Cutting into access

(19 Posts)
Seahorse22 Tue 17-Jun-14 15:56:44

Sorry this is long....
I'd be really interested to hear from anyone who has experienced this...

DH is a dedicated Dad and really misses his DSD, 10.6, when not with her (as do I). For years now, the private arrangement with his ExP has been EOW and one overnight midweek. It used to be two overnights in the week but he reluctanctly switched to one as it was proving disruptive to DSD. All holiday time is shared 50-50.

He never, ever cancels time with her, is always on time for pick-ups and drop-offs, is consistent, loving and supportive in every possible way including financially.

ExP has not been in a serious relationship for around seven years. She has often said she finds it hard to cope with being alone when DSD is with us and this slowly began to manifest itself as asking for phone calls from DSD when she is with us (fine) and then requests to trim access time at weekends (for example, it used to be Friday night to Monday morning but is now Sat 8-9am).

Earlier this year, ExP said she could not stand DSD being away from her for more than a couple of days and wanted to see DSD in the middle of half term week. We said we might be going away and wanted some flexibility but would keep her request in mind and because we were then not away, we said yes to DSD having dinner with her Mum one evening and coming back to us after but then this quickly changed (at ExP's insistence) at the last minute into an overnight.

We did this once and the latest request is for more of the same over the summer (specific dates demanded rather than requested/discussed) and also a 'new rule' that on weekends with us, DSD would ony be available from 2pm on the Saturday because ExP wants more time with her and cannot face a whole weekend without her.

DH is incredibly upset. The thought of losing any time with his daughter is such a blow that it's making him really stressed and sad and he feels that the understanding and flexibility he has shown in the past is now being abused. He would love to see more, not less of her.

DSD shows no signs of being upset about not being with her mother when she is with us - never asks to call her or see her. ExP has never said DSD does not like being with us so we are not aware of any issues there. It does feel as if this is about ExP rather than what is best for DSD. DH is also concerned about what DSD would be told about spending less time with him - would it be made out to be his idea?

DH is now taking a stand and it is being debated (ExP refuses to take no for an answer) but ultimately if his ExP refuses to open the door before 2pm on a Saturday once the new rule takes effect then there is little we can do. So the next step would be court?

I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has been in the same situation and how it was resolved with the child's (rather than the parents') best interests at heart..

TheMumsRush Tue 17-Jun-14 16:19:49

I guess you need to go to court. And I'd make it for the very first agreement of Friday to Monday, one over night and 50:50 holidays. You have been flexible and she has abused that.

MummyA1984 Tue 17-Jun-14 16:28:28

Oh god poor u, him and sd! It's awful having new "rules" enforced every 5 mins and unfair on ds as she needs stability. Also massively unfair on all of u because u need to know what you're doing one week to the next. Is this every other weekend still then? 2pm sat until what time Sunday?

Has you dp spoken to his daughter? Could he say to her that her mum has suggested you come at 2 on the sat, how do u feel? What do u prefer? It's hard coz u don't want to make her feel like she's choosing between u which is really what her mum is doing. Such a tricky situation.

How old is she? Think it's a typo it says 10.6?

Court can be costly and ineffective in my experience, they can give a court order but we have done this countless times, each time costing £800-1000 and she stops contact after a few weeks, threatened with community service but time after time it doesn't happen. She gets her court costs free through legal aid coz she doesn't work so to her its hilarious rinsing us of almost a months wage every time. You can't live life like that and we certainly wouldn't go through court again. So in my experience I wouldn't recommend that.

Kaluki Tue 17-Jun-14 16:32:07

I agree!
I hate not seeing my dc eow and a whole week without them is hell for me but I suck it up because they are ex's kids too and I know they love being with him and he lives them as much as I do. It's never about my needs it's about theirs and hard as it is I have to remember that!

wannaBe Tue 17-Jun-14 16:40:03

say no. Say the arrangement is for eow/one night a week/50/50 holidays and while you understand the need to be flexible sometimes (I am about as flexible as it gets but we have a 50/50 arrangement) this is not about the parents it is about the child. Advise ex that if this were to go to court the decision will be made in the best interests of the child not the parents, and that her age the child's views will be taken into account.

