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please advise on contact arrangements

(75 Posts)
stressedatbest Mon 23-May-11 10:08:31

Short background. Ex and I split when dd was weeks old. She is now almost 4. He has always had regular contact, is a good dad etc and I've worked hard to avoid a business like arrangement between us. DD goes for overnights twice a week. We dont always get on but I never refuse contact/reasonable requests for extra time etc. He is a pushy person, and is married to quite a controlling woman who pushes him on stuff, and he then hassles me over it. Now for example, he is pushing for half of all school holidays. I'm more than happy for dd to go in each half term hols for an extra day or two ( on top of her twice weekly overnights). She also has a 2 week foreign hol with him, so he sees her alot, but I object to half of all hols, on the basis that as a school teacher, i am able to provide her with care, whereas in the holidays, his wife is the one who ends up looking after her. He has just had a baby, so says that this factor is irrelant as she needs to see her sister, I agree with this,but don't feel that dd should be there for 3-4 days when she has a willing parent who is free to care for her.
Secondly, this is not the staus quo - it is something new that he ( she) is pushing for. I am from another country, so usually use the half terms to see my parents, his proposals means that I would see them less, as would my DD who needs this valuable time to see her extended family. He and his wife say that we effectively have 'joint custody', so I need to ask him when I'm taking her away, and on all other issues as well. I undertand that he has PR, but as neither of us have been to court, I'm not sure what they mean by this, but do feel worried. I should make it crystal clear that I am not in any way trying to limit contacvt between dd and her dad - he sees her lots, but they interpret every single action I make as 'obstructive' and I feel I cant win. They have mentioned court action against me.

Please could someone tell me where I stand? ;(

cestlavielife Mon 23-May-11 10:44:35

why would you want to "avoid a business like arrangement " ?
surely business like is the best way to go???

cestlavielife Mon 23-May-11 10:46:29

i think you need to both sit with a mediator and discuss the proposals - eg tehf act you want the half terms to go to visit family etc - then you need to maybe compromise on the longer holiday?

stressedatbest Mon 23-May-11 11:18:21

Thanks for the responses, cestlavie - what I meant by avoiding a business like relationship is trying to prevent an inflexible, hostile arrangement for the sake of my dd. Ex seemed to want this as well, his wife is pushing for more formality and so we now have a sitution on our hands. Examples include going crazy because dd had her booster injections on 'his day', so he had to collect her an hour later than usual. This kind of inflexibility is having an awful effect on our lives. My dp and I sat down with them both to try and explain this last week, but his wife did all the talking, so not sure mediation would work.

cestlavielife Mon 23-May-11 11:56:39

business like to me means dealing with your ex as you would a work colleague - however much you hate them you have to smile and be pleasant to get the job done, work on compromise, ask for things nicely etc . emotions dont come into it.

hostility etc - that is not business like.

mediation - well having a third party there might help... give it a go.

hairylights Mon 23-May-11 17:59:19

But it's not about you being able to provide her with care during the holidays, it's about his right to have equal time with his daughter. By the same token, was there a reason he couldn't take her for her booster injections on 'his' day?

I think half of all holidays is very fair. It sounds like you are being obstructive to 'contact' - when really you should start at a 50/50 arrangement if that suits everyone, but more importantly is best for your child.

Your child needs to have a relationship with her dad more than her extended family - but more to the point - both are possible if you share holiday time 50/50.

hairylights Mon 23-May-11 18:00:10

or rather, her right to have equal time with both parents (in law, as I understand it, it's about the children's rights, not the parents').

Bearinthebigwoohouse Mon 23-May-11 18:47:26

I think half of the school holidays is fair, and I think they have a point too about being able to spend a decent length of time with her sibling. Sorry.

Latemates Mon 23-May-11 18:52:48

In court they would likely as a minimum split every other weekend, 1 mid week overnight per week and half the holidays. If he is having 2 mid week overnights then these would continue as these are the norm for your daughter.
You daughter needs to see her dad and new sister as much as she needs to see you, and I agree that you should be discussing dates you plan to go away with your ex just as he should with you. This will avoid double booking things and can be planned way in advance. Half terms can either be split down the middle of the week or alternative etc. But knowing what and when will go along way to clear boundaries.

The other woman has just had a baby and is probably over tired and needing routine and not able to take sudden changes to plans at this time

balia Mon 23-May-11 19:02:39

I'm afraid they are sort of right - as there isn't a residence order in place there isn't a 'resident parent' so you both have equal responsibility. So yes, you would need to ask the permission of all those with PR if you take the child out of the country. In fairness, I'm sure you would wish this courtesy to be extended to you.

