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Advice/experience on residence and contact decisions(7 Posts)
Okay I'm not really sure where best to post this.
Stbx has been emotionally, psychologically and borderline physically abusive for years. All this has been in front of the ds (3&5). He has also been emotionally abusive to our oldest son (screaming, bullying, calling him pathetic). Although his treatment of me in this way has been constant it is intermittent for our son. I have proof of how he has treated me but my concerns about how he has/will treat the boys are down to a couple of incidents and what he's done to me. I have been the breadwinner and he was the main carer (though they were in nursery 60-75 per cent of the time). So we are fighting in court over who will have residency and how much time they will spend with him. Right now I have them 5 nights per week but he sees them every other day and they spend about half their time with him. He wants them more. I am worried this us too much and that he will destroy their confidence and teach them screaming and anger is the way to behave. At the moment in court it's just affadavits and the judge seems to think this is a he said, she said situation. I'm inclined to take it all the way as I have e-mails between us which clearly set out his abuse of me. However I get the sense from my lawyer that abuse of me (and one episode very similar abuse of my elder son) may not be enough to limit contact. The boys are not afraid of their father (yet) and love him. I want them to have a strong relationship with him. But I am worried about the impact so much time with such a an abusive person will do to them. I'm just not sure if a court would see it my way.
So my question is, how bad does the behaviour have to be to limit contact vs maintaining the parental relationship?
In my experience, it will all be considered "tit for tat" without proof (Police reports, GP, Child Services, school or nursery reports of signs of abuse etc).
Low level abuse which you claim, shouting, low praise high criticism, unreasonably strict etc is not enough to limit parenting time. The bar is set very low ! Honestly, I don't think you will be able to limit his contact with them, it will be dismissed as he said she said, like you've already experienced.
So it really falls down to negotiating the best arrangement you can for the children.
How long have you been separated ? Courts place great importance on the "status quo". If they've been living with you 5 nights a week for two years they are less likely to drastically change things than if you only separated last month for example. He was main carer for them whilst you were together, this may or may not be important depending on how much time has passed since then.
Is he actually available to look after them more? If you're at work lots and they are in nursery/childcare a lot and he, as the one who was previously their main carer, is available to look after them and has a suitable home to have them in then it's more likely he will be granted a greater share of residency than the 2 nights a week he currently has especially if currently he cares for them whilst you're at work and they just sleep overnight with you.
This is all just from personal experience etc, I'm not a legal person of course.
Again in my experience you need a third party witness. In my case my DD confided in a member of staff at school about the verbal abuse. I had suspected it, but it took a third party to move to child safeguarding.
Ex had to leave the house after he threw a toy in my face and I had him arrested. Although he was charged by police it was dropped by the judge so he thinks he's been exonerated. My older son shows sights of distress (aggressive, bed wetting ) but so far this has been chalked up to the divorce even though it predates the split. He admitted to the screaming and calling elder son pathetic in an email but that's all I have besides his ongoing abuse of me (which I can prove), which the boys witnessed.
Lonecat my biggest fear is that they will grow up thinking that it us normal to be treated this way and therefore never mention it/model it themselves.
Under the current arrangement they only spend a bit more time in child are than they did before (a couple of hours 1 day a week), as I have been able to flex my schedule. He only left the house in January.
So it's only been weeks since he left, that makes a difference.
Honestly, him throwing a toy at you and not being convicted isn't going to make any difference to residency if it was a one off incident and didn't injure the children. Bedwetting and anger are often attributed to the separation, you have a very hard time proving differently.
What does your ex want? It may honestly be better to come to an agreement which isn't totally what you want rather than have a Judge decide and you end up with something you really really don't want.
If your ex was main carer whilst you worked does that mean he doesn't work? Is he wanting residency of the children and you have contact around your work? As he his historically their main carer it puts him in a strong position to ask for a greater share of time with the children and you need to be mindful of that
What does your solicitor say?
She says I have valid reasons to be concerned, but also seems to be pushing for compromise. It took me a long time to acknowledge to myself how bad his behaviour really is. I just want to protect my children. I don't want them to ask me why I left them with him when I knew what he was like. But it does seem like emotional abuse just isn't taken very seriously. Having been a victim of it I do know how awful it is.
His position is weakened by his behaviour and the fact that he outsourced most of the childcare to nurseries so he could pursue his hobby. The whole situation is very complex and unusual from a legal perspective, so it's hard to know how it will go.
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