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Contact query

(73 Posts)
Namechangerjustincase Wed 26-Sep-12 17:17:51

I've namechanged due to ex-H Dsis who uses MN and may know my usual name.

I have a DD aged 10 (nearly 11) and a DS who is 5. Ex-H and I split up 4 years ago and things have been pretty fraught since. Ex lives 90 miles away with his new family.

Things ended up in court last year and we have ended up with ex-H having the children pretty much every other weekend. (Sometimes ex has agreed to let the DCs go to something particularly important or I've had to take matters into my own hands on a couple of occasions). The DCs were not happy with the order though agreed to give it a go. My DS is exhausted now he is at school and it is too far for him to travel that often in my view. My DD has commitments to swimming and her regional orchestra which are very difficult to continue on an every other week basis. I have always said I am happy for him to come up here to see the DCs. In fact I WANT them to have a good relationship as they love him and love spending time with him. But he has to take them to their activities or they will fall behind, miss out on opportunities and will come to resent him. DD also has secondary school applications this year and needs to have a good range of extracurricular activities to have a chance of a scholarship. I can't afford to send her to a good school without one and our local state schools do not have good reports.

When we went to court I was shocked that the judge did not seem to consider that someone should talk to the children about what they want even though I said I wanted a CAFCASS report. He simply listened to my ex saying that he couldn't commit to taking my DCs to their activities because of his 2 yr old twins and that therefore the DCs should be the ones to uproot twice a month to bond with his new family. I was proposing that he stay in a B&B with the DCs so he doesnt feel like im interfering and can have some quality time alone with them. I feel he shouldn't have had a new family if it's going to impact on the one he already has, or at least, if he choses to do so then my DCs shouldn't be the ones to suffer.

We have a review again in November and there are several issues. I cancelled a couple of contact weekends due to DD having rehearsals which made exH angry but I want to demonstrate that it isn't practical to have a fixed contact order when she has things like this to do. A more flexible arrangement where we decide each month what time she has to balance seeing her father with her regular committmemts is what DD wants and is in her interest. He can always join in with anything she is doing, I won't stop him.

What is the best way of persuading a court that a standard every other weekend doesn't suit in our case? In previous hearings I've said I'm only prepared to look forward a few months in advance but I'm worried they might just impose something on us.

Also how can I ask a judge for someone to speak to DD at least. How can I ensure this? Will they listen to her now she is nearly 11?

I'm self representing. I saw a solicitor and had a barrister to start with but I really can't afford it anymore.

Sorry this is so long!

NatashaBee Wed 26-Sep-12 17:35:49

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Namechangerjustincase Wed 26-Sep-12 17:51:47

They want to spend most of their holidays with me though I think half the holidays is a fair compromise. The problem is he says he needs more notice than I can realistically give him. I don't want to say they can go to his and then have to have a big debate with him to try to persuade him to allow them to cancel if a friend invites them out or something. It's easier if we wait until I know what they have planned and then he can fit in around it. Then he can't get irritated if I have to cancel.

avenueone Wed 26-Sep-12 18:04:28

You can't please everybody all of the time as they say..
At the end of the day your separation with their dad is not of their making and he has moved away. It is a difficult situation - can you not try mediation? to establish how the best interests of the children can be met.
I agree with Natasha the children's own activities will start to increase not decrease - it is important they spend the time with their dad but is a shame that they have to miss out on things because their parents split and one moved away. Does he pick them up and drop them back on his weekends or do you take them?

Namechangerjustincase Wed 26-Sep-12 18:11:47

I moved away not him but I needed family support and a fresh start so there wasn't much choice. As I moved it was suggested that id be wise to share the journey in case it was also ordered that I have to do ALL the travelling sad

We tried mediation before court and I do wish I'd thought a bit more about how to play things at the time as I didn't really realise what going to court would be like. Either way mediation didn't work as he just can't understand that the DCs activities come first.

STIDW Wed 26-Sep-12 19:12:30

It's important to listen to children and take their views into consideration, but the burden of taking decisions about contact with separated parents isn't a responsibility a child should be given until they are old enough to understand the implications. Children's views need to be understood in context of the family background and the child's rationale. For example, parents don't allow children of any age to make decisions about the family staying together or moving.

Children's activities are important, but not more important than their relationship with a parent. What activities the children do now are unlikely to make a huge difference on their lives in ten years from now. What will have an impact is the having two loving parents who can communicate and resolve their differences so the children have a positive example to model they own relationships on in adulthood. Therefore it is important that parents agree arrangements and don't just unilaterally take it upon themselves to change.

