50/50 residency

(76 Posts)
ktt512 Tue 05-Jan-16 12:21:25

Hi everyone, i'm having a really pants week and could really do with some advice.

I've been a SM for a couple of years and have 2 DSS's. We have them 3 weekends on, 1 off, 3 nights at a time. My OH absolutely adores his kids and our current contact arrangement isn't enough for him, it really gets him down that he can't have them more and it breaks my heart to see him tearing himself up over it. We have been toying with the idea of going for 50/50 residency because that is his dream. However, as you would expect, my DSS's BM wasn't keen on the idea (because she doesn't want to lose the money my OH pays her) and loosely agreed on the basis that we cannot swap any weeks with her to miss things like half terms, if half term is on one of our weeks then tough, that's our problem. This obviously would never work for us at the moment because we don't physically have enough annual leave between us to cover taking weeks off for the major holidays AND half terms, so she knew we'd never be able to take her up on it. On the face of it, this is a very fair way to do it, but we both work and she is a stay at home mum (she has 3 other kids beside DSS's).

So this leaves us with one option if we wanted to go ahead and that is that one of us gives up work. We can't afford for my OH to give up work because he's the breadwinner by a long shot, so then that leaves me giving up work. This makes more sense as we're ttc ourselves so (with any luck) in the near(ish) future I won't be working anyway. I get on great with the kids and I love them to bits (even though sometimes I want to run screaming from the house with frustration lol) and they love being here, they cry every time they leave and beg me to let them come back during the week. Not that it is all rainbows and sunshine at our house, I like to think I run a tight ship and there are rules for them and expectations of behaviour that they are, for the most part, happy to abide by. They are really good kids in that respect and i'm super lucky that we haven't yet run into problems.

Yesterday, my OH and the boys BM got into an argument about maintenance from the christmas period where my OH didn't pay as much because the boys had been with us from boxing day til 4th of Jan, it's escalated to BM calling the CSA and opening a case against him and her saying he'll never get more time with them than he has now. He's hurt, angry and frustrated by the whole thing because BM spits the dummy about all manner of things fairly often, he feels he has no control and that he's being painted as a dead beat dad when in reality he fights tooth and nail for his kids. Again, the idea of 50/50 residency has been brought up and we've got an appointment to see a solicitor, but he's convinced it's a waste of time, that the law isn't on his side, that it's 100% up to her how much he gets to see his kids.

I don't know what to do or what to tell him other than 'we'll see what the solicitor says' - it's not like he wants to wrench the kids away from their mother, he just wants an equal amount of time with them. But then he gets frustrated with me because i'm trying to be positive and counter his doom and gloom approach and we end up arguing.

Has anyone else been in a situation like this? Or seen a solicitor about this kind of thing? Am I being too optimistic that a father should have as much right to his children as their mother?

Bluelilies Tue 05-Jan-16 12:50:06

Am I being too optimistic that a father should have as much right to his children as their mother? - no, but you're asking the wrong question. You should be asking - would these kids be better off with a different residence pattern that split their weekends and weekday nights in half in exactly 50-50 ratio? And in your case the answer would seem to me to be no. This is because:
- It's not what they're used to. Their mum has always been their primary carer and taken care of their weekday routines and that's what they're used to. Unless something has changed a court is likely to question why a change is needed.
- your OH is not in a position to be their primary carer in the week because because he's working full time and doesn't get enough leave to cover the holidays
- They have older siblings who they live with at their mum's and are quite possibly close to
- They already have a really good contact schedule with their dad spending 3/4 weekends with him - that means that you and your OH are already getting 3/4 of all the quality leisure time with them, which most people would regard as a great deal.

Also, my personal experience is that a 50-50 type arrangement works OK for young children but increasingly doesn't work as they get older. We have something close to it with my DSC (we have every weekend, with additional weekday nights for two of them) and it's become increasingly apparent as they've got into their teens that this isn't leaving either parent really on top of their lives. Childcare isn's as simple or "timeshare-able" as they get older, and is even more complex if you start factoring in steparents as key componenets of their parenting. One of my DSC is really struggling right now and DH had assumed her DM was sorting her our, but it's now clear that she isn't, that DSD is not really interacting with her mum much and hasn't got the closeness of relationship with her which would enable her mum to support her better. I think splitting the weekdays in half makes it pretty hard for either parent to really know what's going on with coursework due in, exams, school friends, GP appointments, extra-cirricular activities, social commitments, etc.

