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Child arrangement order

(38 Posts)
Dutch72 Thu 03-Sep-15 20:07:35

Please, please can someone help me? :-( I'm separated from my husband. He left after a string of illicit affairs, and has now finally run off with a work colleague. He has applied for a child arrangement order. All three of our children are refusing to see him. I have an 11 year old daughter, a 9 year old son, and a 7 year old daughter...

My solicitor keeps sending me his demanding emails of wanting contact with the children. I have tried everything, texts, FaceTime, Skype, emails, letters, meeting in the park, cinema, going out for a meal....him coming to our marital home, and I go out... But the children are point blankly refusing. What can I do? I simply cannot force them. It's the most unnatural thing to do as a mother. I have been interviewed by cafcass on the phone. They are going to recommend a section 7 to the court...where the three children get interviewed for their 'feelings and wishes'.

I feel my solicitor needs to be supporting myself and the children at this time, yet I feel somewhat intimidated and bullied into his constant demands. I am trying to organise contact, but after my three children have been put through so much emotional stress caused by him and his partner, they are some what reluctant.

They have told me that they do not wish for any over night contact in the future. And they do not wish to be forced into doing anything they simply do not want to do. Help!! Where shall I go from here? Contact a health care professional, and ask them to record my children's anxieties? Phone cafcass? Phone social services? I really do not know what to do, or where to turn to :-(( can a court force a child to have contact?

MidnightVelvetthe3rd Fri 11-Sep-15 12:09:06

Hi Dutch, I've contacted MNHQ & asked them to move your post as currently its in Bloggers Chat which won't give you many responses.

Best of luck smile

BeccaMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 11-Sep-15 12:13:11

Hi Dutch72 - we'll just pop this over to Legal Matters for you.

Bellemere Fri 11-Sep-15 12:54:01

Why don't they want to see their father?

QueenOfTheSlipstream Fri 11-Sep-15 13:14:19

Sounds like you do with a new solicitor! One that will back you and not roll over for your ex.

Let CAFCASS ask for the s7, that should be quite a straightforward step in the court proceedings. The ages of your children, particularly the older ones, will mean their opinions should be given a lot of weight.

Try and stay calm (sorry, I know it's difficult) and log every interaction and and reaction between ex and children.

No court should force children of this age to see a parent they don't want to see. Your responsibility it to FACILITATE contact so make sure you can demonstrate everything you have done to get it to happen. Your eldest is practically of an age where they'll vote with their feet anyway.

titchy Fri 11-Sep-15 13:37:33

Yes of course a court can force a child to have contact - that is the entire point of court. They may not be too willing to force your 11 year old, but the others wouldn't be regarded as mature enough to fully realise the long term consequences of no contact.

If their father beats them black and blue at each contact then the court would probably determine that no contact is in their long term best interests. But I'm guessing you'd have stated that here if that was the case.

Can't comment on your solicitor's conduct, but I'd have thought that part of their role was to manage your expectations and it may be that your are interpreting that as being unsupportive.

QueenOfTheSlipstream Fri 11-Sep-15 16:19:35

Titchy, I said they SHOULDN'T force contact, not that they COULDN'T. I work in the family courts and in three years I've never seen contact forced in a situation like the one described. That said, I'm conscious we're only hearing one side of the story on an internet forum, and that's completely different from hearing both sides in court.

OP, your best bet is to wait for the s7 wishes and feelings report. If your children are that adamant about not having contact with their father then that will be abundantly clear and the court will put a lot of weight on CAMHS' opinion.

The courts exist to make the best decisions for the welfare of the child/ren, not the parents, and forcing contact is not in their interest. Encouraging/facilitating/building towards/introducing indirect contact etc are likely to be ways forward suggested, because the starting point is that it is in children's interests to have good quality contact with both parents. But, if the children are this opposed to contact, and if it hasn't happened for a while, then no court should go straight to extended contact or overnights.

All of that said, we have all heard about nightmare decisions and certainly practice varies across the country. But I hand on heart believe that the majority of decisions made in the family courts are good ones. They're just not the ones we hear about.

Good luck, OP.

