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Please help me to help a friend??

(13 Posts)
littlemisssarcastic Mon 29-Aug-11 13:49:13

My friend has recently split with her DH, and they have had mediation which apparently is a prerequisite of getting divorced. They should get their decree nisi in the next month.
My friend takes home £1300 a month and was previously the breadwinner in the family with her DH working p/t and doing the bulk of the childcare.

Her DH wanted to have DS live with him, but upon splitting, they have agreed to have 50/50 care, and DS currently spends 3 nights a week with dad and 4 nights a week with mum (my friend).
During mediation, friend and her stbxh agreed in writing that her stbxh is the main childcarer. On this basis, stbxh claims the CB, CTC, WTC, and works p/t, so also claims some HB too.

My friend lives with her parents at the moment, so stbxh can remain in the council house they previously lived in together.
Friend wants to privately rent somewhere for herself and her DS, and has discovered that to do so, she will probably need to claim HB, since private rents are quite high and she couldn't afford this on her wage alone.

She mentioned to her stbxh that she was considering privately renting and he has become very angry about this. He has told her that she wont get housing benefit at all, because officially she does not have a child living with her, and she can't claim to have a child living with her because that would affect his entitlement to CTC,CB,WTC,HB and apparently he can't afford to live without the extra money, and now he is being nasty, calling her a shit mother because she doesn't take her DS out every day (she works full time) and she relys on her parents to take DS to school in the morning. They have sometimes dropped DS at the school gate and not walked him into the classroom so stbxh is ringing her saying what a shit mother she is.
stbxh has also started telling DS she is a crap mother, and has told my friend that as soon as DS is 7, DS will decide where he wants to live and he is hoping DS says with him.

Now, her stbxh has told her to start paying child maintenance (because of course she can afford all of this hmm ) because if she doesn't pay him, he will go to the CSA.
(He has threatened this for a long time)

I spoke to stbxh to try to calm the situation down, (friend asked me to) and stbxh ranted on at what a shit mother she is, and that he wont apply to CSA, because all he has to say he is a main childcarer is a written agreement drawn up by a mediator and signed by my friend and her stbxh. They have not been to court at all and stbxh is worried that if she claims she is the main childcarer, he will lose all of the benefits and wont be able to survive, but he wants as much as he can get out of her (his words) and he enjoys pissing her off. He told me it's a man thing. hmm
stbxh has told my friend that access is no longer dealt with in court, but only in mediation now. confused

Now my friend is all confused and doesn't know where she stands or how much the agreement in mediation would stand up in court.

Personally, I have always found her stbxh a complete control freak, who admitted he doesn't enjoy working, bled my friend dry while they were living together but begrudged her anything. He is one of lifes takers imo and has said lots of times that he is a superior parent to her, because she is a woman shock He constantly claims men are superior to women and makes sexist remarks in every conversation, or jokes at a womans expense, enjoys telling women what their role is in family life (to look after the man and give him BJ's yuk)

One of the reasons they split is because stbxh would scream at my friend if she tried to discipline her DS, and stbxh would send them both to different rooms as if they were both children, before screaming at my friend 'Who do you think you are, telling him to do XYZ...you can't tell him that FFS'

Basically, her stbxh believes there is only one way to parent, and that is obviously his way, down to the food DS eats, the drinks he drinks, the places he goes etc etc. He's like an army sergeant.

Any advice or opinions on how to deal with a man like this? Or how binding a mediation agreement is? Or what my friend should do now?
What are the courts likely to make of this? stbxh says my friend will be seen as a shit mother if it ever went to court because she wasn't there for DS 24/7. (She was at work trying to pay for everything while stbxh worked 4 evenings a week p/t)

My friend is desperately trying to keep things amicable, but is finding it harder and harder and is hoping the bitterness will soon settle down. What are the chances??

deepfriedcupcake Mon 29-Aug-11 21:41:54

Ok he does sound a bit controlling. I haven't any idea about the court stuff (am hoping someone else will notice who does know), but she might still be eligible for HB even if she's not the main care provider.

I'd suggest she has a chat with the local council based on them having a roughly 50/50 split on nights staying over. I think she can rent privately and apply for HB without it affecting his entitlements, as long as they're not contradicting each other (but worth checking). I think it can just be trickier finding a landlord who'll accept payment as HB.

cestlavielife Mon 29-Aug-11 22:36:32

working to provide for your child should not count against you. it does not make someone the better parent
it is not up to him whether she can get HB - it is up to the council. she should apply.
if ds is old enough to go to school he is old enough to walk fromgate to classroom. that does not make her a bad mother either/
he i s trying to wind erh up. she should not disuss any more but work out how to provide for herself adn DS whenhe with her. if he claims CSA from her she can work out her allowed costs anyway - and if split is 50/50 there probably wont be maintenance to pay

littlemisssarcastic Mon 29-Aug-11 22:44:50

Is this the usual set up for 50/50 care? I mean, how can one parent say they are the main childcarer if they are doing the childcare 50/50?
And even if there was one main childcarer, wouldn't it be the parent who has the child 4 nights a week, rather than 3?
I know this is one of the things that concerns them both, how this is viewed by the tax credits agency and legally.

festi Mon 29-Aug-11 22:56:53

she needs to see a solicitor right away. The main carer thing is a bit of a red herring in just that it allows one parent to claim Child benifit etc. She needs to find out and make sure they or at least both have PR If they both share Parental responsibility then she should definetly see a solicitor. My friends are in a situation where mother no longer has PR only father does however the child spends 4 nights with mum and 3 nights with dad, I may be wrong here but as far as I know mum claimes CB Tax credits etc. I think your friend has either been bullied into signing or she has been very nieve in not thinking this through properly.

oldraver Mon 29-Aug-11 23:29:01

Tell her to claim CB immediately. She has her DC for 4 nights so she is the main carer

blackeyedsusan Mon 29-Aug-11 23:51:47

if he is being bullying it may be worth a call to womens aid to to see here she stands. if there is dv mediation is not appropriate.

gillybean2 Tue 30-Aug-11 02:45:54

Even with 50/50 split one parent is still deemed to be the main carer. This parent is given the CB. Whoever claims the CB will autimatically be the one entitled to CTC and WTC.

