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Some advice about contact please....

(191 Posts)
SnowWhiteWinter Fri 30-Nov-12 21:19:39

Hello. I'm hoping someone here may have been in a similar position as we are and can perhaps help or give some advice in general.

I have 2 dsc, they are both young (3 and 5). They live with my partner and I 50% of the time and with their mum the other 50% of the time.

My partner is currently having a few problems negotiating contact arrangements with their mum. Basically they have agreed that the minimum number of handovers as possible is best for everyone, as there have been problems at handover time previously. Plus we don't live that close to each other so daily handovers would be difficult for them both. They have agreed the children will stay with each of us for a week at a time and this is already happening.

My partner and I think the children are still too young to not see their mum or dad for 8 days at a time as a permanent setup. They get really upset on handover days because they miss the other parent during that time. Their mum has agreed with this. My partner has proposed that they spend one midweek night overnight with the other parent the weeks they are not with them (hope that makes sense) so they only ever go 3/4 days at a time without seeing their mum or dad. However, due to her new work rota which she has recently had put in place as flexible working she works long hours most days the weeks they are with us and much fewer hours the weeks they are with her. She has said because of this she cannot have them for a midweek overnight the weeks they are with us. My partner has offered to be flexible and help facilitate it for her and change her day each time around her days off or even if she can't do it every week just some, but she has said for that reason she will not be agreeing to the children staying with us a midweek overnight as it's not "fair". Meaning it would not be exactly 50/50.

My partner has written to her and explained it is what is best for the children that counts not what is best or "fair" for the adults. She has said her decision is final and will not discuss it further. sad

So, do any of you fellow stepmums here (or other people on this forum) have any advice?

My partner is considering applying to court regarding this, something we can't really afford if we can avoid it. There is currently no court order at all regarding residency of the children, they have tried to keep away from courts and made informal arrangements until now. However, he strongly feels it would be better for the children and she won't accept that. Does anyone have experience of family court practices? Could he apply to court for this (specific issue order could be what he needs from what we have looked up online) despite there being no current residency order? Or if he applies to court for this issue will the court/Cafcass want to bring about a full residency case? He and dsc mum both agree 50/50 with each parent (roughly) is best for the children so neither would try and go for sole residency or a much greater share of time than they currently have, it's just this one night per fortnight.

Any advice greatly received x

ivykaty44 Fri 30-Nov-12 21:26:50

sorry but I doubt the courts will be interested in a case regarding one night a week - when it is all sorted out apart from this one issue.

As you say it is just this one night and you can't force the other parent to have the children, you can request access - but both parents already have access and equal access.

TBH from the very little I do know courts don't like 50/50 access and it could back fire if you take it to court - the judge could make an order to place the dc with one parent and the other have access at weekends, if that is what the judge sees fit and best for the dc

SnowWhiteWinter Fri 30-Nov-12 21:44:18

Thankyou for the reply. It is sort of all sorted, yes, but this issue of her not "allowing" the midweek overnights makes it not quite so sorted, if that makes sense. It was never agreed as a long term solution to have 7 nights in a row, but she told us she has put in and had granted a flexible working request based on it.

He isn't trying to force her to have the children an extra night, we just feel it's a bit rubbish for the kids that she refuses them the overnight with their dad because she can't give them an overnight with her due to the new work pattern she has put in place sad

ivykaty44 Fri 30-Nov-12 21:50:53

I guess if she has put in a new work pattern around the access of 50/50 then she is unlikely to want to start making changes now she has sorted work and got everything up and running so to speak. How would she change her work, she would be sitting twiddling her thumbs when she has arranged to have the dc.

How long have the dc had to get used to this pattern?

A lot of dc go to see the other parent every other weekend which means they go from Monday to the week on friday without seeing the other parents - not all dc have a mid week visit.

SoupDragon Fri 30-Nov-12 21:54:32

You're asking her to give up part of her contact time though.

Ray75 Fri 30-Nov-12 22:23:37

Hi, I do 50/50 with ex and we do the 5-2 rota, so he has DC mon/tues. I have weds/thur then we alternate the weekend Friday to monday. This means the longest away is 5 nights.
I agree keeping handovers to a minimum in the earlier days is best and I'm not sure your 1night in the week is such a good idea, it will mean just as they have got settled for a couple of days they have to change over and before they have time to readjust they are back again.
How long have you been doing this routine? It does take time to settle down, we had issues in the first year at change over, either tears or anger etc, we kept reassuring and being consistent and now DC goes between very happily and now we can flex around more if needed as the change over is no longer an issue.
Doing 50/50 and a job is tough due to changing routines and I would say she's been fortunate that her company have worked with her so she can achieve this, I thinks it's maybe a little unfair to be pushing her to approach them for even more flexibility, or the alternative of seeing her children less!!
It seems a little unfair to suggest she isn't putting what's best for the children first, some Dads could only dream of getting 50% time and the ex being financially independent, I think it seems a pretty fair/amicable set up to date, I would urge you to reconsider pushing this to courts and damaging that long term.

