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DP's Ex is neglecting their daughter. Help!

(52 Posts)
Jett99 Mon 16-Jan-17 20:15:19

Hi there.
I don't know if this is in the right area, but any step-parents whose partners have difficult exes might be able to relate. I have been with my partner for 3 years and he has his 7-year-old daughter every week Friday-Monday. I get on brilliantly with her and life is pretty great.
However, over time, OH and I have noticed that SD's situation at her mum's is getting worse and worse. She isn't turning up at school a lot of the time without explanation, she's not doing her homework, she's bottom of the class by a long way, she's not being told to go to bed or eat anything remotely healthy, she's being passed around constantly during the week including overnight, she's not being made to wash or brush her teeth consistently, she's being left in slightly worrying situations (very for a parent but not compared to some of the horrors you hear of), she isn't being properly supervised, and she is notably anxious, teary, and knackered when she talks about home / gets to ours on a Friday.
OH is amazing with her, and he looks after her and does as much as he can for her. There is no official arrangement for where she stays, but OH's record shows he hasn't missed his time ever since she was born and always asks for extra whenever he can. The only time he didn't see her was when his ex refused to let him see his daughter on two occasions (when I came on the scene).
His relationship with his ex is civil, but from things his daughter has said, she obviously badmouths him around their daughter, causing more stress and worry. OH would never say a bad word about her mother when SD could overhear - he is always very positive about her. However, the reality is she is stubborn, lazy, and is severely letting her daughter down. Any attempt to suggest that she might take her daughter to school is met with screaming and threats. The school is aware of the situation and teachers are very concerned for SD's education.
Here's the catch - OH would love to switch the contact time around so he can be sure his daughter is at least getting the care she needs during the time she has school. Ideally, he'd get her to a better school in a nicer area and he would be the primary caregiver. He would never want to cut SD's mother out of her life - he only wants the best for her. However, he doesn't have the money to take anything to court right now, his ex would never be up for having a reasonable discussion about the situation, even at mediation, and at the end of the day, the situation doesn't seem severe enough for anyone to forcibly make any changes.
OH is going to have a consultation with a family lawyer next week to discuss his options, but it's making him miserable and frankly it doesn't seem like anything would change anyway. Does anyone have any suggestions or can anyone point me in the right direction for information on this sort of things? We're desperate. Thanks.

Underthemoonlight Mon 16-Jan-17 20:33:23

Contact social services if she's missing a lot of school and is being as you described unkept and shattered, the school if they have the same concerns such be able to support this. End of the day it's borderline neglect he has an opportunity to step in and protect his daughter if it makes getting a loan to go to court or seek legal advice it's worth it for his daughters future.

cestlavielife Mon 16-Jan-17 20:39:26

If there is no court order then he can decide to not return her. If he honestly believes she is being neglected he should take is in his hands. ThenThen she can go to court for contact.
If the school are recording a lot of absences they would have called him in by now to discuss the situation. ?
Does the ex have any diagnosed issues like mh...does she need support ?

Jett99 Mon 16-Jan-17 20:51:55

Thank you for your replies! OH is absolutely going to do something about it, but wants to tread carefully so he's not plunging his daughter into a tug-of-war. School are being utterly useless to be honest - he's requested meetings on four different occasions in the past 9 months or so saying that he wants to know about her attendance and attainment etc., but they were reluctant to give it to him even though he's her dad. It seems they will only deal with her mum. He's even asked for basic things such as copies of letters that go to her mum, and has received nothing months later. He's arranged another meeting with school so he's going to ask again to be informed of everything that goes on.

Underthemoonlight - He absolutely would do, but is just unsure of whether that is the right move. Is Social Services the first step? I was thinking that, but what if they go round and dismiss the case?

cestlavielife - Yes he absolutely could, but that would be very traumatic and distressing for his daughter, and he wants to keep her out of it as much as possible. Ex has no diagnosed mental health problems and shows no sign of any. She has other children, and they were also absent from school a lot and frequently unwashed etc. The school got involved there, but social services were never called.

