splitting childcare 50/50 between England and France?!

(67 Posts)
shypuffin Sat 07-Dec-13 12:42:41

Hi, I'm in a pretty difficult situation. I stupidly moved to rural France with my partner and 4 month old twin babies 2 years ago but it's just not working out for me. My partner and I argue all the time and have decided we want different things out of life. He wants to stay here long-term but I feel totally isolated and want to return to the UK where I have a support network and means of decent income.

After an horrendous 6 months we've agreed we need to split up but he is insisting on at least 50/50 custody and since it's illegal to take children out of their country of residence without both parents' permission I feel I have to agree to that if I am to live in the UK. The twins have just turned 2, this would mean they live with him for one month in France and then me for the next month in the UK. I have no idea if I could afford this, or how I would go about find flexible enough childcare and that's aside from the emotional impact on us all. What would you do?

GobbySadcase Sat 07-Dec-13 12:43:54

It's unworkable. On 2 years they'll be in school - what then?

legallyblond Sat 07-Dec-13 13:03:42

I agree - a month in the UK / a month in France is totally unworkable.

Do you both work full time? Is one of you at home more etc?

My DD started nursery in her school at 2.10, complete with fairly non negotiable attendance and proper school holidays... I have a close friend where he is English she us French and they're London / Paris based post-split. He has the daughter for at least a week every school holiday plus a weekend every two weekends every term (I believe she gets the Eurostar after school - she's older than yours!).

Is your passport British? I have frequently travelled to / from France just me and DD (because my DH won't fly and I refuse to drive all the way every time!) and have only once been given a second glance. DD has a diff surname and an official asked me if she was mine. I said yes. We went through! In reality, I can't see you not being able to get back to the UK...

legallyblond Sat 07-Dec-13 13:05:20

Sorry - my friend has his daughter for two weekends every term as well as a long stretch in the hols.

Legally its not that she physically won't be able to leave France with the twins, but that it's classed as kidnapping if she does on a long term basis without her partner's permission, and will put her in a very negative position if he pursues her for custody.

I think they have to be with one parent for school purposes (long term, not that they need to be at school at 2 even if most French children are) and the other for the long holidays and as many weekends as travel arrangements make possible. The international situation will make it expensive but probably not more than if one of you lived in Cornwall and the other in Scotland... Not ideal but possible, but it will probably not be exactly 50/50 - though who has the more hours actually physically with them might be 50/50 once they are at school (or full day child care if you have to work full time in the UK to support them) and the one who has the holidays might actually have the better deal...

I'd get it legally and officially agreed in some way in your situation, to put you in a strong position down the line for making sure they always come back when they are supposed to.

MasterOfTheYoniverse Sun 08-Dec-13 13:56:54

hopping on the Eurostar should be no problem but yes in the big scheme of things that can be, and will be constructed as kidnapping.

Its a very short sighted plan. I can understand how you want to to agree to it to appease things until you work out an actual workable scenario. But really, its not workable. You must seek mediation and put a proper custody agreement in place.

peppersquint Sun 08-Dec-13 19:44:40

Sorry you're in this position OP - rural France can be soul destroying. Why is your DH adamant he wants to stay? Is he working?

Bonsoir Mon 09-Dec-13 09:09:12

No court will allow you to do the proposed childcare share! You must take legal advice. You may very well be allowed to take your twins back to the UK with you if you proceed through the proper channels and have a good lawyer.

TiredDog Mon 09-Dec-13 09:10:46

Unworkable sorry. You need legal advice

Bonsoir Mon 09-Dec-13 09:14:00

If your children are British nationals born in the UK to two British parents and are not yet at school in France and you the mother have been their main carer, you have every chance of getting a French family judge to agree to you taking them back to the UK. But hurry up!

AnandaTimeIn Mon 09-Dec-13 09:26:38

rural France can be soul destroying

Yes. A dear friend of mine married a lovely Frenchman and lived there in the countryside for quite a few years. They had two children. In the end they split up because she was so unhappy there. Felt really isolated.

She was in a different situation to you OP cos he went crewing on a yacht round Asia.
After about two years he returned to Europe and came to UK regularly. By this time the kids were at school but they would go to his in France during the holidays.

Could you work out something like that? It really seems unworkable to do it every other month. The kids wouldn't be very settled, I imagine.

Yes, legal advice is the way to go. Maybe have a look at the Reunite website, they have specialist lawyers on there.


Wishing you all the best anyway.

AnandaTimeIn Mon 09-Dec-13 09:27:58

Asia Pacific...