SnowWhiteWinter Sat 01-Dec-12 00:24:58

Thanks for your responses too Soup Dragon and Ray75.

IvyKaty44.....Yes, she arranged her new permanant work rota around the temporary pattern they had decided on whilst things calmed down a bit to let the children have some time away from arguing and shouting/abuse at handover times. It was always a trial, based on what is best for the children. She has agreed that it would be best if the children didn't have to go a whole week not seeing the other parent and tells us they say how much they miss the other parent and that they get upset a lot. But as she now doesn't have a free day to have them she states my partner also should not see them for a whole week. My partner is obviously frustrated as she shouldn't really have rearranged her whole work pattern around an arrangement they had agreed was only short term until a more suitable and permanent pattern was agreed on. As you say, a court might not agree with 50/50 and choose one parent to have majority care, we have heard this sometimes happens when it is clear to the judge that the parents don't agree. My partner and I would happily have the children more, if asked, but similarly if it was better for the children he would agree to them being with her more (although I know it would absolutely kill him (and me) to see less of them, if that makes sense).

Suopdragon.... He's asking her to change one night a week in the children's best interests. He sees it as the children's contact time, not hers or his.

Ray75.... I do see you have a point about just getting settled then one night away again, but they do now have two homes, both homes have everything they need and we both honestly believe a whole week away from mummy or daddy is too much, they are still really little. I can't agree at all with what you seem to be suggesting that my partner, as a man not a woman, should be grateful of having 50% with his children and a financially independent EX though! You are right it is a "fair" setup - for the parents, not the children. I can't imagine telling my children that they wont see me for a whole week!

Hmmm, I guess maybe we are being unreasonable, it seems everyone thinks we are. It just feels like she is doing what is best for her. She has just said it has to be equal nights 50/50 else it isn't "fair" (on her I believe she means). sad Perhaps we will just leave it as it is. Neither of us want arguments, conflict or the expense and stress of going to court.

Xalla Sat 01-Dec-12 04:48:15

My DH has exactly the same set up as Ray for his DSD6. We find it works as both parents are equally involved in my DSD's academic life and each gets to take her to the same extra-curricular activities each week. My DH takes her swimming each Thursday for example.

I agree that going 7 nights without seeing a parent is a long time but if that's the routine already in place and you are consistent with it then I think you'll DSC will become used to it with time. Plus they have the added bonus of having each other - a lot of step-kids go back and forth on their own - I think it must be a huge help if you've got 2 or more siblings doing it because they're 'in it together'!

I also with agree with Ray that Mum seems to have it accomodating this contact pattern very well worked out and that to ask her to change it would be unreasonable of you. The fact that she's been so forthcoming in allowing this contact pattern to become established with such young kids is something to be grateful for; it took my DH about 3 years to get to the point we're at now!

I think a court would probably see your DH as being the unreasonable party in this I'm afraid.

SoupDragon Sat 01-Dec-12 08:40:20

He sees it as the children's contact time, not hers or his

So he is asking the children to have one less day with their mother. Equally unfair.

ivykaty44 Sat 01-Dec-12 09:26:24

Sorry but I couldn't live with an arrangement that was always a trail and likely to change. I have to work and always base my work around my dc to suit their needs. To be told that the trail is on going and always likely to change would leave me in a right pickle - and I am sure it would plenty of parents.

It isn't a case of just dealing with what is in the dc best interests as you see it, other matters come into the equation - it is in the dc best interests that they have a working mothers providing a roof over their head and a working father providing a roof over their head, it is also in the dc best interests that both parents are happy, as happy parents make better parents. The list goes on.

The best interest of the dc would be for the parents to live together and be happy - but that isn't going to happen so you make the best of what you can as two parents living apart, with two different lives, two different work loads and two different ideas and you will probably if lucky get 70% there on what is best for the dc. There will be something that aren't agreeable as you see it - but you have to work out if they are really important or if the dc will get used to them in the same way that they have got use to their parents living apart.

How long as this particular trial been in place and how long have the parents been apart?

elliebellys Sat 01-Dec-12 09:41:15

Snow white have you name changed?.this sounds very familiar to alot of posts not to long ago.

NotaDisneyMum Sat 01-Dec-12 10:37:10

How long as this particular trial been in place and how long have the parents been apart?

Very good question - my DD took several months and sessions with a youth counsellor to settle into a 50:50 week-at-a-time routine; it's not something that is widely recommended for young children, although most children (and some parents) do consider it to be the fair way of doing things.

