoon nap: I agreed. He'd then get in touch to say 'same time next week?' and I'd agree. For ages he was seeing them for just 4 hours a week because of this. He requested to start having them overnight; but I suggested that he wait until the DC's were more settled as we were at this point living in my parents box room and they were very unsettled. I suggested there be a gradual build up and he start taking them for the day rather than 4 hours. He gradually started seeing the DC's overnight; however we started disagreeing on how this would work. He wanted them overnight 1 night per week, whereas I thought better for him to have them for 2 nights EOW. I felt like this would give them more quality time with their Dad and also ensured that I still had quality time at the weekends with them. I genuinely do think that this would be the best arrangement for the children.
We also started disagreeing on how handovers would take place. I asked that his family did not come on my property (because of issues above). But this resulted in him collecting the children and his Mother returning them. I'd ask her not to come on the property again and she'd ask me if she should leave and take my DC's with her! It all caused me massive amounts of anxiety. I told exP that we'd need to go via solicitors to arrange access as my boundaries were not being respected and we couldn't agree on overnight arrangements anyway. At this point he ceased paying maintenance that we'd agreed between ourselves for the children and is currently dodging the CMS. He won't answer the phone to them or respond to letters. He's telling anyone that will listen that he has to use all of his money for court fees (he's loaded, so this is rubbish) and that I'm stopping him from seeing his children. I would never ever try to stop contact, ever.
His solicitor contacted me and the request was 1 night on a weekend, 1 midweek half day. However exP had requested that when he wasn't available midweek, his Mother come to collect the children instead and 'take responsibility for them'. My solicitor wrote back that my suggestion was 2 nights EOW and whilst I agreed to the 1 midweek half day, there would be no reason that if he were unavailable that I should hand the children to his Mother. I do hate his Mother with a passion. BUT I'm not saying no out of spite... My exP stays at his parents house with the children when he has them, so they have a relationship with their GP's that he facilitates. I'm a student and time with my babies is precious, if I'm there midweek and he isn't, I want to spend time with my DC's. Does this sound unreasonable of me?
It was also suggested to him that he start having contact via Skype with the children whilst he is away, but he hasn't mentioned this so I'm assuming he's not interested. I suspect it's not actually about the children and he's viewing this as another game whereby he wants his own way.
Anyway, today I've been served with court papers with him stating that I've 'unilaterally changed contact' and stating that he wants a child arrangement order made for the terms above. Apparently he's attended an individual mediation session and he's had an exemption certificate signed. So the matter is listed for a first hearing. I'm absolutely terrified. He's so manipulative and I can just imagine him standing there making out that I'm the worst person in the world and that I'm just some monster who's making life for him and his family difficult. Does anyone have any advice for me? I really, really am not trying to obstruct contact in any way, I don't oppose the amount of contact he's asked for, or even more if that's what he requested; it's just the structure of it. I feel like I'm just getting bullied into it all being on his and his mothers terms and I'm petrified. I don't know what to expect from the hearing (it's 1 hour long and I have to arrive an hour early?). Will the court deal with maintenance as well? Is my suggestion of 2 nights EOW versus his 1 night EW unreasonable? Also, do I have to have contact with his family and agree to them taking responsibility for the children midweek when he isn't available? For the record, its very, very rare that he is available midweek. In 6 months he has requested a midweek visit 3 times. I feel like he's very clever in how he conducts himself: He has this subtle low level way of being vindictive and inflammatory and then I look like the awkward one when I stand my ground. He still alleges that 'he done me a favour' boxing my belongings up as he was storing them for me!
The standard contact for NRP of young children is EOW fri 6pm-Sunday 6pm. With one 'tea' after school/nursery in the week. You are quite within your rights to state that this is a child arrangements order between the children's parents , grandparents do not have 'rights' unless they go to court specifically to,establish them. I would make the point that you are happy for him to have mid weeks but only if your ex is present at handover. If he is not present, then they stay with you. By offering more, weekend contact you both get free time AND you look reasonable. Do not be afraid to tell the court that your relationship with MIL is very poor and it is best that she is not involved in the arrangements and that it is kept entirely between the children's parents. This is not to say that when he has them for the weekend he can't facilitate contact between dgc and dgp as he sees fit.
My current access is one mid week overnight access and one full day overnight at the weekend.( in effect this works for both me and my ex as we have a weekend day each with DS, ex likes to see DS every week rather than a full weekend EOW. Could this work? As for the ExMil i sympathise i hate mine exMil she was utter vile to me. I do not accomdate additional access for her and if she wants to see DS she seems him on exs time. She in no way has access instead of ex which used to happen when DC was younger, it affected him badly. I was some annoyed to find out he left DS with her to go to the pub
Thanks so much for your replies.
Sunshine87; ex is pushing for one day every weekend rather than the 2 eow that I've suggested. The main reason I'm against it is that it means I don't have a block of quality time with the dc's if we do it this way: I'm in university mon, tue, fri. I leave a Wednesday free in case he's available for contact (at his request). So if he had them every Saturday 9am - Sunday 2pm as he suggests; then I've got no quality time to do anything with them. Do you think this sounds reasonable?
Marilynsbigsister, thank you so much for reassuring words! I am literally petrified to say that I don't want contact with exmil for fear that it makes me look uncooperative/unreasonable, as that is the picture that ex will be painting of me. I don't want the whole thing to turn into a slanging match about who has done what, I just want the access arrangements sorting out.
... Also I think it would be beneficial for him and the dc's to spend a bigger chunk of time with him eow rather than 24 hours weekly iyswim.
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