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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!

I suppose it depends on different situations and different families.

My exh doesnt pay maintanace and for me to take dd to his it would cost me over £40 per journey and would mean a three and a half hour journey with dd, a 3 and a half hour journey back for me then I would have to go back the next day and do the same journey again and then another 3 and a half hours total with dd.

Yes I moved away, partially because of fear but dd couldnt hack a 7 hour round train/bus journey every other weekend and as I get no maintanace at all I cant afford £40 every other week as well as paying for all the bills/all dds food/clothes etc.

STIDW Thu 13-May-10 22:30:31

Sadly I think skidoodly makes a valid point and your partner's interests would be best served if you stood back a bit and keep emotions separate from practicalities.

"In the process of developing a position during a conflictual divorce, a spouse typically is surrounded by an increasing cadre of supporters. These are friends, relatives, and professionals who, after hearing only one side of the dispute in vivid, distorted, and compelling detail, rally to that spouse's side. Viewing that spouse as victimized by the other spouse, they seek to right a wrong and protect the spouse from being further victimized. Johnston and Campbell (p. 25) elaborate on this dynamic:

“The total effect is that, in the absence of socially-agreed-upon customs and etiquette for organizing postdivorce relationships and dealing with conflicts of interest, there is considerable ambiguity. Consequently, the social networks of the spouses are incorporated into the dispute and the dispute is solidified, maintained, and stabilized by the support of others. New partners, extended family and kin, mental health professionals, and lawyers fuel the fights and in some instances take on the dispute as their own. As the conflict escalates and spreads, the primary players may not be the two divorcing partners but all these others who are not party to the stipulations, court order, or legal sanctions."

This support by the associates of each of the spouses takes on the complexion of tribal warfare, with parallels to the ways that we stereotypically imagine primitive villagers dealing with their conflicts. The sides are drawn, the supporters are garnered, and war is declared. Unfortunately, the toll taken on the children in this insidiously dysfunctional social process is legend (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980; Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989). Researchers and clinicians for years have interviewed and counseled countless adults who recall vivid childhood memories of their parents' conflictual divorce experience as a living hell of divided loyalties, forced court-ordered examinations, pressure to take sides, and the absence of any sense of security, safety, trust, or sanity." - Child Clinical Psychologist, Donald T. Saposnek, Ph.D. & Chip Rose, JD, CFLS

Family law is very specialised. As I said above the court has no jurisdiction to make a contested order for child maintenance or a variation. See s8 Child Support Act 1991 as amended. The exceptions are;

a)cases predating March 2003,

b)a child of the family is a step child,

c)one parent lives abroad,

d)over 18s in education or training,

Unless your partner has an order predating March 2003 it appears the only option is to apply for a s8 order to regulate parental responsibility under the Children Act 1989. However, there is a no order principle where courts are directed only to make an order if it is necessary and makes things better for a child. The paramount concern is the best interests of the child, not parental rights or fairness.

legallyblonde Fri 14-May-10 08:02:42

What appears to have become evident/ been confirmed here is the willingness of mothers with residency to manipulate the non-resident parent and think that they are entitled to behave unreasonably.

Which is why the court process exists to impose an equitable alternative and people shouldn't be afraid to use it. When you're being treated like sh** by a child's mother, and your family is suffering as a consequence, what have you got to lose by going to court (particularly when you know that court procedures are, more often than not, NOT mud-slinging matches?)

Thanks for all the info.

legallyblonde Fri 14-May-10 08:10:36

In addition, please note -I have "stood back" for eight years already and I don't think it's unreasonable for me to say that enough is enough now.

If the mother wants to use our application for court intervention/ CSA consideration of the costs as an opportunity to damage the relationship between DD and her father, that's the mother's choice - it is a situation that could easily have been avoided if she'd have the decency to behave fairly but she has already threatened my DH with not seeing his daughter a number of times so we won't be surprised if she chooses to do that again to her daughter. HER choice to create such damage.

tortoiseonthehalfshell Fri 14-May-10 08:22:37

If you think that bringing a court action will give rise to the likelihood that the mother will stop contact between your husband's daughter and him, and you bring that court action anyway, then actually that's your choice not hers.