Have you got a copy of the book "Putting Children First" by the Centre for Separated Families? It has lots of useful techniques for progressing situations like this so that everyone, including the DC's, can live with the compromise.

SnowWhiteWinter Sat 01-Dec-12 19:38:45

Xalla... Thanks for replying, that's one of the massive benefits my partner sees about the midweek night, if it is the same one each time then he can take the children to a out of school club / activity every week. There are a few they would like to do but their mum won't agree to any and will not even take them to one or allow my partner to take them to one on "her" weeks, even though we have offered to pay the full cost, in case it's a financial problem.

Soupdragon... I see your point but surely what's best/fair for the children isn't always to spend exactly 50/50 time with each parent, from what we have read up, it's still not awfully common for children to have an exact 50/50 split of their time with each parent when their parents have separated.

IvyKaty44...She wasn't told it was a triel, that was what was agreed as they couldn't decide on what pattern was best for the children and they agreed to try this out for a few months and review it or change it if it wasn't working out for the children or them. She has told my partner that the children regularly cried cause they miss him and the eldest is having a few emotional problems at school especially around the end of the week when he is due to go to the other parent (we think it's because he is upset that he won't see that parent for another whole week). I do understand your point of it not always being exclusively whats best for the children, it has to work for the parents too. My partner is just frustrated that she has changed her work pattern, to try and force it to be a permanent set up when she agreed to it just as a temporary one.

Elliebelly... I am quite new here, have name changed as thought of a better one but I haven't posted anything in this forum or about the DSC at all, so it wasn't me smile

Notadisneymum... They have been separated about 2.5 yrs ish and this current arrangement has been in place about 7 months roughly, give or take a month. Do you mind if I ask how old your dd was when you started the week-at-a-time routine, was she under 5? I know they will get used to it, children generally get used to any situation over time, but getting used to it doesn't mean they wouldn't be happier if they didn't not see a parent for a whole week. No I don't think we have a copy of that book, can it be downloaded online?

Thank you all, it's really helpful getting outside views and experience opinions. It becomes quite hard to look at your own situation in a constructive and non biased way when you are stuck in the middle of it all.

NotaDisneyMum Sat 01-Dec-12 22:29:23

Why was the previous arrangement that had been in place for nearly two years changed to 50:50? Was it a big change? Introduced gradually?

When my Ex and I decided on 50:50 weekly shared care for DD it was against the advice of the professionals - she was 8 at the time, and the advice was that she was too young.

She did settle and is now thriving but in no small part due to the fact that both Ex and I both had jobs that meant we occasionally travelled/stayed away from home for weeks at a time when we were together so DD had previously been apart from each of us for that length of time.

I'll be honest, I'm struggling to see how it can work for much younger DCs, with different school/childcare arrangements and you say they you don't live close together?

Presumably, there is a reason why your DSC mum and Dad haven't considered the more traditional EOW arrangement which is considered more manageable for young DCs - the younger would have been a baby when their parents split but who was the primary carer of the older DC when their parents were together and immediately after the split?

Sometimes, one or both parents have to compromise their career in order to meet their DCs needs - this is equally true when parents have split.
Could your DP not change his work commitments so he can have residency of the DCs if their Mum is refusing? They seem to be packaged off a bit as an inconvenience at the moment hmm

SnowWhiteWinter Sat 01-Dec-12 23:00:07

Thank you Disney, you're really helpful!

Oh they are definitely not an inconvenience! But I can see why it reads that way from the basic facts of the situation.

I'm glad it worked for you dd and she had coped well with it. I suppose at 8 they understand more and you can explain things to them.

When they were together they both worked full time so there was no "primary carer". Then they separated and efore the week-at-a-time the children lived with my partner and his mum came and lived with them for a bit to help out whilst he worked, until we moved in together. The DSC stayed with their mum one or two nights a week but it was so difficult as she would try and drop them back early and cause all sorts of problems etc. She then said she wanted them more and that's when the week-at-a-time came in. I think my partner really regrets it but he knows it's good for the DSC to see their mum more than they were.

He has reduced his hours (slightly) at work and often takes a few hours annual leave here and there to be there to drop them off or collect them from school more. We could have them more and I would love to have them more to be honest, as would he obviously. Their mum doesn't want them any more, she wants them 50/50 week-at-a-time no more no less. We do think that the maintenance may have something to do with it as since having them 50% of the time her maintenance payments have decreased massively, but she knows that should she have them less she would have to pay more. So it may be money motivated, although she doesn't appear to have any money problems (is on a very good wage). I don't want that to sound like I'm saying she is a horrible person or all about the money, I don't think that at all, it's just a possible reason or one of many reasons she has for not agreeing.

