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CAFCASS say custody of SD to DH - when will it happen?

(18 Posts)
MostlyHappyMum Wed 17-Jun-09 21:45:00

Hi everybody, I am new to all this, but have the feeling I am going to need the support of some like-minded people over the next few months (maybe even years - eek!) We are back in the family court next week with a CAFCASS report which recommends that DH should get custody of his 7-year-old SD with very restricted access to alcoholic BM. If the judge agrees, does anyone know when that custody will take effect? Is it likely to be that day or will a future date be set on which to collect her (suspect the former as the report is pretty slating of BM). Is there any possibility that judge may not agree? (Solicitor says not but reserving judgement myself). Could BM hang it out for a final hearing somehow? What happens if she doesn't agree to what we've proposed (ie. in line with CAFCASS)?
Anyone else been through anything remotely similar and got ANY advice whatsoever which might be helpful in any way?
Feeling pretty terrified and apprehensive at mo, altho love SD very much.

ElenorRigby Wed 17-Jun-09 23:38:51

Is the 7yo the daughter or step daughter of your husband?

sunshine13 Thu 18-Jun-09 11:33:48

Firstly... welcome!

My OH is fighting for custody to see more of his little one at the moment.The whole legal process brings about a lot of stress of it's own... let alone the mention of THE EX every day!

My situ is a little reversed. The mad ex is digging her heels in so that OH DOESNT see his little one. She is devious and a pathalogical liar.

I understand you feeling scared about the whole situation. What I would ask is this..Did you & OH talk about the reality/practicalities of his son coming to live with you? How do you feel about this? If you're OK with it, have you discussed how you would "parent" him?

As for my experience of family law system, anything can happen. That is what I have learnt.

From my experience, I have already accepted the fact OH (either through court order or of his own volition) will be living with us at some point. I had to make sure that I was OK with this. I am.

As for CAFCASS, well.. I do understand how scary that could be. At the moment OH is being interviewed (sorry- interogated) by CAFCASS and there was a possibility that they may interview me. I was NOT a happy bunny and refused until 1) OH & I have moved in together properly 2) they had bl&&dy good reason to interview me.

I think in any situation like this COMMUNICATION is key. I have found that OH & I have talked seriously from the word go. I think you have to really. It's a lot to ask any potential partner but (at the risk of sounding unusually fluffy) love will find a way.

Sounds as though you love your OH & his child very much.

MostlyHappyMum Thu 18-Jun-09 21:17:19

Thanks to you both for replying. A bit of confusion I think - the post related to MY step-daughter, not son, and my husband's daughter (incorrect use of abbreviations I think - sorry!)
The same as sunshine13, we had always presumed she would live with us one day, but hoped it would be through happier circumstances. To be honest, I would rather she was with her Mum and her Mum was able to cope, because that would be the best scenario for her. If making sure she is properly looked after means her being with us, I am OK with it. I do think both she and we will find it very hard at times though.
My own (and his) DD is 4 and will be overjoyed! We haven't told her yet just in case the outcome is not as expected next week. However, I do worry about what all this might do to my relationship with her.
SD already stays with us for half the holidays and every other w/e so I guess we will just carry on as we have done but just for more of the time. I don't know if I have ever really knowingly parented her, but I feel like she is mine when she is here, so suppose I have.
Dealing with CAFCASS is never easy, is it?
You're very right about communication and we should talk more, but I feel comfortable that we're on the same page and its kind of late now ... shock
How awful for your OH's ex to stop him seeing his little boy? Why do separated parents always seem to use their children as weapons? Its so sad and so selfish. Hang in there.

mumblechum Thu 18-Jun-09 21:22:02

Welcome MHM. I'm a divorce lawyer and do a lot of Children Act work.

Firstly, although the court is very likely to go with the Cafcass recommendation, the mother doesn't have to just accept the report and if she doesn't, and assuming that the hearing next week is for directions, then her solicitor will ask for an adjournment and for a direction that Cafcass address whatever issues she feels have either not been covered adequately or are based on false assumptions.

