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Advice on contact urgently required

11 replies

roadkillbunny · 05/11/2010 09:53

Hi, I really need to ask some advice and opinions for a friend in regards to contact.

It is very early days for them with the split, it has been about a month since the decision was agreed and this is the first week of my friend being in her new house and the contact with the father.

I am worried that my friend is being walked all over by her ExH due to her desire for her two children to have a good relationship with their father.

The contact agreement is still being formed but the way it is right now is that the father has the children every other weekend and 1/2 nights in the week (the father wants it to be every Wednesday and Thursday night, my friend would prefer it just Wednesday one week and the next the two nights).

The eldest child started school this year and the youngest will not start pre-school until after Christmas, the father works full time but in the village, his job can be quite flexible and he finishes at 4.30. My friend works one evening a week again in the village.

This week, the first week of all this the ExH insisted that my friend brought the children to him at 4.30 on Wednesday night for the start of his 2 night contact (we all live in a very small village, my friend has managed to get a little house still in the village, she couldn't stay in the family home as it is tied to ExH job), he phoned my friend 3 times that evening over silly things like 'DC1 is having a tantrum' and 'DC wants XYZ where is it in the house' maybe you could understand this if he has never or rarely put his children to bed but he has (he also has form for calling my friend every 15 minutes for nothing really just asking what she is doing and where she is). My friend then had to go round to ExH house at 8am when he left for work to get them ready and take DC1 to school and then have DC2 for the day. Thursday she then had to pick DC1 up from school and then take the children to his house for them to stay overnight again, again he had her round there at 8am this morning to get them ready, take eldest to school and then bring youngest home with her.

The above arrangement has me worried that he is taking advantage of friends desire for the children to have the best relationship with their father they can, he seems to be using her like at best still his wife who just happens to be sleeping somewhere else and at worse an unpaid nanny.

He has said to my friend that he has worked out that if he has the children 7 days out of 14 he will not have to pay any child support so it seems he is trying to get out of paying, my friend would have no problem with a full 50/50 arrangement however the way he is doing things and what he is expecting from my friend it is not 50/50, all he is doing is giving the children dinner a bath and putting them to bed.

My opinion is that the way things have happened this week is very disruptive to the children and also confusing, it is Daddy's house but Mummy comes and gets us ready in the morning, I feel they should have a clear sense of 'Mummy's house' and 'Daddy's house', he has even had the cheek to ask my friend to do bits of house work at his house while she was getting the children ready this morning!

My opinion is (and my friend thinks this to but is struggling with dealing with such a new split, her ExH behaviour and trying to do the best thing for the children) that while the youngest is not at pre-school the midweek contact should just be the one night, he should pick the children up from her when he finishes work and then he should arrange his work day so he can take the eldest to school and then drop off the youngest at Mum's house (friend said she would be just as happy for him to pass the youngest to me at school. I baby sit for them every Thursday night so the ExH can play a sport as it is Friends work night so he has no problems with my care).

Is this reasonable, I worry a little that my opinion is coloured by prejudice against the ExH and his behaviour. Should my friend be running all over the place taking the children to him, sorting them for school and all that? My husband was as shocked as I was when he learnt what the ExH was expecting from my friend. I really think that if he is going to have a two night contact mid week it is his responsibility to sort out childcare for the youngest through the day while he is working and for him to sort out his work so he can take to school. Maybe I would be a little more understanding if he had the type of job that has a ridged time scale but he does not, he is able to adjust things when it suits him to.

I hope that people can understand this, it is quite complex and I am in a hurry. I have also asked my friend if it was okay to post this. Thanks in advance.

OP posts:
cestlavielife · 05/11/2010 10:27

look - either he has them overnight and full responsibility for getting them up and to school /drop off back at mum's or he doesnt do the overnights.


she needs to say "no I wont come round at 0800. you ahve them overnight so it is your responsibility is to get them to school as is your overnight"

end of.

but they need to sit down with a mediator to set up an agreed system.

but she needs to stop answering his calls/texts and leave him to it with the DC. he will soon learn how to do it.

