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Another shaky CAFCASS experience(16 Posts)
Long-standing issues with my DD, 13, seeing her father who lives overseas has resulted in our second meeting with CAFCASS to determine her wishes and feelings.
According to DD, the interviewer was less concerned about her wishes and feelings but was constantly pushing for her to agree to have contact with her dad, over and above the contact she wishes to have. Persistent comments made by the interviewer such as "how do YOU expect to maintain contact with your dad when YOU refuse to travel for extended periods of time to visit him".
Prior to the meeting, I spent a lot of time coaxing DD to maintain some level of contact with her dad as I think that's in her best interests certainly whilst she is still a child. Once she is 16 and for contact purposes, classed as an adult, she can make up her own mind.
So, she went to the meeting not from her original starting point of wanting no contact at all to stating she is prepared to travel (10 hour flight) for two weeks in the summer holidays and that her dad visit her for two weeks in the UK.
The interviewer constantly made it all about her own opinions on the matter and constantly said to DD that "she couldn't understand what DD wanted". She also said it mattered not what she wanted anyway as the court would decide what was best for her.
My point is that I feel this process has been a complete waste of time. I know her dad was in touch with CAFCASS prior to this meeting and given it seems to have been biased towards his wishes and feelings, I assume he has been able to influence the process.
Am I in my rights to report this back to the court and insist on another interview with a different CAFCASS person?
Sorry - just for clarity, what does DD want? Does she want contact or not?
She doesn't want contact at all but understands that it's probably not going to work out that way so has compromised through discussion with me and agreed to travel overseas for 2 weeks in the summer and her dad visit her for another 2 weeks. There has been no contact whatsoever between them since 30 June, no happy birthday card, no email, no telephone conversation, no Skype. She just isn't interested but is being made to feel she is the one who must make the effort, not him.
What is the backstory here? Has her dad recently moved abroad? has the there been little contact for the last 13 years or is this fairly recent?
THis is not a legal view at all, but if your DD has had little to no contact with her dad for a long time why would it be in her interests to suddenly start now. I know that if my dad didn't bother to call me or send me a birthday card or make no effort i would not want to go visit him in another country for 2 weeks. I can see where your DD is coming from
Why wont her dad come and see her once a year? or why does he not email, phone and generally build up a relationship with her first?
He left when she was 6. He took her to the US for 4 weeks every summer (his only contact all year bar phone calls) until she was 10 when she started to protest at having to leave her friends and family behind for so much of her summer holiday.
This year she absolutely refused to go at all and he hasn't spoken to her since. That's 2 months ago.
I don't see how the CAFCASS woman can even suggest it's her responsibility to maintain contact with him but no mention of it being his responsibility to visit her.
He refuses to come to the UK on the basis he lived here for 3 years and has seen as much of it as he wants to. He wants to introduce DD into American "culture" but she's really not interested.
I guess as she spends all the year with me, she has all her friends and family here, she is resentful that he is trying to force her to go. I think if he just left it up to her, she might decide - of her own volition - to spend time with him.
It's too much decision making pressure for a child and should be up to the adult to man-up. I think, anyway.
in my experience cafcass rarely acutally LISTEN to the childs wishes, The current remit is that if a father wants contact he will get it and if a child dosent want to go well that must be the mothers fault! sorry but thats how it is. However if she refuses to go with a court order in place he would have to take it back to court for enforcement, and given the light of your DDs age it would be extreemly unlikely that any action will be taken. I would just agree to the cafcass recommendations for the court order, and let him reapply to court if she dosent go. A court rarely goes against the cafcass report and if you do object to the contents of it you will be seen to be alienating your child from their father.
Well, IME Cafcass do listen to children, and pretending to go along with the recommendations but leaving it to a 13 year old to decide whether to go and see her Dad is irresponsible and clearly not what the OP thinks is appropriate. too much decision making pressure for a child.
The difficulty for the CO in this case, I would imagine, is that the wishes and feelings interview is exactly that - an opportunity for the child to explain what they want. Here, DD doesn't want to see her father, but went in to the interview 'primed' to say what OP thought would be best (and I'm not saying that wouldn't be the best thing to happen, I agree that for the vast majority of DC's, relationships with both parents are really important, but it isn't what DD wants and this was her turn to be listened to) which makes it much more difficult to work out what the child wants, how mature a decision making process they are using, and why they are making those choices.
Are you having an interview with Cafcass, OP? You could use that opportunity to make it clear that you think your ex should be calling/Skyping whatever to rebuild the relationship.
Having said that, though, how practical is it to demand that ex comes back to the UK if he wants contact? Does he have a family, work ties etc? It's not unreasonable for Cafcass to be asking how any of the parties want the practicalities of the relationship to work.