Half the holidays is very normal - how are the twice weekly overnights spread? I'd try having some kind of compromise - say one half term each and one split (so you can still see your folks twice) and then in the summer as he has her for a 2 week foreign holiday, you're only actually talking about one extra week. If you show you are willing to compromise I'm sure you'll get better results - eg you could suggest that you have her for an afternoon when he is at work on 'his' holiday time.

Do you offer her Dad extra time rather than have your DP look after your DD? 'Cos that is kind of what you are asking.

stressedatbest Mon 23-May-11 21:36:36

Thanks for all your responses - theya re appreciated.

Hairylights - if my dd is being looked after by someone else for a lot of the time she is there, how does this constitute equal time with his DD? Take this for an example - ex has just been on a weeks foreign holiday, but still insisted that dd be picked up by his wife on the two regular contacts days, and stay there without him. How is that right? I let it happen because I cannot bear the grief I get.

Also, I am sure that 50-50 works for a lot of people, but ex and I live 17 miles away from each other. It would not work for her school,. activities, etc.

stressedatbest Mon 23-May-11 21:37:24

also, my dp never looks after my dd. When she is here, she is cared for only by me.

Latemates Mon 23-May-11 21:51:19

You make the 17 miles work for overnights now right? How does she cope with travel?

If you keep to the same nights every week then she will be able to do activities on the nights she is with you.
It's a shame for the children but the situation is that their parents do not live together now but they should still have a relationship with both.
I think the advantage to contact continuing even if he is away means that the child knows the routine and this doesn't change. The reality is that she will have a close bond with both your new partner and her dads new partner. She now has a sister so with these things in mind contact should continue even if he is not there all of the time. After all if he was god forbid to die your daughter still has a right to a full and meaningful relationship with her sibling.

Sorry if this isn't what you wanted to hear but I think it's important for you to put yourself in your Childs place

stressedatbest Mon 23-May-11 21:56:00

the distance only affects dd one night per week on a school day. I dont actually believe that 50-50 in every case benefits the child. I believe there are cases where it benefits the parents. She is not even 4 years old.

hairylights Mon 23-May-11 22:06:19

Do you never ever use a babysitter? Never ever leave your daughter with your dp? You sound rather over protective. She has a sibling and I'd have thought it'd be good fir your daughter to spend time with her step mum and sibling.

stressedatbest Mon 23-May-11 22:17:29

I rarely use sitters because I dont need to - I arrange most social things in the time that DD is with her dad, and anyways, this isnt the issue - the point I was raising is not that DD is being cared for by her dads wife occassionally - its all the time. And now, this week just gone, his wife had sole overnight care of my dd while he was on holiday. I cant ever think thats ok. why is that ok?!

WishIWasRimaHorton Mon 23-May-11 22:24:20

i have a 2 year old DD and a 4 year old DS, and have just been in court trying to get residence. i failed. the fact that exH lives 10 miles away from me and from DS's school and is not there himself to care for the kids in the evening after school did not stop the court from awarding shared residence. they preserve the right of the child to spend 'substantial amounts of time' with each parent. and in my case with a nanny employed by exH to look after the children, as he is not there.

whatever you do, do not let this go to court. it will not end well.

stressedatbest Mon 23-May-11 22:30:19

I actually read your thread today and almost cried for you. I cannot aggree that this is in the best interests of your two infant children and before anyone jumps on me - I am entitiled to an opinion. Someone on your thread rightly pointed out the one issue that some people are forgetting - you know your children better than any judge, and you know in your heart this dreadful arrangement is not right for them. I'll say it again - some 50-50 arrangements are about the parents and not the child.

gillybean2 Mon 23-May-11 22:31:55

You need to go to mediation just you and him and a mediator. you need to work this out between you and listen to each other.

You seem to be blaming the ex's new wife for wanting things her way. Well maybe it's him that actually wants it and it's just easier for you to think it's her wanting it all. And maybe she is pushing him because he won't rock teh boat.

Just because your situation with your dp is one where you don't ask him to help care for yourdd doesn't mean that is right for everyone or how your ex wants it to be with him and his new wife and baby. You have to accept that they will parent differently to you I'm afraid.

Your dd has extened family, including a step mum and half sibling now. It's important that they have time with her as well as her dad. Just like you recognise it's i,portant for your dd to spend time with your parents who are also her extended family.

Court will order half the holidays if it gets that far. So you'd be better off compromising on something that suits you better. Maybe you have 2 of the half terms and he gets an extra week in the summer?

