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Hi All,

I have my fHDR next week.
I have already attended court for a first hearing, the judge asked us to make a contact agreement. my ex was stubborn (as seems to be the norm and contested) and said that she would not allow contact unless supervised at a contact centre.
My question is, in my FHDR I am going to ask for what contact I would like, days overnight stays.
What would my options be if I say I do not accept to take the supervised contact.
Contact centres are not the greatest place to see my son, and I know that I am getting to but i dont want my ex dictating orders to me and getting to choose how contact is to be.
Sadly at 4 months old a child is heavily dependent on it's mother and you'll have an uphill struggle getting the contact you want immediately. As you already know, the court is only concerned with your child's welfare, not you or your ex's desires.

Whilst a contact centre is not an ideal place, it is somewhere where the courts can reasonably guarantee your child will be safe.I'm not saying you are a danger, but the court can only act on the information put before it and if your ex says she thinks you aren't perfect then a contact centre will go someway to at least enabling you to have contact with your young'un and show you know how to deal with a very young child. Eventually you'll move away from this and be allowed short periods of unsupervised access. This can then be built on over a period of time and eventually you'll have greater contact.

If you refuse supervised contact then it will appear to the court that you aren't understanding of a baby's needs and requirements and you may find yourself in a worse situation than if you had agreed to it.

Play the long game, prove yourself in the eyes of others and when it gets to the final hearing you'll be in a much stronger position than you are now.

When I originally split from my ex she'd bring my daughter to me for three two hour sessions a week in my own home, alone, but once I mentioned wanting overnight contact she stopped all contact and I had to go through the aggravation of mediation, court hearings and ended up in a contact centre once a fortnight for two hours. After a few months things progressed and I had daytime unsupervised in my own home then overnight contact once my child reached the age of two.

Sadly the courts will generally side with the mother, so you have to prove you're  suitable and able to care for a young child, but at the moment you're unlikely to get what you're thinking of asking for.

Maybe it'd be better if you agreed to a contact centre with a review after three months and then build on that? Outline a timescale of gradual increases in contact over a period of time with an endpoint of what you think is a reasonable level of contact. Show that you understand what is required of you, and the courts will look more favorably at your application. If you go in demanding from the word go it could backfire on you.

Already been there myself so fully understand how much contact with your child means to you. As much as you may not want to, pander to your ex's whims and show your understanding and maturity.
In my case I had a 4 year old son and a 6 month old daughter and I obtained a contact order, at first sitting, of one night a week and every other weekend from Friday to Sunday.

BUT, and I can't stress this enough, I think I was very very lucky on the day, and I could demonstrate easily that not only had I looked after our son when he was a baby adequately enough, but that I had done so with my daughter during her first 6 months whilst still residing in the marital home. It also helped that neither child breast-fed. If yours is feeding off the breast I'd say you've got zero chance until 9 months for overnights - and you'll be challenged unless your ex expresses for your daytime contact with you. Still, that's the same issue whether in a contact centre or not I suppose.

Although I had a DA allegation to deal with, I was able to show it was nonsense, and I remained clear, calm, and focused on the best thing for the children throughout the run up to the hearing and during it. The Cafcass person didn't agree with me but the Judge, fortunately, went with my application in the "best long term interests" of the children - his view was the same as mine, any disruption of contact now would be stressful for the children now, and make resuming contact at a meaningful level more difficult later.

I was lucky though, and I suspect if I'd been the slightest bit "difficult" or emotional I'd have got very little.

Norfolk makes a good point - sometimes you need to play the game and accept, whilst making your point clearly and simply, that a supervised contact is better than no contact and that you are willing to move forward on that basis should the Judge decide no to award you unsupervised contact. Ask for it to be reviewed in a fixed period of time though - try for an 8 week review, or a 12 week if necessary, so that if you are able to demonstrate that there is nothing preventing you from having unsupervised contact that this can resume at earliest opportunity.

Be prepared for your ex to throw everything at you to prevent this though.

Kids grow up. Kids get older. One day you'll smile wisely about this whole episode and you'll give someone else some sage advice

best wishes
Thanks for the advice guys.
The judge was actually trying to be very fair in the first hearing. He offered if I would sign an undertaking, ex said no. He was actually trying to resolve things amicably. My cooperation in my opinion was showing that I do want to work with my ex to make things easier.
All in all there is no actual proof of myself being incapable to look after our son. I am literally thinking with my head and not my emotions.
With all this I am now thinking to ask for few days and review after a few months to extend if possible.
Norfolk - how old was your daughter when you and your ex split?
This is very stressful and its really unfair that good dads have to suffer like this.
Morning Nh01

My daughter was 8 months when we split, and just over a year old when the ex blocked all contact.

