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Who should pay the travel costs re: making sure that child retains contact with non-resident parent?

(57 Posts)
legallyblonde Wed 12-May-10 12:41:14

Maybe I should have put this in the "Am I Being Unreasonable?" section instead but anyway...

My DH spends approximately £100/ month on train fares to go and collect his daughter (who lives with his ex partner) for her to spend the weekend/ holidays with us and then to take her back home again at the end of her stay.
He pays a big chunk of his income to his ex-P every month via in child support.
He and his ex-P didn't go to court to arrange residency/ contact and agreed everything amicably themselves without the need for a court order.
I know that his ex-P bears most of the burden relating to the care of the girl but she chose that and she gets all the money for it.

I am going slowly insane about the fact that legally (as far as I can remember from my family law studies - I am a solicitor but not a family law solicitor) both parents are responsible for making sure that a child retains contact with the non-resident parent i.e. not only would it be nice but also a court is quite likely to order that, every now and then, she should bring the child to stay with us and should bear some of the travel costs.

Just to give you an idea how that mother treats us: she now wants us to have the child for the whole summer holidays because otherwise she "would have to pay for child care." I'm not kidding!!
My partner refuses to challenge her on anything because she has threatened to stop him from seeing his daughter (Yes - really!)

Please can someone advise me what the legal situation is here and how best to resolve it because I am about to blow my top and give that mother a piece of my mind! Grrr!

3andahalfmonkeys Wed 12-May-10 12:45:22

depends which parent moved away i think.

jeee Wed 12-May-10 12:48:02

I don't know anything aboout legalities, but do think that if you say anything you could create difficulties for your DH, and his relationship with his DD. However annoyed you are, you need to keep your mouth firmly shut.

legallyblonde Wed 12-May-10 12:54:18

Jee - you're totally right! and that is what I'm trying to avoid. Which is why I'd like some advice so that we can resolve this amicably/ in court.

(Mothers really should think twice before taking the P* like this - she knows that no one else will interfere for fear of making the situation worse and that my husband is terrified of losing contact with his daughter. She shouldn't be allowed to do this to people!

Marne Wed 12-May-10 12:57:15

Our step children don't live too far away, we pick them up at the weekend and take them back home, sometimes we ask their mother to bring them over (if we are unable to get them).

I would say your dh should pay for the traveling cost's unless he could come to an agreement to half the cost with his ex.

Webuyanycardotcom Wed 12-May-10 12:59:06

Who moved away from the other? I guess in an ideal world then it would be nice if the journeys were shared and the costs split. But in over 10 years my dsd's mum has brought her to us twice and has never paid anything towards the travelling expenses.

GypsyMoth Wed 12-May-10 13:00:30

i know (having spent last 2 years in court with ex) that courts like parents to work together

but all i have read about this seems to be that the onus is on the non resident parent to take up the contact....sometimes provisions are made via court for one to drop off the other to collect etc...but paying for the child is separate to paying travel expenses

Tell him to get the bus it's cheaper. biscuit

GypsyMoth Wed 12-May-10 13:03:52

my ex moved 200+ miles away....up to him to arrange all transport. sorry,but no way was i paying out for this as well as paying all gas/elec/food/clothing/general expenses....

are you suggesting that the mother uses some of her maintenence money? if so,thats very unfair

Webuyanycardotcom Wed 12-May-10 13:04:52

The thing is, even if she moved away and "should" be helping out, you need to weigh up whether it's worth all the aggravation of battling it out with her. Especially if your dh is not prepared to take it up with her.

The biggest thing I've realised as a step-mum is that sometimes you just have to let things that aren't in your sphere of control go.

MissAnneElk Wed 12-May-10 13:05:18

I don't know the legal answer.

Regarding the summer holiday - are you or your DH SAHPs? If so, then I do think the best place for your step daughter would be with you. Also, that would save on travel expenses as your DHs ex would presumably have to travel to you. If you both work and would need to find childcare she is massively taking the piss.

flowerybeanbag Wed 12-May-10 13:05:19

If he moved away of course he should pay whatever travelling costs are involved to maintain his relationship with his daughter.

Does he not want her to stay for the holidays? Sounds like a perfect plan to me, it seems silly her going into childcare if she has a parent able to look after her.

