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When divorced parents can't agree

(64 Posts)
jewatson Thu 11-Oct-12 09:19:52

This is the first time I have posted here and hope that someone can help (I am deliberately being vague as I do not want to give too many details and risk outing myself)

My ex and I have been divorced for 4 years and our relationship is difficult (to say the least). I have always tried to be flexible and put the children's interests first (and I am sure that my ex believes the same thing about himself).

We have come to a point where he wants to change the status quo with regard to christmas and birthdays. I fundamentally disagree with his proposals. He wants me to go to mediation. Can he force this on me? If so, how does it work and will any agreement be legally binding?

RandomMess Thu 11-Oct-12 20:33:33

What do the dc want, have you actually asked them?

jewatson Thu 11-Oct-12 20:37:26

Of course I have asked them and they both are unhappy with the arrangement.
However, my ex also says that he has asked them and they are happy with his proposal (which I don't believe).
My oldest is going to talk to him this weekend to tell him that she doesn't want to spend a week away from me over xmas. Hopefully he'll listen to her this time.

Bonsoir Thu 11-Oct-12 20:39:56

You do realise that it is entirely normal to split the Christmas holidays down the middle, and for children to spend half with each divorced parent, alternating year on year? And entirely normal for your exH to have a new life with a new partner and not to have to organise their whole life around his exW's whims?

"For the children to be away from me for a week at this time of year is not fair on anyone" Or not fair on you? I know that's a tough question, but it's worth thinking about.

How would your children feel about a holiday with them? Is it a one off thing just this year? What does he want to do with them for that week?

The fact he lets you have them every Christmas is very generous and I'm amazed he hasn't wanted to take turns on Christmas day. I know this probably isn't what you want to hear love, but you are divorced and surely no girlfriend will want her boyfriend to spend every Christmas away from her with his children. Surely she'll want to be included sooner or later as a step parent and spend time with the children as a couple regularly? It is a painful part of divorce but when you separate and divorce this is what happens, sooner or later things become more divided, as you're no longer a couple. In fact some arsehole ExH's steam roll their ExW's into every other Christmas very early on and play happy families with their new beau and the children and that can be very very hard. You have a very reasonable ExH here tbh. Truly!

I think mediation is the only way to work through this, you probably won't get what you want but perhaps you can both meet in the middle and find a compromise. He does sound reasonable to me though.

I have a lot of friends who are divorced, as well as me and most of us take turns on the big day and also wave our children off for a holiday with our ExH and their girlfriends. We always miss them of course and it hurts, as this is never what we planned for our kids but they all have a lovely time away with them and come back smiling, looking forward to seeing us again. I used the last 4 day break from the kids to redecorate their bedroom, as a nice surprise for them.

Christmas is a special time of year but you could plan some lovely things with friends for those few days and go out and have a blast. I'm sure your kids would also have a great time away with their Dad too.

Unless I'm missing something and their Dad or his girlfriend is abusive to them?

Hmm unless I'm misreading your most recent post, it sounds like your children feel a bit caught in the middle to me, and do not want you to be upset and miss them for a week, so they say one thing to you and then say another thing to him, as they do not want to upset him either sad

I would try to stop talking about it to the kids and go to mediation and then whatever decision is reached you try to rise above it and be positive about this break at Christmas, amicable to your ExH and supportive to your kids etc.

RandomMess Thu 11-Oct-12 20:47:47

Well if the dc don't want to why don't you suggest an alternative, what are they happy to go for if 7 days is too long? 4 days & nights?

VBisme Thu 11-Oct-12 21:00:13

It is difficult, but stop putting the kids in the middle, they're clearly feeling torn between you both.

If I understand correctly you get the kids for Christmas Day (the family time), and he gets them for New Year's Eve (the party time), every single year? wink

No wonder he wants things changed grin

You must go to mediation, it will look awful to the court if you don't.

When it goes to court self represent (it's cheaper and honestly this seems fairly clear cut).

At 13 they will ask the children what they want to do. I hope you and your ex leave them to decide instead of making them feel guilty.

