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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

NotaDisneyMum Sun 02-Dec-12 17:32:45

I don't think it matters if the OP has posted before under a different name or whether she just has a similar set of circumstances - the overwhelming advice is always the same.

DCs are the ones to suffer if separated parents can't compromise and agree - and in cases like this, when both parents are entrenched and can't see beyond their hatred for each other, the best course of action is to involve an advocate to speak for the children; usually CAFCASS, and the decision as to what is actually best for the DCs can be made by the court.

elliebellys Sun 02-Dec-12 17:42:23

Yes nadm,trouble is even after really good advice some parents wont act upon it nd the problems go on and on for you say its the kids that suffer the most.

pinguthepenguin Sun 02-Dec-12 20:32:21

Yes exactly. And on that basis, I fail to see why the OP should be advised to go for residency when mum is complying with the 50-50 arrangement originally set out by both parents 7 months ago. The fact that OP and her DP now want to change arrangement that in the interests of the children isn't altogether unreasonable in itself, but its certainly unreasonable to suggest that the mother is selfish for not wanting (or being able) or accommodate this- or that she should lose residency of the children because of it.
Staggered to be honest.

NotaDisneyMum Sun 02-Dec-12 20:48:41

pingu my reading of the OP is that the DCs are unhappy, but Mum is unwilling to consider either becoming resident parent or renegotiating the current arrangement as it would interfere with her career.

In that situation, I don't think Dad has any choice but to apply for residency himself - the current arrangement cannot continue, but if Mum is refusing to compromise, then who else is there to look out for the DCs?

Of course, if Dad did get primary care, it would be totally inappropriate for him to delegate care of his DCs to the OP and he'd have to make sacrifices in his own career - if he didn't, it would give the
DCs the clear impression that neither of their parents cared about them!

Taking this OP on its own, then Mum seems to be the unreasonable one here.

I know it's tempting to speculate that this is about the same family as has posted previously under a different name as circumstances are similar - but if it is, then the OP is not seeking genuine advice anyway and is only looking for validation of a decision already made.

elliebellys Sun 02-Dec-12 21:35:40

Nadm why is it the mum thats being unreasonable here?.in all honesty she changed her work pattern 2 accomadate the every other week,nd that was agreed by both should have been thougherly disscussed i.e possible problems before changing be honest given the dcs ages 50/50 split wasnt in their best interest at all.they were only thinkin of themseves.

OptimisticPessimist Sun 02-Dec-12 21:57:44

I really don't see how the mum is at fault here - she and her XP arranged a pattern for the split of the children's time and she adjusted her working hours accordingly, she can't just change them again because the father thinks it's not working and has decided on a new way of doing things instead. Regardless of whether it was a trial, she still had to work during that time and it sounds as if she was given the chance of a good solution to do so. TBH, if it is the poster from before I suspect the reason the mum won't accept the father having the extra evening when she can't have one herself (because of her working arrangement) is the same reason as given by many responders before - that she is well aware of the attempts of the father and his new partner to push her out of the DCs' lives and is doing all she can to prevent it.

pinguthepenguin Sun 02-Dec-12 21:59:06

Disney, I take your point about not assuming the OP is a previous poster- you are right.

However, I don't believe at all that the mum in this scenario should be punished for not conceding to the wishes of the OP's DP when it was an agreement that they both put in place. All that stuff about how 'it was only temporary' is a smokescreen, and even though I agree in principle that the OP is right that the children should not wait a week to see each parent- the fact remains that the original arrangement is one that BOTH parents agreed to. Why now, is the mother, after seeking flexible employment ( which as we all know, is no easy feat) a selfish woman who sees her children as an inconvenience?
We might not agree here that this mother does not want more than 50-50, but taking that away (because it's totally irrelevant to be honest) the mother has stuck to the agreement and not only that, has reorganised her working life to be able to care for her babies. Those are not the actions of a woman who is prioritising her career over her children- she would agree to seeing the children less if that was the case.
Let's be honest here... the mother is about to be sorely punished for daring to disagree with a change to a system that suited both of them a short time ago. Add in the OP as a willing SAHM ( how convenient) and you have this mother relegated to weekend parent.


SnowWhiteWinter Sun 02-Dec-12 22:36:56

I have name changed once before, but I have never posted on this forum or about my family or my partner and DSC. Whoever you are referring to, it wasn't me.

