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Changing visitation arrangements
#1
Hi everybody, new to forum as I'd like a bit of advice please!

Some background: my wife and I split up in Aug 2014 (she left me for someone else). We have 3 kids together (2 boys aged 18 and 15 and a girl aged 12) and she took the youngest, our daughter, to live with her and the man she left me for. During this time our 2 sons lived with me and I saw my daughter most weekends. Her relationship didn't work out and she moved back to my town in Feb 2015. We remained separated.

In Aug 2015 my middle son moved in with her as we both agreed it would be the best place for him (he has ADHD and Asperger's Syndrome). Ever since then I have had my daughter and my middle son to stay with me every other weekend (Friday after school to Monday morning) and also every Wednesday night/Thursday morning. My eldest son has never been to stay at his mum's because he doesn't want to.

Fast forward to the present day and I have a girlfriend with whom I am going to set up home with. We are moving around 25 minutes' drive away from my current location (which is 3 minutes' walk from my ex's house!). I will be taking my eldest son with me. My girlfriend will have her 16-year-old daughter with her. As we will have a full house I will need to change the way I see my middle son and my daughter. I have told my ex that I will need to change from seeing them both every other weekend to alternately every weekend instead, i.e. my son one weekend and my daughter the next. My new house will not be big enough for them both to stay over at the same time. In addition, my middle son and daughter have never really got on together and he has in the past physically assaulted her - and me - and made her feel very unsafe and worried (although thankfully this appears to be easing off now). I very nearly called the police on him earlier this year and have referred him to and spoken at length with social services and medical professionals about the problems I have had with him. Seeing the children separately each weekend will mean I can concentrate on quality time for them away from the other (as can their mother) and they can get a break from each other. I have spoken to the kids about this and they seem pretty ambivalent either way. I will have my eldest son and my daughter's girlfriend with me all the time (she never goes to stay with her dad). Now here's the problem.

My ex does not want the present arrangements to change. She wants things to stay as they are, saying the children should be together and that I'm being selfish and pushing my children away but I believe her main reasons are that: 1) under current arrangements she gets to have a long weekend to herself with her new boyfriend every other weekend, and 2) she has no respect for me and is used to getting her own way. She has always been controlling and the pattern of our marriage was that she would get very angry very quickly and I would back down as I did not want to expose the kids to her controlling, belittling and name-calling ways - but they saw enough of this anyway. She will almost certainly become very aggressive as usual about my insistence to change things but I simply cannot allow this pattern to continue now we are separated! Also my girlfriend is telling me to 'grow a pair' and stand up to her to change this arrangement to what I want and what I believe is in the kids' best interests. I am prepared to go to mediation since my ex will almost certainly do all she can to prevent me from changing the visitation arrangements.

Do you think I am right to change the children's visitation arrangements in this way? And should I seek mediation?

Thanks for reading.
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#2
Hi Vivagoon and welcome to the site. These type of questions are always difficult to advise on purely for the fact there are always two sides and opinions to every story, hence the disagreement and in addition there is no right or wrong answer, it really is a case of trying to make the best of the situation where two people cannot agree. This is where Mediation may help, but it can only help if both of you want a resolution. If your ex goes in and refuses to compromise and you are insistent on changing the arrangement then Mediation will fail. However, the fact you are living a stone's throw away from your ex means the arrangement may naturally become more informal. Also, your ex is going to have to understand that you have limited space which means it is more not a case of being awkward, but one that is of a more practical concern. Rather than suggesting Mediation, in the first instance if you could sit down and see if you can come to an agreement between yourselves as a family as your children are old enough to have their own opinions also regarding what they would prefer to do. If you can't agree this way, then Mediation is the next stage. However, I imagine the situation will resolve itself organically due to the fact you will be living so close and the practical elements of your new situation.
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#3
(04-08-2016, 12:57 AM)Vivagoon Wrote: Hi everybody, new to forum as I'd like a bit of advice please!

Some background: my wife and I split up in Aug 2014 (she left me for someone else). We have 3 kids together (2 boys aged 18 and 15 and a girl aged 12) and she took the youngest, our daughter, to live with her and the man she left me for. During this time our 2 sons lived with me and I saw my daughter most weekends. Her relationship didn't work out and she moved back to my town in Feb 2015. We remained separated.

In Aug 2015 my middle son moved in with her as we both agreed it would be the best place for him (he has ADHD and Asperger's Syndrome). Ever since then I have had my daughter and my middle son to stay with me every other weekend (Friday after school to Monday morning) and also every Wednesday night/Thursday morning. My eldest son has never been to stay at his mum's because he doesn't want to.

