Going to court(9 Posts)
Just wanting to get some experiences from you lovely people.
DP is being stopped yet again from having some of his contact with his 2 DC's. She has "told" him she is stopping the midweek contact but "allowing" the weekend contact once a fortnight.
Their relationship is pretty much non existence. She only communicates through e-mail and then only one way (ie. she will send e-mails but not reply to them.) He has suggested twice that they go for mediation and he has pleaded with her to talk to him but she simply refuses.
DP has made a solicitors appointment this time as he is so fed up (as am I) with her games and just can't seem to get anywhere by talking to her family or through the kids (which has worked in the past), but I think DP thinks he will have access resumed within a week or so and I suspect it will be a lot longer than that and very costly for us but as she will be legally aided, I suspect she will hang things out for as long as possible.
I suppose I would just like some ideas of timescales and costs based on your experiences.
Been there got the t-shirt and the designer price tag it came with
Make sure you get a good solicitor and they'll probably arrange mediation via the courts as a first option. That didn't work for us unfortunately so we had to go the route of seeking various court orders which was costly (£5k roughly). Took us around 12 months (during which we had no access at all) to get everything in writing and resolved although if this is a new state of play for you you may find that a well worded solicitors letter will work wonders. I'm not sure if this is across the board but DH's ex played ball faster than we thought because she couldn't get funding to prevent access as that's not seen as in the interest of the child in most cases.
As an aside it might be worth getting a free half hour appointment and then broaching her directly with what you've discovered before sending letters-especially as he does still have some access, albeit not what you want.
In our experience court was very positive and I would suggest that if all reasonable methods fail then mediation followed by solicitors letters and ultimately court is necessary.
Best start is go to solicitors - find one who perhaps is a member of Resolution and who you feel comfortable with - phone around most will offer initial advice and then 30 mins free.
The first start is usually a letter to the resident parent asking to resume contact and discuss issues through mediation - this is likely to cost a few hundred pounds. If that ex won't agree to mediation or attend mediation (as in our case) and refuses to speak then just go ahead with the court proceeding.Mediation can be expensive - depending on location but maybe £200 for one session.
To go to court - you pay a fee to register the case - varies and the local court in the child's home area has a list of fees on their website usually, a solicitor prepares the paperwork and then it is your choice whether or not you have a barrister for the actual hearing day. Family court is not like criminal court - it is usually in a council type building, meetings rooms like a doctors waiting room, judge in a suit not gowns etc. If you have a barrister it would cost around £500 for the morning but they quote you at the time and area does affect the price.
In our case it was relatively straight forward, no reason for ex not to give contact, she had no parenting objections just liked to have the balance of power and decide when dh could see the DCs. The judge was very clear and in 10 mins awarded DH contact according to what he wanted. The court order is written up and then both parties are instructed to follow the court order. job done, no more having to plead for contact!
Now it can get more complex if at the first hearing the ex raises parenting concerns and says dad is unfit parent - in this case a cafcass officer is appointed to interview both parents and children if old enough. In this case you may have to go back to court several times. So the costs really vary depending on how the ex wants to play it - she may decide on receipt of a solicitors letter to agree to contact (and then a court will rubber stamp an order) or she may raise concerns which protract the process as the courts then have to determine the 'truth'.
I would really recommend your dh gets support from families needs fathers, they have lots of experience of dads going to court for access. You can actually do the process yourselves, daunting as a 1st timer but having been through it I can see how you don't need a solicitor with you all the time.
Time scales - for us it was about 6 months - just the time it takes to write a letter get a response, schedule mediation, schedule court date.
I have never regretted it however - if an ex is withholding contact then the courts ARE there to make sure the children see the NRP parents. Courts uphold the children's rights - not the parents rights to see their children.
PS keep records of all requests for contact, a diary of when you have been allowed to see the children and now involved your dh is as a dad (i.e does he get school reports, attend parents evenings etc)
Great advice above - FNF also have a helpline, which is excellent, and they run local meetings so you can get advice and support face-to-face. They can help you find a McKenzie Friend (someone to go into court with your DH but who will do it for free/expenses/small fee much less than a sol.)
If there has been a contact arrangement in place that is working for the DC's that ex has unilaterally changed, DH can ask for an immediate interim order to reinstate the contact. It will also be very hard for ex to claim there are any parenting concerns as she is allowing weekend contact, but be prepared for her to claim that the midweek is 'disruptive' and be ready to show it isn't.
Thanks for all your advice and stories.
I have been looking at the FNF website and am not feeling any more positive about re-instating the contact we have lost. The general concensus seems to be that we are lucky to have the access we have.
I think DP ex will refuse mediation and lie about violence if necessary to get out of it. Is this possible? We both think mediation is the way forward although I am less convinced of her willingness to want to find a solution for the children than he is.
I am a little bit concerned that she might stop all contact, including a great amount of phone contact he has, if we stir her up too much. She is already spouting her "reasons" for stopping the midweek contact as being in the childrens best interests.
DP has a free half hour appointment later in the week with a solicitor so it will be interesting to hear what they say. To be honest, it's a road I don't really want to go down as I know it will be costly and stressful for all concerned. [sad}
I think self repping is a good idea. DP feels he needs a solicitor. Might need to keep working on that one. The trouble is it will be £200 here and £300 there and before you know it is 12k! Yikes. If someone presented him with a 12k bill upfront, I'm sure self repping would show more appeal!
Thanks for your input. It's going to be interesting.
Each case is different so there is no general rule however if dad was having contact mid week for a reasonable period of time then it's fair for a court to decide that the arrangement should continue. Of course the ex can raise a range of issues but it would be in her interests to go to mediation, certainly before court,as it's generally seen as unreasonable to refuse. (unless a history of violence)
How old are the dc's? Is the ex citing specific reasons for stopping contact? In our case the ex would refuse to allow dh to take dcs to school, no reason, but she saw the school has her domain and he shouldn't be involved. I think she was afraid of people meeting dh and realising he is a lovely man so she couldn't play the victim if everyone knew she was actually the agressive person. DH regrets not going to court earlier to challenge this however. Ok it would have cost more money but for us when the ex was allowed to be unreasonable she just continued. Since dh stood up to her she is generally more reasonable as she knows he will go to court if she changes contact.
I know that selfish men exist who walk away from their children but equally there are selfish mums who protect their own interests to the detriment of the children - courts are seeing this and in our case the ex was told very firmly by the judge that she had been highly unreasonable. See what the solicitor suggests, if they are family law specialists they will be able to advise.
I know people fear courts and we allowed the situation to continue for many years as we wanted to avoid court however if the ex is a bully and uses contact to control your dp then you really don't have an option.
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