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Mediation with abusive ex re contact with baby - what do I say?(22 Posts)
I don't know if this is the right place to put this question... for some background, I have a previous thread here that I started from a totally different angle and now realise that I really need some advice with this mediation thing.
My abusive ex is pushing for contact with 2 month old baby. I met with the mediator, who has suggested shuttle mediation (meaning I don't have to be in the same room as my ex during the appointment, we arrive and leave at different times). He asked me in the initial appointment, if I could wave a magic wand, what would I want to happen ideally... the only thing I want is for my ex to be out of our lives altogether. My magic wand would make him disappear for good. So, I really don't know what I'm supposed to say or what my stance should be in the session.
For a start, DD is only 2 months old and EBF on demand, so she can't be away from me (I really don't want her away from me anyway). I believe that once the ex has gotten his own way and is controlling me/us again he will get bored and stop seeing her as soon as something better comes along, which is obviously not fair on DD. Having been through that as a child myself, I wouldn't wish it on anyone, let alone my own daughter. I know he is only doing all this to regain control, it is not in anyone's best interests other than for his own satisfaction. This is majorly stressing me out and having a detrimental effect on my mental health and consequently ability to effectively parent.
What do I say? I can't just go in there and refuse any contact can I? As mentioned in previous post, a solicitor advised me to do mediation as if it gets to court, they won't care about the history of emotional and physical abuse in the relationship. I just think that if the ex can't treat a grown woman properly, how will he manage with a young girl? I don't want him and his family to ruin her life.
If anyone has any suggestions as to what I should be saying / asking for / agreeing to, I'd be very grateful. I've no idea and I'm feeling increasingly anxious about it all.
Sorry this is so long... Thank you if anyone reads this far!
I'm surprised that your solicitor advised mediation tbh. My solicitor said I didn't need to do it because ex was abusive. (although ours would have been about money rather than access to children).
Perhaps get a second opinion from a different solicitor but if both say you need to at least attend mediation then you need to do that.
Contact at this age should be little and often (a couple of hours several times a week). It can be in a contact centre if you can prove he is a risk to his child.
If you resist all contact and he takes you to court, you will have a very, very difficult time. Why isn't your magic wand wish that he steps up, goes on a perpetrators course etc. You're basically wishing for your daughter not to have a father. The court will not like that. Do not go into court with that attitude.
As mentioned in previous post, a solicitor advised me to do mediation as if it gets to court, they won't care about the history of emotional and physical abuse in the relationship.
Surely if the abuse is documented the court wont choose to ignore it, or Id hope they wouldnt if that makes sense
The mediator should be refusing mediation as it is inapripriate. I would just explain and say that I was not prepared to do it.
I had this. Eventually the mediator said not appropriate for mediation, and we went to court.
We are a year down the line and just finished with court. The court were interested in the physical and emotional abuse. It went to fit finding an they found in my favour.
It was when it got to cafcass that it fell apart. They suggested every other weekend fri-Sunday, and this is what he got.
HOWEVER, I did get a live with order, a non molestation order, and supervised hand overs.
My case was different though, in that DS is 4, and had been having EOW with Dad until 18 months ago when I fell apart due to added risk.
The courts view is that DV does impact on parenting capacity, however they will always try to manage that risk to facilitate contact however possible.
At this stage, with the age of your baby, that might be one hour a couple of times a week with your mum or someone supervising. It might build up in a couple of years, if he is making changes.
You could ask that he completes a Domestic violence perpetrators course, prior to any contact starting or being unsupervised.
I would refuse mediation, and wait and see if he takes you to court.
If he does, stay reasonable at all times. You want your child to have meaningful, beneficial safe contact with Dad. But it has to be safe.
Get the boundaries in place to keep you safe. Non molestation order, supervised contact (not supervised by you!), use a contact book for communication. Report everything to police for an audit trail.
Keep your side clean.
If you haven't already, get onto the freedom programme, and some counselling.
Feel feee to PM me if you like. Also if you need the details of a shit hot ball breaking solicitor specialist in DV.
He may well not bother to take you to court.
Is he on the birth certificate?
Alice I know you're right - I'd just rather she had no father than a shit one who dips in and out when he feels like asserting his control. I know I haven't got a let to stand on to resist contact completely, which is why I'm trying to do the mediation to show willing.