Tbh I don't think that phone calls are an issue, I speak to ds nearly every night when he's not with me as does xh when he's here.

But your dh just needs to say no and that if she is unmoved he will be going to court in which case she won't have a choice.

Seahorse22 Tue 17-Jun-14 16:59:14

Wow - thanks all for taking the time to read and respond. I'm really grateful for your views and suggestions.

MummyA DSD is 10 and a half. The half is very important (to her!) so I guess I just got into habit! DH has not spoken to DSD yet as he was hoping to avoid it happening and also didn't want to make her feel awkward (and in the middle, as you say). Really interested in your experiences of the court system. This is why DH and ExP wisely avoided it in the first place and it's worked well for a long time. Does private mediation exist? It could be a (less expensive/less stressful compromise) but the down-side would be the fact that it could only deliver optional outcomes rather than compulsory ones.

WannaBe The phone calls are no problem at all. Like most children when they're in the middle of something, DSD pulls a face when we ask her to call then gives one word answers and is back to whatever she was doing but we would never begrudge ExP them.

Any views on the overnights during holidays? It was never a really huge problem to be flexible/kind but in the broader context of other time being eaten away, DH is nervous about it becoming expected or extending to two nights etc. He also feels that DSD really enjoys and relaxes over 4-5 consecutive days and it's a shame to break up a rare week together.

TheMumsRush Tue 17-Jun-14 17:04:21

I would stop the over night on your week. Keep to a routine, it's better for dsd. It sounds like it will be expected and more will be asked

MummyA1984 Tue 17-Jun-14 17:07:28

It sounds like she really enjoys being with you, I think your dp ex is being incredibly silly by not being able to let her spend a few nights with you. What if u want to take her on hold with u for a week? Is that not allowed? The holidays should remain as they were. I would definitely try to stick to your guns. Maybe you'll find the courts more helpful than we did or her mum will respect the courts decision more than my ss mum. If it comes to it the courts will more than likely grant the 50/50 access you've originally had. It's best to avoid court but if it's needed, it's there. I wish you the best of luck with it. Out of interest do u have children yourself? You sound like a great step mum.

MummyA1984 Tue 17-Jun-14 17:08:21

Hols not hold

Seahorse22 Tue 17-Jun-14 17:08:46

Thanks MumsRush. I think you're right. The arrangement is never reciprocated, either. And the 'new rule' for the late start of our weekend would not have applied to ExP.

wannaBe Tue 17-Jun-14 17:35:04

wrt the phone calls I wouldn't push dsd into them. Say to her "are you going to call your mum?" and leave it at that.

In terms of the access, don't make it a choice arrangement. Get your dh to tell his ex that of next weekend he will be collecting dsd on Friday as per the previous arrangement. If she has issue with that tell her that the arrangement will be formalised in court and she will have no choice. So she either goes back to the previous arrangement or he will be seeking 50/50, given he previously had two midweek overnights, but I would opt for the 50/50 to be one week at each house to avoid maximum disruption.

rinabean Tue 17-Jun-14 17:49:01

"He also feels that DSD really enjoys and relaxes over 4-5 consecutive days" which is why he should have never even asked for the midweek overnights, let alone insisted on one after admitting how disruptive 2 were to his daughter. You're painting the mum's selfishness in a bad light but the dad's selfishness is a virtue. Obviously you like him better but that isn't objective.

I wouldn't trust what she says about where she wants to be - she'll tell her dad she wants to be here and her mum she wants to be there, and that's pretty normal. You have to work out what she actually wants and is healthy for her, which isn't easy. And "compulsory" anything is not going to be what she wants. Mediation might help. But it's FOR HER. That seems to have been forgotten by both her mom and dad.

rinabean Tue 17-Jun-14 17:50:29

Also the arrangement will change and that is not a bad thing at all. She's growing up and she will want different things. That doesn't seem to be what drove the recent changes, however you can't rule out change based on that. Because she will change and it's about her.

rosepetalsoup Tue 17-Jun-14 18:11:43

I would say no. The ExP is being unreasonable but also like a normal parent who has to learn to let go of their child a bit (happens normally in teen years, but then ultimately when the child leaves home of course). If you say no then she will be sad and furious and tell friends etc. But eventually she will learn that she does need to find other outlets and start dating etc.

