Father threatening legal action

(42 Posts)
RayChi6 Mon 19-Apr-21 15:13:10

Hello.

I hope someone is able to offer me some advice or support.

Just to give you a bit of background, the father of my child left us under upsetting circumstances due to his behaviour when my son was 2. Tragically, there was an incident with his new male partner when my son was 3. (He was physically and psychologically harmed.) I sought the help of social services and the police and the situation was dealt with. (Albeit not in a particularly effective way in my opinion.) I felt I had to apply for residency as my ex wanted full custody. I felt strongly that he was unable to care for the well-being of our son. After a year long court battle, I was awarded residency.

I agreed he could have access provided he observe a number of safety restrictions. This has worked ok for the last 9 years and trust has slowly rebuilt. My son has a good relationship with his father, although I don't feel he is a pleasant man and he can sometimes be quite cruel. My son is aware of this personality trait and although it upsets him at times, he seems to accept it as part of who he is.

Over the years, on and off, my son has said he wants to live with his father and new husband. He has a good relationship with both of them and understandably he wants to spend time with them. He has explained it as him having lived with me for a certain amount of years and now he wants to spend an equal amount of years with his father. It makes complete sense in his mind and I can see how.

However, I am not prepared to hand over our son to a man who I do not believe capable of parenting. There is no effort that I wouldn't go to for our son. He has additional needs and I have fought hard to get him the help and support that he needs. I have also organised personal counselling and play therapy to ensure he is as well-adjusted as possible. His father at worst has not been on board with any of that and at best has been disinterested.

A phonecall from his father a few weeks ago revealed that he wants our son to go to live with he and his husband. He is threatening court action. He has spoken with our son in the past about him moving in with them and I am worried he is doing it again. It terrifies me.

What I am worried about is that my son wants to go to live with them and if his dad suggests it, he will jump at the chance.

If I have understood the residency order correctly, legally he can stay with me until he is 14, but after that point he is free to decide.

I'll be honest, I can't bear to lose my beautiful son. I adore him and I have invested so much of my time, energy and love into him. I fear for his safety with his father. I want to protect him.

I am not sure if my son fully remembers what happened to him or indeed his father's part in covering up the situation and placing the blame onto me. He was absolutely vile to me during that time and my son has no idea. Part of me feels that he should know just how terrible his father was, but I know how damaging that would be for him. It could possibly re-traumatise him. Obviously, I want to avoid that at all costs. However...if he doesn't understand why it's safer for him to reside with me than with his father then what is stopping him from wanting to live with him? He is now nearly 12. The courts may take in board his opinion now.

He is due to visit at the end of May for a week. I am petrified he will not want to return. My husband has said we can drive over to collect him, and I know I can alert the police for their support if need be...but obviously I am hoping it won't come to that.

What will happen if this goes back to court? I have been told by a solicitor friend that it is unlikely a judge would overrule a previous judge's decision, but what if the judge rules that our son should live with his father? I know I can appeal...which I would...but what if my point of view is not taken into account? This man emotionally abused me for years and I feel he is putting that fear into me again.

I just need some advice from anyone who has been in a similar position.

Thank you so much.

OP’s posts: |
FortunesFave Mon 19-Apr-21 15:26:10

The question is, have you sought counselling? You need advice about whether to disclose what happened to your son.

And if you do, will your son believe you or even be mature enough to realise that it might damage him to live there.

In your shoes, I would also be very worried.

I would seriously think about telling your son what happened.

Collaborate Mon 19-Apr-21 15:41:13

It's a fallacy that until 14 he has no say but after 14 he gets to decide. The wishes and feelings of the subject child are always very important. The older they are the more they are likely to be determinative, but there's no magic cut off point.

user1636853246842157 Mon 19-Apr-21 15:45:42

Your son can't protect himself if you withhold the information he needs to do so.

prh47bridge Mon 19-Apr-21 15:46:39

Your point of view will be taken into account but that doesn't mean the court will do what you want. Similarly, your son's point of view will be taken into account but that doesn't mean the court will do what he wants. Normally, a 12-year old's views would be a major part of the court's decision. However, if your son has additional needs that may mean the court gives less weight to his views. The primary concern of the courts is your son's welfare. If you can convince the court that it is in your son's best interests to stay with you, that is what the court will order.