Bellemere Fri 11-Sep-15 16:29:02

Queen, I am confused by your emphatic opinion. The OP hasn't given any reason for the children not to have contact with their father, other than that they don't want to. One of these children is seven - and even at 11 I very much doubt that the child has any idea of the implications of not having a relationship with one of their parents.

Her solicitor is merely passing on communication from the ex - it doesn't say that the solicitor is forcing the OP to agree to anything but I agree with titchy - unless there is good reason for the children not to have contact with their father, then she does need to be strongly encouraging them to have a relationship with him.

The courts do not like to issue no contact orders and they are rarely in the best interests of the children.

Also, CAFCASS and the courts will not place a particularly strong weight on the wishes and feelings of 7, 9 and 11 year olds. At 9 and 11 they're only just at the age where they have much weight at all.

In the absence of further clarification, it sounds to me like the OP has allowed her children to be far too strongly involved of the emotions of her ex leaving her and they will then naturally resist a relationship with their father. This is not healthy.

titchy Fri 11-Sep-15 17:44:47

My post was directed at OP queen not you. She asked CAN the courts force contact? The answer is yes they can.

STIDW Fri 11-Sep-15 18:11:10

Usually underneath children love both their parents and want a relationship with them even if the parent's behaviour leaves a lot to be desired by most people's standards. There are many reasons why children of separated parents resist contact. For example they may cling to the constant (their main carer) and they may have been frightened by witnessing outbursts of temper or even abuse between parents. Sometimes they feel disloyal about leaving a parent to see the other parent. Other times they may find contact boring and unrewarding or dislike the new partner of a parent, particularly if the new partner was responsible in the children's eyes for the break up of the family.

However children who are insecure about their natural parents tend to grow up with low self esteem leading to emotional and behaviour problems later on such as dysfunctional adulthood relationships. Therefore unless there is evidence children are at significant risk of harm reconciliation and the involvement of both separated parents is deemed to be in the best interests of children's welfare.

Children's views need to evaluated taking all the circumstances and the family background into account. Loving parents might ask children how they feel about moving house and changing school but it is the adults who weigh up the finances and all the family circumstances so children's views aren't determinative. Clearly if a young teenager wanted to live with a permissive parent who allowed them to stay out late drinking on a school night the child's interest would be better served if they lived with the other parent if that parent was authoritative and can set some boundaries.

Good parenting sometimes involves persuasion and coercion eg to get young children to brush their teeth, not pinch a siblings toys, not hit the dog and older children to do their homework, go to bed, to help with chores, not stay out late on a school night etc etc. It isn't uncommon for children to align with one parent and reject the other from time to time. In intact families usually there is quick reconciliation and the problems are resolved constructively. With separated parents sometimes the problems aren't resolved constructively so persuasion and coercion is necessary for reconciliation between children and the rejected parent which benefits children in the long term.

A s7 is a welfare report and can contain various bits and pieces. Some bits simply document what professionals such as teachers, you and your ex told the CAFCASS officers. Other bits document the CAFCASS officers' interaction with your child(ren). Finally, some bits document the CAFCASS officers' conclusions and the reasoning behind those conclusions. So the report could help identify the root problem why the children resist contact and recommend a way forward.

Dutch72 Fri 11-Sep-15 18:35:42

Firstly... Thank you everyone for your comments and opinions... InreKly do appreciate hearing all sides...

(Deep breath... Here goes...) I found out at Christmas time that my husband had been having sex with women in hotels, via an illicit sexual website. I have been with him for 19years, and we had been having a normal married relationship, right up until that point....I viewed this website, and was very disturbed by what I saw. I vomited non stop for 20 minutes after.

After rows ( which unfortunate my thee children witnessed...which I very much regret...) ... My husband announced to our 10 year old daughter, that he 'was leaving mummy, as he no longer loved her...'. He told her to keep it a 'secret' that she couldn't tell school. Not her teacher, her best friend, not even her young brother ( 8 years of age), or even her sister ( 7 years of age...) he was planning on telling them when he was 'ready' the beginning of February half term, when he would be ready to move out, and then, I as a mother, ... Would be left with a week of them being at home, to deal with their emotions...

( my husband has previously walked out on a 2 year old son from one relationship... Then a marriage of 16 months...his second relationship...and now a third time, walking out on myself a wife and three children...)