Would your ex be able and willing to have the children less at weekends in exchange for longer weekends at half term and more time during the holidays? I think you just have to tell the children there are compromises in life and although they might not appreciate it now they need to see their dad regularly.

Namechangerjustincase Wed 26-Sep-12 19:31:25

My DD is very mature for her age and actually, if she had objections to us as a family moving then I'd listen to that and not move. If she feels her activities are important then I'll listen to her. So it isn't me, it's her.
Half terms and holidays are for the DCs to spend time with family and friends and they don't want to spend any more than half the time with their dad as they want time with me too.
I know there are compromises but I don't see why my DCs should take the weight of all of it?

Does anyone know how I can get a cafcass report ordered at what will now be our third time in court for yet another review? It's pointless bothering when we don't seem to get anywhere!

Namechangerjustincase Wed 26-Sep-12 19:39:15

Sorry, I'm not explaining it very well...

I guess I'm worried that the court has somehow already decided that they don't need anyone to speak to DD from the first hearing. The reviews just seem to be me and exH agreeing dates for a few months without resolving anything. Unless they hear what DD has to say or ex accepts what I keep trying to tell him how can we see an end to constant trips to court and back and get on with our lives?

olgaga Thu 27-Sep-12 09:05:13

I also think you should offer mediation. It may be that he will take you back to court anyway if your DD refuses to traipse backward and forward every other weekend - and at some point the court will be forced to involve Cafcass.

Your DD is old enough to have her views taken into account if she would prefer less regular visits.

Classic example of the courts putting a continuing relationship with the NRP above the welfare and interests of the child!

Take a look at these websites for information and advice:

www.maypole.org.uk/

www.rightsofwomen.org.uk/

3xcookedchips Thu 27-Sep-12 13:04:43

Mother moves away and therefore increases the difficulties in the children having good meaningful time with their father. Who's interests were best serverd here?

'Classic example of the courts putting a continuing relationship with the NRP above the welfare and interests of the child'

Isnt it in the childrens interests/welfare to have a relationship with thier father and that is the stance of the courts.

olgaga Thu 27-Sep-12 14:49:31

Can I just say, OP, that your post makes it very clear that you are putting the interests of the children, their education and their future first. Please ignore the comments from biased and embittered individuals which posts like yours tend to attract.

If you are self-representing you might find the following information I have put together on arrangements for children useful, as well as the information in the links I have posted above.

Also, have you had at the Co-op Legal Services website? It may be a more affordable alternative. Their fee structure is more transparent and they have a telephone advice line as well as offering really good advice on their website:

www.co-operative.coop/legalservices/family-and-relationships/

Also, feel free to PM me if you like.

Arrangements for Children

If you cannot reach agreement between you on residence and contact arrangements - either during a divorce or during discussions about revising contact arrangements, an application for a Residence and Contact Order may be made to the Family Court by either parent. In future this is likely to be renamed “Child Arrangements Order”.

It is important to note that each case is judged on its own circumstances. The Judge may direct Cafcass to investigate the issues and decide which are relevant for the court to decide. The Cafcass officer will investigate within the framework of the Children Act 1989, taking these factors into account:

(a) the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of age and understanding);
(b) physical, emotional and educational needs of the child;
(c) the likely effect on the child of any change in his circumstances;
(d) the age, sex, background of the child and any characteristics of his which the court considers relevant;
(e) any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
(f) how capable each of the parents are, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, of meeting the child’s needs;
(g) the range of powers available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question.

This kind of consideration Cafcass will give to issues around contact can be seen from their own publication “Time for Children”
www.cafcass.gov.uk/PDF/TimeforChildren.pdf

Amongst other helpful advice in “Time for Children”, pages 12 and 13 set out the following in relation to children and contact issues:

Children under three may find staying contact more difficult than older children, so particular care and sensitivity is needed when making arrangements at this age

Your parenting plan must be for the benefit of your children and not about parental time-shares. If you do not focus on your children’s needs, they may feel like parcels being moved between addresses.

Your children’s wishes need taking into account. Older children have friends they want to keep and interests that are important to them. They will want parenting plans that allow for their social activities.

Children mature at different rates so do not expect your children to manage similar arrangements to others of the same age; some children are confident and independent, others are shy and clinging.

Young children may need much reassurance to be away from the place they usually see as home without getting distressed.

Younger children usually manage frequent, short periods of contact
best; older children may prefer longer, less frequent periods.

Be flexible and update your parent plan over time. As children grow older their needs and circumstances will change, so will yours.