ANTagony · 05/11/2010 10:49

It sounds as though you have a very brave friend with the best of intentions for her DC. At such a difficult time I think she is behaving amazingly well.

Keeping access agreements out of court is generally the best way forward.

My ExH left when the DC were 1 and 3 so a little younger than your friends. Establishing the ground rules is painful and a challenging time. She is lucky to have a good friend to offer an ear of support. My advice is not professional but based on my own experience and understanding having had to go through it.

To be able to offer a stable home and supportive environment to the children and support them in their relationship with their father financially she needs to know where she stands. Whilst he may try to get out of child support payments by having the children 50% of the time he also has spousal maintainance obligations because she is the full time carer of the children and they are so young. This is often spouted as 50% of his income (including an allowance for the house if this is part of his employment package) until the youngest is in full time school hence enabling her to seek employment. This is were a solicitor could go into their actual finances in more detail and advise more completely.

If she is to continue to be the full time carer (including his days) then this would seem appropriate.

She can also check out to check out benefits potentially available to her.

I would suggest a one way drop of would be equal if they are trying to equalise things. i.e. she drops off at his start of visit, he drops of at school/ hers end of visit.

If there are tensions between them then minimal direct contact minimizes potential conflict at an emotional time in front of the DC so your idea of the youngest being passed to you at school is very helpful to ease potential tension points.

Two nights midweek does appear rather complex and crossing the threshold of his house front door I also feel is difficult. I would suggest to him that one night until the youngest is in full time school and he can do wrap around care would be most appropriate.

Sometimes doing the best for the DC is putting yourself and your own needs first. They can't be happy if your friend isn't happy and she needs to have a system that allows her to slowly start creating a life for herself. Maybe before the days are set in stone she could check out evening classes or deals at the local cinema so she has a plan of action for which would be her best night off?

Most of all she needs to think about what she would like for her life. Does she want a career or a job where she can leave work at work at the end of the day? are such jobs available in the area? What will she need to enable her to have a comfortable life going forwards? What nursery, pre and after school facilities are available?

It is a question of prioritizing what are the major issues and which are the irritations. i.e. no1 sorting out fair finances (if he has them 4 rather than 7 nights a fourtnight can she/ will she survive on the maintenance she has? and by doing this will he be as happy with the access arrangement ), no.2 children have good relationships with both parents, no.3 neither parent feels like a second class citizen, no.4 both parents are able to move forward in their own lives as singles, etc

None of it is fair and there is always a lot of emotion kicking around at times like this. What is important is establishing what will work best for all parties and to keep all parties negotiating. Mediation can be very effective if an agenda of points to discuss is set in advance and then a mutual friend sits in to prevent arguments whilst the points are reviewed.

I find and found email a useful source of communication. You can write and rewrite what you would like to say (get a good friend to proof it for you for emotion and undertones) and you have a written history for all decisions.

I think she sounds as though she is doing really well. My one concern would be that she carves out her own life - it is not over, a whole new chapter is beginning and with such a caring personality and good friends I'm sure exciting things will be in her future.

roadkillbunny · 05/11/2010 12:33

Thank you so much for your perspectives, very helpful.

The split is fairly acrimonious and they are able on the whole to maintain a reasonable relationship for the children although there are times when the ExH makes this hard. He is a 'talking bully' it is hard to explain, I didn't understand what my friend was saying to me about it until I ended up being on the end of it for a short while. He was trying to pull her friends in to find out what she was thinking/doing, I was not happy to be brought in this way although I did understand at the time that he was a man losing his family who desperately wanted to keep it together but even though I made it clear I was not willing to talk about his marriage with him tricked me into talking about it (phoning me when he knew I had care of his DC so I would not ignore a call from him), I said nothing to him I wouldn't say to my friend but he turned around anything he could to attack her and grind her down, he then went on to bombard me with texts and calls (non of which I replied to/answered). I felt very intimidated by this and bullied, I realised this was just a small taste of what my friend was going through, this is how he grinds her down, he knows she will not ignore a call when he has the children just in case so the idea of an agreement of text only communication is a very good one.