If your friend has 4 overnights every week, and can prove that this has been the case for some time (she needs to keep a diary of contact) then she can apply to have the CB transfered to her.

Her ex can contest this. His benefits will stop being paid in the mean time and neither will get anything while it is resolved. The benefits people will make a decision based on what is put to them (ie who says what about the overnights, what court order says, who contact can be shown to have occurred). QUite often if there is a disagreement between the parties on what contact is they will side with the person who currently gets the CB -so she needs to get her contact diary sorted out etc.

Anything agreed at mediation is not legally binding. It is possible to get a contact arangement agreed at mediation rubber stamped by the court and that is more binding. Is this what they had done?

If they have a court agreed contact agreement then this is the minimum contact ordered. So even if they agreed to 50/50 they can still choose to vary this arrangement between themselves.

Your friend won't be entitled to legal aid, and so seeing a solicitor will be expensive for her. SHe should make an appointment with teh CAB to talk through her options and then see a solicitor after that if she needs too.

Someone above mentione PR. As a mother she will automatically have PR and that can not be removed from her. If they are married her ex will also have PR, It is highly unusual for PR to be removed from a parent. I think the person above may be confusive PR with residency (which parent a child is ordered to reside with). Neither parent has automatic residency, and residency can only be ordered by a court - either sole residency, joint residency or no order made (ie uit remains that neither parent has specific residency of the child).

Re housing benefit she may be able to apply for this regardless of the situation if her income is considered low enough.
However if she is prepared to rock the boat and apply to have the CB moved to her, it means she will also then be able to claim WTC & CTC and help towards ofstead registered child care as well as possibly housing benefit and council tax benefit.

Re maintenance - even with true 50/50 shared care, the parent with the CB is deemed to be the one entitled to maintenance from the other. If her ex goes to the CSA on the basis he has the CB and therefore is the 'main' carer she would be assesed to pay 15% of her income, less 1/7th for every overnight she has him (up to 3 overnights a week as that would be her lower 'half' - if she has more than 3 overnights she would be the 'main' carer and should be getting the maintenance)

It sounds a very messy situation and she really does need to get her facts straight here so she knows her position and that knowledge will give her the power to deal with him and this situation.

Women's aid is also an option as they will advise her on what she can do and what her situation means. It may also give her more strength to deal with her ex who it sounds is trying to intimidate her as he doesn't want to loose what benefits he gets right now.

littlemisssarcastic Tue 30-Aug-11 11:08:48

Friend is married, so both have PR. They have not been to court yet. They had to go through the mediation first. My friend paid £180 a session for this.
Her stbxh is having his legal costs met through legal aid, even though he is significantly better off financially than my friend, due to all the benefits he is getting. It's no wonder he can afford to take their DS to the zoo and other places when he has him.
Friend is taking home £1300 a month. Her stbxh is taking home £1850 a month inc benefits and he is getting legal aid too. It seems very unfair on my friend.
festi Friend is concerned she cannot afford a solicitor tbh, so she asked me to ask for some advice on here for her, but I'll pass the advice on.

gillybean2 The agreement at mediation was not rubberstamped at court, they haven't been to court yet. Stbxh is under the belief that courts don't deal with access any more, or maybe he is just saying that.

I will advise friend to see CAB and to keep a diary of contact.
Although I can see that this was an abusive relationship, she is not long out of it, and doesn't know what to think.
I know her stbxh coaches their DS to believe he is the better parent. He says things like 'Who takes you out DS? Who is always there DS' 'Who bought you your shoes DS'
He started doing this a long time ago, and even told me he was deliberately doing this in case they ever split, so my friend wouldn't get . sad

stbxh also says he will not pay maintenance because my friend apparently doesn't spend it on DS. confused
I tried to explain to him that this is irrelevant, but he wasn't having any of it.

I wish parents wouldn't use their DC to punish a former partner. angry
What on earth must they be thinking to use their child to punish that childs mother??? Makes me incandescent with rage tbh. angry

Friend is not angry, just sad and just wants everything to be as amicable as possible.

littlemisssarcastic Tue 30-Aug-11 11:10:37

Sorry, meant to say 'so my friend wouldn't get residency

festi Tue 30-Aug-11 11:25:53

Hi I mentioned PR, as far as I am aware in my friends case PR was removed from the mother, however I may be wrong so forgive me If I am. In the case between these people I know that no decission regarding thier dd can be made by the mother and the school Drs are only able to make arrangements and with the father. SS and the court where involved. obviiously not relevent to your case so sorry If I may have given info not quite relevent.

littlemisssarcastic Tue 30-Aug-11 11:54:59

Festi I appreciate all of your advice. smile

I am surprised that a court would remove PR from a parent tbh. Must have been serious reasons for that.

festi Tue 30-Aug-11 12:43:10

There where some very seriouse issues however and her reluctance to leave a new partner with history of violence, some suspicions about drugs and very irractic behaviour. I think due to the age of the dd and the fact she wanted to have shared time between mum and dad, the dd is very loyal to her mum and it was seen in her best interest to maintain this but to remove the PR. the dd was 9 and her mum left her dad and took her to live with the guy she was having an affair with, just packed up and went, the dd had never even met him they had a very stable life prior but my friends behaviour changed almost over night. Very distressing for the dd to not have any contact with mum. possibly an unusual case.

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