Pinguthepenguin... Yes, she is complying to the week-at-a-time arrangement, and I am not saying she is selfish for wanting to keep to it and I also never said she treats them as an inconvenience. She increased her hours at work by about 30% when she started having the children 50/50, before that she only worked p/t, we assumed this was so she could pay for things for them. However, she then made permanent changes to her work rota when it was only ever agreed (by them both) on a trial basis. Before this week-at-a-time pattern, we had the DSC the majority of the time and my partner wanted to see how the children would cope not only with week-at-a-time but also with spending considerably more amounts of time with their mum and less time with him/us. She agreed to it being a trial and never at any point said it would make her work difficult or that she would need to change her hours. I think my partner now feels he's been put into a situation where he has no option to discuss how it is working for the children as she has made her future plans based on it staying the same whether it works for them or not.

noadisneymum... To answer your question from earlier about money, not sure what you mean when you say "What parenting agreement is in place financially?" She was paying through CSA before the week-at-a-time arrangement. Then when it changed to 50/50 she stopped paying, she increased her hours at work around the same time she started having the children 50/50. We assumed she didn't have to pay and accepted that we would still be paying for most things they need without any maintenance from her. However, they told my partner that she is now still supposed to pay via CSA even with 50/50 but she has been avoiding them for 4 months, they have sent "schedule of payment" and other letters but she ignores them, CSA have said they will shortly be deducting it direct from source, it is only a very small amount. The reason being is that we pay for almost everything for them, clothes, shoes, coats, school uniform, school milk money etc.

As for residency or the chances of him being granted majority residence if he applied for it - My partner has no "serious concerns" as it were, as I said she isn't abusing or neglecting the children, she just has a very different style of parenting to my partner and to me and some of these things cause my partner concern that she either isn't coping with the children 50/50 or that she isn't putting them first in all aspects. I am not saying she is selfish or a bad mum, I just think she doesn't realise how important some things are. For example, the eldest is regularly late for school. Not just a few minutes but 30-40 mins late, no particular reason is given except "traffic" etc. She's considerably late for school almost every Friday that she takes him (every other week). We have already been called into the school after a teacher told my partner and I that some mornings the eldest DSD seems very withdrawn and quiet and it's mornings that she is with her mum the night before. My partner has written to her numerous times (he does an email to her at the end of every week the DSD have been with us to update her, info about school etc) but she ignores any questions he poses and any concerns he has. This is sort of a side issue to the week-at-a-time/midweek overnights situation though.

Wow, that's much more detail than I originally planned to go into, but it's good to write it all down and hear other peoples views. If she is on this forum she will obviously recognize the situation even without names etc so I can only hope she realizes I am only posting here as my partner and I want what is best for the children and don't know any other step families to ask in person. I honestly hope she doesn't feel like we are trying to push her out of DSD's lives sad in fact it's the opposite, my partner and I have done everything we can to include her, even when she hasn't really wanted to be included or shown interest in something to do with the DSD's and we have done our best to help her out when she had childcare problems etc.

NotaDisneyMum Sun 02-Dec-12 22:43:16

I am not suggesting that Mum should acquiesce and go along with whatever is proposed - but the OP states that the DCs Mum is phoning their Dad telling him that his DCs are crying for him, and yet (according to the OP) Mum is refusing to even discuss or consider how any alternative arrangement for the DCs can be reached. Perhaps it's just me, but I was ready to do anything, even hand over primary care of DD to her Dads if that had meant she was happier and no longer a pawn in his power games.

The OP has presented her DSC Mum as totally uninterested in discussing how an alternative solution can be found.
Perhaps the OP and her DP would be willing to transfer CB and tax Credits in order to allow Mum to reduce her hours - there are all sorts of options that could be put on the table, but the OP has made it clear in her posts that her DPs ex is not willing to discuss it.

Of course, if the OPs DP has presented his solution of a weekday night as the only option, then he's not putting his DCs first either.

All the more reason for it to go to court, especially as the OPs DP has been strongly advised that he is unlikely to secure sole/primary residency, which suggests to me that there is a great deal more to this than the OP has explained in this thread. wink

NotaDisneyMum Sun 02-Dec-12 22:47:16

Why don't you stop the claim via CSA so she's no longer being chased by the CSA?
Unless there is a parenting agreement in place that sets out the financial responsibilities of each parent it seems rather greedy for a household which has the luxury of being able to support a SAHP to take money from a p/t working household!