What we really want is for DD to be appointed a Guardian with her own legal representation so any decision isn't based on one seemingly biased meeting. The judge thinks this is too extreme and wishes to see the views of CAFCASS before taking this any further. But their views aren't worth anything if the meeting wasn't conducted with DD's feelings being the main consideration.
DD wasn't "primed" to say anything. I'm her only responsible parent and am trying to encourage her to do what I think is best for her relationship with her father in the longer term. It's funny that when going through this process, the only parent (and I use the term loosely) to actually play an active part in the child's life is deemed to be the one who is manipulating and out for their own ends.
He doesn't want to see her. He wants to control her. He wants to bang his chest and shout to the world "look, I got exactly what I want because I am a big man with a big ego". His consideration for her doesn't even enter into it. That has been proven by his lack of communication with her since the point she told him she wouldn't be visiting him in the summer.
He wanted her to visit this year for 6 weeks but he only had 1 week of holiday. The remainder of the time he intended to put her into a residential summer camp.
Although I want her to have some say in the matter - because it's only right her feelings are taken into consideration - I am aware she is only 13 and as such doesn't appreciate what the longer term consequences are of breaking off her relationship with her father at this young age.
We talked about her spending a small amount of time with him just to keep the lines of communication open. Then, when she's 16, if she doesn't want to see him then nobody will force the issue.
a guardian ad litem is still a cafcass officer. If your child refuses to go and you can prove that either via emails or letters to her father than no enforcement will be taken. If your ex applys to the court once shes 15 a court is unlikely to put in any order as she would be aproaching16!
I think some of balias comments are not very helpful. I would continue to encourage her for contact if you can and let her make her own choices i would also try not to interfer and let her deal with her fathe r herself in regards to what contact she wants or not then you cant be seen as interfering, as your ex would probably claim.
You are trying to do the right thing OP I can see that - my own solicitor said that many parents are stuck betwen a rock and a hard palce - no matter what they do it is seen to be wrong. Go with what you believe is right for your DD nothing more nothing less - it sounds like she doesn't want what her father wants in terms of contact under the current circumstances and you back that - it is her right to contact and the contact must benefit her - let her say and do as she wants. it may have been that, that the cafcass officer was pointing out in terms of her going to see him for longer - just to see what she wanted - a bit of a backward way of asking but you never know). I asked above have you had the actual report - because what the officer may have asked and what goes into the report could be two different things. Keep strong OP like Kitty says she is getting on in years now and the court noose will be released from you when she is 16.
Does your daughter say what her reasons are for not wanting to visit your ex for more than two weeks?
CAFCASS will listen to children but children's views aren't determinative. Children's views have to be seen in light of their maturity and understanding. Anyone evaluating a child's wishes and feelings needs to consider rationale behind the child's view and the context of family background and make decisions with the child's welfare at heart. Sometimes that might involve persuasion or coercion.
GAL s are appointed in the minority of cases usually when there is an issue of significant difficulty and after alternatives such as the CAFCASS officer or social services doing further work or obtaining expert evidence e.g. cases involving serious allegations of abuse or complex health or mental health issues, intractable contact disputes.
better - No, I haven't had the report yet and am very interested to read the outcome. DD said the interviewer treated her like she was 20. DD is very tall and mature for her age. She could easily be taken for 15/16 but is only coming up for 13. I think it's sometimes difficult for adults to assimilate how she looks and acts with her actual age.
DD did take the bull by the horns in the summer, called her father and told him she wouldn't be visiting this year. I subsequently received an extremely abusive and threatening email saying I'd coerced her into saying what she did. It was so bad that my solicitor advised me to involve the police as it implied he would not return DD from any future visit. Truth of the matter was, I was working away on business and DD was with my DP who knew she had spoken to her father but was unaware of what she said. ExP will never, ever change his opinion that I manipulate DD. If he's that bothered, why did he choose to leave her alone with me and go live in a foreign country. That's a question DD asks me frequently - "who leaves to live in a different country when their child lives in another".
I'm just trying to do my best - for her. I'd like her to enjoy a relationship with her dad that she's happy with. Not one she's forced against her will to have.
Your Exp can think whatever he wishes, that and reality is another thing. He sounds like someone who takes no responsibility for his actions and does not seem to understand the impact of the choices he has made about where he lives and he likes to pass the blame on to make himself feel better.
I know you are doing your best, bringing up a child on your own is very hard and you have had to do that. It makes me laugh, not that it is funny how these guys think that they can just pop in and out as they wish and it is all for the best of the child - who should be greatful for them wanting the contact. It would be very difficult to have anything that meaningful long distance. DC change so quickly and so do thier lives, to keep playing catch up after months of not seeing them would be very hard.
Keep the faith OP and see what the report says - will you let us know?
I will let you know what the report says and post an update after the court case on the 18th.
Thanks for all the positive comments. It's good to know there are people out there with an interest in what happens.
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