Bonsoir Mon 09-Dec-13 09:39:08

There isn't much point spending time in imagining creative solutions for childcare split if you are going to be dependent on a French lawyer and French family court.

pupsiecola Mon 09-Dec-13 10:39:11

Just wondering if you have considered moving to a city in France with your DCs so that you could have more of the life you want (although obviously still no family support). But if you say lived in Paris it might tick most of your boxes, and the kids spending time with their dad would be a lot easier? Just a thought...

LoveSewingBee Mon 09-Dec-13 23:08:17

I think that it would be best if you seek legal advice as quickly as possible.

I hope that justice prevails in the best interest of all. My gut instinct would be to take the kids to the UK and then sort it out once on home soil, but I am not a lawyer and it may be the completely wrong thing to do.

Bonsoir Tue 10-Dec-13 06:54:50

Legally the children are resident in France so a French family judge has jurisdiction.

IME French family judges are very reasonable and really do have the DC's interests at heart.

Artandco Tue 10-Dec-13 07:03:29

That won't work. However school holidays in the uk at private nursery or private school are around 22 weeks a year. So they could potentially go to school in the uk and visit France every holiday

shypuffin Tue 10-Dec-13 12:00:56

I already asked the advice of a specialist legal firm in Paris. They told me that to get legal permission to return to the UK with the kids would cost me around 15000 euros and even then I'd only have a 50% chance of winning and that was when I was breastfeeding! I hope you can understand why I therefore want to stay away from the French courts. I don't want to be trapped here and my partner is not going to leave any time soon because he has made a massive investment in buying a farmhouse which he is renovating.

Artandco - I didn't realise you could get childcare in the UK that have 22 weeks holiday. How do I go about finding such a nursery?

Artandco Tue 10-Dec-13 13:00:51

Pretty much any private nursery or school will. Ie a month a Xmas, month at Easter, 10-12 week summer hols, as well as 1-2 weeks each feb/ may/ October. It really depends on your area ( and if you can afford private nursery/ school for 2)

Otherwise you could until school age use a nanny. School in the uk isn't complusory until they are 5. You could just pay nanny a pro rata amount so same each month regardless of if they are here. Ie £500 a week is norm. You could pay £400 every week of the year to allow for her not always working half year but also flexibility

Or they could be home schooled at 5?

LoveSewingBee Tue 10-Dec-13 20:04:27

Maybe BONSOIR or other mumsnetters in France can advice where to seek a second legal opinion.

Again I am not a lawyer but why would you need to have to pay so much money? That seems to make it very difficult for you in order to get justice? Maybe there is a Mumsnetter who could point you in the right direction??? Maybe repost somewhere where there is more traffic. I don't know if there is a place for legal matters.

I hope somebody can help you, it sounds an absolute nightmare and you would not expect something here in Europe. At least, I would not have expected something like that.

NothingMoreScaryThanAHairyMary Tue 10-Dec-13 20:44:10

You could also look at using a nanny to travel with them (so you stay in the UK and work in the time they are away (maybe overtime or flexibla hours so you could reduce your hours when they are here?))

Personally I would be wanting to get a agreement in place, I know you asked ta the specialist firm but could you not go for somewhere cheaper / get a second opinion.

Bonsoir Tue 10-Dec-13 20:48:29

You certainly don't need to use a specialist law firm - there are lots of good lawyers who don't charge big firm fees. Can you ask around for a recommendation? You need a lawyer who is local to you.

SteamWisher Tue 10-Dec-13 20:53:11

Sorry but what about the needs of your children?

How on earth can it be a good idea to be shipped every month from one home to another? Sorry but that's a receipe for disaster for them. Poor kids.

Is there anyway you can make your DH see this?

shypuffin Wed 11-Dec-13 09:55:40

I've been trying to make him see sense for 6 months now. I would gladly let him see them all he likes during holidays and for long weekends but I just don't want to be in France and don't think it's good for the kids for me to be permanently miserable either.

I agree, I probably don't need a specialist law firm, but if they told me I only had a 50% chance of winning my case at a time when I was breastfeeding, how would a lesser firm have a better chance a year on?

Bonsoir Wed 11-Dec-13 12:49:27

They tell you that so that they can charge you lots of money for "lots of work." Remember that you need to manage your lawyer, and that includes writing your own script of your life, not letting them take over and argue the law in a standard way.

Londonlady48 Wed 11-Dec-13 20:49:52

Sorry you are going through this, divorce is bad enough without having these sorts of problems. I don't think 50/50 split will be possible living in 2 countries personally, it is hard enough if the other parent is living a few minutes walk away. I would have thought your best bet will be moving to a city in France where you can both live a reasonable distance from each other and have access.