GypsyMoth Wed 12-May-10 13:13:17

you say everything was agreed amicably...no court involved?

so why did he not address this then? or is it just you who has a problem with this?

babiole Wed 12-May-10 14:13:38

I agree with one of the earlier bloggers that you are in danger of your understandable frustration affecting the relationship between your DH and yourself. The arrangement they had has been arrived at between them and he was happy to do the travelling. The suggestion that maybe this girl would be better living with you and your ex frankly is not sensible.

If you were to make an application to court for a transfer of residence you would have to show this child was suffering harm as a result of the Mothers care. Unless there has been social services involvement or this Mother is running a brothel or is an alcoholic[ all extreme examples]then the court will not transfer residence. The court will not tolerate such an application on the basis she is a bitch, or is taking the p*. Court proceedings are expensive both in the financial and the emotional cost and issuing proceedings will serve to cause long lasting resentment and bitterness between the adults which will affect the DD.

If you are wanting to make an application to court for an order that she pays half the travel then the only order you can apply for is a contact order and the travel costs being part of that order. Beware because opening that can of worms may well open more that you bargain for. I do not know the financial circumstances of you and your DH but there are more ways of obtaining financial assistance for the upbringing of a child than through the CSA and you may find your DH being slapped with an application under the Childrens Act 1989 Sch 1 for a lump sum order, property transfer order or top up child maintenance payments.

Personally as much as it gets to you starting court battles is not the answer.........and I too am a lawyer so I should know!!

legallyblonde Wed 12-May-10 16:20:32

Thank you for all the answers.

ThreeBlondeBoys- yes, I AM suggesting that the travel costs relating to making sure that the child has contact with both parents is a cost that should be borne by both parents. And, with my hazy memories of family law, I think that this is what a court would find, which is why I'm asking for a family lawyer/ social worker on here to confirm that, if possible. It's not unfair for the mother to pay that - she is the one who gets maintenance, child benefit, tax credits etc. How is it fair that we have to bear the cost and make the huge journey every time? Is that fair on our family?

MissAnneElk - Yes, we both have full time jobs so yes,she is totally taking the P*.

babiole - thank you the information. I am keen to go to court to get an order so that things are fair. Mothers out there! Watch out for p*ed off step mums especially ones like me who are not court -phobic!

legallyblonde Wed 12-May-10 16:27:21

...and the chances of DH being ordered to pay an additional lump sum/ additional maintenance are pretty slim - he is penniless, earns very little and I am the main breadwinner (which probably explains why I am so p*ed off at the unfairness of the current situation - a court would prablably order the mother to pay for ALL the travel costs 'cos it's such a stretch for my husband to meet those costs at the moment!)

Webuyanycardotcom Wed 12-May-10 16:51:03

You didn't answer the questions about who moved away. For me that has a bearing on things.

I'd avoid going to court over something like this. It'll drive a wedge between you/your dh and her, and that really isn't helpful as you're going to have to have a long term relationship with her because of your stepchild. And what happens if she does stop your dh seeing her? Ok, you could get a court order to start contact again, but that takes forever and in the meantime she and her Dad are missing out on time together. It'll be really expensive and cost you a hell of a lot more than the money you're currently spending on petrol.

Tanga Wed 12-May-10 19:30:35

As a solicitor yourself, you should know how reasonable solicitors fees are, and careful they are to keep costs down. hmm

So you've probably guessed I'm not a sol, but have some experience of family court.

You will find that £100 a month is chicken feed compared to what it will cost you to take this to court. Of course, your DH could go LIP, but remember that you will not be allowed to McKenzie for him.

Firstly, if you feel he is paying over the odds in maintenance, have you tried the CSA calculator? This will give you an idea of whether what he is paying is considered fair. You can apply to get a deduction from the payments due to the travel costs and if you are going to have DSD for an extended period in the summer this may take the number of nights you have her into a different category so you can get a further reduction.

Secondly, if the mother has threatened to cut contact before (and understand I'm not doubting you) going to court will without a shadow of a doubt make the situation much, much worse. Mediation would be the first step anyway.

Thirdly, family law is not clear-cut. Whilst a very general rule of thumb is that the parent who changes the circumstances (by moving) pays travel costs, the primary consideration is the welfare of the child. The child is fine, current arrangements are working well, so the no-order principle applies. TBH you seem far more concerned with the £50 a month you'd save than the emotional consequences for your DSD and DH - which would be massive.

And you were joking about the idea that the court might order the Resident mother to pay all the travel costs, right?