Fast forward to the present day and I have a girlfriend with whom I am going to set up home with. We are moving around 25 minutes' drive away from my current location (which is 3 minutes' walk from my ex's house!). I will be taking my eldest son with me. My girlfriend will have her 16-year-old daughter with her. As we will have a full house I will need to change the way I see my middle son and my daughter. I have told my ex that I will need to change from seeing them both every other weekend to alternately every weekend instead, i.e. my son one weekend and my daughter the next. My new house will not be big enough for them both to stay over at the same time. In addition, my middle son and daughter have never really got on together and he has in the past physically assaulted her - and me - and made her feel very unsafe and worried (although thankfully this appears to be easing off now). I very nearly called the police on him earlier this year and have referred him to and spoken at length with social services and medical professionals about the problems I have had with him. Seeing the children separately each weekend will mean I can concentrate on quality time for them away from the other (as can their mother) and they can get a break from each other. I have spoken to the kids about this and they seem pretty ambivalent either way. I will have my eldest son and my daughter's girlfriend with me all the time (she never goes to stay with her dad). Now here's the problem.

My ex does not want the present arrangements to change. She wants things to stay as they are, saying the children should be together and that I'm being selfish and pushing my children away but I believe her main reasons are that: 1) under current arrangements she gets to have a long weekend to herself with her new boyfriend every other weekend, and 2) she has no respect for me and is used to getting her own way. She has always been controlling and the pattern of our marriage was that she would get very angry very quickly and I would back down as I did not want to expose the kids to her controlling, belittling and name-calling ways - but they saw enough of this anyway. She will almost certainly become very aggressive as usual about my insistence to change things but I simply cannot allow this pattern to continue now we are separated! Also my girlfriend is telling me to 'grow a pair' and stand up to her to change this arrangement to what I want and what I believe is in the kids' best interests. I am prepared to go to mediation since my ex will almost certainly do all she can to prevent me from changing the visitation arrangements.

Do you think I am right to change the children's visitation arrangements in this way? And should I seek mediation?

Thanks for reading.
In terms of the house you are moving to, the law says that as a couple you need 1 bedroom, your son needs a bedroom, and your new partners daughter will, so 3 bedrooms.

For staying contact you just need to prove you can provide a bed, washing and cooking facilitys, and living space. It would not be unreasonable to expect the girls to share a room as both are not over 16 yet, and if the boys objected due to their age, perhaps 1 could use the living room to sleep in (if there is no gas fire in it).

Section 329 of the Housing Act protects you from action for overcrowding action from a landlord if you have one,  if its just short term relatives visiting creating the issue.

Mediation might not change your ex mind on it, so after deadlock it woud end up in court. It will be interesting to see other peoples views on this, but miine is with this in mind, and the fact that your ex will claim your 2 who do not normally live with you need time together you could end up losing some of your current time, if you insist on just 1 at a time.

Perhaps a compromise will work, try to have just 1 at a time for a few days extra on their own during school half term, and during the summer school holidays some time together and some on their own.
Posts made by me are my opinion and any factual information should be checked out. If you do not have a Solicitor, often your local CAB can get you some initial advice.
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#4
Thanks very much to you both for your replies. I have contacted some local solicitors and a mediation service, the latter of which their mother said she will attend.

My question is can she actually stop me from seeing my children when I want if there is no court order in place? My son will be 16 and my daughter 13 in June. Can I just arrange with my son to collect him from her house to stay at mine (if he wants to come) without his mother's consent, even if she were to know my intentions beforehand? Or is that illegal, even if he is 16? Is there an age when the parent has no say in where the child can go if they want to?

Thanks again.
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#5
Short answer.... No reason in law if no order in force.

Subsidiary to that, at the age they are both parents would do well to listen to what their children want to do, not suggesting you aren't, it's just a general observation.
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#6
(04-08-2016, 10:13 PM)Norfolk n Good Wrote: Short answer.... No reason in law if no order in force.

Subsidiary to that, at the age they are both parents would do well to listen to what their children want to do, not suggesting you aren't, it's just a general observation.

Hi Norfolk, thank you for your observations. 

