Poor child care by abusive & neglecting EH(12 Posts)
I'm actually this posting on behalf of my fiancé as we need advice.
To summarise -
Her ex has been abusive in the past and we're worried about the child's care now when visiting. We're trying to move but he's holding us back. He's become increasingly abusive towards her. Money is now a big issue.
In depth -
She was in a relationship to her ex husband for about 10 years, married for around a year, but left him just before the birth of their son due to verbal and physical abuse, then finding he was cheating on her with other women.
We met almost 2 years ago now and are engaged. Shes a nurse, and I'm in the military which keeps me away, especially when I'm deploying at the end of April for 4 months. Before I knew I was deploying we'd been arranging to move in together and sell her house, which is jointly owned by her and the ex, but she lives in it, and since buying it she's been the only one to pay any of the mortgage, even when they lived in it together. There's only just over £1k equity in it.
Now, last year a court order was put in place with respect to her son's custody after a period of abusive confrontations at her doorway and threats, including letters and texts - she has primary custody and he can see him every fortnight, 8am Sat - 6pm Sun, with changes to be notified of 2 weeks in advance, and a holiday available to him during the summer.
This has been stuck to by the letter by us, but hes been late a number of times with pick ups and drops offs, and once had to have his mother (the grandma) collect his son, and once had a friend drop him off. There's also been concern about the child's care - particularly with changing his nappy and what he's being fed, including bahavioural issues; for instance, the past 2 times he's come back with a mouth covered in chocolate, then been sick, and had nappy rash (to the point of blistering) and a soiled nappy immediately on being dropped off. This has all been documented by diary, including some pictures of the rashes, and when confronted on the care, her ex becomes abusive. The police have been called when this abuse has become more personal towards my fiancé, but they can only log the call and state it's a civil matter.
When we first looked at moving to be closer to where I work, about an hour and a half away from where she is now, we let her ex know and that was fine, until just before christmas. After having a new house and buyers for the old house lined up with offers accepted, he's refusing to sign off on the sale or even attent the solicitor's to confirm ID. There's now even confusion as to whether he's being represented at all as his solicitor has left the firm and doesnt know if he wants representing due to a lack of communication, and the ex again becomes abusive if we ask him about it. The only contact from him has been one letter from his solicitor before he left the firm demanding a change to visitation, including an extra day at weekends, extra holidays including leaving the UK, and that we be the ones to drop off and collect the child just 5 minutes away from his house. Obviously the court order was only due for review 5 years from when it was made.
So we now need advice on what to do next with this. We've luckily been able to get a mortgage on my salary and savings alone, but this isn't finalised yet and it's at extra cost and we still can't sell her house which means we're still paying mortgage costs. There's also a real concern about the child's care when he's with the ex. Over the past two years I've come to think of the child as my own, and I've strived to spend all my free time with him and my fiancé even though they live an hour and a half away from where I'm based. I can't bare to think of him being neglected and punished for what should be an adults dispute between my fiancé and her ex. I've also helped her with child care costs, paying the mortgage on her current house, and court costs when we initially set up the court order, for which she also needed a loan from my parents.
I'm now dreading having to go away now because I feel I'm leaving the two of them open to harm from her ex.
Thanks to those who managed to read all that, but it's a complex and delicate situation. Any good advice would be massively appreciated.
Contact SS about any childcare concerns.
Speak to a solicitor about forcing the house sale. I believe it is possible to sell even if he does not agree if the right groundwork is done first.
You need a child protection specialist in the form of a social worker. They will be able to make informed decisions on whether this boy is in danger and they will be able to advise you on what to look out for.
Does he seem to mind when he leaves you and his Mum? It might be a good idea to try and spend some time in his presence for a little while or have a cup of tea together just to gauge his mood.
I am so sorry to hear about this. There are two things to consider here.
2) Your child
Your fiance was married to him for about a year. Is she divorced from him? Were the finances dealt with at ancillary relief? If the answer to these is no then she needs to get the ball rolling. If the answer to both of these questions is yes then I would need to look at what provisions were put in on the order and who owns the current property and how to remedy that.
In other words I would need a little more information to give you accurate advice.
This leads nicely to the 2nd point. I completely understand your concerns in relation to the abuse that your child is currently going through and I wonder if you think it would be appropriate to reduce the contact that Father currently has. To do this I would suggest that you make an application to the court to have the order varied. If there has been police involvement then alarm bells start ringing. In my experience Social Services aren't always as helpful or as productive as they could be. That is not to say that I don't advocate you letting them know but you are likely to see quicker results by taking this to court to reduce contact.
I see both of these scenarios in my day to day work as a McKenzie Friend and I strive to make the process as less adversarial as possible, thus making things better for, ultimately, the child.
Best of luck and keep us updated!