CannotEvenDeal Mon 16-Jan-17 21:03:01

If he has pr (i.e. he's on the birth certificate)then he I'm sure he should be allowed the info and letters, especially as he has regular contact with his dd.

CannotEvenDeal Mon 16-Jan-17 21:04:25

Sorry I didn't mean to sound so curt, I just get annoyed when schools withhold info and insist on dealing with one specific parent!

Jett99 Mon 16-Jan-17 21:05:19

CannotEvenDeal - Yes he is on the birth certificate and does have parental responsibility. However, I think school are worried about getting in the middle of things. They give him information when he pushes for it, but don't volunteer it.

Jett99 Mon 16-Jan-17 21:05:52

I agree, it's very annoying! Especially since he has 50%!

Bitofacow Mon 16-Jan-17 21:07:27

If the school were 'involved' I would be very surprised if social services have not been informed. The school is obligated to inform ss of possible neglect.

BubbleWrapQueen Mon 16-Jan-17 21:08:27

If he has PR he needs to contact the school and social services. If her needs aren't being met and are noticed by attendance and health at school etc, then he can ask to have her longer term as main carer. Mum will fight it, you will have to go through courts no doubt, and cafcass, but if things are as you said, you can't sit back and watch anymore.

We are going through similar. We haven't gone for residency yet, but I can see it happening this year.

cestlavielife Mon 16-Jan-17 21:11:32

So how does he know what her attendance is?
Where does the child go when she lot in school? Is she declared sick ?
What evidence does he have?
How come he has her every weekend ?
If she lived with him when would she see mum?
If she is seriously being neglected then he has to act. Yes short term there may be trauma but what about long term ?

EggnogChai Mon 16-Jan-17 21:14:24

A child arrangement order costs £215, you don't need to pay £££ for a fancy solicitor to go to court with there's plenty of help and guides online

Jett99 Mon 16-Jan-17 21:16:27

Bitofacow - As far as I know, school haven't been involved with SD yet, but OH's ex has had run-ins with the school her other children went to in the past. When OH has this meeting with school, he is going to fully find out what they are seeing and when they are going to get involved.
BubbleWrapQueen - He does have PR yes - do you know what happens if he contacts Social Services? There is no way we're not doing anything about it, we're just getting all of the information together first before we act.
Does anyone know how it actually all works though? In the mean time, does everything carry on as normal for the child? Who does he actually ask to have her more long term? Is that just when it gets to court? I've done my reading, but things seem to change frequently so it's hard to keep up.

KarmaNoMore Mon 16-Jan-17 21:17:58

Schools cannot "get worried about getting in the middle of things". First thing he has to do is to go back to the school and be informed of the situation, it is his right (if he has parental responsibility), it is not a special favour.

Second thing to do is that he needs to talk to her or find a way to communicate with her. If they do not talk to each other, no wonder the child is not doing well.

Be prepared for some surprises, it is not unusual for children of parents who do not talk to each otger to complain bitterly about what happens at the other parent's home, so it is very important that you don't ask them leading questions because they will tell you what they think you want to hear and even start believing it.

So school first to find out what is going, invitation to mediation afterwards, and if things do not work, take the matters to court. (You can't go to court without attempting mediation)

It is never simple to fight for anything in court so he needs to try to sort things in a civilised way, even when he thinks she won't listen. Going to mediation will also hel to tecstart the communication between them, because without it, things will continue to be difficult for your DD.

Ilovecaindingle Mon 16-Jan-17 21:20:24

School are legally obliged to give him exactly the same info that mother receives. They need a reminder of this. .