The court can either make the adjourned hearing the final one, with a time estimate of at least a day, or depending on various circs, just adjourn the hearing for another review. I think the former is more likely as courts do try hard not to drag matters out longer than necessary.

If the mother agrees to withdraw her application for residence next week then the timing of the handover is down to negotiation between the parents, probably with Cafcass's help as intermediary.

MostlyHappyMum Thu 18-Jun-09 21:37:35

Wow - thanks so much for that MC.
Can I ask another q? Our solicitor told us that if BM does not agree to the settlement terms the judge may rule for a final hearing, but in that case because BM does not have a good case, she will lose her legal aid and have to represent herself. Is that correct?
Thanks again for your help.

mumblechum Thu 18-Jun-09 21:40:29

Yes, if she's on legal aid her solicitors have to disclose the Cafcass report to the Legal services commission and try to justify why funding should continue. If they can't, then it will be withdrawn.

Be aware, though that if she loses funding, Judges will bend over backwards to try to ensure that she's not at a disadvantage.

Personally, I'd much rather be up against a barrister or solicitor on the other side than a litigant in person because the judge will let them away with much more in terms of irrelevant evidence, not playing by the rules etc.

MostlyHappyMum Thu 18-Jun-09 22:15:29

Thanks again MC.
I thought that might be the case.
I guess we just have to wait and see then ... I'll at least be relieved to know the outcome, whatever it is.

yerblurt Thu 18-Jun-09 22:43:31

I've a fair bit of experience with family court matters having self-represented as a Litigant In Person (have a shared residence order for my daughter), dealing with CAFCASS etc. Now I chair my local Families Need Fathers branch and help out other parents and in court as a McKenzie friend.

mumblechum's advice is spot on.

If CAFCASS have recommended to Court in a report that your partner should have sole residence then the Court would normally go with the recommendations of the report. It all depends on what the actual wording of the report says - this will be towards the end and written with reference to the "Welfare Checklist" (which is a set of guidelines that form a major part of the Children Act 1989).

If the ex wishes to contest the findings at a Final Hearing and is on legal aid (as mumblechum has said) then her legal counsel will need to justify to the LSC why public money should be used on a case that has very little prospect of success.

I would imagine there would need to be some negotiation about contact for the children with mum, this will depend on her alcoholism and her treatment, so regular reviews at Court would probably be necessary (or agreed between the parties, but I would personally be happy with reviews at Court so that there is a clear written order about what is to happen and when).

Presumably mum is getting treatment and contact can happen in a supervised settings, CAFCASS may be happy to do this so you should find out what facilities are available locally.

Good luck with everything, feel free to contact me if you want to discuss anything off-forum.

mrshibbins Sat 20-Jun-09 12:46:43

Hello MostlyHappyMum

We are in exactly the same position as you, but two years further down the line. My OH was awarded residency for his (then 6 yr old) daughter. BM is far from being able to parent properly, safely or appropriately because of ongoing alcoholism. Very very sad sad Her solicitors advised her to accept the recommendations and she did. It was long drawn out though because she was too drunk to turn up to the previous two hearings sad

little one lived with us with immediate effect, but was in fact living with us already. children's services were involved, because BM had been both arrested for neglect and reported by the school, and CS said that if we didn't have her, she'd have to go into care. sad Awful for all of us, but having her here with us is the least worst option.

My OH tried to keep contact going between little one and her BM, but we came to the end of the road at the start of this year because he was just not able to judge whether it was safe to leave little one with her even for an afternoon, and it was causing so much distress to her.

We went back to Family Court who on CAFCASS recommendation have ruled that all contact for the time being is to be Supported Contact at a Child Contact Centre, once a fortnight, and BM to have bimonthly liver function tests. The next review is in September.

