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Contact with children as a unit or as individuals?

(14 Posts)
DespicableWee Wed 18-Sep-13 11:17:13

Ive posted here a couple of times before, under different names, and had some very good advice so I'm sorry to trouble you again but hope someone can help.

I have an ongoing contact case with my ex for our 2DC aged 13 and 14. I left their father due to his abuse and drug use almost 10 years ago. Since then he has seen the children on average once a year, through his choice. A year ago he applied to the court for PR and contact. The PR has been offered, accepted and ordered. The contact is proving trickier. It is currently set at day time contact over a weekend, three times a year so 6 days in total, as my ex lives a long way away.

The DC are generally reluctant to attend contact, but accept that a relationship cannot be formed without it so will go. Both have said that they would prefer at least one of the contacts to be just them and their father, to give a relationship a good shot. I agree that its a good idea, in so far as the one on one time cant possibly hurt the chances of forming a relationship and the DC would be more likely to interact directly with their father, rather than with each other and him observing which is what tends to happen now. They've suggested it to their father, who has refused. The DC feel as if their views haven't been considered at all in the process so far, so I am keen to give them a voice and put forward their requests to the court where possible, but I don't want to get their hopes up if the judge is likely to say no, so wanted to get an idea of if this would be a definite no, a maybe or a definite yes.

So, current contact is 6 occasions of 6 hour daytime contact a year, over 3 weekends, with both DC and their father. The DC's proposal would change that to 4 occasions of all 3 of them together, then one of the weekends at DC1 going on Saturday and DC2 on the Sunday. I accept that this would be a 'loss' of 6 hours contact with each child, but feel that the more intimate nature of the one to one time means it would balance out in terms of quality of contact. Other contact during the year has been offered, including every weekend in between but the DC's father has declined and wants to stick to the court ordered 3 weekends a year.

I had legal representation up until the last hearing a month ago. Because of the drawn out nature of the case and my ex ramping my costs up, I can't afford representation any more so will be self repping at the next hearing next month, otherwise I would just ask my solicitor and not bug this board again.

medhandthekiddiesvtheworld Wed 18-Sep-13 23:25:21

at their age why are you even involved?? you dont need solicitors for this, make them av. and then they can walk out if they so choose.

kittycat68 Thu 19-Sep-13 10:18:56

even if a contact order is made that doesnt suit your childrens wishes AND they dont go, it would be extreamly inlikely any action would be taken by the court for enforemnt. i would like to also point out that a court will bend over backwards for a father wishing to have contact!And as your children have said they would like contact he is likely to get the contact that he wants thats suits him. sorry.

DespicableWee Thu 19-Sep-13 12:14:37

I am involved because at this stage, because the DC don't have enough of a relationship with their father to make arrangements themselves, let alone feel confident enough to stand their ground if they are unhappy with anything. They don't feel as if they can walk out of contact as their father keeps telling them it is court ordered and I'll go to prison if they don't go. No amount of my telling them otherwise or looking up the law together can completely remove the seed of doubt that has placed in their heads. Solicitors have been involved because my ex is abusive to me whenever we have contact, so a middle man was required and I needed the reassurance that everything was going as it should be.

I would much rather ensure that the order that is put in place is something we are all happy with, than nod, smile and agree in court then ignore it and hope there is no come back. This is why I am asking if it is a reasonable request to make, that there be some one to one time as well as both DC going together, and if it is likely that the judge at the next hearing would agree with it.

The DC have asked about it, but I don't want to let them think it will be an option if it definitely wouldn't be. I would rather deter them now and steer them towards thinking of other compromises, than have to return from court and say "no, it isn't happening. This is what will happen instead"

namechangeforareasonablereason Thu 19-Sep-13 12:18:50

You need to ask for CAFCASS to speak to the children and garner their views - which are their ages will be seriously considered - but it important that the views come directly from the children. Have CAFCaSS been involved yet? Only the court can order that.

DespicableWee Thu 19-Sep-13 12:33:47

Cafcass were involved at the start last summer. No wishes and feelings report was done, the DC weren't asked for their views at all. The extent of the Cafcass involvement was the initial telephone interview with me which their initial report was based on, the Cafcass support officer who would be supervising initial contact visiting our home for 15 minutes so the DC wouldn't be spending 4 hours with a stranger and the supervision of the first two contact occasions in the community. Cafcass have signed off on the case now.

Can I request that they are brought back in to do a wishes and feelings report with the DC? I know that the DC would feel better about the whole thing if they felt they had a voice and their opinions were taken into account, even if they have to compromise on them.

namechangeforareasonablereason Thu 19-Sep-13 13:11:52

You can request it - I'm shocked at their age it wasn't done (in shocked they are considering an order for a 14 year old as well)

Poor you.

TheWinterOne Thu 19-Sep-13 13:15:17

Despicable, has a wants and wishes been done at all during previous Cafcass involvement?
When they visited your home for 15 minutes were they asked what they (DC) wanted?

