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If contact orders fail...

(15 Posts)
Xalla Wed 12-Mar-14 10:32:34

My DH's ex made it clear at the weekend that she was going to breach their latest contact order and not allow contact. Her reason being that her parents have offered to take her and her children away during the Easter holidays. DSD was supposed to be spending Easter holidays with DH.

It's the third time since the order was made (June 2013) that she's refused contact. She sent him a text last night saying his next weekend contact wouldn't be happening because she and DSD were 'staying with a friend' so that will the fourth time.

DH let the first two times go and agreed to the changes. He's said no to these last two. He offered to swap the time but ex wouldn't agree.

All previous orders have failed. DH also has an SRO with an attached Parenting Agreement that lays out indirect contact amongst other things. Ex has breached pretty much every single area of it.

DH says he won't go back to court. He's emotionally depleted (so am I actually) and he can't afford to financially either.

He's saying he's going to tell the ex to forget about the contact order and just let him know when she'll allow DSD to visit in future and he'll make it happen. He seems to think if he does this, all the drama and heartache associated with the order will diminish. He accepts he's likely to see less of his daughter. I'm sure his ex won't prevent him having contact but it will be when it's convenient for her. So I doubt he'll be spending anymore Christmases, birthdays, Fathers Days etc with DSD. He's just get DSD when it suits his ex and not at all otherwise.

He thinks getting rid of the contact order might lead to more harmonious co-parenting. In his defence, everything else has failed and his relationship with the ex couldn't be much worse. DSD is unfortunately well aware of how little regard her parents have for each other. Mainly thanks to the ex's Mother but that's another story.

What do people think?

Russianfudge Wed 12-Mar-14 11:06:12

I think that's really sad o be honest, but I see no other choice sad

lostdad Wed 12-Mar-14 11:11:00

It may be risky abandoning the court order.

If his happens and the ex stops contact or does whatever she likes he's going to have no recourse. If he does decide things are so bad he needs to return the matter to court he'll possibly be told by the judge there is no point making an order because they just get ignored.

The fact that the ex is unilaterally breaking the order gives you grounds to return to court however. More so because she's blatantly told him she's going to.

If your partner were going to take action I'd advise that he:

1.) Tells the ex he will be collecting the children as normal. Not ask. He has a court order.

2.) If she fails to make the children available to turn up to the court straight after with a position statement for an emergency hearing (if the last case ended within the last 12 months on the existing case or a fresh application if it is greater).

I assist in this sort of situation on a regular basis (the last one was last night!) and it's frustrating, true, but it's manageable. It's a fairly common situation you find yourself and can feel hopeless. I appreciate your DP is drained by it - I would recommend he (and you!) joins Families Need Fathers:

http://www.fnf.org.uk/home

It's a charity for separated parents and can offer emotional and practical support to people like you other half. It has a great online forum and support meetings across the UK. If he's not too emotionally drained he'll also be able to find details of McKenzie Friends (it's what I do) who can offer help - some of them charge, some of them don't.

Get in touch if you need help. This situation is very fixable. I was in the same situation for a long time but things were resolved when I joined the charity and represented myself in court. My other half - a stepmother like you - is also heavily involved and also works with people in and out of court (she's legally qualified and she's worked all over the country including High Courts).

Russianfudge Wed 12-Mar-14 12:17:04

Much more practical than my input!!

canyou Wed 12-Mar-14 12:49:17

My Dbro ex was like this some times she and the DC were just not at collection point and in the end he would go to police and log the breach of court order with the police. He never got police to knock on her door as it was not good for the DC but they did ring her. He had a police report number and a log in their day book. It meant she could never tell the court he had not turned up. He got very friendly with the police they used to have coffee waiting and he would bring biscuitssadShe was threatened with a fine and imprisonment if it continued.
Moral of the story always turn up as per court arrangement, report every breach and get a log number and leave her dig her own hole the court will not be happy.

Xalla Wed 12-Mar-14 13:08:36

Thanks everyone.

