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XP hasn't kept to court ordered contact, now demanding more

(14 Posts)
chattymitchy Fri 08-Jul-11 16:06:53

i have posted a few times over the year, quick recap ...

last year when DS was 8 months i got solicitors involved to encourage my xp to visit his son more often (xp finished relatioship whilst i was pregnant). He started coming weekly - but then took me to court and stated he wanted to increase contact from monthly to fortnightly, and made out that i had been obstructing access!!

At court, a contact order was drawn up which said contact should be weekly, and that further contact would have to be agreed between us.

He managed a few months of weekly, but then using various excuses he dropped visits to fortnightly, and last month didn't visit or call at all. Now I have a solicitors letter saying he wants fortnightly overnight stays from friday to sunday, a week to go on holiday, and christmas day this year.

i'm open to progressive contact, but if this goes back to court am i right in thinking that the judge will not look favourably on the fact he hasn't stuck to what he agreed last time he took me to court? DS barely knows him, and at 18 months i feel these demands are totally unreasonable and not fair on ds at all. he never sleeps away from home, let alone with a stranger in a strange house sad

any advice greatly appreciated.

rubin Sun 10-Jul-11 15:43:49

I'm not sure whether or not the courts will look unfavourably on your ExP for not keeping in contact. I think the feeling is that noone can be forced into keeping up contact, but I could be wrong. I would think the court would concentrate more on ensuring that the NRP is given frequent & short access rights for a child so young.

I doubt they will force you into agreeing to overnight visitations until your DC is at least 2 yrs old. Would be worth getting advice from a solicitor if you can afford it or if you can get legal aid.

It makes me sooooo cross through to hear your story. My DCs father brought me to court earlier this year to draw up a contact order (even though I had already been in agreement to the access requested & never denied access!) & since then he has regularly gone from every 2 weeks (as agreed) to every 3 wks & sometimes only once a month. And now he's threatening to take me back to court to lengthen his visits & telling me how unreasonable I am! Its not even been 6 mths since the order was in place.
Somtimes I feel there are a lot of NRPs out there that use the court as some sort of weapon.

I wish you well!

STIDW Sun 10-Jul-11 16:41:34

Somtimes I feel there are a lot of NRPs out there that use the court as some sort of weapon.

Sadly you aren't wrong, and the courts know it well.

Collaborate Sun 10-Jul-11 20:04:18

Also the boot is on the other foot often - parents with care refusing reasonable contact when really there is no reason not to agree.

rubin Sun 10-Jul-11 20:15:46

But 'collaborate' why are we suffering? I think it's terrible than when myself & so many others are trying our best to make a situation as reasonable as possible, that we are tainted by what seems to be a growing trend - to look after the NRP without any discussion of what has gone on previously ..!

I have done everything possible to ensure regular contact between my DSs & their father. And yet I still get treated like I'm the bad one!!

clairehaines1 Sun 10-Jul-11 20:20:56

Also the boot is on the other foot often - parents with care refusing reasonable contact when really there is no reason not to agree

Totally agree!!!!

chattymitchy Mon 11-Jul-11 09:26:40

thanks everyone, I'm contacting a solicitor today to see whether we can knock this back until he commits to coming weekly and agrees a more sensible progressive approach to contact. The cheeky arse is also asking me to travel half way on each contact - which would cost me £100 a month in petrol, and he gives me £20 a month in maintenance ... surely he's joking ....

Pretty fed up with having to spend more time and money, when all I've ever said is that overnights will have to be at a point when DS is ready for it, and when he has built up a good relationship/attachment with XP.

It seems that XP thinks DS is some sort of parcel to be shipped about whenever he deems it 'fair' that he has him.

angry

STIDW Mon 11-Jul-11 10:13:08

Of course the boot can be on the other foot.

The problem here may be due to contact being in the main carers's home. With very young babies this is unavoidable but it is a strain because it forces separated parents to be together when they would much rather not be. I think under these circumstances a reluctance to take up contact is understandable. Perhaps the perception that contact is being obstructed arises is associated with misunderstandings about moving contact away from the home and extending short periods into longer ones.

Good contact for children relies on parents working together, or at least not against each other. Having a decision imposed by the courts tends to make that difficult if not impossible because it causes resentment and resistance. I would write back to solicitor saying you are open to the idea of gradually increasing contact to alternate weekends, holidays and alternate Christmases etc and propose a realistic timetable of how this can be achieved. Offer mediation as a way forward. You then have evidence that you have tried to be reasonable and the ball is in your ex's court to take up the contact

There really is no reason why the father can't now take the child to the park or even to his home for short periods, then over 8-12 weeks extend that to full days and an overnight once a week or fortnight. You can keep a contact diary and review the arrangements. If your ex has more contact he may feel the relationship with your child is more meaningful and worthwhile putting in the effort.

STIDW Mon 11-Jul-11 10:40:12

*thanks everyone, I'm contacting a solicitor today to see whether we can knock this back until he commits to coming weekly and agrees a more sensible progressive approach to contact. The cheeky arse is also asking me to travel half way on each contact - which would cost me £100 a month in petrol, and he gives me £20 a month in maintenance ... surely he's joking ....

Pretty fed up with having to spend more time and money, when all I've ever said is that overnights will have to be at a point when DS is ready for it, and when he has built up a good relationship/attachment with XP.

It seems that XP thinks DS is some sort of parcel to be shipped about whenever he deems it 'fair' that he has him.*

On the other hand the view could be taken that your ex obviously doesn't have a great deal of money because his liability for child support is just £20 a month and he has maintained short periods of contact at great expense for travel. (BTW how did living a distance apart arise?) Both parents have a role in facilitating contact and that may includes travel.