I was in such a state of upset, that I went to my GP, and was immediately signed off from work with acute stress and anxiety, and had to forego numerous blood tests for possible sexually transmitted diseases. I was in a state of utter shock and disbelief. I was, what I thought to be, in a happy marriage...

Needless to say, my three children witnessed me vomiting on a daily basis through nerves. They all became unsettled, and thought I was ill.

'Cracks' began to appear in my 10 year old daughter. After much convincing, I went against my husbands demands, and went to the school, and told all three teachers, the situation that had been forced upon my self. I was extremely concerned for the children's welfare.

Then... February half term arrived... All the children were vomiting with the noro virus... My husband packed his bags... In front of the children.. And left 1 hour, before I was due for a pre op, at hospital for an impending operation. My three children were devastated... I had to arrange emergency child care cover, and rush to the hospital in terrible state of upset.

My husband had checked himself into a 'communial renting house' refusing to disclose his forwarding address. ( this will become apparent ) and so, both myself, and the three children had no idea as to where he was living...

A week later, I underwent surgery on both of my legs, leaving me incapacitated, in pain, and extremely in a low mental state. I still had to look after three children, and I couldn't even stand to make myself a cup of tea... With the help of family and friends... I was able to get through...

Then, a month later, my husband ( who was having contact with his three children...) took his 10 year old daughter out on her birthday, and told her half way through the meal that 'daddy had a new girlfriend' . Needless to say, this was insensitive after walking out merely 5 weeks previously, and my daughter witnessing her mother recover from an operation....

Immediately contact broke down between them.

This left my 8 year old son, and his sister who was 7 years at the time. They both continued to see their father... Despite reservations, and as a mother I encouraged contact. Then, my husband did the unthinkable... After promising to myself and our two children, all contact would be exclusive of his new partner... He tried to force an encounter. Our two children refused to get out of our family car, and get into hers ...this was merely after leaving myself, the children, the marital home, after a period of 8 weeks...

My ex... A detective inspector in the police... Was now having an affair with another detective inspector. This woman has been divorced twice..., a 19 year old son from one relationship... A 9 year old daughter from another... And having slept her way through the force, with total disregard as to whether the latest lover was married or not. ( this I have been informed by many a serving officer...)

This effort of trying to force an encounter...has had a huge initial impact on my two younger children...

STIDW Fri 11-Sep-15 18:37:57

PS Obviously if a child's safety is in immediate danger you should contact the authorities but otherwise involving health care professionals or social services at this stage after a court application is unlikely to help. At the first hearing a judge will decide what further information is required in the form of reports and there is a general rule in all family proceedings that the court's permission is required to put expert evidence before the court.

Bellemere Fri 11-Sep-15 18:41:34

He sounds like an awful man but honestly I don't think you have any hope of getting a no contact order, sorry.

Dutch72 Fri 11-Sep-15 18:57:34

It gets worse... In May... My husband came to the house... He was due for contact with the two younger children... It became apparent that my husband was enticing an argument... Then recording all contact on his mobile phone...
Only,not was my old mobile phone.. And it was in my name, and I owned it...

When I snatched the phone from his obsession, he became angry, and repeatedly punched me in the back, in front of my 11 year old daughter. She flew at him, in my defence, and attacked him in the face. I was lying on the floor at the time.

Dutch72 Fri 11-Sep-15 18:59:40

This incident was reported to the police. I had photos of the marks on my back, a statement, and a statement from my daughter as a witness of what she had seen. I stressed to the police, that as a single mother. I was petrified to press and further as I relied solely on him financially. So, needless to say, he was let off with a mere slap on the wrist...

Dutch72 Fri 11-Sep-15 19:30:09

At the end of the day. He's their dad. Children should hold their dad with the highest regard... They should look forward to seeing him. Be excited. Have a relationship. But if hey don't wish to be a part of his rushed relationship, and he forced to accept his new partner, and her children. Then their wishes should be paramount, and be taken into consideration. My three children have witnessed, and been dragged , and forced to accept too much too soon. It's a form of grieving. No timescale can be put upon it. I've encourage contact. They are happy to try and rebuild bridges, exclusive of his new life. Surely the courts have to respect this? If, in say, a years time... They wish to have contact, and an overnight sleep... Then yes. But how can a court force three children? Regardless of a court order? If they refuse, they can't be forced? Surely?