It's hard for divorced parents -- I would hate to be without my DC for even a night.

Melonbreath Tue 17-Jun-14 19:26:15

Good luck. DH's ex has never stuck to any court agreement and laughs at us if we mention it.

That doesn't mean i think you should back down over it by any means.

Alita7 Tue 17-Jun-14 20:24:59

wow this is horrible.

We have a similar problem (though not for the same reasons and not every contact weekend) where dsd 1 and 2s mum keeps arranging family events etc when we have the kids, almost every time we have to send them back for an afternoon or a night or they come late and we were thinking about court. However I think you'd have the same issue as us. Although you can stand for yourself and save on a solicitor, court fees are expensive and we looked Into it and despite a low income as dp was made redundant and I'm a student nurse, there doesn't appear to be legal aid available in family things if you're making the case, only if you're the one it's against if that makes sense and we just don't have the money!
Plus dp is worried that If we did, the minute she was summoned to court she would cut our contact full stop (he hasn't got pr as they were born just before you started getting it automatically for being on the birth certificate). And it could take months before anything was sorted so he's too worried he and dsd 3 would loose months of contact time. Would this be a possibility for you as well.

So court can be an expensive and risky process and we don't know what to do so I'm In no position to advise, but can only offer hugs and understanding :/

Seahorse22 Wed 18-Jun-14 10:02:37

Thanks for more comments.

rinabean Of course DSD will soon make up her own mind about where she spends time - we really welcome that and will respect her wishes. But I don't recall saying that my DH had asked for midweek access or insisted on keeping one night. He didn't. The original arrangement and subsequent change was suggested by DSD's mother and agreed amicably between them when DSD was younger.

From what I have heard and also read on MN, I don't think midweek contact is unusual, esp when parents live very close to each other. Without it, the child does not see the NRP for two weeks at a time. As you say that may suit some children but not others. In DSD's case, as soon as it became apparent that two midweek nights were not working, DH and his ExP cut one of them and everyone - including DSD - is happy to keep the remaining midweek night. No one has insisted on anything - until now.

I agree that DSD's interests are the only things that matters. But at 10 (and a half!) she is not quite old enough to arrange her own parental access. In that context I completely understand DH wanting to protect the very small amount of time her has with her, which amounts to around 5-7 days a month in total, for DSD's sake as much as his.

Thanks MummyA. We are able to take DSD away on holidays and ExP knows that it is not physcially possible to see her then, hence daily phone calls which is fine by us. Thanks for your kind words.

Hi Alita I know what you mean about special occasions. These have not come up often but we have always said yes. And of course occasionally we have had family events on ExP's weekend and so it cuts both ways and she has always been fine about it. We did have a short phase of ExP asking for DSD back a day early at weekends and found out it was for school parties or playdates - things we could take her to - which we now do.

balia Thu 19-Jun-14 22:39:58

I think you need to consider court if mediation does not prove helpful. Frankly, it sounds as if this over-reliance on your DSD is unhealthy and she must be feeling the pressure of the message that mummy can't manage without her. I know that the idea of court is intimidating and should be seen as a last resort, but there is no longer legal aid for family law cases (so a level playing field) and you can represent yourself to massively cut down on costs.

I agree with you that 10 (and a half) is far too young to have to take on the planning of her contact, and whilst CAFCASS would listen to her wishes, they would not be making a decision based solely on them. And in a situation where a child is being put under pressure to meet an adults needs, a clear and compulsory order can be a huge relief. It was in our case; it is much less stressful for DSS now he doesn't have to take responsibility for any emotionally charged decisions.

purpleroses Fri 20-Jun-14 03:40:12

Is you your DP in touch with any of his ex's friends or family? Ultimately what would help would be of she found more of a social life of her own when she doesn't have her DD with her. If you knew anyone who could help her with that it might help.

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