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DV - will the family court see my concerns about contact as parental alienation?

(16 Posts)
worriedaboutmyboys Tue 26-Apr-16 16:22:25

I'm about to start divorce proceedings, after exH left about 15 months ago. I'm worried that it will open a whole can of worms regarding child contact.

He was emotionally abusive for years, and a generally crap and incompetent shouty dad, who nevertheless had some wonderful Disney dad moments which my boys remember with fondness. He hit me in front of the boys, so I called the police. He hasn't been back since (obviously! )

I was keen for him to maintain some relationship with the children, so pushed for him to use a contact centre. There is no way I want him having unsupervised contact - he just wouldn't cope with them both, I don't trust him an inch, and he is incapable of managing ds1's life threatening medical needs.

He saw them at a local contact centre a few times, then breached the non molestation order, so wasn't allowed to use that contact centre any more (naccc national policy). I found a different contact centre, run by a group of churches, and took the boys every fortnight to see him there - this was a six hour round trip involving four buses and quite a lot of walking.

The boys enjoyed seeing him, but were very tired and emotional afterwards. Ds1 started being generally clingy and upset, having nightmares, tantrums and refusing to be apart from me at all (he is seven).

ExH started using the contact centre to harass and annoy me. I felt unsafe, especially as it seemed the staff were completely convinced by his Disney dad routine. One day he called them and threatened suicide, so that the police spent all day with me and the boys while they looked for him. It was very distressing for the children. After that, I stopped contact altogether, which was a tough decision but I am trying to protect the boys!

ExH is refusing to go on a domestic violence course, or to take me to family court for a child arrangement order. Either of those things would trigger a cafcass report, so I would know if it was safe for him to see the boys. He makes all sorts of silly excuses. Instead, he has been plastering links to sites about parental alienation all over Facebook.

I'm terrified that divorcing him will provoke something nasty happening - and even more terrified that he will have unsupervised contact with the boys. I honestly do fear for their safety. Will a judge believe me? I hear so many terrible stories about violent and abusive men having whole weekends unsupervised with their children. ..

Does anyone have any experience of this kind of thing? I'm sorry my post is so rambly and incoherent. ... sad

Ijustwannabreakfree Tue 26-Apr-16 19:53:39

Hi worried, I'm no legal expert but didn't want to read and run. When he hit you did the police refer to MARAC?

worriedaboutmyboys Tue 26-Apr-16 20:09:38

Thanks for responding. The police were awful at the time, and believed my exes version of events. However, ncdv helped me get a non molestation order, and the police started taking me seriously (I've since had an apology from them).

Social services did a report which says they have no concerns about my parenting, but would have concerns if my husband came back.

There is kind of a paper trail of everything that happened, but I still can't help worrying. .. I don't want him to see them unless I know it is safe, and very, very supervised.

pocketsaviour Tue 26-Apr-16 20:10:03

I'm not a legal expert either, but if he's got a conviction (?) or caution for domestic violence, you were awarded a non-mol which he breached, was kicked out of one contact centre, and wasted police time with his threats - I think it's unlikely that a judge would dismiss your concerns.

I'm terrified that divorcing him will provoke something nasty happening
Something nasty is already happening. He's controlling you through fear of his reaction. He can't be allowed to continue like this. You need to show your children that the way to deal with bullies is to stand up to the fuckers, not bend over and keep taking it for fear of them getting even worse.

pocketsaviour Tue 26-Apr-16 20:10:55

Just to pick up on this point.
I was keen for him to maintain some relationship with the children

alphacourse Tue 26-Apr-16 20:18:18

I've been heard at marac 5 times and ex has several arrests under his belt for ABH against me etc. However, as he hadn't been convicted of the assaults the judge awarded 50:50. Be careful - it's mental in family courts post April 2014.

OliviaBenson Tue 26-Apr-16 20:26:11

Do you need to start proceedings now? Can you not wait until the time period when it becomes non-contest able and so it might be easier?

OliviaBenson Tue 26-Apr-16 20:26:42

I'd just be worried about rocking the boat. Could you get advice from WA?

bizzybee1234 Tue 26-Apr-16 20:33:03

You can petition for divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour or 2 years separation. Child proceedings are entirely separate, and if he wants contact, he will have to start those proceedings.

If social services have recommended that he shouldn't have contact, or that contact should be supervised, then a judge is unlikely to go against that. It doesn't sound like he would put himself through that, if he is not interested at the moment.