I can't see a French Court agreeing to you taking DCs out of France tbh, have a couple of friends who went through this and they reluctantly ended up staying in France. They both made new partnerships and things have worked out well eventually. Good luck

shypuffin Thu 12-Dec-13 08:21:03

Hi, he's not budging from this house as he won't be able to sell it any time soon and loves it here and even if I could afford to stay in France, the nearest city is an hour and a half away (and it's Beziers!) so I don't think that would improve things. I don't suppose your friends are contactable on mumsnet are they? It would be good to speak to someone who has been through this - I feel so completely alone.

Bonsoir Thu 12-Dec-13 08:59:45

Are you both British?

PetiteRaleuse Thu 12-Dec-13 09:12:11

Is your DP French? Your proposed solution is unworkable, sorry, but there will be another solution to be found. Do you speak French? Are the kids French nationals?

LoveSewingBee Thu 12-Dec-13 09:24:51

Could you also seek some legal advice in the UK? (I am assuming your kids are UK citizens although at present resident in France).

It may come down who could best meet the needs of the kids, including how to deal with them when they are ill etc. So part of it may come down to having a support network. Does your DH has that where he is? If he is always working how is he going to look after them? Same questions you have to ask yourself.

One big caveat - I am not a lawyer and I am not familiar with the French legal system. However, I would find it outrageous if you could be forced to stay in France or otherwise lose your children. Don't be intimidated by the costs one lawyer has quoted, seek other legal advice as this is probably the way you have to go.

You would think that there are some Mumsnetters somewhere who may recommend some lawyers or know about these things. I really think that you should post on another board to get more traffic. Otherwise there may be a website with advice for ex pats???

I am really sorry you find yourself in such an awful situation. I don't think that many people think about these things when they move abroad (I certainly never did).

MasterOfTheYoniverse Thu 12-Dec-13 09:29:22

Echo what others have asked re nationality.
If you are all british can you argue this angle? He is pursuing a selfish utopia and you would like to contribute but given the circumstances (remote location/no chance of getting a job) can not make a living for yourself + to contribute and support your children through this scenario.
Agree its all about the narrative and you must get a lawyer who will follow you on this brief and spin it. Its all very cynical I know but that's how it works when you have a partner who thinks this deluded custody arrangement will work.
Maybe for you and him but what's at stake here is the children and that's what any decent lawyer should spin in front of a judge.
Agree a "lesser firm" might be better suited in this perspective. You need to find the right person.

BertieBowtiesAreCool Thu 12-Dec-13 20:12:45

Could you move to a busier area of France with a more active expat population? I know it isn't the same as being with your family and friends for support but it might be better than staying where you are.

bigbrick Thu 12-Dec-13 20:28:20

You say 'partner' - are you married?

bigbrick Thu 12-Dec-13 20:51:00

Your kids are born recently so there will be parental rights even if you're not married. What is your family language? If your kids know no english then this will be stumbling block to them being close to the UK. If you & dp talk in french all the time then this will also show you are close to France. You have to see if your dp can be reasonable and you can work out an arrangement. If you are french nationals then the home is france depending on how long you lived there in the past - if one of you is UK then you will have to determine how best to share your kids upbringing. If both UK the it's not likely that anyone would agree you had to stay in France. It would be useful to have family to support you in the uk, a place to live, financial support and also how you will look after you kids if you are out working, creche/school . The 50:50 split wouldn't work with childcare/schools. You'll both have to negociate with each other how to arrange this - perhaps weekends (whe possible) & holidays in France & your dp travelling to the UK as well.

shypuffin Fri 13-Dec-13 12:26:59

Hi, we are both British and not married and the kids were born in the UK. My partner can hardly speak any french and has no support network here apart from one German neighbour who is helping with building work. My french is better but I've completely failed to make any french friends here and the nearest ex-pat friend I have is an hour away.

We all speak English at home (including the live-in au pair) but the kids have just started pre-school a couple of mornings a week as I thought it was important they started interacting with other kids their age so are immersed in French there. We both work full-time so would both need to pay for childcare though the French school where they go is free.

My fear is that as soon as I go down the legal route my partner will do all he can to keep the kids with him and he has a very good chance of winning. However, at the moment we are still on speaking terms and he seems to understand my need to be in the UK myself which is why he is offering the 50/50 split.