Personally, I can't see a problem with one-to one with each child - if they are happy and there's no sibling jealousy. Why wouldn't dad be happy with that if that's what the children want?

Seems from what you've said - they are not being included with their opinions so your voice is the only voice they have.

DespicableWee Thu 19-Sep-13 14:00:48

Winter my post above details the full extent of the DC's contact with Cafcass, 3 meetings. One of which I was present for, the other two their father was present for. I can't vouch for what exactly was said during the supervised contact, but during the 15 minute visit to our home, the DC were told that contact would be taking place, told when and where it would happen and were asked for suggestions for future contact venues/activities. When they gave these suggestions, the DC were talked over and their ideas dismissed.

There is no more sibling jealousy than one would expect of same sex siblings so close in age. They share a room and rub along together fine for the most part. They are very different personalities though, almost TV show style stereotype opposites. One is bookish and academic, the other very sporty. That sort of thing. So finding an activity that appeals to both DC is somewhat tricky. I think that is a large part of why they want a day each alone, they have already compromised on what they want and feel comfortable with so much that they don't want to be compromising with each other all day as well. Besides, what child doesn't want to have the attention all to themselves occasionally?

Unfortunately, dad isn't happy with any idea that doesn't originate from or mostly benefit dad. Since the DC don't have a voice in court, their wishes come through me which I think dad sees as being the same as being my idea, which must therefore be refused at all costs.

kittycat68 Thu 19-Sep-13 15:00:18

I would definately be asking for another cafcass report to be done! an up to date one! If nothing else it will take time for them to do it and also to file report etc.
There are good cafcass officers and very bad ones too.
cafcass will pretty much suport the NRP wishing contact and moving contact forward as long as there is no proof of abuse to the children.
IF your ex wont consider seperate times for the children only together he is more than likely to get it.
If your ex sees it as you against him theres not going to be anything you can do to change his mind, abusive men are like this its about control!!!
I would possibly consider walking into court and offering so much contact over and beyond what he wants he will quickly look like an idiot if he refuses the contact. As i have said before at your childrens ages a contact order in extreemly unlikely to be enforced for non compliance. A court wont put in a contact order for a child of 15 years so you could drag this out a bit more. You could also ask the court for a Physcological assessment to be carried out as well, that will probably be your best bet all family members including your ex will have to be assessed!!grin.
Quite honestly with men like this its all about htem and not about the children or how there feeling its about power and control. At the end of the day hes going to end up the loser in a relationship with his children if he cant be more child focused.

RedHelenB Thu 19-Sep-13 18:57:23

Why not up the contact to give an extra weekend each with just one child so the original six remain & then they get an extra weekend on their own each?

DespicableWee Thu 19-Sep-13 23:50:36

I can offer the extra time as a compromise to appease the judge, but the reality is that it won't be taken up, Helen. I have historically offered and made arrangements for far more contact than has happened but the DC's father refuses it or declines any additional opportunities. The previous once a year contact and the current ordered three times a year are at my exes instigation. He can't or won't make the time any more often than that to see them so any individual contact time is going to end up being at the expense of time with them all together.

TheWinterOne Fri 20-Sep-13 11:14:59

If you feel that your children aren't being listened to then I can't see the harm in at least requesting a wants and wishes. If they aren't happy stand your ground. Contact is about benefiting the children and if you feel that doing it individually benefits them more and have plausible reasons for requesting it - then do so.

Does he have an email address that you could put across your proposals and reasons to why? That way you have back up of what you've offered and his declining. Text is another way as you'll have evidence of your children's request and his response (if he sends abuse in reply you'll also have that documented.).

As you say your now going to self rep then you could also contact his solicitor (if he has one) and put the children's request to them and await his response.

If he wants to stick with the 3 times a year could you offer an extra hour - going from six hours to 7? It shows you are trying to encourage contact but are being knocked back.

What actual reasons has he given your DC for declining their request for one-on-one time with him?

DespicableWee Fri 20-Sep-13 16:03:56

My solicitor put the suggestion to his at the last hearing. I'm not sure what the exact answer was or if a reason was given, all I was told is that no, he won't agree to it. Tbh there were other, more pressing issues that needed sorting out at the time so I let it slide. Those other issues are now on the way to being sorted out but have lead to the DC being more insistent about wanting the one to one time, so now seems like an excellent time to raise it.

Nothing is in writing so far, I've been trying to work out if it is a reasonable request and something the court would be likely to agree to before I risk provoking the inevitable outburst. The DC have asked their father directly about the one to one time, but just get told that he won't have me dictate how and when he sees them, then talks over them when they try to say it is them wanting it. They've pretty much given up asking him for anything now tbh.

Contact is gradually increasing anyway, it started as 4 hours one day and is now up to 6 hours on each of two consecutive days, so offering an increase would be a bit of a hollow offer, but couldn't hurt. Thanks.

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