Just it's not all documented unfortunately, other than medical records, there's not been a lot of police involvement as I didn't tell anyone or admit to it until recently. The solicitor said that even if it was, courts would always grant access unless high risk to safety of child.
Mooey - no, he's not on the birth certificate. Excellent idea about him doing a course prior to contact. I know he doesn't think he's done anything wrong in the past and that I'm just being difficult for no reason. Unfortunately I'm pretty sure he would take me to court as he wants to remain in control (the Mediator said a pre-requesit (sp?) for court is doing the mediation anyway) - he has a lot of money behind him, has a well paid job and lives with a family member, so very few outgoings. Whereas I live on my own with 4 children and run a house and car on just maternity allowance at the moment.
I'm really trying not to be unreasonable and, as you say, keep it clean from my side and show willing to do things right. It took all my strength to cut contact and I just feel like I needn't have bothered.
I sound really selfish and that I'm only thinking of myself, depriving my daughter of a father. I just don't want him to mess her life up like he has mine.
I am on a waiting list for counselling at the moment.
Sorry, I sound so negative. It's hard to see there will be a positive outcome to any of this mess. So cross with myself, just want to hide indoors forever.
Don't be cross with yourself.
It's so hard love. DS was 6 months when I left and had nothing, so I do understand.
Medical records are evidence.
I had no evidence of strangulation except my testimony and the fact that I left the home. The court believed me.
I also used the reams of texts.
Mediation is a pre requisite unless it's domestic abuse. Mediation is not appropriate for abusive situations.
I get that, and honestly, 8 weeks after having a baby your head is probably still a bit all over the place anyway, without all of this to worry about.
I know several parents that are shitty, useless partners in romantic relationships but are good parents to their children. I don't mean to excuse anything you've had to go through, but it's important to hold in your mind that he could be a good dad. It doesn't sound like he's had chance to prove himself either way yet. Agreeing to supervised contact in the short term should ease your fears and give him chance to prove himself without risk. You don't need to be in direct contact with him at all, and you can restrict any indirect contact to only be about the child.
If you've taken legal advice and they've said there isn't enough evidence for the court to restrict contact then I would do mediation and offer supervised contact. Once it's in court, the decision may well be out of your hands and if the court decides you're unreasonably blocking or restricting contact then they may make you make your child available for more contact than he's even asking for. By offering contact little, often and supervised you can retain control of what happens.
Sounds like your ex is trying to push your buttons and regain some power and control here. That is what this is all about; he's not thinking of this child at all. He wants to use this child to get back at you as punishment for you leaving him.
Mediation is not recommended at all if there has been abuse of any type within the relationship. You've been poorly advised here by this mediator.
I would contact Womens Aid and get their counsel as well on this matter.
To use mediation is to subscribe to the mistaken idea that abuse is related to "misunderstandings" or lack of communication.
If discussion and compromise, the mainstay of mediation, could help in any way most domestic violence situations would be long ago resolved because victims of abuse "discuss and compromise" constantly. Mediation assumes both parties will cooperate to make agreements work; the victim has always 'cooperated' with the abuser; the abuser never cooperates.
Mediation can be and is ordered by judges/courts, as can counselling and mental health evaluations. They are tools in the abuser's arsenal to be used against the victim as often as he chooses. In order for mediation to work and to not make situations worse the parties involved must have equal power and must share some common vision of resolution. This is clearly not present when domestic violence has taken place in a relationship.
Mediation practitioners must be alert to the need to interview partners separately with specially designed questions in order to determine if abuse is or has been present. Many domestic violence professionals can train others to screen safely for domestic violence. To not do so risks unsuccessful mediations, at best, and increasing the victim's danger by colluding with the abuser, at worst.
A person who has been terrorized by an abuser is not free to participate in a mediation process with him, even if the mediator(s) assume or believe that they "understand". Being truthful about any of her needs or experiences in the abuser's presence or proximity practically ensures that she is in more danger later.
The mediator is left with a no win: either the victim's danger is increased, or she is not fully or truthfully participating, or both. The well meaning mediator may actually encourage the victim to feel safe enough to share information that could seriously compromise her safety. In any case the whole intent of mediation is lost.