The first contact visit is taking place as I write, it's the first time little one has seen her BM for over 4 months shock

Ultimately, like you, we'd rather she was living with her mum, as kids should be, but that's just not possible right now, so I try to mother and parent her as best I can. Not an ideal situation, but luckily we have a very loving bond, so there's more smooth than rough. Hard flipping work though, mothering someone else's child when that someone else wishes the fires of hell would burn you up.

Good luck - let us know how how it all goes.

mrshibbins Sat 20-Jun-09 12:50:14

NB I should also add that we self-represented, as we did not qualify for legal aid, due to a property my OH was left by his mother, which is in negative equity, and we cannot sell it. we have let it out, but the rent doesn't even cover the mortgage, because his mum mortgaged it up to the hilt as she was ill for a long time ... we are absolutely stoney broke and can't afford any legal bills. It was hard work researching and getting all the paperwork prepared, but having done it once, I feel totally confident in doing it again. Who needs solicitors, that's what I say! grin

MostlyHappyMum Sat 20-Jun-09 20:47:28

Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for answering ... everybody.
I feel so much better just to hear other people's stories.
Currently BM has not admitted to alcoholism so treatment out of the question. She has had two hair strand tests & liver function tests six months apart which both prove excessive alcohol consumption, probable liver damage and potential dependency. She still says she is not drinking much!
CAFCASS say she should have restricted access only ie. with other responsible adult present that DH is happy with. Struggling to think of one tho, so will probably be thru a contact centre, the other option they have suggested.
Just can't bear the thought of getting adjourned to a final hearing, and then having to have more regular visits to court, it is costing us a fortune, we have borrowed here, there and everywhere. Just praying BM will accept the terms. Can't see it though. Still too terrified to represent ourselves but good to hear others have done it, maybe we could look into it.
Mrs H ... my mouth dropped open to hear your story. Ours is nowhere near that bad, so sad for your LO, it does sound like her BM is along the same lines as the one we're dealing with but worse. Nothing is ever her fault.
Just read report again (for millionth time) and its pretty clear! I am just not sure what happens if BM does not agree with the terms, which we've proposed in line with the report ie. residence to DH, restricted access to BM. Can/will the judge just over-rule her or does it have to go to a final hearing? Can't really see what point there would be in a final hearing, nothing else for her to come up with in her defence really or any way to disprove the tests ...

mrshibbins Mon 22-Jun-09 14:37:16

If the BM does not accept the terms, her solicitors will have to reapply for legal aid giving valid reasons why the terms are not accepted. if legal aid board think reasons not valid enough, they will not give her any further funding.

you should try to self-represent. I was very anxious about doing this, but it's really not as hard as you think. It's not like it's crown court or anything and at the end of the day, CAFCASS and the judge are only interested in what is best for the child, it's not like they are judging which parent is 'guilty' or anything like that. Having done it once, I'd be very confident in doing it again, and saving a huge legal bill.

In our case, after the residence was awarded, the contact was supposed to be supervised by another adult friend or relative. Okay in theory, but in practice it just didn't work out as more times than not
- the friend was also drunk
- BM lied about a friend being there
- it just couldn't be organised because the few sober friends left had their own lives to lead

The first Contact Centre visit has now taken place, and it was a success, SD came home happy and completely not distressed. grin

MostlyHappyMum Mon 22-Jun-09 20:52:27

Thanks Mrs H. Well tomorrow is D-day so I guess we'll find out soon. Worst case scenario for us will be adjournment for final hearing with SD having to stay with BM til then, but I really can't see that happening from reading (and re-reading and re-reading) the CAFCASS report.
If that does happen, or if we have to go back for any other reason, I'll find out more about self-representing. If it was me I'd be happy to give it a go, but of course its not. I suppose I could represent my DH though, that would be wierd.
I'm so pleased your SD had a good visit with Mum. Its so important for kids to have contact with their Mums, within reason obviously, but at least a little bit of contact is better than none even when the situation is sooo bad. I must admit our situation is likely to be the same, report suggests another responsible adult being present and we've suggested BM's Mum but there's no way she'll be able to be there all the time. The rest of BM's friends are pretty much like her really, just like your BM's. The idea of a contact centre does seem very hard but maybe it could work out for us too.
Keep fingers crossed for us, will be very glad when its over tbh.