It is all very complex and although I don't really like to be involved in things that are not really my business in this case there are areas where I have no real choice. I told you that I babysit every Thursday so my friend can work and he can do his sport, the only reason he left me alone was that he realised that I baby sit for him not my friend and worried I would pull out (I would struggle doing that as I babysit for them for only one reason, so the children can have a Mother who is able to work a little and be a bit happier for it. I love those children as family).

I find his insistence of wanting the children every Thursday night strange and that's what makes me question his motives, I babysit for him in his home from 7.30 to 9.45, why is her so insistent on having an overnight contact on a night he has other commitments? I do wonder sometimes if I should withdraw my baby sitting (I do it for free), would that make him change his mind on the two night midweek? I worry though that he would find a way of taking that out on my friend though but not sure how he could as if she has the children on a Thursday night I would baby sit for her (better for me as although would be slightly longer hours and I would have to put the children to bed my friend now lives 6 houses away from me). I also worry that by withdrawing baby sitting I would be meddling in their affairs.

I do feel that the ExH just hasn't looked at childcare options and just expected my friend to deal with it (as that's what she has always done) as there are options, there is an after school club, plenty of friends that would help out, he has a flexible job.

I suggested today that she see a solicitor so they can hammer out the contact arrangements and get them in writing, neither of them want to take this to court. She has got all the benefit advice and sorted housing benefit, tax credits, income support (she feels horrible about having to claim but I have had strong words about this being just what it is for and it is by no means forever).

She did intend to keep away from the CSA and felt that £200 moth reasonable child support however when she claimed income support it triggered the CSA and she has been told (unofficially at this moment) that £200 is way under what he 'should' be paying so what she plans to do at the moment it let the CSA calculate and them come to a private agreement. She has found that she can earn £20 a week without effecting benefits and that is what she earns from her job. I and she have no clue about spousal maintainance and what that would mean to her benefits etc.

I think mediation would be a very good way to go, as I say he can be a real verbal bully, she needs someone outside of it all with experience to help sort all this out.

Thank you so much for the advice, any more would be gratefully accepted and thank you for a place that I can write it all down, I am terribly worried that the fact she is a good person who always put her children first even when it costs her will mean that she can be taken advantage of by her ExH.

She does have plans for her life, when both children are at school she plans to train as a doula, something I will be supporting her all the way with emotionally and practically when it comes to childcare as she will me when mine are both at school and I am wanting to get back to working.

OP posts:
ANTagony · 05/11/2010 15:01

I remember hating having to get benefits. I'd always been self reliant. Its exactly why they are there and she (and her DC) are exactly the sort of people that society is happy to support whilst she gets back onto her feet. I didn't go the spousal maintenance route because I wanted to keep things as simple as possible, nor to be reliant on my ex, and didn't go via CSA. Unfortunately we were both dragged into court because the judge wouldn't grant divorce until we had said in front of him we understood that the financial settlement was legal and binding (a 5 minute thing, not a long court session). I asked for a small rainy day fund to offer us a little protection in the early months/ years before I could be reasonably earning an income. The majority of this money remained tucked away but it did afford us things like a short break in a travel lodge and a day out at diggerland - a mini holiday at a time when I really needed to remember what life was about.

If your friend can get some basic legal advice - even a free session with a solicitor, to work out her basic rights she'll be clearer, as you suggest, over where she stands. She could then arrange a mediation session (with an agenda) then this is the place she could table things like whether Thursday nights are actually in everyones interests - bringing into play; he is out on a Thursday, she is still relied on to have the children in the day/ post/pre school etc and it would be more convenient for you at her house.

He may argue that if you don't want to baby sit the children at his house and its a busy night for him that he'll have the children Tuesday/ Wednesday nights instead. I think that having them two nights midweek when he can't actually fully support them yet is one to suggest that would be good to start when the youngest starts full time school.

