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Help for a friend in a Women's refuge

(19 Posts)
boggis Mon 29-Dec-14 08:07:51

I have posted in Relationships but also seeking advice here.

My friend is in a refuge with her toddler. She is from overseas and the child is a British citizen. She left her job in the home country to come to UK and married the man (UK citizen but also citizen of MidEast country) He has worked abroad in Europe and had pretty much been absent for much of the child's life but when he was here financially and emotionally abused her and once, physically. It has been logged with the police, along with a couple of other incidents over the past year.

She has had no contact with him apart from a solicitor's letter demanding joint (well, actually 4 days out of the week) custody of the child. The court date is set for next month.

She has received permission to remain in the UK and has just received benefits (though not much, most goes on the refuge payments) and the meagre funds she has will run out.

He refuses to divorce her or pay maintenance. How will this work? What shall she do? How on earth would she be able to afford to travel to town to deliver the child to him on the pittance she has.

She is understandably upset, her main wish is to go back to her home country but obviously she is trapped here.

Any advice welcome. Thanks

boggis Mon 29-Dec-14 08:08:02

To add - She has seen a few lawyers before entering the refuge (one very expensive one paid for by a neighbour who said he wasn't violent enough for her to claim legal aid) and she has since seen an immigration lawyer in order for her to settle her leave to remain in the UK.

I think she has seen a lawyer she will speak to when she is back from holiday but she is worried that this court hearing is very soon and she will be unprepared, possibly unrepresented (she has NO money at all apart from child benefit and something else)

Interestingly, the man in question has told a neighbour that he plans on taking another job abroad and letting the flat in the UK. So how on EARTH will he be able to look after his child?

She has the child's passport and has written to put a stop on him applying for a copy.

She is concerned he is angling for main carer status so he can avoid maintenance (he is 100k salary-ish). She has never worked in the country.

OldIrving Mon 29-Dec-14 08:15:11

is he not making CSA payments? On his salary they would be significant.

She needs to have the child benefit in her name if it's not already and the neighbor needs to make a statement (doesn't need to appear in court but will need legally witnessed statement) about her ex's stated intentions.

No way will he get main carer and she can apply to postpone the hearing I believe if she hasn't had time to adequately prepare.

OldIrving Mon 29-Dec-14 08:18:40

oh she must file for divorce, too. It's not all up to him just because he has money.

Can't the refuge or women's aid chat to her? Or even a Mackenzie friend?

There's no way he'd get main carer, but he might if she caved and agreed to the four days out of fear, which is probably what the lawyer is hoping for - that she won't know she can refuse, that she won't be able to access her rights.

boggis Mon 29-Dec-14 08:42:43

Many thanks. I think I will advise her to ask for a postponement.

basically time line has been she still entered the refuge before Christmas and has only just now received immigration status (Leave to Remain) and received benefits, including child benefit. He had taken the child benefit previously.

She had no contact with him at all (in fact he had lodged a police complaint saying she kidnapped the son and when the police said she hadn't, and it was her right to seek safety for them both, he accused her of stealing, the police interviewed her, took back his camera and expressed frustration that he had wasted their time) apart from last week. He said he wouldnt ever pay her money, only ever goods that her son needed -- he did this controlling thing for the whole time they lived together and it meant his son went without winter boots etc because him working overseas always meant there was a delay etc)

Then she hears about this court date with him requesting 4 days out of 7 out of the blue set for early Jan. How he would get that without ever having looked after the child for more than 1 hour (and even then it's telly and ipad) is beyond me, but he does have a mistress and maybe he intends her to look after him?

So he had no time to get legal representation and besides, how would she get the money to? I would be in a position to help her but I am moving house and am tight - very tight - for cash myself.

The refuge people have been slow over Christmas obviously.

boggis Mon 29-Dec-14 08:48:11

I have looked up Mackenzie mediators - had never heard of them (this is a journey of discovery for me too) and will suggest that she call right away.

bluebell345 Mon 29-Dec-14 08:56:36

If he had been violent to her the court will not give the residency of the child to him.
I would advice your friend finds a good solicitor as soon as possible. The refuge must know such solicitors. She must work with the refuge workers.

boggis Mon 29-Dec-14 09:08:20

His violence was on only one occasion and when the child was an infant (she was holding him as a newborn) - noted with the health visitor but not the police at the time although I had the police over on one occasion after he locked her out and told them to note it. but they would obviously not prosecute as it was over a year ago. But I wanted it logged for her.

