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cafcass 'children's wishes and feelings?'

(35 Posts)
bubblyandsparkly Thu 17-Nov-16 15:58:57

I am currently going though a very difficult divorce. We are 8 months in and currently I have the children 17, 12 and 14 living with me and their dad sees younger two midweek for dinner (2hrs) and then all day Saturday 8 hrs. Over this time he has never asked for increased contact and doesn't text or call them between contact. he has been a controlling and very disciplinarian father and husband over the years, relationships with the children were never loving and caring more I say and you do! Our 17 year old stopped direct contact with him after witnessing him violently assault me me post -separation. He has now entered a new relationship (poor her) with a younger woman with a child, they now appear to be co-habiting. Without any attempt to speak to me about increased contact made a direct application for full custody. I know this is purely in spite to me, as he threatened me with this when I left him. with the words 'you are dead to me and I will destroy you'. He knows this is his one and only weapon against me and was the reason I stayed with him many many years longer than I should have. I have been through hell and back these last few months. Following the first hearing the Court ordered a section 7 report and that is in process at the moment, we return to court in a few weeks for the next hearing. My solicitor has advised he will certainly not get full residency but will likely be offered weekend overnights and half the holidays (standard) - the children are freaking out saying they want to leave things as they are, they don't want overnights EVER, they are scared of him when hes angry and don't want to be forced into staying with him or holidays. He is a heavy drinker and volatile. He has never physically harmed them, but is an emotional bully. A day at a time they can cope with but no more. I know the Cafcass reporter is supposed to present the children's wishes and feelings to court, but the things I read on here make me dubious about how much they actually take on board. If the children tell them they genuinely don't want to increase contact and are fearful of overnights will that be taken into consideration? What I am dreading is an order saying they have to go and then I am left to deal with them getting distraught every weekend when they don't want to. I have shared my concerns over the children's feelings about overnights with the officer, but I felt they were dismissed as being petty and that I should just get over it. I pretty much feel like it will happen he has rights so we have to all suck it up! Where do the children's feelings come into it? what is the point of asking them how they feel and then ignoring it? has any one had a positive experience of the Cafcass report taking the children's opinions into consideration and presenting them to court?

Aeroflotgirl Thu 17-Nov-16 16:26:42

At that age, the courts tend to take the children's wishes and feelings into account. If they don't want to see him, they don't have to.

Candlestickchick Thu 17-Nov-16 17:02:15

Take advice from your solicitor but as a former family lawyer, at that age the children's wishes and feelings will be very influential. Court unlikely to force them to go if they don't want to.

Just be aware though your children may feel caught in the middle and often they tell one parent something different to the other. I'm not saying that's the case here but the point of cafcass is to get their views independent of worrying about upsetting one parent or other
Sounds a horrible situation - good luck flowers

bubblyandsparkly Thu 17-Nov-16 17:41:58

Thanks both of you for replying.
I don't think the kids feel caught in the middle. I have always encouraged weekly contact and tell them they have free choices. It is them who expressed to me they don't want to stay over, although granted they may change their minds at somepoint if dad makes an effort to engage with them and reassure them. I wish they had a better relationship with him. But sadly he has intimidated & shouted at them so much over the years, they don't feel they can relax and be themselves in his company, when he is 'off on one' he seems to be able to maintain 'nice dad' during daytime contact particularly when new GF and child are there, but past scars take time to heal and they are wary that this change is not permanent. I was hoping that an order might be made to leave contact as it is for now, but for them to increase it as and when they feel safe & comfortable with overnights. that way they won't feel 'forced' & if they stay & he kicks off, they can call me to pick them up, without me being accused of breaching the order. This seems unlikely to me though as everything I read about Cafcass is they push overnights regardless unless there are 'proven' risks to the children, them merely not being happy with it due to his 'personality type' doesn't seem a good enough reason. My solicitor has basically said we wait for the cafcass report and go from there..,, so I have a few more weeks of anxiety feeling like I am the one stuck in the middle! I want to encourage contact - but also understand why they feel as they do because I felt the same way for the majority of the marriage, treading on eggshells and bowing to his every whim for fear of being verbally & emotionally abused, to me that kind of abuse is just as scary as being physically abused. I get scared whenever his name comes up on my phone or I see his car, and I am a 40 yr old woman. His adult children from his previous relationship decribe him as a bully and they all stopped contact as soon as they had a choice. Very very sad. My DS said Cafcass asked 'if we had a magic wand what would you change about your dad?' He said he told them, no one will ever change my dad, he's always been like this and he doesn't care if he upsets us. So so dad x

bubblyandsparkly Thu 17-Nov-16 17:43:15

* typo Should say so so sad!

goddessofsmallthings Thu 17-Nov-16 18:25:35

Aw your poor ds, sad but please take heart because, as Candlestickchick has said, given the ages of your dc it's highly unlikely that the Court will order an increase in contact or initiate overnight stays if it's against their wishes.