TheNightIsDark Fri 13-Dec-13 12:34:00

Why can't they stay with him? They're his children as well. Are they settled in France? Where will they have the better quality of life? It seems unfair either way and obviously no one wants to leave their children in another country but that goes for him as well.

shypuffin Fri 13-Dec-13 15:16:24

Of course they could stay with him - and I'm sure the French courts would see to it that they did. Maybe I'm being selfish but of course I think I could look after them better, I think it's important to have friends and family around, and the only reason I came to France is that he was threatening on leaving me when I was pregnant because I didn't want an abortion. Also, he has a chance of having another family in the future whereas the only reason I got pregnant was that I was told I was infertile so we stopped using contraception. These last 3 years have been an emotional roller-coaster!

TheNightIsDark Fri 13-Dec-13 15:30:40

That's fair enough. I was just curious as you hadn't said in OP whether he was a good dad or not. The French courts, from my limited knowledge, will go with what is best for the children. I imagine that as they were born in uk, have family in uk etc then that should all go in your favour.

Branleuse Fri 13-Dec-13 16:08:28

I think you should look to move to Beziers with the children, ask him to buy you out of the house if he wont sell it. Youll be much more likely to make new friends in a bigger town, and if youre not as insulated, and able to talk eng;lish to your partner all the time, then your french will improve.

Then he can have normal access to the children, and you still get to keep them.

You could even just give yourself a time limit to try that for, and if that doesnt work, then think about other options such as returning to the UK later

Bonsoir Fri 13-Dec-13 17:14:02

You have been very badly advised; it is highly unlikely that the French courts would prevent you from returning to the UK with your children.

Bonsoir Fri 13-Dec-13 17:19:28

No-one could possibly argue that the children have deep roots in France or French culture. And you, as mother, are more than entitled to move where you can earn money and be supported (even outside France) and you are always more likely to gain residency of small DC than their father is. PM me if you want more info on similar cases! I have nothing but info in your favour.

PetiteRaleuse Fri 13-Dec-13 19:09:25

I agree with Bonsoir you've been given bad advice. The French system would fight tooth and nail to keep French children on French soil, but I can't see them being favourable to a 50/50 or your DP keeping them in France against your wishes.

PetiteRaleuse Fri 13-Dec-13 19:10:40

And he doesn't sound very nice tbh. They are better off with you. Based on your posts.

LoveSewingBee Fri 13-Dec-13 20:40:39

I think your better off to pull the kids out of nursery so they do not speak any French and solely focus on English as you see this as their future.

I (don't forget I am not a lawyer) but to me it seems you are in France under duress, you did not go out of free will. I think that you need to seek urgent advice from a UK law firm.

Not always, but often the mother is best placed, especially to look after very young children. Do you both have paid employment in France or is your partner working for himself? Eg how steady is his income?

It would seem ridiculous if you were forced to stay there or loose your children, to me that would seem a breach of your human rights. Your partner seems to be quite an unpleasant and selfish chap.

LoveSewingBee Fri 13-Dec-13 20:45:37

Could it be an option to agree to the fifty fifty split, go to the UK and then there have it reviewed as you deem it unworkable and not in the interest of the kids (you could say you have tried, but it didn't work out). I don't know the French system well, but I would feel more comfortable with the British legal system reviewing this.

LoveSewingBee Fri 13-Dec-13 20:46:42

Also, this your partner know that you are on Mumsnet? You may need to have this thread removed and start a new one not giving so much info maybe?

Maryz Fri 13-Dec-13 20:55:57

If I was you I would take the 50/50 split for the moment.

<disclaimer: I know this post will make me sound like a right bitch>

Go back to the UK with them, start a new life and take them over to him every month (or even better let him collect them).

He will probably soon realise that it isn't workable, but you will have tried so you would be in a stronger position if a court case happened in England - you would have a house, a job, a support network etc. Try to settle near friends and family and prove you could manage there.

He on the other hand would by trying to manage on his own with two young children and no help. He couldn't have an au pair sitting around for every second month, he has no support network, he doesn't speak the language.

You have nothing to lose by doing this (apart from desperately missing them when they are in France, but you could hope that it wouldn't go on for that long).

merrymouse Fri 13-Dec-13 21:07:19

Does he have a job?

I don't know much about EC law and how it relates to France, but would they really be fighting to keep the children of a British man who doesn't speak French in France?

NumNumChristmasPudInMyTum Fri 13-Dec-13 21:19:12

You absolutely must get legal advice. There are a number of english firms with offices in france or who have close links with french firms. This is a specialist area, and it comes down to habitual residence. Do not just take the children to the UK or he can take proceedings under the Hague Convention. Do nothing to weaken your position until you get proper and conprehensive advice. I'll be back in a min with some links.