You might not think it's fair. But it's the situation. Court action increases likelihood of reduced contact? Then don't bring court action.

And incidentally, you obviously know that you have absolutely no locus standi, right? So perhaps you should stop talking about what you are going to do, and allow your husband, the father of the child, to make his own decisions.

GypsyMoth Fri 14-May-10 08:23:54

You said further down the thread to 'watch out for pissed off stepmums'........ Why ?? What can you do??

It's none of your businesss
you won't be allowed in the courtroom
you don't have a say

keepingup Fri 14-May-10 08:34:38

I live almost 300 miles away from my ex.
I moved when I was pregnant, and he was meant to follow when he had finished his uni course. that never happened and we split soon after ds was born.

For 3.5 years he didnt pay me a penny as he stayed on at uni to do a kmasters as well as worrking a good job.

Now he has to pay cm payments, and travels up to see ds one weekend every two months. He pays the costs involved. I know technically he could reduce his cm payments as the csa agree if costs to see the child are high there can be a reduction on cm payments.

However he lives with his parents, in a good job and if he did reduce his payments I would be mighty p'eed off. I have paid for everything ds needs and wants for almost 5 years. I have had the hard and diffuclt times making ends meet. he took me to court over access, although I always allowed it, and he was given access every month, but he choose to make it one weekend every 2 months instead

GypsyMoth Fri 14-May-10 09:37:44

and its not just the money,its the effort involved too....resident parents have the day to day worries,whilst nrp doesnt see this....why shouldnt the nrp be seen to be physically making an effort??

legallyblonde Fri 14-May-10 10:24:21

tortoise... - OMG! Are you actually suggesting that it would be ok for the mum to withhold contact? You think it is ok for a mum to do that just because the father has chosen to have the authorities review the existing arrangement? I'm shocked!

ILoveTIFFANY - how is it not my business? there is a second family here that is impacted by all of this. In family law matters, the whole picture is considered by the court and sometimes a mother is ordered to do something that she doesn't want to do but it is in the best interests of the child.

I am truly shocked that so many MNers could think that it is ok for a mother to treat her child's father like that. Truly shocking!

GypsyMoth Fri 14-May-10 10:26:30

you have no say though....yes,you nmay be accomodated a little in a cafcass report....but you cant take her to court,ask for anything or be listened to

remember,there are two sides to every story,and we're only hearing one here.

GypsyMoth Fri 14-May-10 10:31:17

who moved away?
how old is the child?
you'll be going to court to be £50 a month better off??

Tanga Fri 14-May-10 11:16:28

I would also be very interested to know how old the child is, an can we assume that this terrible abusive behaviour by the mother is moving away from the father? Because you seem remarkably reticent on this point.

I can't see anyone saying the mother's behaviour is OK - but you seem to have an agenda regardless of what is said to you.

I would always speak up for a parent who was being unreasonably denied access to their child and I do think it happens a lot more than people admit to - even in threads on here you see people making comments along the lines of 'when he's only seeing his children once a fortnight he'll be sorry'.

If court action would result in the RP stopping contact until the courts compelled her to comply then I would still support the other parent in that action if in the long term the child would be better off, ie have a relationship with the other parent that is more protected from abusive'control' by the RP.

However, this does not appear to be the case here. From what you originally posted, your motivation seemed entirely financial, and you appeared to be objecting to the father and child having loads more time together in the holidays. Your approach was highly confrontational, although it may be that you are venting after 8 years of exemplary step parenting.

Rumbled Fri 14-May-10 11:31:49

Who moved away? If your husband moved away from the area where his ex lives, IMO, he should be paying the travel costs, because moving was his choice. Why should his ex pay for costs that have arisen through choices she hasn't made?

I don't doubt that your husband's ex can be hard work and manipulative at times. But you (presumably) knew this when you got together with your husband, and so as hard as it may be, you took on this "baggage" and need to accept this with good grace and try to work with his ex - for his daughter's sake.