I think you may have your priorities slightly wrong there McKenzie...
it's tricky ground - let s be realistic here:
yes do go straight to gp every time he hasthe nappy rash for advice. however even best parents get kids with nappy rash.
being sick after eating chocolate isnt necessarily sign of child abuse either -giving a child chocolate really is not illegal nor sign of abuse.
nor is arriving in a soiled nappy - unless it is clear he been in it for hours
eg it totally dried up.
so reducing contact on those grounds??? unlikely...
call SS and say "my ex gave my kid chocolate!" - what do you think they will say? !
persistent nappy rash.. again it isnt on its own evidence of abuse/neglect
"had to have his mother (the grandma) collect his son, and once had a friend drop him off." - that is also not a sign of neglect - it's his say to decide who to use for childcare during his contact time. if i arrange someone to pick up my child from school it really isnt my ex's concern so long as i ahve checked out that person and if its a family relation then really what is the problem ??? visiting with granma is really not a sign of abuse or neglect if the dad arranges this. indeed a judge may see it as great that child is seeing extended family .
nothing you have put down is hard evidence of neglect - and if there were real concerns then mother would not be packing child off to dad at all.
money: get the divorce finalised properly and all finances and property sorted by court order.
abuse and harassment of her - report to police for sure.
oh and mckenzie13 is incorrect to leap to declarations of "abuse " of the child at this stage
yes - it's wrong for a child to witness abuse of mother by the father for sure.
it isnt abuse for a child to be picked up or delivered home by grandma or a friend .
it's wrong if child isnt fed etc. it may be poor parenting to feed them chocolate. different parenting styles and all that. but it is not abuse to feed a child chocolate. a child ebing sick doesnt necessarily eman its been abused - maybe it just ate too much chocolate. .
it's also misleading to jump to conlusion of child abuse when nothing you have put down amounts to hard evidence of abuse - poor parenting perhaps but nothing to suggest significant neglect/abuse . asking for contact time to be reduced on this basis wont get you very far.
( and i am someone who did stop contact - but this for v specific reasons eg daughter reported assault by her dad...)
I read your replies with interest. You're right of course, none of it really is 'abuse' in the eyes of the law, just poor parenting. Obviously though, it's difficult to see him brought back each time in a state. I wasn't as specific as I could be about everything that's happened when visiting his Dad though; the time his Grandma picked him up I mentioned was actually an accident on his part - we had to call her because he was a no-show in the morning. There's also regular threats of 'taking us to court', 'getting a court order in place next week to stop you moving' and 'coming into my house to get my stuff' (of which there's nothing) - none of these have materialised. There's also of course regular lateness, , changing of plans at short notice (such as suddenly deciding he'd go on holiday part way through caring and left the child with a friend to return him), returning the child with wrong or messy clothes (such as just a T-shirt, trousers and no socks last winter), having obviously filled him with chocolate and sweets when he comes back hyperactive, and with a nappy that's obviously been left filthy for a while so leaving nappy rash, and it takes us a few days for him to return to normal again. All of this isn't just from our opinion; when we're at work he's cared for by a professional nanny who's seen it too and given us a written statement should we need it.
But of course, none of this is criminal, but it's frustrating that we still have to subject him to poor care like this every fortnight.
Also in responce to mckenzie13-
She's already got a decree nici, and due to get the decree absolute this week or next.
Not quite sure what you meant by 'finances dealt with at ancillary relief'? She gets maintenance for the child every month with the child, tho this again has been unreliable, so we've now requested it be a direct debit instead.
Deuce even if these things aren't criminal they do add up to a picture which a family court would take seriously. It's not about whether or not a crime has been committed, it's about what is the right thing for the child. If he's only wearing a T shirt in the middle of winter there is something seriously amiss and a family court would use that information. Keep making notes.
The general principle is that the `best interests of the child are paramount'.
The standard answer would be something like this:
If you suspect the child is at risk from harm you have a duty - regardless of a court order - to stop contact. Simple as that. If your concerns are serious enough, contact Social Services too.
Do this, let him take your fiancee to court and the concerns you mention should be discussed. Where possible you should try to remedy the situation by communicating with the ex and expressing your concerns. Note my use of the word `possible'. When communication is fraught and contentious the best interests of the child are often obscured by the hostility between parents.
Keep the money issues separate from contact however. There is no link in law and mentioning the two at a contact hearing (if you end up in court) can go down like a lead balloon. Money does follow the children as per the Matriomonial Causes Act - but any application you (or he) make is likely to be under the Children Act instead.
It would be worth you contacting Families Need Fathers. It's a parenting organisation that helps mums, dads, stepmums, stepdads, etc. - anyone who is involved in parenting after separation and can offer support in the best ways to do things. The hostility you describe is par for the course and as you identify, a real stumbling block.
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