Advice on going to court for contact(3 Posts)
DP is living in a perpetual nightmare. He split with ex more than 2 1/2 years ago. His DDwas around 6 months old. He did his share of nappies, bath time etc before the split. Ex was originally ok, he could see DD often, even had her for a whole weekend while she went in a hen do.
A few months later we get together. Ex stops contact. They go to mediation, she says he's a rubbish father, that he'd threatened to run off with me and DD, how horrible he was, turned in the tears. She made unreasonable demands such as DDs clothes weren't allowed to be stained upon return (good luck when feeding a baby!) etc. He eventually relented and agreed to everything, she said she'd changed her mind and he couldn't see her.
He applied for legal aid and waited for court, 6 months pass and she declares it's a new start and he can see DD building up contact slowly. He agrees and drops legal proceedings. Ex shouts at DP infront of DD, her family call him 'it' to DD. She said DD isn't to sit where that cunt has (my DS car seat). It was relentless. She stopped contact again when DP refused to get back together. Mediation is repeated. Same things, DD isn't to see anyone but him, not even his immediate family. His mum has only meet DD now 3 twice.
Ex seems to be relaxing and agrees me and DS can spend time with her too. This lasts for a month before she declares it stops as DD is wetting the bed because of us. I know DD is happy with me as she asked to stay with me while DP went to the shop. Admittedly her and DS did have a love/hate thing going on. (Same age, sharing toys etc).
DP let's his sister see DD so ex cuts contact again. More mediation. She says a health professional told her to. I can't think of any that would say this. Everytime the mediator seems to be on DPs side until they all get together and ex cries. Then they round on DP.
He is currently seeing her for 2 hours a week. No one else, friends or family is allowed to see her according to ex. She cut it back to 45 minutes recently as DD was naughty at nursery so this was DPs fault?
It's a crazy situation where DP is living on edge not knowing if she'll stop or reduce contact for any reason. DD comes out with stuff like daddy's girlfriend yuk, fifi and DS smell mummy told me, why did you choose DS and not me.... It's heartbreaking.
If he goes to court in the new year, what are his chances of reasonable contact? It's been brewing for quite some time now as you can imagine but we are expecting a child of our own in July and don't want DD to feel excluded from the family. Now is the time.
Having another sibling will help your case, courts are very keen that children maintain a relationship with half siblings, provided the child is still provided for (bedroom, or at least a bit of own space etc).
Will be a long battle, speaking from experience, DP went through same thing but a lot more nasty and vicious. Given ad hoc nature of contact up until now (not your fault I know) courts are likely to offer non-staying contact (not overnight) initially. Cafcass will recommend 'little and often' with young children - 2 or 3 blocks of couple of hours each week. Does DP now have legal aid? If so you may need to reapply for staying contact 4 or so months later; if she even keeps to the court orders and it sounds like that could be your biggest problem.
Ideally you need a child psychologist to assess the child for bias/ intimidation/ brainwashing and present findings to court, but they are VERY expensive.
Document everything - every comment from the child that is clearly not age-appropriate, every missed or changed contact, every call or text. Easiest thing to do is get an old fashioned A4 desk diary and write down in there on a day to day basis. These are more believable than electronic diary which are easy to alter retrospectively.
It's worth it in the end. We didn't see DP's DD for 18 months when she was 4, now have every other weekend, half of all holidays, alternate Christmas and birthdays.
Your support will be crucial, so good luck and hang in there.
Although there are many strands to this story, believe it or not it's very simple.
When your partner goes to court, there is one consideration: What are in the best interests of the child?
A good place to start is the `Welfare Checklist' from Section 1(3) of the Children Act 1989
` ...a court shall have regard in particular to -
(a) the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding);
(b) his physical, emotional and educational needs;
(c) the likely effect on him of any change in his circumstances;
(d) his age, sex, background and any characteristics of his which the court considers relevant;
(e) any harm which he has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
(f) how capable each of his parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his needs;
(g) the range of powers available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question.'
That is it. When dealing with the court, the above should be your bible. Don't be concerned with what the ex if it doesn't have any bearing on the above. If she makes allegations just simply say `I refute all allegations' - not doing so is an acceptance that he agrees with them. If the court wants to investigate any allegations she makes, it will.
Otherwise, let her rant away.
Stay child-focused. Put everything in terms of the child: It's not `dad's time with the kids' it's `the kids' time with their dad', etc.
Mediation should be attempted (in theory). However in my experience (I work as a McKenzie Friend dealing with cases like this on a daily basis) I wouldn't bother. It delays proceedings and quite honestly, you know what the situation is. The worst that will likely happen if you don't try is a judge saying it should be attempted, or ordering it.
Otherwise it's just delay and the ex extending the status quo of poor or no contact (and believe me, the status quo is one of the strongest considerations in a hearing...the ex's solicitor WILL try to stop contact if there isn't any by saying that by ordering it the childrens' lives with be `disrupted').
If I were to make a prediction about what happens if your partner went to court I would say...
She will say she has `welfare concerns' at the first hearing - meaning that there will be no contact/supervised contact until they have been investigated - with a CAFCASS report ordered (with a delay of up to 6 months in part of the country). She will almost certainly refused overnight contact because the child is `too young' or that his accommodation is unsuitable.
It'll go to a directions/review hearing and on from there...
As he's on legal aid I would urge him to consider the use of a McKenzie Friend - a legal assistant who helps him run his own case. It isn't as hard as you think and there are some really good ones out there (I work with one who does it full time and amongst other things has Rights of Audience in the High Court in London) - some of them charge, some don't. Some are legally qualified, some aren't.
I would also recommend he joins Families Need Fathers. I'm a member, a McKenzie Friend and am a volunteer (as is my partner...who is a stepmother like you). Members includes dads, but also grandmothers, aunts, cousins, sisters and stepmums - about a third of the members are female. You'll find all sorts of useful information on their website.
They have branches around the country, with support meetings (where you can get free advice of solicitors, social workers, McKenzie Friends), a telephone helpline, a forum with people who can help and a lot more.
If you need any advice, get in touch. There is a lot you can do!
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