Soontobe60 Mon 19-Apr-21 15:46:47

I don't agree that you should be telling your son what happened when he was very small, the only purpose it will serve is to cause him unnecessary distress.
How often does your son see his father? Did the courts give him unsupervised access with overnights? If so, then they must not have thought his father was as dangerous as you believe him to be. If, however, he isn’t allowed unsupervised access, then they are not going to readily change this decision.
I would talk to your son and tell him that the courts decided that he should live with you - and that if his father wants him to live there the courts need to reconsider the arrangements.

FortunesFave Tue 20-Apr-21 00:03:58

Soontobe60

I don't agree that you should be telling your son what happened when he was very small, the only purpose it will serve is to cause him unnecessary distress.
How often does your son see his father? Did the courts give him unsupervised access with overnights? If so, then they must not have thought his father was as dangerous as you believe him to be. If, however, he isn’t allowed unsupervised access, then they are not going to readily change this decision.
I would talk to your son and tell him that the courts decided that he should live with you - and that if his father wants him to live there the courts need to reconsider the arrangements.

Well it depends what it was!

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RayChi6 Tue 20-Apr-21 08:03:07

Thanks so much for all your responses. I appreciate the time you've taken.

I told my son that he is legally required to live with me rather than his dad. My husband and I took the decision to tell him that around a year and a half ago when he was expressing that he wanted to live with dad. I hated having to say it, but felt like it was just a simple fact and he may accept it. The it's a law. It seemed to work for a while. The lockdowns have had an impact on his emotions though. He's missed his dad so much (which is completely understandable). He went to stay for a couple of weeks last August when the restrictions eased and that seemed to be a positive experience for him. (However, he did return with worms, which was a concern. I did raise this with his dad and he claims to have good hygiene around the house and that he encouraged our son to be clean.)

I feel that I need to have some kind of conversation with my son before he visits at the end of next month. I need to remind him that legally he is required to live with me. If he questions this, then I could say that it's for his safety. If he questions what I mean, then maybe I can find a way to explain without going into detail. Possibly something along the lines of "At the time, your dad wasn't able to guarantee your safety and I needed to make sure that you were safe. That's why I needed to take it to court for the professionals to make sure that you were kept safe." Maybe I could show him the legal papers? (Not any details of the events leading to the decision, but the printed words of the judge's decision.)

I am just so worried that his dad is going to put ideas in his head about how wonderful it would be for them all to live together. My son has referred to their house as 'our house' (as in, he belongs to their house) for a few years now and when I first heard him say that, that really shocked me. I didn't let on that it had upset me though. I think I would rather him view his dad's house as just that rather than his home too...although I understand, in an ideal world, I wouldn't be triggered and could feel comfortable with him having '2 homes'.

His dad was speaking openly with him about senior schools in his part of the country a year before our son was due to move up into secondary school. I felt that was so irresponsible of him and told him as much. He confused our son and that wasn't fair.

I think, worst case scenario, my son will not want to come back after his stay in May. We will have to go to get him. There will be arguments (but hopefully not). It will go to court. I won't be able to afford representation and will have to represent myself. That terrifies me.

Worst, WORST case scenario would be, the courts decide my son lives with his father. I can't see how this would happen though, bearing in mind the previous judge's decision and all the accompanying evidence. Plus he has been settled with me for the last 9 years. He has started senior school here. Why uproot him? There would have to be a very good reason and as far as I can see, there just isn't.

I am willing to keep sharing the holidays with his dad as we have for a long while now. Hopefully that will be enough.

Has anyone else been in this position?

It's just so worrying.