Yes, she will ask the refuge.

I will see her soon.

Basically she is vulnerable, English is ok but not great. She has been battered down by the financial and emotional control. She thought he was a mild and charming man (he is very calm and quiet and A Good Muslim to the outside world) and although not Muslim herself thought he would be kind. Got pregnant and he said she could keep it if it was a boy (!) and basically threw her lot in with him. So she's basically all at sea in a foreign country, slowly realising that she cannot go back to her home country. Very sad.

OldIrving Mon 29-Dec-14 09:15:40

it is and I can well see how this is happening, no criticism of her intended AT ALL, but he is using his superior knowledge of the system and resources to try to bamboozle her into agreeing something. Honestly he doesn't have a chance of being granted residency in these circs. She needs to understand she mustn't agree to anything. This court visit would not be found in his favour, and cafcass doesn't swoop in and remove children from the resident parent. It's great that she has the cb, she has grounds for asking for supervised contact, she can divorce him. Legal aid/a family law solicitor can help, will help. She doesn't need pots of money.

I suspect she thinks she does or this will be very costly, or that without money she has no way to fight. That's not true - she needs knowledge

He doesn't have the power to force this. I hope she can understand that. Hopefully then she will feel much stronger.

Pinkandpurplehairedlady Mon 29-Dec-14 09:20:03

If she is in a refuge she will qualify for legal aid. Has she discussed with the workers there?

LidlMermaid Mon 29-Dec-14 09:23:14

The support workers in the refuge should be helping to ensure she's maximising her income, including benefit entitlements, CSA etc. They will also provide court support and ensure she knows her rights. These are fundamental aspects of any refuge support plans. They will know how to access interpreters too if necessary. They are experts and will do everything they can to help her to become independent. It all takes time though but she is in the right place to get the help she needs.

Pinkandpurplehairedlady Mon 29-Dec-14 09:31:52

Here's link to the legal aid info. The refuge workers should have links to solicitors in the area that can help.
www.justice.gov.uk/private-family-matters-legal-aid/victims-domestic-violence#refuge

boggis Mon 29-Dec-14 09:42:44

I will ask her what they are saying. I think she has been told by another family lawyer that she won't get legal aid as he wasn't convicted or cautioned/she didn't have a non-mol etc etc)

I think it is best that is is arranged through the refuge. She has said they are slow and have not been there for surgeries over christmas.

Thanks again for your help.

Pinkandpurplehairedlady Mon 29-Dec-14 10:03:39

If she spoke to the lawyer before entering the refuge they were right - the standard of evidence needed for legal aid is higher but once in a refuge there is an assumed level of risk (they don't give you a place unless you need one).

boggis Mon 29-Dec-14 10:11:37

thank you very much!

Chunderella Mon 29-Dec-14 19:53:14

What's the exact immigration status she has? Leave to remain can mean a lot of things.

boggis Tue 30-Dec-14 06:56:49

Oh, I am not sure. But she has permission to stay in the UK but I shall ask. She said she will use the family lawyer attached to the same firm as the immigration lawyer she used, arranged through the refuge. She also passed on thanks to you for giving her more hope as I passed on a few details of what you had said. Thanks again.

Yuleloglatte Tue 30-Dec-14 07:02:29

I fostered a 17 year old in a virtually identical position and she pretty much fell through the net and was in a horrendous position. Social services helped with some legal fees but we ended up paying a lot for her - I really think she might have been killed if we hadn't. In the end we found a specialist solicitor in forced marriage who helped us for free. Is the forced marriage route something you have explored?

boggis Tue 30-Dec-14 10:32:33

Hello there, no it isn't a forced marriage thing. She is older, from a European country, not Muslim, he is Muslim even older and they met on the internet quite a few years ago and met frequently over these years in various European country - they only got married when she fell pregnant and he felt he had to to appear to do the right thing.

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