FNF is a fantastic organisation; they helped DH a lot with the last application. He used a solicitor 'on the day' but drew up the application and prepared most of the court papers himself with the help of FNF members and and Mackenzie. He didn't feel confident enough to self-represent.

I'll talk to him tonight. Ultimately though I think he feels his banging his head against a brick wall and it's not really doing DSD much good either. Been there, done it before and it didn't work then so it won't work now is his take on it basically.

On the plus side, his ex would never stop contact I don't think. She just won't respect any kind of agreement, court ordered or otherwise. The minute it's not working for her, she sticks two fingers up at it for want of a better expression. She'll happily let DH have DSD when it works for her.

FrogbyAnotherName Wed 12-Mar-14 15:41:49

xalia our situations are very similar.

My DH decided not to pursue an enforcement order; he continued to turn up for contact but his ex considered this to be abusive towards her and their DS, so she applied to court to remove the order completely.

That application is ongoing - three hearings so far, DH and ex have been ordered to attend SPIP, their DS will be subject to a CAFCASS interview, and the megre telephone contact that had been maintained has been prevented since the last hearing due to a line fault - all contact DH makes with his DS now has to be via exW mobile phone. Punctuating that is demands and expectations that DH should want to see his DS, offers of contact so that DS can do x and generally every indication that as long as she calls the shots, she's happy for DH to spend time with his DS despite the allegations and histrionics.

I suppose what I'm saying is that your DH may not get the calm, low conflict environment that he expects, even if he does give up on a regular court ordered contact schedule. Depending on what motivates his exW; personality disorder, desire to maintain conflict, emotional dependency - he may well discover that by disengaging, his exW finds new and potentially more damaging ways to keep him engaged in the battle she sees herself having with him.

Somehow, he will have to come to terms with the fact that his DDs Mum may always create drama no matter what he does. It is part of who she is. The hardest part of your relationship may well be the two of you accepting that his exW may always be there. Even when his DD is grown - there may well always be a need in her mind, to be in contact, to fight, to engage.

Xalla Wed 12-Mar-14 16:38:08

No I know he won't get the calm, low conflict environment Frog. She'll kick off every time something doesn't go the way she wants it to. Just like she always has. Deep down he knows it too.

I think what he really wants, is to minimise the impact the constant drama has on everyone; DSD, him, me and to a lesser extent, our other kids.

What motivates her is anyone's guess. I think it's probably a combination of fear, envy, rage and revenge. I wasn't OW. DH wasn't even in a long term relationship with her, let alone married to her when she got pregnant.

A lot of it is just that she's completely disorganised, her life is chaotic, she's volatile and she's so dishonest I don't think she can remember what she's said 5 minutes ago most of the time. I think this is the biggest reason contact orders / agreements / calendars always fail. And I'm certain no amount of court intervention will improve this.

FrogbyAnotherName Wed 12-Mar-14 16:54:37

I think what he really wants, is to minimise the impact the constant drama has on everyone; DSD, him, me and to a lesser extent, our other kids.

He has no control over anyone's reactions but his own.

He can't stop his ex generating the drama - it doesn't matter what he does, it'll still be there.

And he can't change how his DD, you or your other DCs react. All he can do is support you all to develop coping strategies.

I remember DH and I feeling as you do. The feeling of helplessness and desperate search to find something that WE could do that would somehow make things a little bit better.

It was a relief when we finally accepted that there is no solution. Our lives will forever be punctuated by drama. We no longer worry about it. We know that we may have to live separately, we may lose our livlihood, we may be investigated by peofessionals due to her allegations or behaviour, but we'll deal with it when it happens. Nothing we do can influence her behaviour.

Xalla Wed 12-Mar-14 17:11:14

I don't think I'm ready to accept a lifetime of drama yet. Even if it is inevitable sad

I accept what you're saying though.

lostdad Thu 13-Mar-14 11:24:40

It is hard. My case took 5 years and 15 hearings (two final ones, two CAFCASS reports, false allegations of child and domestic abuse, my son being moved halfway across the country to try to remove me from his life and him being taught the guy she had left me for was `Daddy'.

None of it worked.

My son is with me a large amount of time. All was done by consent orders presumably because his mum knew that none of her allegations or objections would stand up to examination.