My ex treated me appallingly in the run-up to our separation. I'm sure I was pretty deranged for a few months afterwards and less than cooperative. But, now the dust has long settled, in spite of all that has happened between us, we work hard at parenting amicably and co-operatively and have never used the courts. There have been times when I've fantasised about my ex driving off a cliff blush BUT, for DS's sake, I don't bad-mouth his dad to him, I don't rock the boat, and keep everything as stable as possible. I find it bloody hard sometimes, but it's not about me; it's about DS. And in your situation, it's first and foremost about your step-daughter and her relationship with her dad.

I'd second someone else's suggestion of looking up CSA maintenance guidelines. It may be that your ex is paying over the odds, and he could look into adjusting his payments if it seems like the fair thing to do. This doesn't need to be done aggressively or through the courts though.

Oh and again, who moved away? And what does your DH feel about the situation?

legallyblonde Fri 14-May-10 12:32:26

Yes, every story has two sides.

For those who think it is relevant: My husband was brutally thrown out of his home by his wife's deranged sister. Having since had a few dealings with the mother, I'm pretty sure that she did it so that she could claim benefit and stay at home being "ill" which she couldn't do when my husband was there and bringing in money. When I first met my husband, he was often in tears when talking about what he had lost. I don't think that it was unreasonable for him to have moved away after being thrown out and returned to his home town (He and the mother had been living at her parents' house in her home town surrounded by her school friends who, from the sound of it, were all single mothers...)

Anyway there are two sides to every story... and I'm off to review the CSA guidelines and fill in the app forms for DH (he's keen to keep hold of whatever pennies he can - it's more to spend on DH when she's here if nothing else : )

legallyblonde Fri 14-May-10 12:33:51

oops

Yes, every story has two sides.

For those who think it is relevant: My husband was brutally thrown out of his home by his wife's deranged sister. Having since had a few dealings with the mother, I'm pretty sure that she did it so that she could claim benefit and stay at home being "ill" which she couldn't do when my husband was there and bringing in money. When I first met my husband, he was often in tears when talking about what he had lost. I don't think that it was unreasonable for him to have moved away after being thrown out and returned to his home town (He and the mother had been living at her parents' house in her home town surrounded by her school friends who, from the sound of it, were all single mothers...)

Anyway there are two sides to every story... and I'm off to review the CSA guidelines and fill in the app forms for DH (he's keen to keep hold of whatever pennies he can - it's more to spend on DH DD when she's here if nothing else : )

tortoiseonthehalfshell Fri 14-May-10 12:42:56

Legally, where did I say that it was okay for a mother to withhold contact? I didn't say that and nobody has said that. What I did say was that, if that is the situation you're in, then it's morally incumbent on you to act responsibility within those confines. You can't change her behaviour. You can choose to behave in a way yourself which lessens the impact on your stepdaughter.

If you go to court (and again, you don't have locus standi, so this is your husband that would be going to court) you will risk contact for the sake of a bit of money.

Look, there are women on here who, for one reason or another, have come under social services' radar such that they have to live up to unrealistic standards. I can have a messy home safely, they can't because they've been threatened with intervention as regards their children. It's not fair. It's the SS people who are being unreasonable. But as mothers, they can't say 'well I'm going to act as I see fair, and if they choose to take my children away well that's their CHOICE and it's not okay but I can't be held responsible'. The situation is what it is, and because we're talking about their children they have to act within those confines unless it's impossible.

Your husband can't control his ex's actions. But he does need to act in a way that maximises his contact with his daughter, as long as his other family isn't actually suffering.

Are you, in fact, actually suffering? Or do you just think it's not fair?

tortoiseonthehalfshell Fri 14-May-10 12:45:39

Incidentally, throwing in the fact that the mother has friends who äll seem to be single mothers" isn't making you sound particularly sympathetic, here. Just so you know.

Going by this thread, you are a typical example of with step mothers get a bad rep.

He moved away, of course he should pay to travel.

Look at it from the other side, if a woman was posting about how her ex was living off his new wife to avoid paying much CSA and on top of that wanted her to pay for travel costs despite him moving away. How many people would say he was justified?