I do think your OH needs to get over a "woe is me" attitude towards how much time he's getting with his kids when he's getting so much, and in particular so much quality relaxed time, already. Are the DSSs old enough for him to contact them via text or skype or whatever during the week at all? My DH enjoys the odd interaction on FB messenger, text and phone calls with his older DC.

cannotlogin Tue 05-Jan-16 13:00:31

(because she doesn't want to lose the money my OH pays her)

so....if I were to say that your OH only wants the children 50/50 to avoid paying maintenance?

yesterday, my OH and the boys BM got into an argument about maintenance from the christmas period where my OH didn't pay as much because the boys had been with us from boxing day til 4th of Jan, it's escalated to BM calling the CSA and opening a case against him and her saying he'll never get more time with them than he has now

your OH is in the wrong here. Maintenance is calculated weekly, after reductions are made for time spent with the other parent. The amount should be the same weekly. It should never be a payment that is reduced at the will of one parent without discussion and agreement with the other parent. It's not unreasonable she has gone to the CMS on this basis.

Your OH already has by far the majority of quality time with his children, there are siblings in their mother's household and their mother isn't working so is able to see to their needs. Presumably she has a partner who is willing to support your OH's children? On the other hand, your household is looking at reducing income as a means by which to challenge the other household for care of children. Does that seem reasonable? How might a judge view it?

Oh and 'birth mother'...you want 50/50 shared care but refer to your step children's mother as their 'birth mother'?

FoxesSitOnBoxes Tue 05-Jan-16 13:07:06

Birth mother made me a bit cross too, I'm afraid OP.
Try for 50/50 but I agree with bluelillies.
Also, withholding CSA without warning does come across as quite spiteful

UnderTheGreenwoodTree Tue 05-Jan-16 13:22:51

I don't agree that 50-50 is generally in the best interests of the children - yes, it can work, but in your case you have a father working FT and a mother a SAHM, it's obvious that the children's permanent residence should be with their mother, with decent contact with their father. It sounds like his contact time is more than decent - 3/4 weekends is a great arrangement, much more than a lot of NRPs.

I would be very very careful taking this to court, as the standard court arrangement is every other weekend, and the mother could argue for this if it turns into a nasty battle. It is also very expensive to get solicitors and courts involved - it really should be an absolute last resort. Your husband should concentrate on maintaining a good relationship with the mother IMHO.

3phase Tue 05-Jan-16 13:27:15

My DH got 50:50 and an SRO by consent (i.e. Mum agreed to it in court) but he did carry on paying maintenance for at the rate he'd been paying prior for quite a few years. He knew she'd never agree to the 50:50 if he didn't and for him, the 50:50 was more important.

He doesn't pay maintenance anymore. He stopped last year as DSD had moved to a private school and he was paying the fees and all associated costs for that.

I don't think you can expect Mum to pick up your school holiday weeks though if you go for 50:50 - that isn't fair. You say she has 3 younger children? I would imagine then that during the school hols she'd rather a few weeks when she just had 3 kids to look after, not 5!

In our situation, DH works full time, Mum is single and works part time and I work part time. Holidays are split 50:50 so if we have childcare issues during our time, we sort it and Mum does the same in her time. To a degree there is flexibility; I've got DSD today because Mum is working, it's her day to have DSD and school hasn't started yet. I'm home with our younger kids and it's not a problem for me to have her. If I was busy I wouldn't have changed things to have DSD though - I would expect her Mum to make arrangements herself. Fine for her to ask but equally fine for me to say no.

I'm not sure I agree the 'law isn't on his side'. More and more Dad's are being awarded 50:50. The FNF forum will probably be the best place for your OH to go for advice.

3phase Tue 05-Jan-16 13:32:00

Sorry I should also add, I'm not convinced 50:50 is always in the best interests of the children either.

Funinthesun15 Tue 05-Jan-16 13:37:23

Oh and 'birth mother'...you want 50/50 shared care but refer to your step children's mother as their 'birth mother'

Depending where the OP is from it can be a common phrase.

50:50 doesn't work well if you want it to. It is what we now have with DSC and in fact the older one now wants to live here full time.

Epilepsyhelp Tue 05-Jan-16 13:39:50

It sounds a bit like you want her to be your childcare when you don't want them - you want her to cover half terms out of pattern and you want to pay her by time served (or docking money at Christmas!) there was just no need for that pettiness. She still has to maintain a house big enough for the kids pay all their bills buy their clothes etc, just because you have them for a few extra days that doesn't change.