BubbleWrapQueen Mon 16-Jan-17 21:24:03

Jett, our experience is a little more complicated tbh, but SS took a log, and said if we had any immediate concerns they would expect us to take the child on full time and then recontact them if needed. With PR and no formal court agreement, there is nothing enforcing your DP to return the child to his mother's if he is concerned for her welfare. He has equal rights, and if he is 100% sure of the details and circumstances, he can make arrangements immediately. I think you can get interim court orders if needed.

harrypotternerd Mon 16-Jan-17 21:24:37

I'm going through family court at the moment for my 3 and 5 year olds. There is a lot of neglect at their dads and my lawyer has told me to call ss every time so that there is a log. She also told me to write everything in an exercise book, while it is not 100% evidence it will help.

Jett99 Mon 16-Jan-17 21:26:26

cestlavie -
1. He has a few copies of the register after he really pushed school for it, and last week the teachers asked if SD had been feeling better as she hadn't been in all week. SD confirmed she hadn't been poorly.
2. When she's not in school, she either stays at home or goes to relatives.
3. He has dates of when things have happened, conversations about some of the incidents that have happened, and school attendance / attainment documents. A lot of this is difficult to prove.
4. He has her every weekend because he said he wanted her at least 50% and her mum never protested.
5. If SD lived with us, OH would be more than happy to drop her off and pick her up from her mum's whenever was arranged / her mum wasn't working etc.
6. Totally agree with you, but what is 'seriously'? Does that qualify? She's not really thin or anything.

EggnogChai - I did read that, but for that to happen, do you not need the other parent to agree? Isn't that just from mediation? OH's ex wouldn't agree to that, she'd go to court.

KarmaNoMore - He is going back and he does have PR. He does speak to his ex, as I mentioned they are civil, but he cannot bring anything up that might suggest that she isn't the best mum ever, or she just completely shuts down, screams at him, and says he's not seeing his daughter. I absolutely agree with you about taking children's word for it - it's not something we ask about much, but when she comes home in unclean clothes / incorrect uniform / not washed, that's not just word for it. Thank you for your help and advice, I completely agree.

Jett99 Mon 16-Jan-17 21:28:25

BubbleWrapQueen - Thank you, you have been extremely helpful. I will take it all on board, and I hope everything works out on your end.

harrypotternerd - That was our problem over this end that it's hard to prove things, but a few months ago we did start a log.

Bitofacow Mon 16-Jan-17 21:31:05

If your SD is being neglected you must contact SS and the school. This is about her safety and well being, she must be protected first and foremost.

KenzieBoosMummy Mon 16-Jan-17 21:42:22

If the father has suspicions that his child is being neglected then he needs to not return the child to the mother's care. And there will be an emergency court hearing within 72 hours. If he doesn't and he returns the child, when it eventually does get to court, they will ask why he returned the child knowing that she was being neglected.

I have witnessed judges say exactly that on two will weaken the case if your partner is continually leaving his daughter in the care of someone he believes is neglecting his child. Mother or not. Neglect is neglect.

This way it will be dealt with by the end of that week

Nuggy2013 Mon 16-Jan-17 21:53:34

School need to contact SS and share their views if they have concerns. Also, your OH can represent himself at family court. He needs to obtain relevant forms such as child arrangements order form, fill it in (that's an example BTW) and submit it to the family court , Costs approx £200 to £300 and the case will be listed without requiring a solicitor.

Jett99 Mon 16-Jan-17 21:53:56

Bitofacow - Yes, OH has booked an appointment at school at will be calling SS after that.
KenzieBoosMummy - How is an emergency court hearing triggered? Say he doesn't return her, what happens? I imagine her mum would be sending the police around. Thank you for the head's up about the judge thing. How do you explain that to a child though?

Jett99 Mon 16-Jan-17 21:55:28

Nuggy2013 - Thanks for the information! Do you know where you can obtain the forms from? I found some online but they weren't working, and no indication of where to pick up physical copies.

cestlavielife Mon 16-Jan-17 22:11:53

If she is not being sent to school when she is well then he can explain that he wants to make sure she gets to school .
I am sure she is smart enough to want to be at school not staying home if she not sick.
If mum sends police they can do nothing if he has pr.

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