SnowWhiteWinter Sun 02-Dec-12 23:08:57

Notadisneymum... Fair point about the CSa and greed. However, she works f/t now and her household income isn't much less than ours, plus we have two more children to pay for (mine). Being a SAHM isn't my 1st choice but with 4 young children it's cheaper for us than paying for childcare. Plus we pay for almost everything for DSD's as I listed above, all things she then doesn't have to pay for. We did suggest paying 50/50 for things when she started having them 50/50 but she just didn't pay, and left us to pay for what she was supposed to -so the small amounts from CSA make it a little fairer. Not that she is paying that either, but we just cope, what else can we do.

She could reduce her hours and we could transfer the child benefit to her, but I would guess from previous experience of the way she is about money and paying for things for the children that we would still end up paying for most things and she still wouldn't agree to the midweek overnights. We have two other children to consider too.

She is very business like in her approach about the children. This works well for her and my partner as it minimizes conflict. However, she does refuse to discuss any change to the week-at-a-time. He hasn't ever told her that this IS the solution, he has proposed, asked for her opinions asked what she thinks etc, all ignored, expect for her agreeing that she thinks more regular contact would make the children happier but has said she will not discuss any change to the arrangements.

My partner wasn't strongly advised that he would be unlikely to secure primary residency. He was advised that without being able to prove she is a serious threat or risk to the children that he wouldn't be sure to be awarded it and as someone else pointed out the court could decide that their mum has primary residency especially if she decided to change her mind and ask for it even though she has said she doesn't want more than 50%. He was also advised that many judges still favour awarding residency to the mum over the dad when there is no real way of choosing either way. He does want what is best for them but the thought of not seeing them at least half the time scares the hell out of him, especially as they lived with us the majority of the time until recently. He is so torn, however I agree with your earlier point about having to do what is best for them sad

pinguthepenguin Sun 02-Dec-12 23:13:25

Good point Disney..not just in suggesting they think more about the financial reasons for mums long working hours but that there may be more to this story than meets the eye. If mum is working all the hours, you are not helping matters by asking for maintenance when you already have a 50-50 arrangement. Let me guess- your partner gets the CB as well, am I right?

Also- for reference, you havent been called into school about the children. Your partner has.

pinguthepenguin Sun 02-Dec-12 23:18:52

Wtf?? What things? Do you pay for her Childcare on her week? Do you pay for her care of the children when she has them? What do you mean 'things'?
Your DP takes maintenance from her when you have a 50-50 arrangement and you get the CB? Why?

SnowWhiteWinter Sun 02-Dec-12 23:30:42

Pinguthepenguin... My partner is really not trying to make things difficult for her by asking for maintenance, not at all. I am a mother too and would not try and make her life difficult or make her feel "pushed out" as you said in a previous post. My partner works long hours too, she earns almost as much as he does, there's very little difference in the household incomes. Yet, in our house we have 4 children to buy clothes, school dinners, school milk, shoes, uniform, coats, trainers etc and she pays for none of the above for any children.

Should she not have any expense for her own children? Both parents have the DSD's 50/50 so we feel costs should be split 50/50, especially as their incomes are similar. But she wouldn't pay half of anything so we had to pay it, hence the CSA claim. Yes, he does have the child benefit, she passed it over to him when they separated as he had majority care of the children until about 6/7 months ago. As we have since then continued to pay for almost everything for the DSD's he kept the CB, are you saying you think that is wrong and that she should get CB and not pay maintenance and we should pay for everything for the DSD's?

I'm not sure why you seem to be attacking me or accusing me of somehow bullying this woman. Perhaps my style of writing leads you to believe that, but honestly, it is far from the truth. We did both get asked in to the school. It was a meeting about eldest DSD and the head teacher called my partner and asked for him and I to come in for a meeting. Her mum has been asked to go in too, although we don't know if she has or not yet. Again, I'm unsure of your point though? Is it a bad thing that I show an interest in emotional welfare of a child that is not biologically my own? I'm getting quite offended by your comments sad

NotaDisneyMum Sun 02-Dec-12 23:35:42

the thought of not seeing them at least half the time scares the hell out if him

And therein lies the fundamental problem.

What does your DP think will happen if he doesn't see them for at least half of their lives? Will they love the parent they see more than the parent they see less? Will they forget about the parent they are with less? Will they somehow consider that he plays less of a role in their lives?

Why is his relationship with them so fragile that it has to be maintained through a minimum amount of contact?