No evidence of being incapable of looking after a baby isn't the same as evidence showing you are capable, being observed in a contact centre, as much as that sounds pathetic and disgusting, will at least show that you ARE capable and knowledgeable.
I can only speak from personal experience, and the very fact that we couldn't agree on contact meant that at the final hearing the ex got a residence order and I got a contact order. You seem to be looking towards joint residency and if your ex won't agree then IMHO you are unlikely to get it. Sadly, as the primary caregiver, your ex does hold most of the power and you will struggle trying to resolve the imbalance that exists in the Family Courts over this issue.

Babies and young children work on routine, do you think it's reasonable to disrupt a young child's life by having to adjust it's routine every five days? I'm on your side as a NRP myself, but in the bigger picture you may find your views and opinions go against the court's views and experience and accordingly you face an uphill battle. If separated parents can't agree then the court doesn't really have many options regarding residency etc.

As far as stress goes....we all feel your pain having been there before, got the T shirt etc. Females love equality as long as it goes in their favour but once it goes against them then all bets are off.
Hi guys.
I went to court and as my ex is claiming domestic abuse the courts have an obligation to ask cafcass to complete a fact finding which can take up to 12weeks.

Judge has ordered two hours minimum a week supervised at a contact centre.
I have dates booked in for the next few wks.
I wanted to ask, if the centre doesnt have availability, and I have been ordered only supervised at contact centre only, what can i do in the interim?
But at £150 a session its difficult to afford.
Im not working at the moment.
If the courts have ordered supervised contact then that's all you'll get for now. Judges take a very dim view if you go against their directions and try to implement your own agenda.

As for the costs involved, could you ring the contact centre and see what they say about fees? (As an aside......bloody hell, £150 a session? That's an obscene amount of money, you can hire a solicitor for less per hour)

Any chance you can prove your income is next to nothing? If so could you possibly reapply back to the courts for guidance on this issue?

Re: Times and dates of the contact centre, weekends are usually busy due to working parents etc, as for the timescale since you last saw your child, in the grander scale of things two weeks, although seeming like a long time, isn't much in the grander scale of things....In my case I had no contact for three months and when I did eventually see my child she had no idea who I was. Heartbreaking and soul destroying were the bare minimum of my feelings at that time.
I completely feel your pain Norfolk, good dads are treated so unfairly.

my ex is trying to force days.
Would this not be in breach of court order.
She is purely doing this just so she can have a free to spend with her family.
Can she enforce the days/times or is it a mutual agreement taking into account commitments etc
She is saying take it or leave it.
And yeh £150 a session is breaking the bank. I read that cafcass may have funding available.
I can show my bank statements that zero income has come in.
Just as you can't force your own agenda, neither can she. My understanding is as you are applying for contact she should fit in with you regarding work etc. I doubt "Wanting to spend a Saturday with her family" would be a decent reason to implement another day.

If you have work commitments then naturally they would have to come first, which would rule out weekdays on your part. Stick to your guns, emphasise regular contact and if the ex goes against it then bring it up at the next hearing. Eventually your ex will learn things are slowly being taken out of her control solely because she won't comply with the judge's directions. It may mean initially you lose the odd contact session but it'll work in your favour in the longer term.

Although in theory once a week could mean Friday one week, then Monday the next, then nothing until the following Friday.... It all depends on how you define "weekly".... No doubt your ex is already lining up her excuses in an effort to frustrate your contact.

Keep your cool, persevere with it and all will be resolved in the end.
Hi Norfolk,
I received the next court orders, i have a fact finding hearing to attend.
The orders states that my ex had to send me her list.
I didnt receive anything.
Still today I havnt received anything. I am going to call the court again shortly to advise them.
What can happen if she doesnt post me her allegations. She is clearly stalling and wasting time.
What would happen on the hearing date if the allegations havnt been listed and i havnt had chance to reply.
Would it just be by-passed or skipped as the court gave her a chance but didnt comply, or would they extend and make another date for hearing.
Could she not get in trouble for not abiding by court orders?

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