As for school and the distance, we don't live that far from her, it's less than an hours drive from her house to our house and the eldest DSC goes to school about halfway between both our houses so it's easy for her and us. The youngest go to preschool right near our house. So practically there is no problem with the week-at-a-time getting the girls to school/preschool. It's just the emotional problems that have prompted my partner to try and change things.

SnowWhiteWinter Sat 01-Dec-12 23:05:21

Oh lastly, your last question. My partner would happily go to part time and have full residency, he could even stay working full time and have residency as I am a SAHM anyway. However, he is very aware of the fact that it is still very unusual for a court to award majority residency to a father, he solicitor has advised him as such (off the record of course). Their mother isn't abusing or neglecting them or any massive thing that means he would be likely to be awarded majority residence.

Their mum definitely doesn't want majority residency, she has said so in person and via solicitors many times. In fact she has previously told us she is going to apply to court to have the week-at-a-time arrangement put into a court order (although our solicitor has said this wouldn't be done and would likely be "no order"). However she may change her mind about that if my partner applies for majority residency. sad All so difficult isn't it!

Xalla Sun 02-Dec-12 06:02:47

Could you try implementing the 5 / 2 rota? It's still an exact 50/50 split...wouldn't make and diff to maintenance if that is her motivation.

So one parent has every Mon & Tues, the other has every Wed & Thurs and the weekends (Fri - Mon) are alternated?

My DH does that during term time, takes it turns to have half terms and splits the big hols down the middle (as far as possible so DSD alternates spending Xmas and Easter with each parent).

Works for us!

NotaDisneyMum Sun 02-Dec-12 08:31:56

snow I don't understand.

Your DP won't go to court to secure residency because he's worried that the court will award his ex primary residency instead - even though she doesn't want it?
Is that the legal advice he has been given? I honestly can't believe that any magistrate or judge would place DCs in the primary care of a parent who says that she doesn't want them, surely?

Sounds like both parents have lost sight of the DCs here - your DP through fear of losing what he currently has and their mum through a desire to maintain 'fairness'. hmm Perhaps you could encourage your DP to seek legal advice about securing residency?

SnowWhiteWinter Sun 02-Dec-12 09:28:47

Xalla... Yes, I think the 5/2 rota does sound like a great idea. will explain it to my partner and perhaps he can suggest it to her. It wouldn't solve the fact that she's already changed her work rota for the next 12 months to be about 60 hrs the weeks the DSC are with us and only 1-2 short days the weeks they are with her. But it's worth a try, wish they had thought of that pattern before weel-at-a-time.

Notadisneymum... He is very reluctant to go to court because we know that most professionals do not agree that week-at-a-time is the best pattern for the children. She has stated she doesn't want them any more than 50/50. However, his solicitor (who really is very good and quite senior) has told us that in her experience a father going for primary residency can often result in the mother changing her mind and also asking for primary residency. I guess there is a stigma attached to being a NRP mother, also that sometimes one parent doesn't really want it but will fight for it just to stop the other parent getting it. (sounds childish and silly but our solicitor has said she has seen it many many times over the years).

The way things are going though, court will be unavoidable at some point in the new future... sad

NotaDisneyMum Sun 02-Dec-12 10:21:40

IMO, if it leads to the DCs being more settled, then it doesn't matter who gets sole residency, surely?
Your DP shouldn't be fighting for something he wants, he'll be fighting for what's best for the DCs, which is a settled routine that allows them to have a meaningful relationship with both parents..

A good barrister could easily undermine your DPs ex if she suddenly says that she wants sole residency - you say she has written via her solicitor that its not what she wants - I really don't understand the legal advice you've been given, particularly as shared-residency orders are becoming far more common.

With regard to money that you think may be a motive - I assume as you mention Child maintenance being paid previously that for the purposes of benefits, your home is still primary residence and received CB? Is your DP claiming CM for the DCs from his ex through the CSA as well? What parenting agreement is in place financially?

I think your DP should seek a second legal opinion - based on what you've said here, it sounds like he could do a lot more for his DCs if he was reassured that the court is there to support them, not steal them from him.

CatchingMockingbirds Sun 02-Dec-12 10:30:18

Can't you just do handovers through school/nursery - one parent drops of at nursery and the other picks up. This one week at one parent and one week at the other doesn't seem too fair on the children if they have to go a week without seeing the other parent.

pinguthepenguin Sun 02-Dec-12 11:12:52

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elliebellys Sun 02-Dec-12 16:45:18

Pingu,glad someone else has noticed.,far 2 similarl

CatchingMockingbirds Sun 02-Dec-12 17:08:23

I'm so confused confused, do you think I'm piratecat?

elliebellys Sun 02-Dec-12 17:19:34

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