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Where do I start with getting legal advice re divorce and custody?

(6 Posts)
CanHeDoThis Mon 12-Jan-09 08:02:01

Where do I start with getting legal advice re divorce/custody etc?

(I apologise for the change of name. I'm a regular poster here and because of my circumstances it's pretty easy to work out who I am - but I would like to at least try to have some anonymity with this issue.)

I am currently on maternity leave with DD2 (seven weeks old). DD1 is nearly 4. DH is registered disabled - he has a chronic, progressive, disease - but is still managing to work although his employer raised questions twice last year about his performance - it went to first-stage disciplinary - and he almost lost his job.

What's been happening is the usual (?) new-baby rows about "I'm doing more than you" etc, brought on by lack of sleep. However we've had two major rows in the past week that have really scared me. Both times I have been up literally ALL night. I don't cope well with broken sleep (does anyone?) and have ended up getting really upset with (D)H (including swearing blush). He is now throwing this back in my face and calling me "psychotic" and has twice threatened to leave - with the girls.

I find this terrifying. Can he do that? What would the legal position be if he just left with them? Does it change things that I am currently breastfeeding DD2? I am so scared. This morning he got very spiteful and started saying stuff about how my "past history" of PND with DD1 would look in court, and how this time round I'm just psychotic - which really isn't true.

I don't have the slightest bit of PND this time round - let alone psychosis. I just have a very bad temper when I have had no sleep at all and see (D)H lying next to me blissfully asleep as I get up yet again to settle DD2. I managed to get him to back off a bit by mentioning that I've been seen by midwives, health visitors and the GP and they all KNOW I don't have PND...

but I'm still scared.

Can anyone give me any advice on what the position would be if he upped and left? Also where can I start with getting legal advice? Do I just go to the Citizen's Advice, or do I approach a solicitor?

I'm also scared that he could use the fact I work full-time against me as well (though currently on maternity leave). Obviously if we separate I would have to give up work - but at the moment I am the main breadwinner (by a long way) and because of (D)H's disability - a progressive illness - we agreed several years ago it was best for the family if I were to pursue my career in case he ever has to give his up or go part time. I have heard anecdotally that courts take a dim view of working mothers but have no idea whether this is actually true.

mumoverseas Mon 12-Jan-09 08:40:06

please try not to worry and don't be scared.
From what you have said, I find it very hard to believe that any court in the land would give him residence (formerly called custody) of your girls. Don't listen to his bullshit (there is no better word to describe it) about him getting them, that is nonsense.
Firstly, if he did go and take them you should make sure you get them back straight away. If he refused, you may have to involve the police although in some areas they are slightly less helpful than in others and may try and fob you off with going to see a family lawyer. This will obviously take time, so you should be as pushy as you need to be.
As you are breastfeeding DD2, common sense should prevail (with your H and the police)
If you are constantly worried that he will carry out your threat then you may want to consider preventative steps to ensure that you are protected by the law if he did take them.
This would involve you making an application through the County Courts for a Residence Order. You would need to instruct a family lawyer in this regard. To be honest, I think I'd skip the CAB (not always that helpful as contrary to popular belief the majority of the staff do not have any legal qualifications and therefore don't always give correct advice) You can either look in your local yellow pages for a family lawyer (member of Resolution would be good), contact your local County Court for recommendations or alternatively the Law Society. Bearing in mind your personal circumstances you would almost certainly be eligile for Public Funding (legal aid) so make sure you go to a lawyer that offers this as not that many do anymore unfortunately.

Just posting this and will carry on as DD aged 2 keeps trying to grab the laptop and don't want to lose this! TBC

mumoverseas Mon 12-Jan-09 08:49:30

IF, he attempted to get residence of the girls he would in laymans terms, look a twat. The Courts paramount concern with regards to this type of application is the welfare of the children involved. They will have heard all sorts of stupid accusations before and will see through him. Show me a woman that doesn't have a bad temper due to sleepless nights and lack of support!

It is nonsense that the Courts take a dim view of working mothers so please do not worry about this. Presumably you will be off work for a while and when/if you return you will sort out appropriate arrangements for your children. This does not make you the less able parent to have the day to day care of the childen and anyone who says differently is talking through their backside. Obviously if you were a real high flier career woman that had to use a full time live in nanny as you were jet setting off around the world and were hardly ever at home that would be different but assume that is not the case.
You should therefore please try not to worry about your H's idle threats. As you say, you have spoken to your GP/midwife and it is documented that you do not have PND.
My advice would be to locate a local family lawyer (with a legal aid franchise) and arrange an appointment. You may not be able to get one for a few days/next week as traditionally January is the busiest time for divorces so plan ahead and make an appointment now for as soon as you can get one. That way, you will hopefully be one step ahead should he try to follow through with his threats and you won't then be in a panic trying to find a lawyer.

Turning to the issue of the divorce, the only two facts on which you can petition immediately are your H's adultery or his unreasonable behaviour. From what you've said it would be pretty easy to get a petition together on his unreasonable behavior. Failing that, you are looking at 2 years separation (with his consent) desertion for 2 years or 5 years separation (which he doesn't need to consent to) The major priority at the moment however has to be yours and the girls security so please deal with that first.
Good luck and if you need any more advice, there are always family lawyers lurking on here

OptimistS Mon 12-Jan-09 09:02:04

CanHeDoThis, I really sympathise with you. What a horrible situation. sad

Can't give you any better advice than mumoverseas who has it spot on. However, thought it might help you feel better if I told you that personal experience has told me that mumoverseas is very definitely right about the whole PND thing. Courts/welfare officers are very used to men throwing this accusation into the ring for no good reason other than spite. My ex tried it with me and it was seen through straight away. My HV and the SW I briefly had assigned to me (until they were sure I definitely wasn't going back to abusive ex) both told me that so many men do this that the claim is nearly always disregarded unless there is medical evidence to back it up. If they have concerns, they may request a medical assessment, but yours sound pretty thorough anyway, so it probably wouldn't apply.

Sounds horrible to say this, but I would think that his progressive illness would be more of a bar to his looking after the children than your previous history of PND that has been dealt with and no longer applies anyway.

Try not to stress too much and hope things work out for you. smile

CanHeDoThis Mon 12-Jan-09 10:20:48

Thank you - both of you. I will try to see a family lawyer so I'm at least certain of my ground. I had been thinking it was just words said in anger the first time, but now he's said it twice I am taking it much more seriously. Thanks especially for the advice re his coments about PND.

mumoverseas Mon 12-Jan-09 12:48:37

good luck canhedothis, better to be on the safe side and be prepared, just in case. x

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