To engage an abuser and a victim in a process that implies equal responsibility is damaging to both. The victim is once again made to feel responsible for the abuser's behavior, and the abuser is allowed to continue to not accept full responsibility for his behaviour choices
He actually has another child from a previous relationship before me. He also had to go to mediation with that child's mum over child contact and property... says a lot I suppose. When we were together he would mainly stay at his parents on the days/nights he had his DS. So he never had to do any normal household stuff like cooking, washing clothes etc (I started a thread about that a long time ago as I didn't know if the amount of time he slept at his parents' house was usual for a grown man in his 30s who had his own house at the time). He said his parents would always undermine his authority with his DS, keeping him up 'til 11pm at night feeding him sweets and chocolate when he was 3/4/5 years old. I don't know how much of that is really true, but it is a concern. Anyway... that is the experience/knowledge I have of his parenting skills at the moment.
Thank you everyone for your input, I really appreciate it. Still not really the wiser if mediation is the way to go or not now - I will check with Women's Aid or maybe see if I can find another solicitor who can offer some free advice. Just thinking about having to be apart from DD, especially knowing she'll be with him, makes me tearful, which is really pathetic I know. I used to be stronger.
Atilla you are spot on. It's all about what HE wants and him regaining the control he lost when I went NC. I have endless texts and emails demanding what he wants, telling me what to do and that he doesn't care about me (ironic because it started off as 'please talk to me I'm worried about you), he wants to see HIS daughter.
Well, if I have to negotiate, be it through mediation or courts or whatever, I think as per all your advice that I'd request he do a DV perpetrator course before anything and then arrange supervised contact - can this be in some sort of contact centre rather than in anyone's home? I'm not sure I'd be comfortable putting my mum in that situation after he harrassed her in her home and I wouldn't really want any of his family involved, so could I ask Women's Aid or the Mediator to do the supervision? Or am I just being difficult? My head is all over the place with this, it's so hard to be rational and separate the emotions out of it all.
A contact centre sounds appropriate.
I imagine you'd need to prove that he was a risk to your child in order for the court to order that he attends a perpetrators course but you can certainly ask. This may be alongside the supervised contact rather than before any contact takes place.
I don't think that they attended mediation says a lot, tbh. Lots of couples attend mediation for all kinds of reasons.
Thank you atilla your second post perfectly articulates how I feel about this - that I'm back to doing as he says and I'm the one who has to compromise whilst he gets to call the shots as usual. So why did I bother cutting contact in the first place as I'm back where I started.
Alice I think what I meant was that having to go to mediation with more than one partner makes it seem like he's a difficult person to come to an agreement/compromise with without outside help as he's not a reasonable person. The father of my other children and I have a very amicable arrangement about children, money and all sorts without having to go to mediation. Admittedly my view is somewhat skewed due to my current situation, so probably seeing what I want to see. Sorry, didn't mean to offend anyone.
The mediator is left with a no win: either the victim's danger is increased, or she is not fully or truthfully participating, or both.
I said the same thing to the mediator bloke - that it would be pointless putting us in the same room to mediate as I would never be able to be completely open and honest about everything that had gone on. In this case, whilst there was some physical abuse, it was mostly EA and complete head fuck (s'cuse my language) than anything else. So physical danger isn't the problem so much as my head being messed with again. I have been trying so hard to get my head straight, for the sake of the children as much as myself. Now I feel like I'm going backwards and that's before I even get to the mediation. Same room with the ex or not.
I don't even know if I'm making sense any more. Just need to get it out... I really need that counselling!
You can certainly suggest a contact centre.
The one round here has a 6 week wait time too, which will give you a little bit of breathing space and your baby will be just a little bit bigger which will help.
I totally get what you're saying about rationalising things and your head being all over the place - I describe it as my head being a horders house and I can't begin to order my thoughts into boxes because it's so jumbled!
Start by saying clearly, in writing, through your solicitor ideally
'Please direct any contact regarding dD to <email address>. I will pick up this email on a Monday and Wednesday between 9-10am. This email will not be monitored at other times.
That sets the parameters for contact between he and you.
