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Looks like we're going to court - anyone with CAFCASS experience?

(40 Posts)
poppiesmum Thu 16-Nov-06 18:58:09

My dh has an 8yo dd with his ex who despite a contact order he hasn't seen all year. Ex says it's dd's decision and will not force her. Dh has taken difficult decision to go back to court to enforce the court order.

It is likely CAFCASS will get involved to establish dd's reasons for not wanting to see her dad, which we think will be a good thing as we believe she is being influenced by her mum.

Has anyone had any experience of what will happen? Dh is completely devavstated by the situation and all he wants is to see his dd again.

sidey Thu 16-Nov-06 19:37:12

Hi my dh has had the same problem. He hasn't seen his son or daughter in 6 years. We spent thousands on court fees and contact orders were made but still didn't see them. His ex kept saying the kids didn't want to see him but she is such a psycho that we know she has influenced them against dh. CAFCASS will speak to kids and also the parents, but to be honest they did no good for us. Solicitor told us ex could go to prison if she didn't keep to contact order, BUT what judge will send a mother of two to prison????!!!! At the moment there is nothing he can do and hopefully when kids get older they will realise themselves. Sorry this is negative but this is what has happened to us

poppiesmum Thu 16-Nov-06 21:17:37

sidey - thanks for your message, so sorry to hear your experience. Sounds very similar to ours! Did nothing come out from CAFCASS interviewing the kids about the underlying reasons for not wanting to see their dad? Dh's dd is only 8 and apparently the court views this as too young to make that sort of decision on their own. Our only hope is that by speaking to her it would be clear to see the indirect influencing on the part of her mother.

mummypumpkin Thu 16-Nov-06 21:30:57

8 is seen as too young by courts and cafcass. They need to be 9 or or 10. I am a single mother of 2 and my ex took me to court to get the access he already had formalised - (there was no need, he had been having access for 6 years! )but we missed one weekend and I got so much sh*t from my solicitor. She told me that I would 100% be sent to prison if I broke the contact order again. She said that I would be used as an example and that the courts would not give a toss that I had 2 kids at home. All he has to do surely is get a penal notice attached to the court order? Poppiesmum - what would happen if your dh just turned up at the house?

poppiesmum Thu 16-Nov-06 21:40:05

ex and dd live 200 miles away so turning up not an option. Contact order instigated by dh when they said they were moving to ensure that he stayed in contact, however, that still hasn't happened. Solicitor has agreed with sideys commen, that courts unlikely to send mother to prison, more interested in finding out the underlying reasons for contact breaking down. Just wondered whether CAFCASS really do help - there is no reason for dh not to see dd, he has always stuck to contact arrangments and paid his way, but we are now battling against the ex and her influence over dd.

mummypumpkin Thu 16-Nov-06 21:46:50

Seriously, my solicitor said that because of all the coverage of F4J and the huge debates over father's rights that I would without a doubt be sent to prison. Her colleages agreed. I was absolutely terrified! With regards to Cafcass they are very hot on Fathers seeing kids and if they get involved they will talk to both parents seperately and the child on it's own. Cafcass and courts will not accept that 8 is old enough. My ex was an violent alcoholic (not that it mattered as he had access anyway) but tbh Cafcass don't really care - all they care about is that the father is not a murderer or paedophile. All they want is for fathers to see their children no matter what the circumstances are.

poppiesmum Thu 16-Nov-06 21:50:43

That sounds more hopeful - last thing we want is to spend loads of time and money and to put dd through the process and not get anywhere in the end. Did your children get interviewed? What were they asked?

mummypumpkin Thu 16-Nov-06 21:56:32

My ds was 6 at the time and he was asked all sorts! How he felt about his Dad, if he liked seeing him, what sort of things they did when they were together, if he liked Dad's house, how he felt when he was at Dad's rather than at home, how did Mum and Dad get on, did he ever not want to see Dad - if not why not, etc. Even though my ds told the cafcass officer that Daddy was mean and always made Mummy cry and he deliberately ran animals over and laughed which made him upset (!!) cafcass thought Daddy sounded like a thoroughly nice chap and felt ds should see him as much as humanly possible!

mummypumpkin Thu 16-Nov-06 21:57:37

And courts always go with the cafcass officers recommendation too.

zookeeper Thu 16-Nov-06 22:04:27

I do family law work and this makes me so frustrated!! If a mum or dad constantly breaches a court order the penalty is supposed to be a penal notice - but I've never yet had a judge give one. The argument is always that the kids will suffer if mum goes to prison.

The idea is that the parent with the child should promote and encourage that child's contact with the other parent but some mums are so wrapped up with hatred for their exes (and often with good reason ) that they can't or won't do it.