Please don't underestimate the importance courts give to contact. A lot of parenting goes on during the night and overnights are an essential part of developing attachments. Also your child is at a developmental stage when the relationship with a main carer can become too intense and the relationship with natural fathers is important because they provide a sort of a bridge for a child to cross to the rest of society.

chattymitchy Mon 11-Jul-11 10:53:08

I totally understand all your points, although to clarify:

contact has been taking place outside of the home for the majority of the time - XP chooses where he wants to take DS, which I have never quibbled with even though it's not part of the contact order.

He restricts his own contact to 4 hours, because that is what is stated as a minimum in the order - he never voluntarily stays longer.

He doesn't like doing the journey to visit his son because it's 'boring' and he's run out of audiotapes.

We split up and I went to live with my parents whilst I was pregnant. We split up because I was selfish and evil because he wanted a termination and I didn't.

I have absolutely nothing against my child having contact with his father, but I do have issues with someone who refuses to put in the time and commitment to get to know their own DS. Contact may well be about parenting to some extent - but contact is primarily DS's right to see his dad, not the right of the non-resident to see his child at any cost to the child's welfare - and that it what I am primarily concerned about.

XP's demands have little to do with what is in DS's interests, and more about what he thinks is 'fair' for XP.

STIDW Mon 11-Jul-11 12:49:51

You are entitled to your opinion of course but the courts won't necessarily see it the same way and the only binding opinion is that of a judge making a ruling.

According to your posts your ex appears to have demonstrated a level of commitment maintaining regular contact every week or fortnight apart from last month. This is despite him being on a low income, having to pay to travel a distance and with no assistance from you. There is a high probability the court will see it unrealistic to expect him to travel for contact at his own expense every week.

The presumption is that when a child lives with one parent they have the right to see and know the other parent in all but the most exceptional circumstances. Children who are insecure about a parent tend to grow up with low self esteem leading to emotional and behavioural problems in later life. A reasonable amount of contact including overnight stays are considered an important part of developing a meaningful relationship. Your child is now approaching an age when he will be able to cope with overnights away from you. Many children younger than this cope with being away overnight.

It maybe your ex hasn't gone the right way about things but there is every probability a court is going to expect you to move towards what your ex is asking for fairly quickly. If you write, or your solicitor writes on your behalf, with reasonable proposals for extending contact and introducing overnights you may be able to improve communication to the benefit of your child and negotiate/mediate arrangements that can work for everyone. These days most parents have to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment meetings anyhow before the court will hear a case and if you do go to court the letter is evidence that you are being reasonable.

chattymitchy Mon 11-Jul-11 13:02:19

Hi STIDW thanks for your post.

XP has maintained a level of commitment, but not the commitment he took me to court for, and agreed when there. It therefore seems ludiscrous that he can come less often than he agreed in the best interests of DS, yet start to demand more.

XP has other regular income from 4 properties. he could also get a lodger, get a job, or get part time work to earn enough to see his son. none of which he has done.

I look after DS full time whilst studying for a post graduate conversion. I am on benefits and honestly cannot afford what he is asking me to do. i would effectively be paying him to see his son.

i know already that the court expects progressive contact, but what he is demanding is far from 'progressive'.

Whilst I have nothing against contact, hell will have to freeze over before I put DS in a damaging situation. And being left with a stranger, in a strange house, away from me for days at a time, overnight in a strange bed, will be damaging.

People seem to think children can cope and are resilient - but they aren't. Prolonged periods away from a mother before they can understand what's happening can in fact be extremely psychologically damaging.

STIDW Mon 11-Jul-11 15:06:13

Some under twos may find overnight contact difficult but many are fine. Professor and Head of the Department of Social and Development Psychology at Cambridge University advices "Much of the parenting of babies and toddlers happens during the night – so overnight stays are key." The risk of damage to children of separated families is much greater from high levels of ongoing conflict between parents and children being insecure about their identity.

Your ex is hardly a stranger, he is the child's father. One overnight isn't a prolonged period away from a mother (or for that matter, father if he happens to be the primary carer) and from about the age of 18 months it is actually rather healthy for children to be passed about a bit so that they begin to see themselves as a separate entity rather than just an extension of the primary carer.

The bottom line a court won't get bogged down with the history or the issues between parents. There is a high probability that a court would (subject to review) see first one overnight, then two, increasing at least to long weekends of 4 or 5 days and alternate Christmases as being in the child's best interests. It is only a matter of timing and you would have more control over that by negotiating/mediating and compromising than having a court imposed decision.

chattymitchy Mon 11-Jul-11 18:13:39

I understand your points STIDW, and I would go to mediation if I didn't think I would be subject to a barrage of lies (which I have been on every occasion thus far). All I'm asking XP to do is show some consistent commitment to getting to know DS. I'm sure that much parenting does go on at night, but when DS wakes he's expecting me, or at least someone who he considers to be part of his safety network. XP is not that. It will simply distress him that I'm not there. ALso, to expect a small child to understand the concept that they are being dragged away from their primary carer and placed with a stranger in a situation they can't possibly comprehend or deal with emotionally because it's supposedly in their 'best interests' fundamentally fails to recognises that children have difficulties with separation.

To DS, XP IS a stranger. He has probably seen DS less than the check out lady in tescos. DS has no concept of mother and father, so the fact that a stranger is biologically related means nothing to him.

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