I was an SM for six years but your post made me cringe with the 'BM' references. There are mothers or step-mothers. Simple.

ktt512 Tue 05-Jan-16 13:44:12

Apologies, I didn't mean it offensively, I didn't realise that was a derogatory term - I thought it was simply a differentiation between that and step mother. This is my first time posting about our experiences and I've been trying to decipher the abbreviations and use them appropriately - I wasn't trying to be rude. So sorry again.

Also, I've tried to write this with as little reference to the boys' mum as I can because I don't really feel it's my place to talk about her in that way, but I would like to stress that my OH wouldn't be trying to get a 50/50 arrangement if their home life was acceptable and happy. They don't spend much time there and they are shipped about a lot, which is why he feels they'd be better off with him. The other children are younger and are by her current partner who refuses to live even in the same county as her and is a weekend dad. The arrangement works for them and that's fine, but it causes my dss's to get a raw end of the deal. I understand I haven't given the full story so from the outside it probably does look like we're trying to rip the children from a happy healthy home for no reason. This isn't the case.

He also discussed the payment thing with her before doing it, he didn't just refuse to pay, it's only a week or so after the conversation that it's become a problem.

I totally understand the argument that he has 3 out of 4 weekends with them and that's a lot more than most dad's get, but I struggle with how that's a fair thing to say. He gets 'fun time' but desperately wants to be involved with school work and their day to day lives. it sounds hugely unfair to say he should think himself lucky because he has been allowed 9 nights a month with his children as opposed to less?

I'm just struggling a bit. It's not an easy situation to be in.

Thanks for all your input though and sorry again if I offended anyone.

Bluelilies Tue 05-Jan-16 13:55:18

How far away do you live?

If you're within the same school catchment - or very close to it - I think it's a bit more practical, at least whilst they're primary school aged.

Epilepsyhelp Tue 05-Jan-16 14:12:20

It may well be the better thing for the kids, I certainly wouldn't suggest you shouldn't try for 50:50. It will be a difficult argument to the court though I think, as she is a SAHM and they are settled there etc. It might be difficult to demonstrate to the court the advantages. I would definitely not give up though, if he feels it is better for his children.

QuiteLikely5 Tue 05-Jan-16 14:20:34

It seems like this is about money than anything else. She obviously doesn't want to lose the money.

If your husband is desperate for more contact then tell the ex you won't reduce the money she gets.

I also think it was a bit low reducing her cm just because you had the children over an extended period.

Of course I can see why you'd want to reduce it but in reality she has all the power and control over those children. Don't forget that and remember it before you do anything else that could make her exercise her rights and controls.

Hard but true.

lunar1 Tue 05-Jan-16 14:55:17

It wouldn't be 50/50 with mum and dad though, the extra would be spent with you not their dad. While I don't think parents have to have their children 100% of the time I don't think it's fair on anyone to change access arrangements if the parent won't be with them.

You are also on dodgy ground saying you want 50/50 except when it doesn't suit.

swingofthings Tue 05-Jan-16 15:01:38

You say in your first post that they got in an argument AFTER he didn't pay the full amount, so either it was discussed but she didn't agree, or it wasn't.
Unfortunately, that was a very wrong move on his part if he wants the sympathy of any judge. Inevitably, this instance will raise questions as to whether his intention to go for a 50:50 is a result of him wanting to stop paying maintenance, especially if you have already planned that you will stop working when you have a child together.

The fact that he is working and therefore it would be YOU looking after them during the holidays won't also go in his favour. The whole point of 50:50 is to spend equal time with both parents, not SP.

Personally I think he should be grateful for what he's got. If the kids really want to come and spend more time with you or even live with you, they will be able to have a say when they are older. It will then be about what they want, not what the parents want.

Funinthesun15 Tue 05-Jan-16 16:38:32

Personally I think he should be grateful for what he's got

hmm

As father should be greatful for 'being allowed' time with his DC. Ridiculous remark.

Heard it all now...

Bluelilies Tue 05-Jan-16 16:41:15

Funinthesun - I don't think that anyone suggested a father should always be greatful for any time with his DC - just that the OP's OH in this case has 3/4 weekends with his DC, which means he gets 3/4 of the relaxed quality time with them whilst their DM gets 1/4. The majority of separated parents only get half their weekend with their child, so he's quite lucky relative to others.

ktt512 Tue 05-Jan-16 16:59:37

I feel like I should also say that their mum does not want them at the weekends and has made this very clear to us. She maintains that weekends are 'her time to spend with the other kids and their father' - something which was very difficult for my OH to hear. They don't spend the 4th weekend with her either, they spend it with grandparents, this also apparently non negotiable.

cannotlogin Tue 05-Jan-16 17:10:06

Depending where the OP is from it can be a common phrase

No. It's not. The term 'birth mother' is one which is used to show the difference between a mother who gives birth and gives up a child for adoption (or from whom a child is forcibly removed) and an adopted mother.