The other sanction is for the non-resident parent to be given a residence order but this rarely happens because it is so drastic.

the problem is that even if the mum is a complete bitch it would hurt the child to "punish" her.

Cafcass are good - they will often be well aware what is going on - but they cannot turn parents who are prepared to abuse their children in this way into reasonable people. Court order or no, it is very easy for parents to poison their children against each other and if the child doesn't want to go with the parent who turns up fpr a visit then they can hardly be dragged kicking and screaming away if they don't want to go.

Frankly, although the courts bend over backwards to help dads in this position,in my experience dads usually get so fed up of the whole process that they give up and decide to wait for the child to see the light. Some dads keep going back to court and back again but it is very costly, exhausting and soul-destroying and they only get orders that are broken again and again. In the meaantime the child is told by mummy that daddy is taking mummy to court again. It's horrible
It would be a help if you were nearer to the child - is moving an option ? - then , say, a couple of hours in the local park would be a starting point and something to build on.

It's such a horrible frustrating position to be in - dh has my sympathy.

poppiesmum Thu 16-Nov-06 22:06:36

Thanks for your comments mummypumpkin. Thankfully dh is nothing like your ex sounds - he used to have a very close relationship with dd and just wants to be part of her life again. However, ex refuses to see that it's her words and actions that are shaping dd's feelings towards her dad and that dd sees mum getting upset and feels loyal to her and won't say she then wants to see her dad. Dh only wants to put dd through a court process if he's sure they will help him regain contact.

poppiesmum Thu 16-Nov-06 22:13:11

Zookeeper - thanks for your advice, it's good to hear from someone in the profession. What you describe is exactly what we know is happening - a problem that has become worse since dh's and my wedding and subsequent baby. Dd has met her sister and had a lovely time playing with her which was lovely to see. The sad thing is that dh and I have been together for 6 years and have enjoyed many great times with his dd, but we can see the influencing that is taking place at her home by her mum. You are right - the thought of months of court action, the financial and emotional cost are truly off-putting and dh has considered giving up. We also know that if contact were re-inststated, his ex would not change and the pressure for dd at home would probably get worse. We really don't know what to do for the best.

zookeeper Thu 16-Nov-06 22:20:53

poppiesmum -It's so difficult - Tell him to try to keep an line of communication open, even if it is to send a cards, postcards, etc with a short note(nothing to heavy)and photos of the baby, anything to show his commitment to her and to let her know he loves her.

Does he get copies of all her reports, etc from her school? He should do - they would help to give him something to talk abour when he writes.

Has he tried mediation? That often works and the beauty of an agreemnet( as opposed to a court order) is that neither parent feels as though they have been compelled to do something they don't want to.

The children are never taken to court and in an ideal world should really be unaware that the court proceedings are going on. In an ideal world...

zookeeper Thu 16-Nov-06 23:29:59

mummiepumpkin - I just don't believe that you were told by your solicitor that you were 100% going to prison if you missed one contact weekend after only missing one weekend before that. As if. Equally, why would your ex take you to vcourt if contact was going well?
There is no minmum age where the courts have to listen to the children - they go on the maturity of the child concerned. You've got Cafcass wrong too - it's concerned with the rights of the child and it's accepted that the child has a right to know both his parents unless it can be shown that it is not in the best interests of the child.

To be honest, you obviously loathe your ex and don't appear to have made a secret of it- don't you think that your child might have picked up on thatand have very divided loyalties?

poppiesmum Fri 17-Nov-06 09:19:26

Thanks zookeeper - we have always sent photos and written, and dh has tried to call but it is so difficult. He has suggested mediate before but the ex refused, maybe we'll try again as a last ditch attempt before lodging the petition to the court. Dh really doesn't want to put dd through it. Even though she would not need to go herself, we know that her mum would be telling her all about it every step of the way (and then she wonders why dd says she doesn't want to see her dad!??) We need to give it some more serious thought.

zookeeper Fri 17-Nov-06 09:25:31

Ire ally hope it works out - it most be so unbearable for your DH - good luck

Surfermum Fri 17-Nov-06 10:07:52

Oh poppiesmum, I feel for you. My dh had to get a contact order to see his dd and it's stressful for everyone involved, not least the child. Dh represented himself when he could no longer afford a solicitor and he got on fine. He felt the Courts were sympathetic to the fact that he was a litigant in person and didn't know all the etiquette. He ended up with contact every 3rd weekend and half of the school holidays.

In dsd's case CAFCASS acknowledged that she was likely to be reflecting the parent with care's opinion and they observed him having contact with her and based their opinion on that. His x tried to say that dsd wouldn't know him, that she was afraid of him, but all they saw was a little girl having a great time with her Daddy.