OP’s posts: |
friskybivalves Tue 20-Apr-21 08:15:25

I have huge sympathies for the distress you clearly feel. I am puzzled though why lockdown itself has had an impact on your childcare arrangements. I believe that children moving between the homes of separated parents was always allowed. Is it possible that his dad felt that covid was being used as a means of creating a greater distance - and his reaction has thus been to try to manoeuvre himself closer to your/his DS? If so it might speak to his motivation somewhat.

ScrollingLeaves Tue 20-Apr-21 08:29:18

“I am puzzled though why lockdown itself has had an impact on your childcare arrangements. I believe that children moving between the homes of separated parents was always allowed”
This was never made clear to the public.

There is no evidence of OP “using lockdown”.

It is clear the OP has been allowing visits.

Her DC being “affected by lockdown” could also be due to all sorts of obvious reasons apart from missing his father even if this was a reason too.

To my mind his father may have been suggesting the idea that as DS has lived with his mother now he should live with his father.
He also apparently gave him the idea of moving schools.

Would you qualify for legal aid OP?

RayChi6 Tue 20-Apr-21 08:38:21

You are absolutely right in saying that the government have allowed movement of children between 2 parents during lockdown. Unfortunately for us it would have meant travel via the London underground though and none of us (son included) felt safe doing so. The last 2 visits have been during lockdown during the relaxation of travel rules at huge expense by hiring a car. We simply couldn't afford to keep doing that though.

I am wondering if these intense feelings of missing each other will ease when travel is easier again and visits return to every school holiday (which usually works out as him being able to spend time with dad every couple of months). I may suggest that. I think I've been so caught up in the fear of the situation I am not thinking clearly. The father was emotionally abusive towards me for so long. I think I am reacting from a place of fear rather than from reality. If that makes sense?

OP’s posts: |
ScrollingLeaves Tue 20-Apr-21 13:06:21

I am not so sure you are not right to be worried. It is a bit concerning that hisfather is encouraging his child to disrupt secondary school ( if all is going well there) rather than ask for longer visits in the holidays.

He is at a vulnerable age. Is there a touch of moral blackmail behind the ‘you’ve had him so far, now it’s my turn” which seems to be coming from your DC but may be ex’s thinking?

What sort of emotional abuse did you get?

Atalantea Tue 20-Apr-21 13:27:04

Soontobe60

I don't agree that you should be telling your son what happened when he was very small, the only purpose it will serve is to cause him unnecessary distress.
How often does your son see his father? Did the courts give him unsupervised access with overnights? If so, then they must not have thought his father was as dangerous as you believe him to be. If, however, he isn’t allowed unsupervised access, then they are not going to readily change this decision.
I would talk to your son and tell him that the courts decided that he should live with you - and that if his father wants him to live there the courts need to reconsider the arrangements.

So when it comes back to him when he is older, as these things often do, how.would you handle that???

ScrollingLeaves Tue 20-Apr-21 13:39:03

“RayChi6
He has additional needs and I have fought hard to get him the help and support that he needs. I have also organised personal counselling and play therapy to ensure he is as well-adjusted as possible. His father at worst has not been on board with any of that and at best has been disinterested”

Would you say what his additional needs are? On the face of it he would need a parent who understands and takes real care of these. If your ex doesn’t that would matter.

Maybe other posters who have similar knowledge of these sorts of needs could advise about this predicament.

RedHelenB Tue 20-Apr-21 16:06:27

Obviously you don't want to say what they issue 9 years ago was, but if he's been staying with his Dad and husband in the intervening years surely that means it's unlikely to happen agsin?

I'm wondering if he's becoming aware of his sexuality and feeling it might be easier to live with his Dad?

Fwiw, Is let him if he really wants to and can find a good school, after you've talked it all through, making it very clear you love him dearly and he can come back to live with you at any point that he wished to.

NotDavidTennant Tue 20-Apr-21 16:26:25

Have you discussed with your DS why he want to move in with his father? Is this something he wants for himself or something his father is pushing him to? Has he properly considered the consequences of moving in terms of living in a new area, having to attend a new school, make new friends, etc? Does he even really want to move or is it just that he wants more time with his dad and this is they only way he thinks he can get it?