If there is any violence, alcohol and drug misuse, or psychiatric illness in the family, the parenting plan will need to take account of this to ensure the safety of your children. In order to benefit from contact, children must be safe and need to feel safe. Occasionally the risk of harm to the child will be greater than the possible benefits of contact and it may be best for it not to happen at all or to take place where risks to the child and possibly a parent can be kept to the minimum.

Here are some examples of contact arrangements which cater for the age and needs of of the child:

Baby: a couple of hours each Saturday morning,

Young toddler: a day each weekend: with very young children who have a short memory span frequent shorter contact is better than longer periods further apart

Young children: alternate weekends with one night overnight and maybe an evening each week

Older children: alternate weekends with overnight contact, maybe from Friday night to Sunday night; there could be additionally one night overnight contact a week; some parents agree Thursday nights, which would then provide a continuous long weekend every other weekend.

11 and up: often have sport or other weekend activities and contact must be planned around those. The court will not force a teenager over 14 to have contact with the other parent and at least from the age of about 12 the court takes the child’s wishes strongly into account.

balia Thu 27-Sep-12 16:29:42

I think we all have our biases, Olgaga, and are entitled to our opinions. Certainly I'd have said that prioritising swimming lessons, orchestra, and invites from friends over time with a parent and half-siblings is not in the children's best interest.

STIDW Thu 27-Sep-12 16:50:06

Just to clarify so there is no misunderstanding, the examples of contact arrangements above are not in the CAFCASS leaflet.

There is no one particular arrangement that suits all families and the people who work with CAFCASS and the courts on a day-to-day basis (lawyers) are in the best position to advise about the arrangements that CAFCASS and courts are likely to deem to be in the best interests of children currently. Posters are entitled to their opinion of course, but the only opinion which is binding is that of a judge at a final hearing.

redwhiteandblueeyedsusan Thu 27-Sep-12 17:37:36

you and the children can not have it all ways, there needs to be a compromise.

they can not go to a lot of activities and spend half the holidays with you. they need to go to their dad's to have a family life there. they need to compromise on activities so that they can do them at a time that fits in better with their dad.

3xcookedchips Thu 27-Sep-12 17:43:22

Out of interest have you discussed the ongoing court situation with both your kids?

I'm assuming when you cancelled the 'contact weekends' there was already an order in place - you basically wanted to show him who was boss?

You remove your children 90 miles away from their father for your own reasons and then you wonder why a) mediation doesnt work b) that you're in court and they dont see your point of view.

The children are in danger of being alieanated from their father and losing one of the two most important relationship they will have in their lives.

It also sounds like you're bitter that he has moved on and has a new family.

Snorbs Thu 27-Sep-12 17:59:38

So the relationship broke down and you took the DCs and moved 90 miles away from their father. Next, despite knowing that your DCs are supposed to see their father every other weekend, you signed up your DD to not one but two different activities that happen to fall on weekends and so cause problems with contact. Incidentally, did you consult with your ex regarding these commitments before signing up to them? Somehow I suspect not.

You now wish to throw out the contact order and in favour of a "flexible" arrangement whereby, at short notice, you get to pick and choose when your DCs get to have contact with their father. Said contact cannot be at his home but, instead, he'll have to stump up the money to stay over at a B&B at the town you unilaterally chose to move to. And if he doesn't like it then that's just tough because how dare he have gone on to have another relationship after you.

I could be wrong but I suspect you'll have a tough time persuading a judge that you're being reasonable about this. It sounds more like you're trying to find ever more obstacles to your DCs having a close and fulfilling relationship with their father.

olgaga Thu 27-Sep-12 19:02:14

you signed up your DD to not one but two different activities

Hardly excessive! My DD does similar music and drama activities, as do her friends, some of whom also do swimming, cross-country running and team sports every weekend. That's what happens when children get older.

Presumably these were activities DD wanted to participate in. Are you suggesting, STIDW, that OP has forced her DD into these activities just to spite her ex?

OP has explained that she moved for very good reasons - not without reason, or to put the children out of range of her her ex.

Don't be put off by these posts, OP. Especially those of STIDW who is extremely partial and negative to women in your position, and likes to think he knows what every family court judge will decide in every case.

The welfare and interests of the children always come first. Forcing contact to the exclusion of the wishes and educational development of an 11 year old simply isn't tenable.

balia Thu 27-Sep-12 21:36:24

olgaga STIDW ia always extremely professional and gives fantastic, balanced and completely free legal advice on these boards. You are muddling up your posters.