When used in a step-parenting context is screams 'I'm better than you'. Whilst I don't doubt there are circumstances where mum is little more than a 'birth mum' and step mum runs around doing all the 'birth mum' work, by far the majority of children in step/blended family situations are more than adequately cared for by both parties.

Do you have a partner? Would he tolerate being referred to as 'the birth father' when there was a step father on the scene?

ktt512 Tue 05-Jan-16 17:28:52

I certainly didn't mean it like that and it was an honest mistake. I didn't post the topic to be offensive, in fact, completely the opposite. I have no interest in belittling the children's mother, I have no intention of bad mouthing her at all, I don't think I'm better than her, I was just looking for some advice as to how best to support my partner and I hope I've given facts about the situation that don't come across as b*tchy. I really am sorry that I offended you, I will not to use that abbreviation in future. I don't know anyone else with children or step children so I'm navigating this situation alone, I was simply hoping for some constructive direction.

NewLife4Me Tue 05-Jan-16 17:49:53

I can't see how a judge would change the arrangements for a step parent who became a sahm when the children's mum is already a sahm.

I think it would only work as long as you did cover the childcare costs during holidays if they fell during your time, the same as other working parents do.
You could use annual leave to cover some/most of it and then childcare costs would be less.
I'm not experienced in these things but sure the judge would look at how much time your partner has free to spend with the children.
I'm also not sure they'd take your parenting into consideration, just the children's parents.

UnderTheGreenwoodTree Tue 05-Jan-16 18:14:08

My advice would, in that case, be to smooth things over with the ex, and pay up the maintenance he owes. Eat some humble pie, for the sake of good family relations. It was very very silly of him to not pay the maintenance.

Then, after the dust has settled a bit, see if the ex will agree to arrangements along the lines originally discussed, but accept that you will have to cover any half terms etc that fall during your week - by annual leave/paid childcare/grandparents etc.

Bringing solicitors in, and taking it to court would be your worst option imo - and I don't think you have much chance if the ex opposes it. The advice is always to try to make arrangements amicably.

cannotlogin Tue 05-Jan-16 18:25:41

sorry ktt, my comments weren't aimed at you - I had seen your comments and I accept that sometimes these terms are used in error. I was actually referring back to funinthesun who was suggesting it was OK to use the term 'birth mum'. It isn't. I am particularly touchy about it because the woman my ex left me for played some dreadful games, one of which was to call me names and try to down-play my relationship with my children. I carried them for 9 months and fed them myself - yet I was supposed to accept not seeing them because I was 'just the birth mother' (my ex actually wrote that in an e-mail - you can imagine what the judge said to him!) and she and my ex were a 'family' who were able to care for the children and avoid the associated 'single mum stigma' (also something he wrote to me). As a result, he suggested that my only contact should be 'letterbox contact' twice a year!

He didn't get what he wanted but it grates on me dreadfully and I find it very, very belittling.

Bluelilies Tue 05-Jan-16 18:27:27

Please don't berate the OP over terminology that she's already apologised for using.

We're in the same position as you OP in that my DSC's Mum doesn't want them at weekends as that is her time off, which is why we have them every weekend. It's not a recipe for a close relationship with your mother in my experience to never see each other at weekends. It also may be one of the reasons behind why she's opposing your 50-50 suggestion that she doesn't want to have them half the weekends. We've had discussions about changing residency patterns recently and it's definitely been one of the issues for us. In an ideal world my DSC would spend more time with their DM, but that's not something we can fix and it's painful for both DH and the DSC to realise that she regards them as her job, and doesn't want her weekends with them sad

Suggesting small changes to the routine that preserve the weekends you have whilst keeping child support payments the same might be a better way forward. Eg start the weekend contact on a Thursday. Or what about the 4th weekend? Do the grandparents really like having them or could you have them most / all of that weekend too?

Also worth reminding your OH that if he works long hours and can't do the school run himself then a simple 50-50 split might mean he sees less of his DC not more as he'd see very little of them in the week and lose one of his weekends.

Bluelilies Tue 05-Jan-16 18:29:59

cannot How awful angry [No wonder you're touchy about that term sad

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