My ex was really keen to have the boys on a Friday night because he wanted a nice evening meal with them and to do bath and bedtime story - lovely in principal. He doesn't work flexibly, finishes work over an hour away from where we live at 5.30 (earliest) and then its about half an hour back to his from mine. This meant he would be at best getting back to his with two very tired hungry boys at 7pm - or what we call lights out time. Its the sort of thing that mediation can help you through. has some simple calculators to help with calculating child support and also links to pages about private agreements with printable templates and how child maintenance payments shouldn't effect benefit entitlements.

ChocHobNob · 05/11/2010 16:03

I'm confused OP, you said when she applied for IS it triggered the CSA but that the split is recent, only a month. The rules regarding IS and CSA changed in April. You no longer have to inform the CSA if receiving IS anymore. It should not have triggered the CSA. The only way a CSA case would/should have been opened is if she or he requested it.

Following a split, personnally I think it's best for children to see as much of both of their parents as possible. But the contact needs to be worked around the individual circumstances of everyone but I can see why it seems a bit daft having your friend do all the running around. He should be picking the children up and dropping them off at school in the morning. If he cannot drop them off, they should go home before bed and overnights should stick to weekends.

roadkillbunny · 05/11/2010 16:57

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences.

You are right to think he would have a go at changing the nights if I were to say I wouldn't baby sit for him however he doesn't have much room for movement as having them on a Tuesday would he would have to deal with an after school activity a drive away, something tells me he would somehow manoeuvre out of this!

I spoke to my friend on the school run this afternoon and gave her the gist of what you have told me, the current arrangements are not acceptable and mediation is a good way to go. She seemed relieved, I think she was worried that she would be seen as making access difficult for her ExH. It is a difficult situation for all, we are in a very small, very tight community, gossip can spread like wildfire. A couple of weeks ago my friend was crying on my shoulder worried that her reputation in the village was being ruined by her ExH and she was going to have to end up moving away back close to her parents, something she really doesn't want to do above the fact she has very good supportive friends here she doesn't want to 'take the children from their Father'. I reassured that her ExH outbursts and ranting in the local (also her place of work) only reflected badly on himself, this has proven to be true and at least that worry has faded but the access issues could flair that up again.

She is also worried that he is setting up to try and discredit her as a parent by questioning her mental health in a number of subtle ways to many people. It is hard to explain what he is doing and I can see why she is worried but again I feel this is only going to end up back firing on himself, she is doing everything right, she suffered from very bad PND with her first child not helped by becoming pregnant again quite quickly and before recovery, she has however done well and overcome this, she is currently suffering from depression but is under the care of the GP and again doing well but her ExH is being very manipulative with all this, he is putting her under a great deal of stress.

She has had a look at the CSA calculator and due to the fact he pays no rent of council tax (it comes with his job) the child suport they calculate is about double the amount she had in her head. She could manage on the lower amount, she is very sensible, she has not had a land line put in her home or sky (no cable here!), my husband and I bought her a didgi box for a house warming gift, she was going to wait until she could afford it or ask her family to make it her Christmas gift. My husband has given her an old laptop, not good for much but internet but that is all she needs, we have also allowed her access to our wireless internet, I record her favourite TV show for her to watch here. I guess what I am trying to say is she could live on the lesser amount, she knows how to make a sacrifice and has friends who will help where they can with things but there is the feeling (for me anyway, she seems a better person then me) that why should she have to? Money management was one of the problems within the marriage so it is a sticky subject but her ExH just seems to have no real clue how much it costs to raise children, my friend or her Mother have paid for all the children's clothes, equipment and all expenses outside household bills their whole lives and in the last 6 months she had also been having to pay the family food bills due to him spending his wages on who knows what. My friend is defiantly better off out of the marriage and will be better off in a umber of ways (all ways really to be honest) it is just now the sticky business of learning how to manage contact and their relationship for the children. She is defiantly a better person then I am, the plan and hope is for them to celebrate Christmas as a family in ExH home the same way they would have if together with my friends parents only difference would be my friend coming back to her house to sleep after putting the children to bed. I do hope they manage to pull it off although through my eyes right now it is starting to seem a bit optimistic but the time when it would just be the two of them with the children is small.