Also, I'm sure OP posted to get a range of opinions and is perfectly capable of deciding which advice she wishes to follow; there's no need to be rude about other posters. It isn't always helpful or supportive to be quite so vocal when expressing your bias - the OP has posted on legal and as STIDW has attempted to do, it may be beneficial for her to reflect on the legal view of her position. The fact that you think it is brilliant parenting to move children 90 miles from the other parent and then use that as a reason why they can't go and see him, or enrol them in clubs and activities in his parenting time and then complain that he is unreasonable doesn't mean that the courts will see it that way.

Latemates Thu 27-Sep-12 21:40:25

There is nothing to say that activities could not have been arranged that would fall evenings Monday to Thursday. He lives in the same place they all once lived therefore the children will no other people their own age there that they can socialize with. There may be clubs in that area that they could join too.

Most children are involved in a variety of different clubs and clubs are very useful but reality is at most people do not have a career or have significant long term continuation from the activity they did at 11. But you only have one mum and one dad and that relationship lasts a lifetime. And needs to be nurtured the children need to see both homes as their home and have lives in both places. Reducing contact is diminishing the importance of one parent and quite frankly as you have stopped court order contact in the past you have basically taught your kids that the law and their father is insignificant

elvisaintdead Thu 27-Sep-12 22:15:36

Who are you trying to kid here? YOU moved 90 miles away from him and then you organise stuff for the weekends when they are due to see him. You basically want to dictate at short notice when they go and expect him to travel and stay in a B&B, away from his other very young children if he wants to see him simply because you want them to do activities?!

I am on both sides of this situation as both my husband and I have chilren from previous relationships. I think the crucial and over riding thing is the family relationships - all of our children have activities and clubs that they go to, but the resident parents in both cases organise those during their time. My DC are with me 12 days out of 14, the same as your alternate weekend arrangement with your ex and that is plenty of time to organise activities during that time. Thie time with their Dad is for him and his wife to decide on and when my Stp children are here we plan things for them.

Over time, spending regular time at the NRP's house allows the children to make friends and enjoy activities at that home too. They also have 2 siblings their in your case and as someone who has more children with my current DH I can't stress enough how valuable and special those sibling bonds are. In addition they also need time with the wider paternal family - grandparents, Aunts and Uncles etc.

Sometimes my children will say they would rather see friends than grandparents or join a family outing but 99 times out of 100 when they come along they end up having a fab time.

Children should not be given responsibility for those choices - instead their parents, both of them, should make decisions and you have to accept that.

Your ex is trying to tell you that, the courts have told you that by their actions and people here are telling you but it's as though you have your opinion and just want everyone to back it. The courts won't because it's not the right thing. When you accept that and accept their righ to a proper relationship with their Dad, Step Mum and new siblings, the sooner you will be able to move on and find your own happiness.

olgaga Thu 27-Sep-12 22:23:18

STIDW yes they are - as I say, on pages 12 and 13 of the Cafcass publication I have linked to.

Note that I also say in my post It is important to note that each case is judged on its own circumstances.

balia I am not muddling up my posters and I do not agree with you. I feel STIDW, as well as some other posters, frequently trot out extremely partial and negative advice to women in OP's position with regard to contact issues as a matter of course. I am entitled to redress the balance if I wish.

As STIDW points out, the only opinion which is binding is that of a judge at a final hearing. The OP is entitled to stand by her choices and present her case. It is not helpful to her or others in her position for a case to be casually dismissed in this manner:

"The fact that you think it is brilliant parenting to move children 90 miles from the other parent and then use that as a reason why they can't go and see him, or enrol them in clubs and activities in his parenting time and then complain that he is unreasonable doesn't mean that the courts will see it that way."

Or this

"Children's activities are important, but not more important than their relationship with a parent."

Or (best of all) this from Latemates:

"There is nothing to say that activities could not have been arranged that would fall evenings Monday to Thursday."

Very observant! Except there's also nothing to say that they could have been arranged Monday to Thursday either...

NameChanger if you haven't given up on this thread in disgust, I would like to reiterate that I'm sure you will do a very good job representing yourself, and you clearly have your children's best interests at heart.

olgaga Thu 27-Sep-12 22:26:12

I might add that not all judges are the same. The fact that you and your children have tried your best with the contact order currently in place will be taken into consideration.

Don't lose heart.

Latemates Thu 27-Sep-12 22:28:12

How do you know she has their best interests at heart?

It is in their best interests to have a full relationship with both parents.

She may think she is acting in their best interests but preventing contact is not in their best interests and breaking court orders is not in their best interests

Lifeispainless Thu 27-Sep-12 22:30:04

Olaga.

I read your posts and you don't come across as very impartial either.

And I think you're reading a different thread to me m

Latemates Thu 27-Sep-12 22:31:23

Olgaga your own link says it is harmful to children to prevent contact or make the children aware that you do notnfully support contact

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