There are men and women in the armed forces and other jobs across the world who don't see their DCs for months at a time. They have some of the closest parent/child relationships I've seen - because they work at it and make every moment count. That takes effort; it's a lot easier to rest on your laurels and assume that because you spend a significant amount if time with your DCs, that relationship will automatically develop. It won't. My DP didn't see his DD for *2 years*; because he chose not to fight with his ex and put the DCs in the middle. He and his DD are now closer than they ever would have been had his actions forced her to choose between her parents.

If your DP is scared of what will happen if he sees his DCs less, then ask yourself why that is?

SnowWhiteWinter Sun 02-Dec-12 23:44:01

Pingu - Our last posts crossed there. There are no childcare costs for either of the DSC. The youngest goes to preschool for government funded hours. What do you mean "what things?" all the costs and items the children need. Uniform, school bags, coats, hats, shoes, trainers, little extras like school nativity costumes, dinner money, milk money, new clothes, club fees etc.

My DP (that's my dear partner isn't it?) claims maintenance as otherwise we pay for everything else the children need apart form food at her house and she happily lets us. It doesn't matter to be honest though as she refuses to pay it and hasn't paid any since the 50/50 care started 6/7 months ago.

If she agreed to pay 50% of things for the children then DP would have no reason to claim maintenance. They had talked about 50/50 costs when 50/50 care started but she didn't pay for anything.

What do you think the alternative is Pingu? Honestly I am interested, I am not being arsey.

pinguthepenguin Sun 02-Dec-12 23:58:23

So do you not think that seeking maintenance from her in a 50-50 arrangement is slightly inflammatory? That it is likely to make her more guarded about what she is paying for given that A) you are already getting nearly 40 pounds per week from the state for the children and B) if you were getting maintenance on top of that- what more should mum be paying for anyway???

Ok, so in terms of uniform- do you supply a weeks worth for both children when with mum?
Do you pay for dinners when with mum?
Do you send both children with a weeks worth of clothes and shoes? Are you saying mum literally refuses to provide a thing for these kids?

Xalla Mon 03-Dec-12 06:35:47

I agree - why are you persuing a CSA claim? That is nuts.

My DH has a 50 / 50 arrangement. His ex claims the CB, the tax credits AND my DH pays maintenance (not loads - £5 a day for the days DSD is with Mum). He also pays for all school dinners and extra-curricular activites.

As far as uniform / clothing / food and whatever else goes; we provide for DSD when she's with us and her Mum buys her whatever she needs for when she's there.

Do I think the system is fair?? No! But it isn't in DSD's interests for us to fight it either!!!

DH isn't rolling in it, in fact he's self-employed and like most, has struggled this year. We also have 2 other kids to pay for.

I really don't think there should be a question of maintenance at all when there's a 50 / 50 split of care.

Unfortunately it is the way the system works at the moment but I don't see how it can continue indefinitely what with the increase of SRO's being awarded and shared care arrangements becoming more common. It's fundametally flawed and indefensible.

I'd give up that fight pronto and just agree that she covers the kids' costs when she has them and you DH covers them when you have them.

pinguthepenguin Mon 03-Dec-12 06:36:39

Not sure exactly where I said you were pushing her out, or that you are being attacked- I disagree with much of what you have posted, this is a forum and it happens. I don't believe that the school specifically requested your presence tbh, or that the children's mother won't provide them with clothing or anything else on her week- that just doesn't compute.
It isn't at all a bad thing to show an interest in a child that isn't yours, but you don't just sound interested, you sound over invested.

NotaDisneyMum Mon 03-Dec-12 07:17:57

snow The picture you are painting now is very different from the one in your OP.

You mentioned that paying less money to you is a motivator for your DSC mums behaviour, but it appears that your DP is equally motivated to ensure that your household income is maximised due to his commitment to 2 other DCs and you as a SAHM - which you only do in order to care for his DCs part of the time.

You have said that your DP can work flexible hours, so it should be possible for you to work part time around his hours if things are that tight? In fact, if your DSC mum has managed to adjust her hours to suit the 50:50 care arrangement, them surely you could do the same? The cost of Childcare for your other two DCs during the weeks you don't have the DSC would be manageable, and you may well get tax credit help towards them.

Uniform, costumes and clothing need not cost much, especially for young children; try school sales, eBay and charity shops - and hand-me-downs of course as you have younger DCs.
Most schools offer payment plans so trips and costs can be paid in instalments - although as your DSC are so young, those costs will be minimal at the moment. Packed lunches are cheaper than dinners, and you can opt out of the school milk scheme (isn't it free anymore?).