The contact is now not far off what I wanted to negotiate with her before all the nonsense had to be endured. I did all that with a McKenzie Friend. It cost me a couple of thousand where I estimate my ex's costs were ten times that. confused

FrogbyAnotherName Thu 13-Mar-14 13:55:12

lostdad It's not just the financial cost, though. DH and I have spoken at length about the sacrifices he is prepared to make - in terms of his life with me, his career, his hobby, and his physical and mental well being.

All of those things are affected - he can't progress his career in the direction he'd hoped, because he needs the flexibility to take time off work for court hearings. He and I can't holiday together as we may like - because his allocated holiday entitlement is reserved for court dates and other court ordered appointments (SPIP, mediation, etc). He had to stand down as a governor at his sons school because of the allegations made by his exW, we are regularly up until the early hours dealing with paperwork which affects our health and DH regularly sees a counsellor to help him cope with the stress.

DH had decided that the cost was too great - he knew that enforcing the order through court could cost him a great deal,and that the outcome would be no different. So he chose not to. Yet, he is still paying the same price - because of his exW determination to eliminate him from their DCs lives.

lostdad Thu 13-Mar-14 16:06:20

FrogbyAnotherName - I understand completely.

I lost my business and damaged my career, my house, my dog(!), friends as well as permanently damaging my health and having a good credit rating as nothing but a fond memory. I drove 600 miles in a night to find somewhere to live, did the same all-night paperwork sessions and sat in courts alone for emergency hearings when my son was prevented from seeing me.

With my new partner it caused arguments, dissent, upset and financial hardship and it's only now that things are approaching normal (for example...it took 5 years for us to have a holiday). She almost left me a few times over the strain it put on her - my ex tried to drag her into the court case.

I've been in the same situation - I turned down great jobs, took a large amount of unpaid leave. I do understand.

From my point of view though the cost wasn't too great. I couldn't (and still can't!) think of anything better to fight for than my child. If I couldn't find for him...what could I fight for?

When my ex broke the order I represented myself and took her back for an emergency hearing meaning it cost her money and me very little. When she made allegations I took action to demonstrate to the court that they were baseless.

One thing I am curious about is `he had to stand down as a governor at his sons school because of the allegations made by his exW'. How did she manage to make him stand down?

I am not criticising. It was the hardest fight of my life and one I wish I hadn't had, wouldn't wish on anyone and don't blame anyone else for avoiding. But it is possible to come out of the other side of this.

FrogbyAnotherName Thu 13-Mar-14 16:36:50

lostdad does you partner have DCs? The hardest part of supporting my DH has been balancing the impact on my DD with the benefits of having her stepdad in her life.
If it wasn't for the fact that her Dad and I have a 50:50 care arrangement, I don't think I could have stayed. As it is, my non-negotiable is that she will never have contact with DHs DCs again unless they change their residency and DH becomes primary carer. We can then engage in family therapy to rebuild the trust that has been destroyed.

With regard to the Goverance, it was not DHs ex that made him - the school are involved in providing evidence in response to her allegations, and they need to be seen to be impartial and unbiased, not only in this case, but overall. How easy would it be for another parent to point a finger and say that the school are proving exW wrong and supporting DH because of his position?

The 'can you ever give up' debate is one we have regularly - but reading about cases that last years, with dozens of hearings, and still don't change the fact that the DC doesn't have contact with their NRP is depressing. DHs counsellor tells him that he has a right to be happy, and coupled with a life altering accident a few years ago, he is determined not to put his life on hold pursuing something that is nebulous, at best.
He will always be there for his DCs, and we will always respond to contact they make - but DH questions the value of pursuing contact so doggedly that it creates a stressed and unhappy father for his DCs. Is that better than what they have now?

Xalla Sat 15-Mar-14 07:59:07

He will always be there for his DCs, and we will always respond to contact they make - but DH questions the value of pursuing contact so doggedly that it creates a stressed and unhappy father for his DCs. Is that better than what they have now?

Exactly. It's not better for the DSC or the DC or anyone else for that matter.

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