Is he paying child support?

worriedaboutmyboys Tue 26-Apr-16 21:15:09

Oh dear, alphacourse - that's exactly what I didn't want to hear! I'm so sorry that has happened to you and your children. How are they coping?

pocketsaviour I agree entirely about standing up to exH's bullying behaviour. I owe it to the children to let them see me do this. In the beginning, I was keen for him to maintain some relationship with them because I believed the mantra about contact with both parents always being good. However, I've been questioning that for a long time now... They were so confused after they had seen him, and I suspect that he told them all sorts of rubbish. I don't think he is capable of being a positive influence in their lives, and honestly think they would be better off without the confusion and upset of seeing him.

I don't want to give him the opportunity to emotionally abuse them, or to put their physical safety at risk. I tell them he still loves them, but that I don't know where he is at the moment (this is true, I have no idea where he is living). We talk about happy memories as well as sad ones, and say that it's okay for us all to love him still, but I have explained very clearly that all the shouting, being unkind and hitting people that he did was wrong, and it won't be safe for him ever to live with us again.

Olivia I know what you man about rocking the boat. It’s the reason I have put off divorcing him for so long. However, I’ve got to bit the bullet sooner or later, if only because I need a financial settlement (my money situation is not good). He is paying the minimum of child maintenance through CMO.

There are records of him breaching the non-molestation order by ringing me loads of times. I kept on reporting him to the police for that. When he staged an ‘accidental’ meeting on the street with the children present, and hung around with us for ages (with sad puppy-dog eyes and stories about missing us), he was arrested and charged. He got a month’s community sentence for that, and I know he was very angry about it. Still, none of the breaches were actually violent, so I am worried that the ‘wrong’ judge might think he doesn’t pose a threat to the children.

Thank you all so much for responding. I suppose I ought to have more faith in the court system (I have read Sturge and Glaiser and Practice Directions 12J) but I do worry when I hear stories like yours, alphacourse sad

worriedaboutmyboys Tue 26-Apr-16 21:20:14

bizzybee - am I right in understanding that I can get a divorce and financial settlement without the question of child arrangements ever coming up in court??

That would be good! I know it is the non-resident parent who has to apply to the courts for contact, and I don't think he will bother any time soon, so I might be worrying about nothing, right?

bizzybee1234 Tue 26-Apr-16 21:31:24

The divorce is separate from both financial and child proceedings.

The petition is basically asking the court to dissolve your marriage. If the court is satisfied that there are good enough reasons (adultery, unreasonable behaviour, separation for 2 years) and your ex agrees, then they will grant a decree nisi. You have to wait 6 weeks and then apply for the decree absolute. Then you are divorced.

If you want financial relief, then you need to either agree a financial arrangement with your ex and present it to the court as a consent order, or you need to actually start financial proceedings. You do not have to make any financial agreement, but that is not a good idea because it doesn't give you any certainty and he can spend his and your joint money how he likes.

If you or he wants a formal child contact order, again you can agree one and present it to the court, or you or he can start child proceedings. You do not have to have child proceedings and in fact the courts encourage parents to come to their own arrangements without either an agreed or a court-mandated order.

worriedaboutmyboys Tue 26-Apr-16 21:58:29

Thank you bizzy that's really good news about the child arrangements. I don't think he will start proceedings. I think it will suit him better to be able to tell everyone I am withholding the children from him.

The financial order does worry me - I don't think it would be a good idea to go to mediation with him because he'll just tell lies, try to scare me and hold everything up indefinitely. I'm just going to have to put my faith in the welfare of the children coming first (I need to stay in the house, for all sorts of reasons, and don't have a bean to buy exH out with - but there is very little equity so I don't think I will be asked to sell up because the disruption to the children would hugely outweigh any gain to ex H)

Thank you so much for your help!

bizzybee1234 Tue 26-Apr-16 22:06:47

It's a lot cheaper to try and reach an agreement. The mediator is trained to help and if you think he is lying you can stop the mediation and go to court.

Contested financial proceedings can be very stressful, and the key is to get a good solicitor.

alphacourse Wed 27-Apr-16 07:42:12

Mine aren't coping well. He hits them - but that's not enough for SS to intervene, despite his history.

worriedaboutmyboys Wed 27-Apr-16 21:02:34

Oh alpha I'm so sorry to hear that. .. It's so utterly rubbish that children have to pay for the failings in the system sad It must be so hard for you to deal with this. Even when we do the best we can I think that, when we have been through domestic abuse, it inevitably affects our mothering to some extent. Trying to be a "twice as good" mother, in order to counteract the damage inflicted by a violent father is very tough, and you have my respect! ! flowers

bizzy bee I have called a good solicitor, who has experience in domestic violence cases. She was great on the phone. .. I'm filling in forms for legal help.

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