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Access to my daughter
Good afternoon all. I am looking for help and advice regarding access to my 19 month old daughter. I will try to give some background and keep it to the point  Confused

My wife and I separated around 12 months ago. I have had constant contact with our daughter since that day and I see her 430pm-730pm on a Tuesday and 0930-2pm on a Sunday. Over the past year I have asked for extra time with her on many occasions and have suggested extended time on a Tuesday, Sunday and building up to overnight stays. I feel I have been patient and tried to consider my ex's feelings but am now at the stage where I feel enough is enough. I asked for our daughter overnight on a Saturday night each week in the summer of 2015 and was told then when I got a place we would talk. Got a place and moved in December 2015 and was then told daughter would not be ready until she was 2 (July 2016). Now am being told it will be after that. She keeps moving the goalposts on me and I am convinced it is her that is not ready, not our daughter.

I pay £50 more than I am due to according to the CSA calculator per month, never miss payments and think that I do everything by the book and the way it should be. Don't want to go to court about this but feel it is heading that direction. Am I being unrealistic wanting my daughter 1 night per week before her 2nd birthday?

Should it go to court or via a lawyer then I fear it will be a real struggle. By the time all my bills are paid I have £350 to live off each month and that has to cover food and fuel too. Very little room for luxuries or savings. Does anyone know if I would be entitled to any kind of legal aid? Salary is £23k and I work full time.

Thanks in advance for any help and support. It is much appreciated.
Hi Gordy, and welcome.

Can you communicate effectively with your ex? Can she see the bigger picture regarding your involvement with your daughter? If "yes" then I'd be inclined to sit down with her and try to resolve it. I know you say she keeps moving the goalposts, but she'll have to realise at some point overnight contact will and should happen. Some mothers do find it hard to "let go" and the reasons for this are many fold. Fear of feeling inadequate because she then knows her daughter doesn't "need" her mum to look after her, general fear of not controlling the situation as she wants and so on.

Do you get on with her parents? and do they think enough of you to help with the situation? If so then maybe a quiet word with them asking if they could point out the harm lack of fatherly contact will do to your daughter's self esteem in the long term. Maybe ask your ex how she would have felt being told she couldn't sleep under the same roof as her father? And what that would have made her feel.

Yet again, do you have any good, close, friends in common who might be prepared to help as a neutral party to point out the folly of your ex's decisions?

If you can't communicate in person, for whatever reason, then the next step would be writing to her outlining your thoughts (not demands), asking her to give you a reply within a reasonable timescale, see if that gets you anywhere.

Next step beyond that would be offering mediation, although this isn't legally binding it might be something that will concentrate the minds a bit and enable a resolution. If she was unwilling to attend, or mediation didn't work then you'd be able to proceed to a court application. Judging by what you have said about your income I don't think you'd get legal aid as it's pretty much non existent for family court cases. The actual cost of making an application to the courts is available online, I can't remember the cost off the top of my head, but it is a few hundred pounds. If you do this the courts like to see that you've tried other methods to resolve it before it got to court, hence the mediation route first.

Applying to the courts isn't difficult or complicated, and initial hearings usually take place in Judges chambers which is more like a room where you can discuss the issues involved and the judge will make a decision on how the case should proceed (Usually called a "Directions hearing") You'd then move forward from there and as long as no reasons otherwise, you'd eventually reach a resolution regarding contact. If you and the ex can't agree on what should happen the judge will make the decision in what they consider "the child's best interests" and you'll both have to live with what they decide, although the right of appeal is usually available to either of you if you feel the decision was unfair.

As to whether or not a 2 year old should be with you overnight, only you can answer that properly as you know your child, we don't. However, I had my daughter overnight from the age of 2 and a great time she had as well. Dad's are equally as good as mums if they want to be, and in some cases better.

Regarding the CSA (Or CMEC as it now is) the position with them is whatever they deem the amount is the minimum, nothing to stop you giving more. Overnight contacts will reduce the amount you are liable to pay, so maybe it's the fear of losing money that is one of the factors in your ex being reluctant to allow overnights?

If your ex doesn't and won't give you a firm commitment regarding overnights then the longer you leave it the harder it will be to convince the courts that you should have them. Remember you are the one who will have to fight all the way, all your ex has to do is sit there and say "No", and if you do end up in court, think of a 2 year timescale to get it resolved if your ex blocks things at every turn.
Hi Gordy

There's little we can add to Norfolk's comments, which we would entirely agree with. If you look at it from your ex's perspective, it is not that she is withholding access or being unreasonable, if anything she is being rather over protective. Some mothers don't like the thought of their children being away from them so young, and an overnighter is a big issue, thus it becomes a sticking point. Have you asked her why she keeps moving the goalposts? Perhaps if you sit down and talk with her and try to get to the bottom of what her issues are, may help you to understand her insecurities and at the same time try to help resolve them, which is what co-parenting should be about. At the same time you could stipulate that at some point you will want to take it further and will suggest mediation in order to try and resolve this. Keeping the lines of communication open is of paramount importance - however you should also make your stance clear. Perhaps when your daughter reaches her second birthday should be your benchmark; meaning you have over three months to try and negotiate this with your ex.

If your ex refuses mediation, or mediation does not get the results you wish and can't afford the solicitor's fees to apply to court, you can self-litigate. Please see our article on representing yourself Also the Bar Council also gives a good guidance sheet on representing yourself in court, Many fathers are taking this route and having success. Remember though, court is the last option and I'm sure/hope you will have resolved the situation by then. Good luck.
Hi guys and thanks for the responses. It is very much a case of my ex being over protective and I would sooner have it that way than the other of course. It is about our daughter over and above all else of course. I have tried to talk with her about the issues and insecurities she might have but she just will not open up. Very much a closed book on that front and it makes life so much harder than it needs to be but she does not see it that way.

I just feel that it really is all about the mother. I do all the right things and want to see my daughter as much as possible but for the moment and being given the minimum or so it feels. Granted the mothers feelings count for a lot but what about the dad's? It just feels like I give all the ground and have no say in what goes on. If it is acceptable to my ex it is fine. If I suggest something that she is not 100% behind it gets shot down. Very little if no "give" from her side at all.

On numerous occasions I have asked to have my daughter overnight on one night per week to be point blank refused. I suggest extending the time on a Sunday from 930-2 to 9-3 or 4pm and again that's a no. An extra 2hrs on a Thursday so that I see her every second day in effect and that's a no too.

It is so frustrating and I really just feel it is my ex's way or nothing at all. I just can't seem to find a way for her to appreciate my feelings in all of this as I do hers.
I know it looks like Dads get the rough end of the deal, and invariably we do.

I see my daughter for three hours one week and from Friday afternoon til Sunday afternoon (4pm, no earlier and certainly no later) every other weekend. And despite asking to extend that I've got exactly the same contact now she's 8 as when she was 2.

Yes it stinks, but you're not alone Smile

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