Would it be OK if I CAT you? I have some other info that you might find helpful.

poppiesmum Fri 17-Nov-06 10:13:06

Hi surfermum - thanks for the info. By all means CAT me - any info would be appreciated. We are just trying to weigh up the benefits of re-establishing his relationship with dd against the hassle that will be happening at home as her mum will not protect her from the events as she tells her everything. Didn't realise that CAFCASS may observe him and dd together - can he request that if they don't suggest it? Seeing them together out somewhere would be useful (especially if they also witness the number of time her mum calls her while they are together!) Thanks v much

mummypumpkin Fri 17-Nov-06 11:52:23

Zookeeper, that is exactly what my solicitor told me - that I would be made an example of. My ex took me to court to teach me a lesson. He has ALWAYS had contact but I didn't say it was going well - we had problems with him and the police were involved.To be honest though I didn't feel it relevant to tell you all my background history as this isn't about me. I'm sorry if you somehow feel I am lying about what my solicitor said - why would I do that? Yes, I do have a difficult relationship with my ex but it's not really anyone else's business. Why is obvious I loathe him? Because I dared to mention he has problems?
I was told by both my solicitor AND by Cafcass that 9 is the minimum age that a child would be deemed old enough to have their own views on seeing the non-resident parent. I have never ever tried to influence my son's view of his father, perhaps he picked up on tensions when my ex turned up in a drunken rage trying to break my front door down? Or the 60 threatening phone calls we used to get per day? It's hard to hide that sort of thing from your children. Even after everything he did to us he still had access.
Why do you think my comment about Cafcass is wrong? I've said the same as you but used different wording. My point was that even though ds's Dad isn't a particularly nice person and upsets our son they felt regular contact was still in my son's best interest, therefore surely a nice, decent guy who longs to be involved in his child's upbringing will not have a problem with the Cafcass report.
The OP asked for advise from anyone who had experience of dealing with Cafcass and I was telling her my experiences - please don't assume that I deserve to be accused of lying and treated like some sort of leper because I dared to post on the stepmum's section. Not all BM's are bitches you know. You obviously have no personal experience of the hell I've been put through - I had done nothing wrong.I was trying to help by posting about the experience that my family went through. I'll just bugger off then as I'm obviously not welcome.

Surfermum Fri 17-Nov-06 12:40:08

Dh's x was also of the opinion that she should keep nothing from dsd, so she knew exactly what was going on. She knows everything about their relationship too. There was one very upsetting evening when his x was refusing to let dh speak to dsd and she was saying to her "come and tell your dad you don't want to speak to him" and more often than not at that stage she would have a go at dh about something before handing the phone to dsd. We wondered at that point if trying to keep up the weekly phone call that was ordered by the Court was really worth persisting with - not because dh didn't want the contact, far from it, but we wondered if it were really in dsd's best interests to be hearing the stuff she heard. Dh did though because he didn't want his dd to ever feel like he'd not bothered to ring her.

We're now 8 years down the line and I don't think it's affected dsd's relationship with dh. She loves coming here and they're really close. We just concentrated on making sure that she had a great time when she was here, not in terms of buying her stuff or taking her places, but the time dh spends with her. We've never said bad anything to her about her mum and never discuss any of the disputes they've had. If she's asked questions we've answered them as honestly and diplomatically as we could without laying any blame at her mother's feet.

Things are so much more settled now and dh and his x can communicate much better, and he even goes in for a cuppa when he picks dsd up. And that's something I thought I'd never see happen, so hang on in there.

Surfermum Fri 17-Nov-06 12:41:22

Mummypumpkin, please don't think you can't post on the stepmums section. I think it's really helpful to have perspective from all sides and constructive advice or comments are always welcome as far as I'm concerned .

poppiesmum Fri 17-Nov-06 12:56:17

Mummypumpkin - don;t feel you can't post here - I asked for advice and am grateful for whatever examples other mums can share with me. They are helping us balance both sides of the argument

poppiesmum Fri 17-Nov-06 14:33:18

bump for the afternoon mums!

poppiesmum Fri 17-Nov-06 17:30:06

bump - any more experience out there?

pedilia Fri 17-Nov-06 17:36:36

my experience is very similar to mummypumpkin- my ex has been having access for ages and decided to take me to court, he got legal aid and I ended uo with a bill for 8k and he doesn't even pay maintenance!!

I was made to feel like the bad parent even though there had been domestic violence and days he would let me know an hour before he was due that he was not coming for a visit.

Cafcass were useless and it was obvious from day one that contact would ne given no matter what and if I did not make DS available I would face prison or possible curfews/tagging

The family court system is a joke!!

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