RandomMess Thu 11-Oct-12 21:18:30

I let my dd spend Christmas with her Dad after he moved again. No way does she want to do it again, it was boring, her words - not mine!

PostBellumBugsy Fri 12-Oct-12 09:48:13

Of course your DCs are going to say to you that they are happy being with you at Christmas. They'd be fairly horrible kids if they said anything else. I imagine they'll say the same thing to their Dad too - because they are probably lovely kids & they don't want to hurt anyone.

Please go to mediation with your ex & get this sorted out before your children get stressed out, having to act as go betweens.

I really understand how you feel, I'm divorced & I've done 4 Christmases without my DCs & I hate it - but I also know that it isn't fair on the DCs to not get to enjoy Christmas with their Dad too.

olgaga Fri 12-Oct-12 10:54:00

The children are 13 and 10 and are happy with the access arrangement as it is. It is my ex husband who is looking to change the way we do things for 3 days of the year

The children are obviously having plenty of contact with their dad. 5 weeks holiday, every other weekend and one midweek overnight is plenty! I think all OP is saying is that she wants the children to have the Christmas they want. The ex wants to have the Christmas he wants. That's the only reason why she disagrees with him.

I think it's unfair to say OP is being unreasonable. In these circumstances a 13 year old is entitled to express her view and have it taken into account. Why would the child lie to her mother about this - it would be a very easy lie to disprove. It's more likely the ex is lying because it fits his agenda and he is confident that the OP will not put pressure on the child to disprove it.

It boils down to whether the ex wants to do Christmas his way, and disregard the children's views, or their way - and keep them happy.

Why should his wishes override theirs? It sounds to me like there's a "point of principle" at stake here along the lines of "this year it's time we put our foot down" which has nothing to do with the wishes and interests of the children.

cestlavielife Fri 12-Oct-12 11:06:10

"He would like to have them from boxing day for a week (he always has them for the 31st and 1st)"

i dont get the problem really. you still get xmas day with them.

just do what you would do on boxing day with them, on the 24th or 23rd.

embrace the enw change and enjoy

olgaga Fri 12-Oct-12 11:16:24

The problem isn't how the OP feels. It's how the children feel.

Collaborate Fri 12-Oct-12 11:35:28

I think the problem is that children will more often than not tell each parent what they want to hear. If neither parent gets that, they will never be able to reach agreement.

Neither parent has a monopoly of wisdom over their children's wishes, feelings, and best interests.

PostBellumBugsy Fri 12-Oct-12 11:37:18

But it is hard to know exactly how children feel, when they are saying one thing to one parent & one thing to the other!

My two will agree to anything I suggest & anything their Dad suggests. They hate being forced to make a choice between us & understandably so.

Even though I find my ex-H really difficult, we try to agree stuff & deliver it as a done deal to the DCs. We fail sometimes, because we get on each others nerves so much - but that is what we try to do.

FWIW, I think it is really unfair to have the kids play piggy in the middle of the "keep the parent happy" game.

wordfactory Fri 12-Oct-12 11:39:06

OP why don't you want the DC to spend a week with their Dad?

Qwertyytrewq Fri 12-Oct-12 12:00:30

'The children are obviously having plenty of contact with their dad. 5 weeks holiday, every other weekend and one midweek overnight is plenty'

Is it?

I wouldn't be happy with it.

olgaga Fri 12-Oct-12 12:15:47

But it is hard to know exactly how children feel, when they are saying one thing to one parent & one thing to the other!

That is the conclusion that everyone has jumped to. It could just as easily be the case that the ex is lying.

Qwertyytrewq I wouldn't be happy with it.

Er - so what? You aren't their dad. It evidently suits the dad in this case. He is not asking for more contact, he is asking to change the children's preferred arrangements at Christmas.

OP has not said she doesn't want them to spend a week with their Dad.

She said My oldest is going to talk to him this weekend to tell him that she doesn't want to spend a week away from me over xmas.

These children will soon be old enough to vote with their feet. If he has half a brain he'll do it the way they want, or risk alienating them further, and faster.