Bellemere Fri 11-Sep-15 19:34:10

No, their wishes are not paramount. Their welfare is paramount. I imagine the fact that they witnessed him attack you will be a factor in the courts decision, but so will the fact that you (as well as him) have involved the children in your emotional struggles.

Both of you need to be putting the children's welfare first. If he won't, you still need to, and you need to be supporting them emotionally. Seeking an order of no contact is not going to do your position any favours. I would be listening carefully to the advice of your solicitor if I was you.

Bellemere Fri 11-Sep-15 19:36:06

It's not the best comparison but think about school - they may express a wish not to go to school, especially if they have an overly critical teacher or have been bullied for example. But you still have a duty to get them to school. If you didn't, you would eventually be fined and/or sent to prison. These children should be in your control and you need to be making sure they do what you expect from them.

STIDW Fri 11-Sep-15 19:42:07

Our last posts crossed. I'm very sorry your husband has been so insensitive and made lifestyle choices which are very hard for you and the children to deal with. Perhaps counselling would help you with the emotional side.

Practically you need to focus on how to move forwards and trying to repair the relationship they had with the father. If the children are anxious because of witnessing outbursts of temper that they can reasonably describe direct contact may not be appropriate at first but you need to try and work with the court and be prepared to make proposals how to move matters forwards.

For example perhaps you could persuade the children to go to supervised contact initially and then when they feel less anxious go out with your ex on his own for a few hours and build up from their. CAFCASS may suggest observing contact to carry out an assessment or in some case they may recommend working with the family. If you ask your solicitor perhaps they can suggest other options. If the school has already mentioned any concerns or you have taken the children to your GP for their anxiety you may be able to use their evidence or letters as a basis to argue for psychological treatment for them or a report from an expert witness.

Not working with the court or coming up with some reasonable proposals can be perceived as hostility to any contact and obstructive and that wont help your case.

STIDW Fri 11-Sep-15 19:48:19

Damned predictive text it's there not their

Dutch72 Fri 11-Sep-15 19:49:28

STIDW... Thank you so very much for your response. I really do appreciate your input. Yes you are right, I made this comparison in court. If you have a reluctant child, that does not wish to attend school, as a parent, you can only use gentle and firm persuasion and encouragement. And then insist they attend. But no child is frightened of school. It's a safe place. But on the flip side... If a child does not wish to see their dad, as they feel frightened, insecure, vulnerable and worried about future contact, surely as a mother, it's the most unnatural thing in the world, to force them?

Dutch72 Fri 11-Sep-15 19:56:19

I'm worried. What ever happens, my children's emotional welfare comes first. I need to protect them, damage limitation. Their needs, feelings and wishes have to come first. Above anything, and anyone else's. They are three, so waiters children, yet in unison. They are close as siblings, and cannot and will not be separated. They are one voice when they are together. I have brought them up to be close. I don't wish for them to be singled out, preyed on, or even forced apart due to their ages.

Dutch72 Fri 11-Sep-15 19:57:36

Predictive text... I agree ... ????

Dutch72 Fri 11-Sep-15 19:59:10

I have to reiterate... Thank you for everyone that's posted on here. I really do value your opinions. Neutral or subjective, I will take
All your Comments on board.

Bellemere Fri 11-Sep-15 20:05:27

I suppose the difficult thing is that their needs and their wishes and feelings are at odds with each other. I'm not surprised that they feel as they do, and I'm not surprised that you don't want to force them. The maternal instinct can be strong and I too have had several periods where all I have wanted to do is wrap my babies up and keep them safe.

The trouble is, in the longer term, it will be damaging for them to not have a relationship with their father. They may not come round to the idea at all and not seeing him for months or years isn't going to help. You need to support and reassure as STIDW suggested above. A contact centre sounds like a good first move - they will be supervised so you can reassure your children that they will be safe, that their dad loves them and misses them and so on.

Have you had any counselling to help you deal with what you've been through? I'd really recommend it. It's really important that your emotions about your ex aren't allowed to cloud the children's view of their father. They are too young to emotionally handle what has happened so they need to be protected from it. They need to see you coping and they need to see you encouraging them to have a relationship with their father, especially if they witnessed you having a strong, negative reaction before.

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