Help. Advice Needed(16 Posts)
Apologies for the lengthy post, I'll try to keep it brief.
My son split from his partner a couple of years ago. Their daughter was always a handful, she is now 5, my son suffered severe anxiety and her mother was useless (sorry, no other way to put it). It was agreed that my son could have access whenever he wanted and while it was never regular due to a distance it was as often as possible and his daughter would come and stay a week or 2 at a time. As a family we were always flexible and worked around school and any other arrangements her mother made.
We have recently been informed by a family support worker that my grandaughter is self harming, bullying at school and generally on a very destructive path. The family support worker is working with her mother to improve on parenting skills etc. Naturally this has raised serious concerns with us as a wider family about the welfare of my grandaughter.
We asked for access on Boxing Day as we always do and in the past this has always been given, but this time we were told the family support worker advised no contact due to the behaviour of my grandaughter. I spoke to the FSW and asked if this was true and what could we do, to help and support. The FSW said she had not and never would advise anything like that as family is important even when split.
I again contacted the mother and asked for contact. All of our side of the family has now been blocked, messages ignored, phone numbers unavailable etc. We are extremely concerned at this.
My son and I have made an appointment with a solicitor to apply for a legal contact order and I fully understand the need for proper legal help. But having never gone through anything like this before I just wondered if anyone had any advice they could offer at all on our legal position. My son is even considering making an application for custody as are concerns are very high.
In England and Wales, there is no such term as custody - courts will issue Child Arrangement Orders which set out where the DCs live, and the frequency and nature of contact with both parents.
In light of the fact that your DGD has been living with her mum for the last two years, with irregular contact with your DS, it is highly unlikely that a court would order her main home be with him, unless there is a risk of serious harm to your DGD. You say that the distance between father and child restricts him being a day to day part of her life. Who moved? Is there a way that distance can be reduced? Particularly with young children, little and often contact with the non resident parent is recommended and if your DGDs mum needs support with parenting, then your DGD would benefit from her dad living close by.
If your DS has parental responsibility, then professionals working with your DGD have a legal obligation to keep him informed. He also needs to ensure he is in regular contact with her school, social worker etc, and ensures they know what he is willing to do to help.
Before family court proceedings can begin, there is a requirement for both parents to attend a MIAM - a mediation initial assessment meeting, in which each party speaks to a mediator independently and the mediator assesses whether the case is suitable to mediation. As you say contact has been irregular, I think your DS may benefit from having a clear idea of what he believes is best for his DD going forward in terms of contact, so he can set that out to the mediator at an early stage.
Thank you for the reply.
The mother moved in with her parents over 100 miles away. Hence the non structured contact. My son works full time, has a home etc so moving isn't an option for him. The purpose of seeing a solicitor is to get concrete structured access. Not the constant mother changing her mind, making other plans or simply stopping any communication.
We are only thinking about full custody due to the concerns that that mother appears unable to provide the right level of care. The child is 5 years old and self harming! The mothers response is to prevent contact, remove all toys and cancel Christmas and birthdays.
Our concerns are the long term effects on the child with her current issues and that she is also being used to play some game. We are currently not allowed to Skype or phone her either. Actions that can only be detrimental to a child that sobs when she has to go back to her mother.
Your post is contradictory.
If your DS is working full time, then becoming the primary carer of his DD, through court intervention, is not realistic, is it? She will need significant support, at least at first, if your suspicion that her mothers care has been inadequate proves accurate.
A court order might work to get regular contact, but if the DCs mother is chaotic and unwilling to comply, there is little that can be done. Is your DS willing to return to court repeatedly over many years to try and enforce an order?
He needs to remain in close communication with the authorities who are supporting his DD - attend meetings and conferences as frequently as he can and ensure that he keeps the lines of communication open if he is to be seen as a positive influence in her life.
Surely people can work and win custody???!
Of course they can saying otherwise is ridiculous
Are you in the USA? There is no such thing as custody here in England. I think I said that Upthread.
And removing a DC from their primary carer is a last resort for UK courts - it only happens if the DC is at significant risk. And if your DGD is emotionally damaged to the point of self harming, she will need support for that, support because she's lost her primary carer and support because she has moved away from everything familiar too her.
I'm sorry if it's not what you want to hear, but it's setting your DS up to fail if you lead him to believe it's likely.
If it comes down to applying for full custody my son is aware that he would need to change aspects of his life, although he lives next door to my parents.
He is already in contact with the relevant agencies involved in the care of his daughter. We are all aware of the level of care the child will need. Both myself and my partner work in the mental health field.
He isn't going to give up and walk away should the mother continue to be inconsistent. That certainly wouldn't help the child isn't an option. A parent doesn't just walk away because one parent is difficult.
But having never gone through anything like this before I just wondered if anyone had any advice they could offer at all on our legal position
I was only trying to help
It seems things haven't changed over the years and the mother is all that matters.
User, I hate to say it, but your posts are ringing a lot of alarm bells for me. You describe the child's mother as "useless", but your son is excused for leaving this "handful" 3 year old with her "useless" mother because of his anxiety: do you not consider there may be some factor excusing her "uselessness"? Your son gets a deal where he has contact "whenever he wanted" although you say it wasn't regular : do you see how tough that is on such a young child?
And now he reckons he can pile in and have "full custody" because he reckons this child's behaviour is all the mum's fault? Seriously?
My advice is, stop criticising this young woman and start thinking about how your son can build bridges and support her in caring for his daughter.
I haven't mentioned what your DGD mother wants at all ; all I've said is that the courts base their decisions on what is best for the DC, and there is extensive research to show that removing a DC from their primary carer can be very damaging and should only be ordered in exceptional circumstances. It would be preferable for the authorities to put support in place for your DGD mum, which may include retailer contact with her dad, rather than remove her from her primary carer, particularly as that would require a change of school and other professional services who are currently supporting her.
Why has your DS left it two years to consider legal intervention? His ex took his young DD 100 miles away - he could have sought a regular contact schedule then? You describe your DGD mother as "useless" back then - why were no steps taken to ensure your DGD had regular, meaningful contact with her father since then? You describe it as being "as often as possible" but also refer to it being prevented due to your DGD mum changing her mind or having other plans.
I appreciate you may feel that these are unreasonable questions and feel that your DS has done his best, but when faced with a Barrister, all of these issues could be used to make him out to be a poor father, so it's best to consider them before it gets to that stage.
Thank you for the replies. I won't go into further details. I'm restricting the info given. But I came here for some help and advice, not criticism.
But I'll show my son and tell him how terrible a father he has been and to walk away now and forget his daughter if the advise here is anything to go by.
People on here can be very negative towards the father.
Wouldn't matter what he did he would be in the wrong.
Good luck with it all
Oh Lord, you don't want advice, you want validation.
They aren't the same thing.
Good luck with the solicitor.
I came here for some help and advice
You got both - it's not criticism just because it's not what you wanted to hear.
I'll show my son and tell him how terrible a father he has been and to walk away now and forget his daughter
Sounds like a great way to support a young man with anxiety - I assume you're calling on your professional expertise in the mental health field?
I'm sorry this thread didn't go the way you wanted it to - and I'm still not sure if your in the USA or UK, but just to reiterate - there is no such thing as "legal custody" in England and Wales.
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