Keep all communication business like and calm. Do not respond to anything that does not directly relate to DD's immediate welfare.
Tell him that he is welcome to set up supervised contact at a local centre. When you receive the details of this, you are prepared to make DD available for one hour, three times per week.
He needs to set it up and pay for it.
If he doesn't, fine. I bet he won't. Because it's not on his terms. Mine wouldn't, he then sent me court papers.
He's had 5 hours of contact per week now imposed by the court now for the last year.
It was only at the last hearing (Friday) that this increased to overnights.
You can do it. You are strong. Set down boundaries and DO NoT let him push them.
You need your boundaries set in concrete and you need to let the concrete set which means you must not let him try to move the boundary you have put down.
Your baby is so little. They won't take her away from you. He'll tell you he's going for joint custody, full custody, etc. He won't get it.
Oh, and if you can, read Lundy Bahncroft 'why does he do that'. It will really help you get things clear in your head.
Thanks Mooey, love that hoarders house analogy - I currently living in the back garden of mine, it's times like these when I open the door to my hoard that the mess spills out and I don't know how to control it! It's such a relief to know that it's not just me, because I feel so alone IRL with all this, like no-one believes me and this whole situation is my own fault. It's really, really hard to get out of that mindset as I've had it drummed into me for so long, I can't quite get used to making my own decisions again. I feel like this mediation thing is setting me right back... I'm back to having to 'play the game' again and make sure he's happy, if that makes sense.
Brilliant idea about the email, I will definitely pinch that one. If I open the lines of communication again, he will go back to bombarding me left, right and centre again like before. And no doubt have a go about me being so difficult in all this.
Thank you for sharing your experience - do you find it hard letting your DC go to your ex? I am absolutely dreading it, even if it is all on my terms. Silly, I know.
This is a man who sent me a solicitors letter demanding contact before dd was even born, his reasoning being that he had no choice as I'd "threatened him" with police if he continued to attend my home and harass me. This also meant he had no choice but to harass my mother at her home as well. I'm sure if I give boundaries as suggested, he'll "have no choice" but to take me to court and do things on his terms as he will have lost control again.
Sorry. I don't want to moan about all the things he's done. I'm sure many of us could compare notes on that score! Just need to get it out of my system now and again as locking it away is driving me crazy.
Get it out, get it all out. Mine also had 'no choice' but to take it to court!
It's the first overnight in over a year on 22nd of July. I'm not going to lie to you, I sobbed to my barrister in court when I realised I'd have to agree to it BUT my life is so much better since going to court because now everything is structured and no messing around.
It is easier for me because DS loves his daddy. He isn't scared of him, yet.
I note down every comment from dS, every concern, every single incident. It does get easier.
I wouldn't even think about unsupervised contact yet anyway, with your DD being so young.
It will be safe if it's supervised. It will be harder for you than for her. X
"Yet"... that's what really scares me, your 'yet'. It sounds like you are preparing for the inevitability that your DS will be scared of his dad at some point . You must be absolutely dreading the 22nd - I'd be counting down the days already if I were in your position. You are so amazing and strong, I am in awe!
I don't know, maybe the ex will be a great dad, maybe he's a changed man, maybe he's learnt a lesson, maybe there won't be a "yet". I can't seem to deal with 'maybe' at the moment. I can't separate the man that threw me across a room and blamed me for it from a man that professes to be a caring father to my tiny baby girl. I may not deserve better but she certainly does and all I want to do is protect her. I don't want her to know that her father encouraged her mother to jump off a bridge. Or that he couldn't stay faithful when she was growing in her mummy's tummy. I would never tell her those things but I don't feel at all comfortable about her being around such a manipulative, self centred man. It's not a good example to grow up with.
I don't really know what I'm saying any more. Half asleep after a night feed and feeling lonely and vulnerable.
What support do you have in real life?
I had a support worker for a while from the local domestic abuse team, but also what about home start, the children's centre, your Health Visitor?
Atila, your email is the best explanation I have ever seen of why mediation cannot work with an abuser and reflects my experience exactly.
My health visitor is aware of the situation and I have regular appointments with my Dr who has been fab. I find it really difficult to talk to anyone about all this in a face to face setting as I'm so used to covering things up and appearing like everything is fine
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