If she cannot actually stop me from taking my soon-to-be teenage daughter or son to mine for the weekend, if I have their consent as opposed to hers, then that is worth knowing. That is what you're saying, isn't it?
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#7
If you have parental responsibility and no order in force then there is nothing in law to stop you. If the ex calls police the worst that will befall you is they'd conduct a welfare/safety check and if all was good they'd tell your ex they are fine and just as entitled to be with you. Children have two parents, not one Smile

If she kicked up a stink get her arrested under section 5 public order act, breach of the peace.
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#8
Hi Norfolk, thanks again for your advice. Many people have been telling me for ages that, when all is said and done, I do not owe my ex anything and do not have to agree to anything she says. Sounds obvious to most people but in my position, when you come out of a marriage in which you are controlled, it habit forms and it's hard to see any other way. I have come to realise that they are right - I do not have to put up with things just because she says I do! Our marriage is over. Time to move on!

With that in mind, it also follows that I do not have to have the children to suit her convenience. She will want me to carry on having the kids every other weekend so she can go off on her jollies with no kids to cater for, yet she will say I'm the selfish one because I'm splitting them up. Figure that out! However:

* We both have Parental Responsibility so have the same rights and responsibilities to the children as each other;
* There is no court order in place to govern access patterns;
* Our son is nearly 16 so he can come to visit me as and when he and I agree - not when she tells us. A court order for access would not touch him anyway as he is 16;
* Our daughter is nearly 13 so her mother can stop her from coming to my house if she wants to go down that road. However, this will be unhealthy as she would be using our daughter to try and control things and if my daughter found that out I think it would damage her relationship with her mum. Further, I could legally challenge such a restriction;
* I simply do not have to have the children to suit her timetable, because she no longer gets to dictate to me.

My girlfriend and I aim to provide a pleasant, fun, relaxed household that all of us can enjoy. It seems to me that their mother resents this idea and is trying to preserve her own 'time away from the children' by attempting to control my change to the schedule.

So in a nutshell, it's really about her understanding 3 things: that I do not have to do anything she says; she is a full-time parent, not an 'every other weekend off' parent; and she should think of what the children want without trying to control them!

I do not see any need for mediation or even a court order since I do not have to agree to anything.

Does that make sense?
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#9
It makes sense to me, however, as is the way with difficult ex's, they'll do what they can to get what they want and sod anyone else who disagrees with it. I experience this myself every Xmas in regards to my 8 year old daughter. It stinks, but after a while you become numb to it and just do your best with what you've got.

No doubt your kids think the world of both of you as parents, so not worth trying to get the kids to reject her, but you could just point out to them that if they want to spend time with you then great, just let you know and away you go. At the age they are now the role of both parents, whilst still important, becomes less important in the eyes of the kids as they'll want to spend more time with their friends and peer group, this is natural and up to a point should be encouraged as they can't hold on to your shirt tails for ever. All you can do is provide a stable, supportive place where they feel safe, not only physically, but a mentally safe place where they can discuss their fears and hopes with you in a rational matter.
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#10
(04-10-2016, 11:09 AM)Norfolk n Good Wrote: It makes sense to me, however, as is the way with difficult ex's, they'll do what they can to get what they want and sod anyone else who disagrees with it. I experience this myself every Xmas in regards to my 8 year old daughter. It stinks, but after a while you become numb to it and just do your best with what you've got.

No doubt your kids think the world of both of you as parents, so not worth trying to get the kids to reject her, but you could just point out to them that if they want to spend time with you then great, just let you know and away you go. At the age they are now the role of both parents, whilst still important, becomes less important in the eyes of the kids as they'll want to spend more time with their friends and peer group, this is natural and up to a point should be encouraged as they can't hold on to your shirt tails for ever. All you can do is provide a stable, supportive place where they feel safe, not only physically, but a mentally safe place where they can discuss their fears and hopes with you in a rational matter.

It seems that if the age of discretion in this country is 16, you are essentially unable to force your ex's hand on when she lets your daughter see you unless you go through legal channels, which also could apply to my situation regarding my 12-year old daughter. I don't think either you or I would want to do this since it would serve to further antagonise their mothers and carry a huge risk of bringing the children into the conflict. So we end up just putting up with it, because that's the way it is. But if the child is under 16 and resides with the mother and the mother limits the father's access for no other reason than one-upmanship, she runs the risk of polluting her own relationship with her daughter in doing so.

I would never turn my kids against their mother but I think she would turn them against me if she thought she could gain the upper hand. She would never admit to that and may not even realise she is doing it, because it's such an organic part of her - I know her like nobody else does. But these are her issues and they do not concern me any more. The truth would come out eventually anyway so she would be best advised not to steer the kids against me.

I agree, I think all any parent wants is for their kids to flourish and grow, feel safe and loved and to gain independence as they reach maturity. How we go about that task is often beset with obstacles placed before us by the other parent. Crazy when we want the same outcome.
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