And yes if you don't have a residency order in your favour then you do need to get permission from all those with PR to take your dd abroad. A resident parent can take a child abroad for up to 28 days without seeking permission. But that doesn't apply in your case from what you've said. Residency isn't specified unless you go to court and they rule on it.

stressedatbest Mon 23-May-11 22:39:17

Thanks Gilly. I do appreciate that dd needs to spend time with sibling, but she does have regular weekly contact with them all, her relationship with my family is much much less because of the distance between us \( onyn hald hour plane journey - im sure you can work out where!) so I'm sure you can understand why I am upset to now have that time hindered by ex demanding yet more time. With resepect, I have first hand experience of how overbearing this woman is. I tried to have a sit down with them recently - she did all the talking on behalf of ex. I am not intereseted in obstructing contact. I have to say it upsets me to hear that word bandied about so freely in response to the even the slightest suggestion of a change in schedule. Its bollocks.

Didyouever Mon 23-May-11 22:45:45

Is your DD happy with the situation?

WishIWasRimaHorton Mon 23-May-11 22:51:20

thanks OP. you are right. every case is different, every family is different. and the blanket rule that is applied now in shared residence cases is that there needs to be no positive benefit to the children in order to grant shared residence. as long as the children's physical needs for security are met by shared residence, you do not need to establish that it is beneficial to the children. unless you can prove neglect or abuse, the sliderule of the law will arbitrarily decide how your child's time will be divided.

in my case the law decided that i would not have my children on days which i don't work. but will have them on days which i do work. because the law did not look at the days i work. so now i am having to change my working pattern.

with every fibre of my being i believe that what has been ruled for my children is wrong. i was told today by my GP that i needed to 'accept' what was ruled. the day i accept this is the day someone carves out my heart with a blunt spoon.

the law will almost certainly determine that your DD's father has entitlement to half the holidays if that is what he is asking for. and the fact that her step-mum is providing the care - of no interest to the law whatsoever, as long as there is no abuse.

if you are strong enough to stand up to your DD's father, then do try mediation. but make sure you feel empowered before you start. IME mediators do not intervene. they make no judgement on what is reasonable. therefore do not rely on them to stand up for you or even to question what your DD's father is saying if it sounds unreasonable. if you are giving into him over contact because of fear of grief, i would worry that you are not in the frame of mind to stand up for yourself in mediation.

to give you an example of how mediation let me down: the laptop on which we had ALL the photos of the children from newborn until we separated was a joint laptop. my ex kept it (he kept everything basically). and he changed the password. at mediation i asked if i could give him a DVD / memory stick so that he could copy me the photos of the kids. obviously i couldn't go into the house (my house still - he hasn't bought me out) and take a copy of the photos as he had changed the password.

he said, in front of the mediators, 'i do not feel like doing that'. they sat there. i said 'why?'. and he said 'because i do not feel like being that generous'. i wanted to thump him. they said 'ok, shall we leave that for another week'.

ALL THE PHOTOS OF MY CHILDREN FROM NEWBORN!!!!! and he won't let me have them. and they say 'ok then'. FFS!

oh and... i still have no photo of them...

stressedatbest Mon 23-May-11 22:55:19

To be fair, she doesn't seem unhappy with the regualr twice weekly schedule. However, when she is there for longer periods, ie, 3 or more days, she comes home all over the place. After easter she was wetting the bed, crying, coming to my bed in the night again ( after having 'broken' that habit) and generally out of sorts. She was also really naughty and I had to work on her behaviour for days til I had her 'back' again. This is not her dad's fault - they are not doing things that cause concern for me in a way thats worth mentioning - this is simply a case of me knowing that too much time away is unsettling for her, moreso as she has got older. As a baby we were much more flexible and she seemed to cope better, but since starting school and being in a routine, changes affect her more. Ex has become so rigid, not listening to a word I say. Last holidays he had her 4 days, then dropped her back, but insisted on collecting her two days later for his regualr mid-week visit. I wanted her to stay with me so that I could settle her back down again and get on top of the bed-wetting. Hell broke loose and so here we are. He did not want to hear that I was doing it for dd - only that I had prevented contact on 'his night'. This kind of inflexibility is not the way we used to work, and its horrible.

gillybean2 Mon 23-May-11 22:55:50

The fact you find her overbearing and seem to blame her (whether rightly or wrongly) for the situation is why I think you would benefit from mediation with just you and your ex there.

So tell your ex you want to move forward and resolve this but you find it difficult to do that when he new wife becomes involved. Ask him if he will go to mediation just to two of you to move forward on this. Explain you will feel more comfortable in being able to talk through the issues and express your views and the mediator will be there to help you both should the situation become difficult for eithe rof you.
If he refuses then he refuses. But he would then have to take you to court to try and get what he wants and court would tell you to go to mediation...
By suggesting the mediation in the first place you are placing the ball in his court to resolving this. He can do it the easy way and agree, or the hard way and take it to court where he'll be told to go to the mediation. So you suggesting the mediation is a no brainer imo

stressedatbest Mon 23-May-11 22:59:59

Wish - my exp also has my dd's photos. Thank you for your advice. I think you have a case for appealing the judgement made recently, or at least going back in 6 monts. its ludicrous.

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