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Joint Custody with housing issues - please for help or advise
#1
Hi,

I came across this website a few times and feel the need to write down my circumstances and would like advice/help on my situation.

To cut a long story short I was married and my beautiful daughter was born in the same year of 2009. I was in a relationship with my ex since 2001. I moved to London in 2003 and have resided here since.

By 2011 I had become seriously addicted to alcohol and the marriage was over. I had always been a functioning alcoholic, had always been in employment, and had of course got worse over time. As the property was solely my ex-wife's (her mortgage) and I had contributed very little towards it I moved out and was basically sofa surfing at friends (still having contact with my daughter). My addiction quickly spiralled out of control and I ended up sleeping on the streets for a few months.

I had attended a few day programmes for addiction and homelessness and when seeking legal advice the only option given to me at that time was that I had residence rights and could take my ex for half of what she owned.

If I had gone down that route it would have severely not just impacted my relationship with my daughter in the long run, but literally would have made my ex homeless or very close to being so. During our relationship she had taken out massive loans to support both of us as we were both getting low incomes and as far as I know as of today is still paying them back. 

In the summer of 2012 I was accepted into a sixth month rehab programme with supported housing. I have been in the supported housing ever since and have managed to stay in the same borough for the past 4 years.

During the first few weeks of starting treatment my ex sent the divorce papers to the treatment centre (a quick divorce). I did not sign anything as there was nothing in the document about the custody of our daughter or any arrangements.

As I was having treatment and getting much better I was seeing my daughter every weekend. With the rehab and supported housing being in South London I would have to (and do to this day) travel to north east London in order to see my daughter.

My arrangement was to get up to where she lived and take my daughter to play groups, activities, parks etc. each weekend and certain days in the week.

As time went on my ex could see that I was overcoming addiction and my physical health was getting better. She began to trust me more and allowed me to have more access. Also I have good friends that reside in East London so they kindly and still do, allow me to sofa surf at their flats so I can have access to my daughter easier and spend more time with her instead of having to travel nearly 30 miles and then repeating it the next day to see her. I also on random days pick my daughter up from school as my ex does not always finish work to get to the school on time.

I have now been sofa surfing every weekend and during school holidays since October 2013 because where I reside and where my daughter lives means that I have do a sixty mile round trip in order to have access to her. The policy with the supported housing where I live is that they do not allow anyone under the age of 18 to visit let alone stay over.

My ex had then stated in late 2014 that she would get another divorce and would agree should have joint custody. By early 2015 she said that she could not afford the fees. I then said that I would serve the papers as long as the joint custody arrangement of our daughter was to be final. We had also agreed that there was to be no money, property or any other finances to be included in the divorce. It was a straight divorce in other words where we share equal custody of our child without any financial involvement.

I started the paperwork in August 2015 and it took until January 2017 for the Decree Absolute to finally be done. Over a year and a half for a straight divorce! Little discrepancies put the divorce back by months at a time as the courts have changed etc.. Finally we got the divorce and joint custody but this is where my problems start.

With being in treatment for my alcohol and mental health concerns and getting my support network in place has meant that I had to move from one borough to another to do so.

With me not moving back to the borough where my ex and daughter reside after a 2 year means that I would have to make a homeless application and therefore do the same as I have done since 2012. I would be put into hostels for a while and then at best just get a small studio flat (that I know would in no way be ideal for my daughter to stay with me) as it would just be one room. That's if I am lucky as the borough in question would deem me as a single homeless person even though I have joint custody. 

With that being the only option given to me trying to get back to where I lived previously, I have since January 2016 managed to get onto the housing register in the borough where I reside in South London where all my on going support network is. With being on the housing register and if offered a place I am guaranteed a one bedroom flat.

I have submitted evidence of having joint custody, letters from my ex stating our arrangement for our daughter staying with me every weekend and school holidays and many letters from the rehab and supported housing outlining my circumstances. I have also submitted a lot of medical evidence (as my long term addiction has left me suffering from depression and also being diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder).

Every time I have submitted a change in circumstances with my housing I have barely been awarded a few points on my banding with bidding (mainly being medical evidence and recently being diagnosed with a disorder). Since being accepted on the register I have and am at present on the lowest banding with only a few points awarded.

The real problem here is that the rehab and supported housing (which have been brilliant over the years) will at some point in the near future be giving me an eviction notice as they need the space for other recovering addicts.

I have put this to the housing adviser that my eviction notice will be issued in the near future, and because I do not get child benefit I may when evicted be taken out of the borough where I live now and be put somewhere else. This means that I would lose all of my support network and possibly be much further away from my daughter. The Citizens Advice and Law Centre also said the same thing.

I can not afford the private rent scheme and have lived with many people in supported housing over time (some of them relapsing, being violent to others and other aggressive behaviour). We are not allowed to work whilst in supported accommodation due to us receiving housing benefit and ESA.

I am so frightened for my future as I really have put so much effort with my recovery, gaining dual (joint) custody and above all the most important thing is for me to be an active father to my child. People comment how close we are and how happy she is under the circumstances.

Being put one step back is going to not only have a real bad effect with my joint custody and I will be honest... I feel that I have come so far and achieved so much that it will be heart breaking for me.

Sorry to write such a long post but I could do with some advice or for people to share their experiences of what they have gone through whether in similar situations.
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