mrshibbins Tue 23-Jun-09 13:55:17

well, we were more than pleasantly surprised by the Contact Centre www.naccc.org.uk it was a bright, airy well maintained building, with good facilities and a number of private rooms for quiet contact. it also had wonderful grounds for families to enjoy. Run entirely by some very good volunteers. They have strict policies, which are good - and we see this as a very positive step.

you won't be able to represent your OH, I don't think, and it wouldn't be good anyway as you are not impartial. But you can help him prepare the paperwork. I got all the info I needed from The Children's Legal Centre www.childrenslegalcentre.com

and downloaded the forms I needed from HMRC here:
search2.hmrc.gov.uk/kbroker/hmrc/forms/start.jsp

it cost us £175 instead of probably 15 times that with a solicitor shock !!!

if you need any more info, let me know!

Good luck for tomorrow! smile Let us know what happens

MostlyHappyMum Wed 24-Jun-09 21:34:28

Hello there, well as suspected we have been adjourned for a final hearing, and apparently it will take two days. We are pushing to get a date before the beginning of September, because if SD comes to live with us she will need to change schools (she is due to move up to juniors in sept anyway) and much kinder for her to start her new school at start of term obviously.
BM is disputing the hair strand test results and the CAFCASS report, and therefore CAFCASS officer and someone from lab will be called to give evidence. Plus she has been referred (not sure by whom at mo) to a local alcohol counselling service (altho she still says hair strand test result is wrong and she is NOT drinking that much) and they are "testing" her daily apparently. We suspect it is just a breathalyser test anyway which clearly she could pass easily and still be drinking to excess. And they are not even open at weekends! So someone from there will give evidence.
Feeling a bit drained and down in mouth at mo cos really hoped it would be over yesterday, altho should have realized she would not agree to terms. She now has a couple of months, if not more, to look like she is cleaning up her act, when we suspect she won't (or can't that easily). I guess we have to hope judge is not that stupid, but of course they will always try to give BM benefit of doubt if they can. Can only pray she really is cleaning up her act I suppose, but finding that hard to believe. Thanks for the support. Trying to look on bright side.

mrshibbins Thu 25-Jun-09 14:04:01

sad poor you. i know only too well what a long drawn out exhausting, demoralising thing this will be...

SD didn't hear from her BM for 3 days after the contact visit on Saturday. she was so obviously on a bender...

but she'll lie through her back teeth about it, even if caught at it, as if she says it often enough then it's got to be true...

i can't get my head around it personally. as i said to OH this morning. DD's happiness and wellbeing is way down on her list of priorities, beneath:

- booze
- her problems (sooo much worse than anyone's else in the whole history of the world)
- booze
- more booze
- fags
- even more booze
- preserving her fragile self-image at all costs

sad

MostlyHappyMum Thu 25-Jun-09 21:17:13

I must admit I have agonized over it many many times, if I had had to bring up my DD on my own and didn't have a job, would I have ended up as a habitual binge drinker? Maybe I don't appreciate how hard it is to be on your own, living in a grotty area and surrounded by down and outs. But all I can think about is how unhappy she has made her own DD (ie. my SD) and how bloody selfish it is that she can't recognize that. She has seen the reports SD has filled in with CAFCASS saying only too blatantly how upset she is by Mummy drinking and how worried it makes her. No matter how depressed I got, I couldn't fail to recognize that I was making my own daughter unhappy and do something about that, not if I saw it there in black and white. angry
Anyway, I really must stop moaning because your BM sounds much worse than ours! Although on the other hand, at least your situation is more cut and dried, ours still has something to fight back with albeit lies and tests that don't amount of anything. I'm just worried that the judge might listen to some of those lies. I wish I could be more of a liar! How horrible ... sad

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