I hope you'll come back with an update and would suggest you ask mumsnet to move this thread to the Relationships board where you'll get the advice and support you need to reduce/eliminate your fear of the tinpot tyrant who's terrorised you, and your dc, for far too long.

Thefishewife Thu 17-Nov-16 18:30:16

Just smile and nod he has more luck getting custody transferred as I have marrying George cloney

They have the contact they want at that age contact agasit wishes encourages running away Ect

I think he's in for a shocker at the same time wasting loads of money

Twinchaos1 Thu 17-Nov-16 18:39:28

Given their ages what they want will hold a significant amount of influence in any section 7 report. The only challenge would be if they say one thing to you and another to dad. Try not to worry too much.

Leanback Thu 17-Nov-16 18:51:42

I agree with pps only thing I will add is if you can try to evidence that you have encouraged contact so to ensure that the courts cannot misconstrue where the reluctance for overnights come from.

Hopefully you childrens wishes and feelings will be listened to. Fingers crossed op.

bubblyandsparkly Thu 17-Nov-16 22:01:36

Hi everyone, THANKYOU for your lovely words of support. It's a long tough road, one I have avoided for years for this very reason. I obviously can only base my children's feelings on what I witness and hear from them when in my care. The ex tells s different story about how much they want to be with him etc etc - although I find it hard to imagain that children who have spent years hiding in their bedrooms to avoid his abuse would suddenly after a few short months want to spend unsupervised overnight contact with him, and even more unlikely that they would be able to put on such an act of not wanting to go because they feel they should in front of me. We have a close relationship and I have always made it clear to them they have free choice to see him whenever they choose. cafcass are due to speak to DD in school next week because she is has physical and learning disabilities & they want the support of her teacher during the interview as she has communication issues. I doubt she will be able to or want to express her views as clearly as DS to a complete stranger but I just don't know. All I can do is put my faith in what appears to be an unreliable system and hope that the court listen to what the children want and doesn't emotionally damage them any further. I knew this would be a Battle but had no idea how emotionally exhausting it would be. I feel like he is manipulating and controlling us as much now - as he did when he was here - although the positive is at least now there is some end in sight rather than living in a never ending nightmare disguised as a 'family' everyday. I will update you as soon as I can. Reports are due in 3 weeks, but I won't lie I am not confident in anyway that they will help the situation, my understanding is that Cafcass sit on the fence in most cases unless there are serious sategaurding issues, at worse they will believe his latest insane rantings that I have 'brainwashed and alienated them' and it's me they are frightened of! Weird that his adult children have all stopped contact after his continual emotional abuse and even his children from a previous relationship maintain contact with me on a daily basis and still consider me as a parent despite being estranged from him.

bubblyandsparkly Thu 17-Nov-16 22:05:28

Ps how do I get admin to move this to Relationships!

DayToDayGlobalShit Thu 17-Nov-16 22:10:05

Have they done any overnights?

bubblyandsparkly Thu 17-Nov-16 22:12:09

No they've had no overnights since we seperated he never asked before, never even asked for extra day contact in the holidays. but suddenly new GF and wham! Straight to court for full residency!

abbsismyhero Thu 17-Nov-16 22:13:10

Report your own thread and put it under reasons

bubblyandsparkly Thu 17-Nov-16 22:14:21

He even refused to have them on teacher training days when I was working and he's unemployed! When we were together he refused to 'babysit' if I wanted to go out and I had to take them to their grandmas overnight.

Graceflorrick Thu 17-Nov-16 22:16:53

The court will uphold the views of the children. Please don't worry.

fuzzywuzzy Thu 17-Nov-16 22:17:55

I have had positive experience with cafcas however the first officer was really really bad.

The second I tried to dismiss my concerns and I totally lost it and told him I would hold him personally responsible should any harm come to my children as a direct result of his recommendations bin the face of clear evidence their father was abusive.
So instead of recommending contact this officer recommended ex complete a DV programme before contact was changed.

Ex failed to get on three DV programmes, got on one after applying several times and failed it.

