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Would a Sheriff consider this?

(6 Posts)
CopperNitrogenTitanium Wed 22-Jun-16 17:09:46

I have been separated over four years from my very abusive husband. I initially sought legal help to begin the divorce process but ex has dragged me back to Court time and time again over the smallest things regarding our DC as he has the time and money to do so, and due to the costs involved in this I am no further forward in even applying for the Decree Nisi. I am no longer in a position to pay for legal help so I am currently having to represent myself to oppose his latest motion.

While attending Court in the past, it has been frustrating to have local (to the Sheriff Court, not to me) stand-in lawyers representing me (on my lawyer's behalf) as my own lawyer has only ever been able to attend once. Their knowledge of my situation has been quite basic due to this obviously and it is difficult to appraise them of concerns/arguments against and my evidence of this in the brief minutes before we have to go into the court. In addition the Hearings are very perfunctory and never seem to take account of the issues that are at the heart of the matter.

I will be back in Court again in the near future due to ex lodging his latest motion; Ex wishes to have sole residence of the DC for up to five weeks at a time as this suits his work and lifestyle - I would not see DC during these periods but be expected to be the f/t time carer out with these times. The DC have not been consulted in any way about this by ex and it is far from the views they express when I have asked them, sensitively, what their wishes are (they are 10 and 11).

I feel very strongly that the past domestic abuse (and ongoing attempts to control myself and the DC) has been glossed over during the legal proceedings and that the DC have been the last consideration throughout. As we are in Scotland we do not have cafcass but we do have the Children's Reporter. I believe that this would be a far less emotional (and expensive) way of proceeding and a forum where the voices of the DC would actually be heard. I am aware that the Children's Reporter would not touch a 'case' which is under the jurisdiction of a Sheriff (and usually vice versa) but...would I be within reason to request that the Sheriff consider remitting the matter to the Children's Hearings system? (I would also offer to self refer as this would mean there would be no need for involvement by SS).

I would be very grateful for any thoughts on this as I'm not sure how much longer I can keep going.

Emeralda Sat 25-Jun-16 17:23:53

I am no expert but I know the Sheriff can recommend that a Bar Report is done, which is similar to a CAFCASS report but I don't think it's the same as the Children's Hearing system you refer to. (Do you mean the Children's Panel? I thought that was unrelated to family law and only used if the children are at risk? Apologies if I'm wrong about that.)

The Bar Report (it may have changed name now) was a very long-drawn out and intensive process in our case but I felt the Bar Reporter really understood what was going on and made sensible recommendations, which the court implemented. The other party hasn't stuck to them, but that's another story.

I assume mediation was not recommended because of the abuse? you qualify for Legal Aid? Are you now representing yourself?

Good luck. It's exhauting being involved in a conflict situation like that so look after yourself too as best you can.

Earsareburning Sat 25-Jun-16 21:21:09

Thanks you for your reply Emeralda.

I have never heard of a Bar report (have Googled it now and will be reading thoroughly after replying). I am more familiar with the role of a Safeguarder, but this is only in relation to children who are/about to be within the remit of the Children's Reporter system (aka the Children's Panel).

Re: Mediation. Within a couple on weeks of separation I received a letter from a local Mediation service saying that ex had contacted them (so he CAN be proactive, who knew?!) I attended two sessions where he said sfa but looked sad and teary. Was just a cover for the Court motion he had already applied for.

Despite my not preventing contact between him and DC in any way after separation (except, reasonably I thought, where he would leave it to the last minute to make a request that interfered with long term social plans that the DCs wanted to go to, friend's Birthday parties, school clubs etc.) I still found myself back in Court when he decided to change his mind again. The fact that this coincided with his (unknownst to me) application for a beautiful two bedroom housing association with river view property is neither here nor there of course.

My Solicitor never mentioned Legal Aid to me, despite knowing that I was unemployed at the time I made my initial appointment to pursue a divorce. Ex's domestic abuse made remaining in my professional job untenable. HIS career decisions following on from this meant that any of my subsequent hard won (and comparatively well paid) roles went the same way. I am now in thousands of pounds worth of debt due to my reliance on this Legal advisor. Hence the self representation from here on in.