Atalantea Tue 20-Apr-21 16:55:18

RedHelenB

Obviously you don't want to say what they issue 9 years ago was, but if he's been staying with his Dad and husband in the intervening years surely that means it's unlikely to happen agsin?

I'm wondering if he's becoming aware of his sexuality and feeling it might be easier to live with his Dad?

Fwiw, Is let him if he really wants to and can find a good school, after you've talked it all through, making it very clear you love him dearly and he can come back to live with you at any point that he wished to.

Obviously you don't want to say what they issue 9 years ago was, but if he's been staying with his Dad and husband in the intervening years surely that means it's unlikely to happen agsin?

???

RedHelenB Tue 20-Apr-21 17:33:45

@Atalantea I was meaning that nothing else has happened in the 9 years, as the OP would have said it had, there was no police or social services action and no report of anything of that nature happening again in 9 years. So it isn't currently a valid reason to object to a change in residence.w

Commonwasher Tue 20-Apr-21 17:52:12

Maybe you could increase contact with your son’s Dad now lockdown is lifting, he will miss his Dad less if he sees him more. Perhaps the novelty might wear off more quickly if he is doing homework and normal things at his Dads house rather than having a holiday-type-visit.

I feel for you, perhaps seeking some advice from citizens advice would be worthwhile, you might be entitled to legal aid.

User0ne Tue 20-Apr-21 18:02:27

It sounds to me like dad is already discussing it with him. Not necessarily in an open "I want you to come and live with us", more " if you lived here you could go to a school with great sports facilities" (eg if he's into sport).

I'd be very concerned. The worms suggest that dad still isn't providing adequate care; did your DS have to see a doctor for treatment? Has dad previously had care for ds for a.longer period (are the worms a one off or were they picked up on one of the 2 times he's had longer care of ds)?

I also think you need to come clean with ds in an age appropriate way about why the court order exists. If he does decide to live with dad now (assuming a court allows it) or in the future and it goes belly-up he could hold it against you if you've withheld information like that.

RedHelenB Tue 20-Apr-21 21:34:59

Worms are very common. That in itself is a non issue.

olivesnutsandcheeseplease Tue 20-Apr-21 22:08:21

Tell your DS what happened and show him the documents to prove it and why.
Say you'd consider him moving for college if he wants to but he needs to stay at his school until the end of year 11. Talk about it all in context of his best interests.

I've had experience of a child moving to the other parent when it was not in their best interests and where the other parent conveniently denied and twisted the story to persuade the child to do so.

With hindsight telling the child alongside irrefutable proof would have been better and also no longer keeping it from them in order to protect them. Basically it gives the other parent time and space to work on denying or minimising it to their advantage.
Ask yourself this, is it in your DS's best interests to be uprooted and change schools? If the answer is no then you know that the other parent is not putting the child's interests first because if they were then they wouldn't encourage them to move in the first place. They are just thinking if their own needs.
Boys often want more contact with fathers and father figures as they get older. Your Ds could manage the underground on his own for weekends soon particularly if you do a couple of dummy runs with him first, so more contact is fine but that doesn't mean he needs to leave his normal place of residence. No doubt there are certain attractions or different rules at the dad's house. I get that. Your job is to help facilitate more contact if that's what he needs whilst putting his interests first even if that means you come across as the bad guy.

FortunesFave Wed 21-Apr-21 01:31:38

(However, he did return with worms, which was a concern.

That's not a concern. It's almost as common as a scraped knee.

MooseBeTimeForSummer Wed 21-Apr-21 01:51:55

It’s my understanding that it takes 1-2 months from swallowing the eggs to them hatching and laying their own eggs, which is the part that causes the itchy bum.
So the chances are he was infected whilst in your care.

CervixHaver Wed 21-Apr-21 02:35:41

If the father's name is on the birth certificate then the police will do NOTHING if he refuses to return your son. Not unless you have a COURT issued arrangement for contact and he has breached it.

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