The final officer who represented my children stood up for them, he spent time alone with them talking about their wishes and feelings and actually was very concerned for their wellbeing.
He did speak to me but it what I had to say wasn't his main focus it was what the DC had said and youngest had apparently drawn pictures for him.

I also had letters from school as dc1 was seeing the school senco due to the anxiety contact was causing her and both dc's behavioural patterns changed after contact and leading up to contact the head teacher also sent a statement about this.

I also had a judge who specialised in DV cases for the children's hearing, a previous judge took one look at the case and adjourned the hearing to the DV specialist judge saying she would handle it better.

My DC were after years of misery finally protected from ex and have not had direct contact with him since, he is allowed to write to them once a month but hasn't done apart from to tell them he had a child I suspect that was more to rub my face in it. I don't really care.

bubblyandsparkly Thu 17-Nov-16 22:20:20

Thanks Graceflorric it's hard not to worry. Infact I can't sleep with worry most nights. My only reassurance is that even if he gets an order my Somicitor has said if they refuse to go it will be impossible for the courts to enforce given their ages. But I don't want to put them in the situation where they feel like they have to go against there dad as I lnow they would find that terrifying if not impossible x

bubblyandsparkly Thu 17-Nov-16 22:25:32

Fuzzywuzzy thanks for sharing your story. It gives me hope that some cafcass people can see the risks that emotional abuse has on children over many years as well as the wife/partner. There was only one incident of Dv reported to the police (post separation) the rest is all emotional, co-ersive and bullying - which is hard to prove - shows no bruises but leaves as many scars.He is a clever & manipulative liar & that is why I am fearful he will be believed over the children. X

2shyshy Fri 18-Nov-16 10:16:19

Couldn't read and run, I had a very positive outcome with cafcass and the courts with a section 7 my two children were slightly younger than yours, only by a year each but they had the same wishes as yours and for virtually the same reasons, the cafcass officer backed them up to the court and the judge ruled that it was in the best interests of my children not to have any contact at all with the exh.

Musiclife Fri 18-Nov-16 10:26:47

My ten year old doesn't want to see his father and this was raised in court and accepted (not exactly the same situation as yours.) Even if he was made to, I couldn't enforce it as he screams and runs off and I couldn't forcibly get him in his father's car and it would be too distressing for everybody even if I could.

Your children have a lot of say in this because of their ages.

Aeroflotgirl Fri 18-Nov-16 10:49:15

That's what I think, court would not even be bothered with it

bubblyandsparkly Tue 06-Dec-16 09:43:05

Hi ladies just wanted to update you , got my Cafcass section 7 report back yesterday and I am over the moon. The officer has been very thorough, speaking to both children and the schools and taking specialist advice about my daughters special needs. She has recommended just what I hoped for, contact to remain as it is one evening and one full day at the weekend (no overnights) until the children wish for this to progress and on their terms. They are to have telephone access to me at all times during contact. He cannot take them on holiday without my permission and may only progress to overnights and holiday on dates that I have expressly agreed in writing and as and when they feel that they are ready for this and am confident he can meet their needs. She has picked up on his manipulative and controlling behaviour throughout the report, most of the examples coming from things HE said in his interview. She has recommended he attends parenting courses and anger management. Her conclusion is that the proceedings are causing the children much anxiety and need to end immediately! smile

bibliomania Tue 06-Dec-16 11:19:53

Hi OP, what fantastic news! Really glad for you.

For anyone reading and nervous about CAFCASS, yes they are overworked and sometimes get it wrong, but they do get it right a lot of the time, it's just that you don't hear about it. My experience with them was that they were fairly sensible.

bubblyandsparkly Tue 06-Dec-16 11:43:55

Yes Bibliomania, I had read hundreds of negatives and barely any positives and was very anxious about the report. However in this case the wishes of the children were taken very seriously and my concerns about ongoing emotional abuse were accepted as being valid. I only ever wanted the children to have their voices heard and understood and that is reflected throughout the report. My advice to anyone yet to have their interviews is to go in very positively and to focus purely on the wishes of the children at the current time, acknowledging that their views may change in time if the other parent is prepared to put in the work themselves to change the relationship with them into a more positive one. be the bigger person, avoid harping on about then horrible things you have experienced (very hard!) and say that you want the relationship with the other parent to improve for the best interest of the children (even when inside you wish them to shrivel up and fall in a hole lol). Just the Court to get through in two weeks - I know he will probably contest and go to a final hearing, but I'm not so worried now.

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