Now ex wants to have DC whenever he is not working (he's employed now in a very lucrative career that I payrolled and supported for years while he progressed). I am to be reduced to the status of a Nanny - the fact that this will result in no maintenance whatsoever for the DC is surely not influencing his actions in any way of course hmm

Thanks for the good wishes, I need them!

Emeralda Sat 25-Jun-16 22:50:47

Sounds like you've been through the mill with it, and it may take a while yet. Is it worth applying for legal aid now? For the child contact arrangements anyway. I assume you're keeping records of all contact with him, when you offer contact, when he actually sees them etc. You probably know that you need to come across as very reasonable and make the children available for contact - it would probably not be seen as reasonable to withhold contact based on a birthday party but certainly tell him they're invited to a party they would like to go to that weekend, should you pass on the invitation to him so he can respond or would he prefer to see them another weekend?
Every other weekend and a midweek overnight is the standard arrangement. Would that work? What's the current arrangement?
The history of your relationship won't matter that much and neither will how you feel about the current situation, unfortunately.
Personally, I wouldn't mention terms like carer or nanny - resident and non-resident parent are less emotive terms - you need to come across as valuing the relationship the DCs have with both parents. Maintenance (or
the lack of it) isn't usually taken into account when deciding contact arrangements.
Sorry if you know all of this already. I'm hoping that someone with more professional experience will come along here soon.

CrazyCatMum Mon 27-Jun-16 02:00:33

I'm in Scotland and when I went to court my children were given their own lawyer called a curator. She spoke with them and found out what they wanted. She represented the kids in court. They were 12 and 10.
My ex was an arse and the curator realised that from the start which helped.

CopperNitrogenTitanium Mon 27-Jun-16 10:55:07

Emerelda There is currently a Court Order in relation to contact. The usual EO weekends plus midweek contact. Ex is trying to increase this to him having sole care for weeks on end when he is not working - there is no suggestion that I would have any contact with the DC during these periods.

The birthday parties/social activities etc. scenarios took place before the Court Order was in place. Ex would make no contact with me for weeks on end while he was working and only make a request to spend time with the DC with a days notice or less when he returned. I did on the whole manage to make arrangements to enable both DC's attendance and for them to have contact with ex, or offered an exchange of times/dates. Those with experience of this type of man will realise that they will never be satisfied; indeed he was granted the above Contact Order after specifically requesting these terms, then afterwards complained in an email to me that he felt 'cheated' and blamed his Solicitor for 'bad legal advice'! The Court Order itself is so generic, and does not fit our personal circumstances, that you could drive a coach and horses through it (and ex has and does). Another point is that ex was granted 'half the holidays' but due to his work patterns this is not even possible for him to comply with.

I am very careful to not only appear to be reasonable, but have demonstrated this over and over again both pre and post the Order being made. I am aware that my personal feeling of being used like a 'Nanny' is not likely to go down well in front of the Sheriff and would not use this in Court. The issues surrounding his applications to the Court are absolutely to do with benefiting him financially, continuing his control of me, and nothing to do with genuinely wishing for more contact with the DC. Again, I understand that this is not something that the Sheriff would give two hoots about sadly. I have tried to raise issues of the less than desirable areas of his care in the past as far as they impact on the DCs when he has had contact: No child car seats, giving adult medication to them - then lying about this, blaming the DC for being 'mistaken' in their recounting of this to me, then months later admitting in Court (via his Solicitor - he was conveniently not present on this occasion) that what I had claimed was actually true, isolating both DC from socialisation with their peers through clubs and sporting activities by refusing to allow them to attend if they fall on 'his contact days' - and encouraging DC to lie about this to me. The Sheriff still granted all the terms of the Court Order ex had requested.

The DCs are adamant that they do not wish to spend this length of time away from their me, their pets, friends, and social activities, and that there has been no suggestion or discussion between ex and them to solicit their opinions in any way about this. Although he was the first to talk about Court and Lawyers etc. with them from the very beginning causing them distress and confusion.

CrazyCatMum That's interesting, thank you. Can I ask if your experience of the curator was recent? I have looked online regarding this and much of the information available dates back some years. I will keep looking. It is heartening to hear that the professional involved in your case saw through your ex. Did they also speak with you? I've personally found that the Court is less interested in hearing the reasons why I may have objections, all related to the welfare of DC, than they are in bashing out generic Contact Orders which have had very negative repercussions for both the DC and I.

Thank you for all the replies and support.

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