Sorry I am waffling on, it is nice to get out all the things that are flying through my head, the worry for her, the love for her and the children the want to help her best I can through a situation I have no personal experience of (I hope I never do but from my DH's responses to the things that have happened I am reassured that if we were ever to split he would behave well but who can tell?).
Thanks so much for helping out, both she and I are grateful for all advice offered and any still to come, thanks!

OP posts:
mamas12 · 05/11/2010 20:47

roadkillbunny you have found the right place here for finding the right advice for your friend.
What you describing is the classic emotional abuser. If you wait enough time on here someone will link you to some perfect sights for you and your friend to read and understand and get some confidence in handling her exh.
Stick with her

roadkillbunny · 05/11/2010 23:22

ChocHobNob sorry I missed your reply earlier, I to was confused with the CSA thing due to the rules having changed (I am aware of it as it had an impact on another Mum I know) the only thing I can think is that she has been advised to speak with CSA as the amount she had in mind is below what CSA would calculate, I used the word 'trigger' as that is what my friend used when talking to me about it, it may be that she meant that while talking with the benefits advisor a 'trigger' to ask about child support came up (just guessing here, it does seem that the benefit advisor she saw was out to make sure my friend got everything she is entitled to both from benefits and her ExH).

mamas12 You are right that the ExH is treading a very very fine line indeed, I am not sure he really understands what he has done and is doing amounts to emotional abuse. While they were in the state of flux (my friend realising the marriage was it seemed over but doing her best to see if it could be fixed and her ExH doing every thing he could to try and change her mind, most very underhand but I gave/give him the benefit of doubt that he was a desperate and scared man who wanted to save his marriage by any means necessary) I suggested she leave the computer on the Woman's Aid website page describing emotional abuse just so he might get an idea of what he was actually doing. She never did this though I wish she had, I really want to give him the benefit of doubt and I did used to have allot of sympathy for him but certain incidences have really made me lose that sympathy. I also lost any respect I had for him when he said to me 'I am not going to play nice any more, not that I have been really anyway but you know... the children'. I guess I really struggle with the emotional abuse label as I just didn't see it coming, they had put on a dam good show for the world, both of them, he of the happy marriage and him of the nice easy going bloke good for a laugh but when I think back I also think I should have seen some this coming and what was going on, for example the every 15 minute phone calls, he has done that as long as I have known them both, at first I thought it was kind of sweet but also I knew that it would drive me crazy if my husband did that.
This is the kind of thing that really makes me feel for my friend and what she must be going through emotionality, if I can tie myself up in knots about his behaviour and what I did or did not see coming how the hell must she really be feeling, she tells me how she is feeling and we talk long and often about it all but there is no way I can understand what she has been trough and is going through.
I felt intimidated and bullied (I found it more frightening then other people might due to my Father being abusive to my Mother growing up before they spilt) he tricked me into talking to him about it all and followed it up with two days of texts and calls, at least I was able to ignore him and it was only by phone, he would (and she tells me still tries to) follows her around talking at her, cornering her in rooms just talking at her, when she went to bed to try and get away from this he would then go and wake her up to talk at her, twisting words and wearing her down. It breaks my heart when I hear he on the phone to him, he just talks her into submittal, she is not the lovely, bubbly, funny woman I know and love after a few minutes on the phone to him :( . I find all this very confusing, I just can't get my head round the man I am seeing now and the man I have known in the past.

Thank you so much for taking the time to listen, to help my friend with practical advise and help me to be able to support her in the best way possible by understanding it all better.

OP posts:
mamas12 · 06/11/2010 20:33

What a lovely friend you are to her because you 'get it'
I had exactly that kind of emotional abuse from ny ex byt at the time I didn't know what was happening, it was so insidious creeping up on me until I was that wreck you decribe your frind is being now.

She will need to leave for her own sanity and disengage from form him.
Stop anwering his phone calls straightaway. only reply in text or email. leave the house if he won't
It is going to be hard.