LoveSewingBee Fri 13-Dec-13 21:20:40

Also, the sooner you go back the less chance any judge could consider them settled in France. They are too young to have friends etc. Especially with young children a support network is really important I would think.

Maryz Fri 13-Dec-13 21:26:55

And yes to going back soon. Not taking them, but agree to the 50/50 (record the conversation or have it by email) and go home for Christmas, don't go back, he can come and get them in January.

Don't stay long enough for them to learn to speak French, to start school etc.

NumNumChristmasPudInMyTum Fri 13-Dec-13 21:27:31

www.reunite.org is a uk based charity with a helpline for parents who have had children abducted but also who may have abducted their children. They can help you with basic advice and pointers of where to get help.

NumNumChristmasPudInMyTum Fri 13-Dec-13 21:32:14
Alanna1 Fri 13-Dec-13 21:36:01

Get some legal advice. FAST. My gut instinct is to agree as a "trial" for "a year". But go see a lawyer!!!

PetiteRaleuse Fri 13-Dec-13 21:48:48

Don't leave them in France though without a written and signed agreement in place. Abandon de domicile or abandon de famille would never go in your favour. Women have lost custody over here for moving out short term and leaving the kids. French women with French kids.

Maryz Fri 13-Dec-13 22:34:55

Sorry, I didn't mean don't take them with you, I meant don't appear to kidnap them.

Sort it out, agree to the 50/50 on a trial basis, take them home for Christmas and leave him to come and get them.

PetiteRaleuse Fri 13-Dec-13 22:55:12

I got what you meant maryz just wanted to point out the mistakes some women have inadvertantly made. Abandon is a big deal in French family courts and it means leaving, not actual abandonment.

Bonsoir Sat 14-Dec-13 08:30:01

Do not agree to the 50:50 as an interim measure as it will create a precedent for the court (even though a French court would never agree to this long term, it could create a situation whereby your STBX will get more child-time than you would like).

All those who advise but who don't know French family courts - I'm sure you mean well, but French family law and courts do not behave in the same way as English ones!

LoveSewingBee Sat 14-Dec-13 16:28:33

OP - Hope you are seeking legal advice, ideally from a UK firm who has also offices in France.

I think other posters are right, you NEED to get legal advice asap.

shypuffin Sun 15-Dec-13 13:08:55

It was the UK law firm with offices in France that gave me the previous information I referred to which has put me off going down the legal route ever since. If anyone knows of any French organisations that would give advice over the phone I'd really appreciate it as there is no way I can get to see a lawyer without my partner finding out (as we live so far away from cities and both work full-time).

In the meantime, we're all heading back to the UK to see family for Christmas and I will try and figure out how I would afford to move back with them (my partner owns this house and all my savings are tied up in equity in 2 flats I rent out in London). Thanks to everyone for all their advice, I'll keep you posted..

FarFarAway Sun 15-Dec-13 22:38:02

Agree with some other posters. I live and am divorcing in France. Don't leave or agree 50/50 split because as another poster said this will set a precedent for the court.

The french courts are not so bad and have the interests of the child at the centre. Although 50/50 splits are to be encouraged statiscally the mother gets the garde of the children more than 90% of the time.

Your partner does not speak french. If I were you I would find a mediator. He or she will put your case to the judge with the facts. The facts are your partner does not speak french and has no network to help with children. You can prove the opposite for you in the UK. You have no roots or connections to oblige you to be there. You need the permission of a judge before you leave the country.

jenpetronus Tue 17-Dec-13 18:03:07

I'm sorry you're in this position - can't offer any other help than what's been said above - but I can't help but wonder how he imagines he's going to look after 2 year old twins while renovating a farmhouse hmm

KingRollo Tue 17-Dec-13 18:07:09

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

shypuffin Wed 18-Dec-13 15:03:53

Yes, it would be great to get a recommendation for a good lawyer, but I am over an hour from Beziers and over 2 hours from Toulouse and Montpellier. Trying to get to an appointment when I work full-time without my partner knowing would be next to impossible. Does anyone know of any French ex-pat forums that might have recommendations?

KingRollo Wed 18-Dec-13 19:27:02

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

shypuffin Fri 20-Dec-13 17:51:32

I work from home, as does he.

LoveSewingBee Fri 20-Dec-13 19:13:34

If you both work from home, plus he doesn't speak French his demands seem even more unreasonable. Can you see a UK lawyer once younare both back in UK for Hols? Try early on in Hols so lawyer got time to come up with a plan. Could you refuse to travel back? He has after all agreed to go to UK after all?

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