There are lots of ways that you could manage without the CSA money from your DSC mum - and tbh, it's never a good idea to depend on it to feed/house the family anyway. My DP was made redundant and his ex was left with minimal payments for the 11 months that he was unemployed.

If your DP drops the CSA claim and accepts that less contact with him won't affect his DCs relationship with him, it would reduce conflict between him and his ex, and he could make such a difference to his DCs lives.

How do you feel about his insecurities and his materialistic approach? Your relationship is fragile - 80% of second-partnerships fail when there are children from a previous relationship involved - so you need to be honest about your feelings and motivations to.

Xalla Mon 03-Dec-12 08:17:46

School milk is free for kids until they're 5 at the moment I think.

CatchingMockingbirds Mon 03-Dec-12 09:16:10

Surely the child tax credits and child benefit for both children would be to cover the extra expense you feel that you have. You and the father claim the benefits for the children so it makes sense that you pay out extra - forcing maintenance money from her despite a 50/50 split isn't fair.

allnewtaketwo Mon 03-Dec-12 10:22:43

I don't believe for a minute that the school asked you to come in. Do you have parental responsibility for the child??

And personally I think that persuing a csa claim against her is disgusting in a 50:50 situation where your DP gets the child benefit and tax credits. You keep mentioning your other two children - am I right in assuming they're not your partner's children? If not, then he is subsidising you already to be a SAHP, and at the same time expecting his ex to fund this imo

SnowWhiteWinter Mon 03-Dec-12 10:42:58

I will try to respond to everyone of I can. It appears what my DP has decided to do re maintenance is an unpopular decision. However there are reasons for it and background and he (and I) feel it is perfectly justified given the background.

A large proportion of the CB goes into trust funds for the DSC, this has always been the case, when they were together and since separation. They both earn a good wage and don't "need" the money as such. We aren't entitled to tax credits, so that's not in the equation.

Xalla Yes, I agree, each parent should pay for the children's costs when they are with them. I certainly don't see why your DH should be paying so much, unless he earns considerably more than his EX and to not do so would disadvantage his DD? DSD's mum used to pay maintenance when we had the DSD's for the majority of the time. Then when 50/50 care started they agreed each parent pays the week they have the children and other costs are halved and no maintenance. However, that never happened, she wasn't paying the school dinner money and we had to pay it off after 8 weeks as she was ignoring the schools' requests to pay. Oh and yes, milk is only free til they are 5.

Pinguthepenguin... They were sent to school/us in really old clothes, trainers had holes in one week so we had to go buy new ones, no hats, etc. Also often things we send them to her in just aren't ever seen again or returned months later - big things like trainers and coats. Just last week I went and bought new uniform for the eldest and packed in all in his bag to take back to his mums. She is not without money, she earns what most people would consider a very good wage. She just doesn't feel she has to pay for things and that DP and I will always pay for what she doesn't. If she wasn't working or had a low wage or struggling financially then of course we'd be happy to pay the majority share, but that's simply not the case. This isn't because she doesn't have the money to pay for things, she just chooses not to. Just to add, she isn't actually paying any money to the CSA right now, she is ignoring them.

I don't think I am overinvested in DSD's. These two little girls lived with my partner and I since we started living together, 5/6 nights out of 7, it's only the last 6/7mths that they only live with us 50% of the time of course I am emotionally invested in them.

This seems to all be about money now, when it really isn't. Neither us nor their mum is struggling financially. I was asking about the midweek overnight stays and whether DP could apply to court for a specific issue order to have the overnight stays ordered by court whilst keeping the week-at-a-time pattern even in the absence of any prior residency orders. I have no idea if money is motivating DSD's mum to say no or not.

SnowWhiteWinter Mon 03-Dec-12 10:49:36

Allnewtaketwo - Why would I lie about a school meeting, it's not an important point or really very relevant anyway. The school wanted to discuss DSD's emotional welfare, what we could do to help her at home, ask us information that may be useful to the school, etc. They know that I am a SAHM, they know we well as I often do the school run and know I spend considerable amounts of time with DSD too. I'm not sure why that matters really though? Surely the more people trying to help her the better.

My two other children are not my DP's. He is not "funding" me to be a SAHM at all. As a family we decided that it was best for me to not work at the monmet as he has a good wage and a good career. His EX isn't funding anything. All he wants is her to take responsibility for half the costs of their children and he will take responsibility for the other half. How they both spend whatever they have left is up to them surely.

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