If he moved away he takes the cost of travel as far am I'm concerned. None of it is about him or her it's about the child. It doesn't matter why he moved away.
My ex moved back to his home when we split, which is out of the country. He takes the cost of travel, having to fly of course means this can be fairly high, but neither of us have ever considered anything else, he moved so he takes that burden. He could move back here and not have those costs any time he likes.
It is not my responsibility to pay the costs for his choices, same goes for your DH's ex. Nothing else that she does is relevant to this.

legallyblonde Fri 14-May-10 13:48:43

I think the mother should move nearer to us - how selfish and unreasonable of her not to do that! (No, I'm just kidding!!)

<Sigh> I'm still shocked my the number of MNers who jump to defend the mother in this situation and completely ignore the impact of her behaviour on the second family- truly shocking! Thank God there is the neutral CSA/ courts to intervene.

tortoiseonthehalfshell Fri 14-May-10 13:54:19

Are you really a lawyer? Because you seem to have a lot of faith in this impartial justice system that will see it your way. And most of the lawyers I know tend to be aware that judges are people too and will find ways to rule as they feel morally appropriate. If we're all saying something that you disagree with, has it occurred to you that the courts might just disagree with you as well?

Also, most of the lawyers I know have basic critical reading skills. I'll say this again slowly.

Nobody has defended the mother.

Nobody. No-one. Not one person has defended the mother.

Nobody.

skidoodly Fri 14-May-10 14:03:59

We're not defending the mother. Not a single person on this thread has defended her. You're just pretending that we are to deflect what is actually criticism of you

"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"

There is NO problem here - a child sees her father, he pays for her (as he should) and it was all sorted amicably.

Hurray! Everyone's happy.

Oh, except a resentful stepmother who thinks is pissed off that her DH is paying for travel costs that have been incurred by HIS OWN move.

Tanga Fri 14-May-10 14:30:21

Perhaps we are ignoring the impact of her behaviour on the second family because, erm, there isn't one? Oh no, I was forgetting, you have to spend money to maintain the relationship between father and daughter because he moved away.

But I don't think we should worry about this going to court because clearly your husband ignores your resentment about him supporting his child and just gets on with the arrangment that he worked out like an adult with the mother of his child, has just got on with it for 8 years and will probably go on doing so no matter how many times you fill in forms for him (?) and have your little tantrums.

I must say, though, your behaviour is exactly what I would expect from my experience of solicitors, which is why so many delicate childcare cases become damaging ego-flaunting showdowns run by people who clearly don't give a toss about the welfare of children and are entirely motivated by the money they can get out of it as soon as they go to court.

My apologies to decent sols.

tortoiseonthehalfshell Fri 14-May-10 14:36:01

Apologies accepted, tanga wink

prh47bridge Fri 14-May-10 15:54:51

Your DH moved away and seems to have done so voluntarily. It is therefore highly unlikely that you will be able to reclaim any portion of his travel costs from the mother. Trying to do so is a waste of time.

He may be paying more than he has to in child maintenance. The CSA formula, as I'm sure you are aware, is 15% of his salary after tax, NI and pension contributions are deducted. However, even if he is paying over the odds, from what you have posted it seems he is happy with this.

The mother of his DD is offering to let him have her for the summer holidays. Regardless of the mother's motivation, I'm sure he would want that. It seems you resent it and regard it as unreasonable.

As far as I can see you have not said that your DH is unhappy with the situation. Even if he is, pushing him into involving the CSA or taking legal action is a high risk route which may result in him losing contact with his daughter completely for several years. I'm not defending the mother and I certainly don't think she should stop contact but that is the risk you take. Who do you think he will blame if that happens?

You said that maybe you should have put this in "Am I Being Unreasonable". The answer, I'm afraid, is yes. You are being thoroughly unreasonable.

I doubt you will listen to me as you seem to have ignored all the advice on this thread that doesn't agree with your views. However, if you carry on down this route you risk damaging your husband's relationship with his daughter and destroying his relationship with you.

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