STIDW Thu 13-May-10 01:48:55

With cases post dating March 2003 the CSA normally has jurisdiction over child support and courts cannot order child maintenance or a variation. As mentioned above under CSA rules the non resident parent can apply for a variation reducing child maintenance to help towards the costs involved with contact but the parent with care can't apply for an increase to cover any costs they might incur through facilitating contact. So there is an expectation that the non resident parent is responsible for travel.

In children cases each case is treated separately and depending on the particular facts judges may or may not attach conditions to a contact/residence order that one parent does the traveling or it is shared. When the parent without the majority of care has moved hundreds of miles away, the parent with care has a new baby and no transport and little money then attaching a condition for shared traveling is extremely unlikely. However, there are no certainties in family law, just probabilities, and it might be different if the parent with the majority of care was the one to move away to somewhere inaccessible, doesn't have other young children, has transport and is seen as being able to afford the costs.

Good contact for children relies on parents working together and going to court to force arrangements tends to make that difficult, if not impossible. Therefore courts expect parents to try alternatives to resolve disputes first. See the East Midlands judiciary's publication "What Family Courts expect from parents" available to download from the Ministry of Justice website.

malecarer Thu 13-May-10 11:53:12

I can fully understand your prediciment I too was paying only around £30 a week to go and collect my son for 2 days only to return him back again. Although at the time it was me who moved away therefore i thought it was only right that I made suitable arrangments to collect him therefore I met the cost of the travel.

However I have since moved back to my home town so travel is now no longer a problem, well it wasnt until I was told my former partner is now moving out of the area.

I will be telling courts that it is her responsibilty to ensure that my son is dropped off at our agreed location and that it should be her meeting the costs. we have a court order that states the mother should drop my son at her parents house in order for me to collect.

I moved to be closer to my son and out of spite she is now moving away.

Court on Tuesday so wish me luck.

squeaver Thu 13-May-10 12:02:00

I like the way you're all dancing round the question you really want to ask...

myfirstbump Thu 13-May-10 12:24:09

I know somebody in a similar situation. Without wanting to go into too much detail, after the divorce (which she instigated) his job took him abroad. His travel costs to maintain the agreed level contact with the children are, obviously, very high. He pays maintenance through a private agreement, after the solicitors pointed out that the CSA would factor in the travel costs into maintenance payments, which would therefore be lower.

She brings the children to meet his parents halfway, and they bring them back to the house so he can spend his time with them. So there are extra travel expenses involved aside from his, but the arrangements work and everybody is as satisfied as they can be given the circumstances.

As others have already pointed out though, every case is different. I would personally want to avoid the courts at all costs. I know it must be hard to be a spectator in it, but if your DH and DSD are ok with the arrangement that's the important thing.

FWIW, I think you did the right thing keeping it out of AIBU!

legallyblonde Thu 13-May-10 14:06:29

Thanks, everyone - very useful info.

malecarer - Good luck! I hope things go the way you hope : ) You sound like a wonderful father.

squeaver - Enlighten me. What is the question that everyone's avoiding?

I hope this thread has highlighted the damage that can be done by mothers with resdiency who choose to take the P*. I am going to look into having the CSA payments varied and if necessary applying for a court order to clarify the matter (Any financial cost involved will surely be less than the travel costs we'll have to keep shelling out for the next 10 years if this matter isn't resolved now). This whole situation could be avoided if mother behaved reasonably and any acrimony that results will be her fault (the alternative is that we just ignore the matter and carry on living with the unfairness - is that really what people expect?!!! Not on!!!)

Tanga Thu 13-May-10 14:24:35

I'm sure you mean that your DH will be applying for a court order - although there isn't a single poster here who thinks that is a good idea.

What people expect is that adults prioritise children beyond their own squabbles. I'm trying not to be judgy but you appear to be hell-bent on interfering in a stable situation worked out between two parents, the result of your actions will be heartache, stress and emotional harm to this child that you are supposed to care about, so that you can save £50?

Your DH could try mediation but he'd be a fool to let you steam-roller him into applying to court in this situation. If his ex is inclined to be difficult she could stop contact altogether and it could take years to undo the damage.

skidoodly Thu 13-May-10 14:25:07

"I hope this thread has highlighted the damage that can be done by mothers with resdiency who choose to take the P*. "

what this thread is highlighting to me is the willingness of a man's partner to do damage to a child and an arrangement that is working well, and that is nothing to do with her, out of sheer bloody mindedness.

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