SparklingExplosionGoldBrass · 08/11/2010 17:53

Get your friend to talk to Women's Aid. THis man is extremely abusive and needs the legal equivalent of a good hard kick in the nuts. SO your friend does need to get a mediator and a solicitor involved, the man needs to have it demonstrated to him that he is not going to have everything his own way. Your friend cannot trust him to be reasonable, therefore she needs proper legal backup.
Because he is abusive, and abusive men have to be put in their place as soon as possible.
If the man bothers you, OP, hang up the phone on him, don't answer the door to him, inform him via email that you don't want any contact with him. He can;t force you to engage with him, and if he persists in trying, you can have him charged with harassment.
I know this all sounds very drastic, but abusive men have a habit of making their partners think that the man is all-powerful and the woman has no choice but to obey him, when in fact few people like abusers and there are plenty of legal sanctions availabe against them - just knowing that she can take control of her own life with the law backing her up is often very helpful to a woman with a bullying fuckwit for an XP.

roadkillbunny · 08/11/2010 19:53

Thanks for all the advice.

If anything I am more worried then I was when I first posted this last week. I feel a bit like I am a stuck record with my friend over these issues, she seems to lack the strength to deal with these massive issues. She seems to be struggling with the fact he is no longer her husband and the relationship is different and requires different boundaries. There was an example of this on Saturday, The children where playing up (as they will in this new situation) and my friend was struggling, she sent me a text however I had misplaced my phone and didn't get it. I popped over to her house a few hours later for something to hear that she had sent a text to her ExH expressing her frustrations with the children, he had then called her and all I know about that phone call was it ended in tears, if the tears came from frustrations with the children or things he said I don't know. As soon as she told me this alarm bells started ringing loudly for me, I feel beyond terrible that I hadn't seen her text and been there for her but also frustrated at her for turning to him, and then felt bad about it as it's not her fault really, for all the years he was the person to turn to and I would imagine it takes more then a few weeks to turn that instinct off however this is not helping the situation and will make it harder for him to see the line has been drawn, it is all so mixed up that I don't think either of them know if they are coming or going and this in turn has an effect on the children. I insisted that in the future she calls my home phone or comes over the close to my door rather then call or text her ExH as she knows me and my mobile often don't see each other for days! She promised she would do this, I can only hope she will.

The contact issues continue the same only this week he is having them even more nights while she still does the school runs, after school activity and mornings, I feel like all I am saying to her is this is not good and can't go on this way and while she agrees with me she comes up with excuses like 'until DC2 starts pre-school...' or 'lets see what happens...' I have said to her I sound harsh but I only have her and the children's interests at heart, I just feel like I am going to drive her away if I keep going on and on at her so the last time we spoke of it I said 'well at least if you give it a few weeks like this you have proved that you are willing to try and you can say how it has adversely effected the children'. I have raised the mediation subject again as well with all the helpful advice here to make my advice pro-active rather then vague (I hope) and she does seem responsive but I really really fear that the emotional abuse and manipulation he is subjecting her to has altered the way she is thinking about things without her even knowing it, that's the bloody hard part, how do I get her to see it, I think she like I was is in denial about how bad his behaviour really is :(

I honestly don't know what to do about my 'relationship' with her ExH, I go into his home to babysit every week and I am growing more and more uncomfortable about it and if I am honest apprehensive about being alone with him, not because of any physical threat but because I don't know what he is going to say to me, I have in the past when he has said something I disagree with or tried to tell me what a bitch my friend is (his attempts at this have been pathetic to be honest, things I know for fact not to be true) just given no response and that hasn't happened for a couple of weeks ever since he got worried I would stop sitting for him. I am getting to the point that I do want to stop sitting for him but I am very worried about what the knock on effect of that would be for my friend and the children and also that my friend will see it as me withdrawing support I pledged I would give her, in her current state I don't know what her reaction might be, if she can see clearly enough to realise that by sitting I am supporting him and that is something I am no longer comfortable with. I would still sit for her in her home on Thursday nights so she could work so maybe I am joining the paranoia club, any thoughts?

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