Spero Fri 12-Oct-12 14:45:45

fwiw, in my experience it is FAR more likely that children are telling each parent what they think that parent wants to hear than that one parent is brazenly lying about what the children have said.

Very sad case last week - both parents saying in statements they had 'sat down' with their children and had a good long talk and each were convinced they knew what the children wanted... whereas the children told CAFCASS they didn't want to talk about it, it just made them sad and they wanted to be 'fair' to each parent.

Both of you will lose if you treat the children like prizes to be won or lost. Children ought to be able to move happily between parents. I don' think a week is particularly long for children of that age.

But whatever the reality, communication and mediation is much, much better than an adversarial battle in court. Believe me, there really are no winners in that scenario.

Well said spero.

Ginda Fri 12-Oct-12 16:50:31

Interesting thread and I don't want to crash it but I have a related question.

ExH and I have been divorced 6 years, 2 DCs. No contact order. When we separated, I was not working and he worked full time. The DCs were only 4 and 2 so I agreed to him having 3 weekends out of 4 because I had so much week time with them. I always said that when I went back to work I would want every other weekend. When I did go back to work 2 years later I raised this and he went beserk and in the end I compromised to 2 weekends out of 3.

Now, another 4 years later the DCs are 10 and 8. They love their dad of course but the weekend arrangement means we hardly spend any time together. I work long hours and only have 1 weekend with them every 3 weeks. The things we do together (I play a sport with DS and do another hobby with DD), we can only do once every 3 weeks. Equally, things they want to do at weekends like birthday parties of friends, or when DS wanted to do rugby on Saturdays, are a massive problem. ExH refuses and then makes out as if I am "stealing" his time. We live 80 miles apart so it isn't viable for him to drop the kids off at their friends' or collect them and he makes such a fuss about it whenever one of these requests is made that either the DC in question ends up going "oh ok then Dad", or I have to have world war 3 with him about it. He doesn't see them mid-week so he never sees the subsequent crying about how "everyone else went to X's party and they were all saying how brilliant it was", and if I tell him, he says I'm lying.

I had hoped that as the DCs got older they would be more forceful with him and make it clear that they want to do their stuff, where they live, and not just what their da wants to do where he lives. But he is very overbearing and always says to them (I hear it on the phone) "well you can see your friends any time but you can only see me at the weekend, don't you love me?" Which makes them feel guilty so they give in.

I hate this for them, and of course I also want more time with them myself. What would be the position if I told him we are doing every other weekend now? Would the fact that 2 weekends in 3 with him has been the status quo affect things? Also, if the children were consulted and felt so guilty about their dad's feelings that they said they would keep it how it is, would a CAFCASS officer see through that?

I don't want to have a war about this but it seems so unfair on me and the DCs to be stuck with this arrangement and I would really like to change it. I know however that exH will not only not agree, he will get a lawyer involved and so I'd really like to know where I stand.

Sorry so long.

Collaborate Fri 12-Oct-12 17:07:36

Contact arrangements are never set in stone so worth a go. Mediation first and then court if you can't agree. You could act unilaterally, but that wouldn't be I think the right or proper thing to do.

Ginda Fri 12-Oct-12 17:19:31

So, I tell him this is what I want to do, he says no, I say shall we go to mediation - is that how it works? If he says no to mediation can I impose an every other weekend arrangement then and wait for him to go to court over it?

Ginda Fri 12-Oct-12 17:20:02

Forgot to say: thanks Collaborate

Bonsoir Fri 12-Oct-12 17:33:08

Ginda - as it stands currently, you get the DCs every week, when you are working and they are at school and you are all busy, and your exH never takes on weekly responsibility but gets 66% of weekends.

This is grossly unfair and in court you would be looked on sympathetically for shouldering so much responsibility and would be very likely to get every other weekend. You should go to mediation and make sure your exH hears the message that he will lose in court.

longjane Fri 12-Oct-12 17:40:30

could you offer him more time in holidays? as a pay off

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