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Contact Issues - seeking advice
#1
I am writing on behalf our son. 
What are our son’s rights as a father?

Our son left his ex (girlfriend ) 3 and a half years ago. They have 2 children together, aged 6 and 4.
Our son is severely sight impaired. He can ‘see’, but his vision is limited and he cannot drive. However, he does work and is self-employed.

They lived in a house we own. He treated her to many holidays and bought a nice car, which he paid over half for. My son and I looked after the children while she was working. 

When the relationship finally ended, she did not want to discuss the car, or all the money she took out of their joint account or the unpaid debts.  We tried mediation with her, but she didn’t turn up to the meeting.  

She moved into a nice house nearby, while he went to live in an awful flat, the area frequented by druggies. He was there for 6 months before we decided to move him back to the previous house, rather than sell it.

She went to the CMO for child maintenance. At first, she told them he didn’t have them any nights, when he actually had them 2 nights a week! The CMO then rang her. He has never claimed for his new child or the extra nights he has had the children, (mainly, while she was on holiday with her new boyfriend), because of the underlying threat she will stop him from seeing them.

He has always paid maintenance on time, but she asks for more money to buy clothes. We now have the added cost of fuel as she has now moved over 30 miles to be with her new boyfriend. She told our son she was moving, very suddenly. Our son didn’t have any say in the schools she chose. One of the children took a long time to settle in. She wanted to come back to her daddy.

The rota has always been on her terms. Our son did have the children every weekend, of varying lengths. The Sunday only day was dropped, by mutual consent, last September. So it was then, 3 weekends out of 4. We are expected to do all the driving, even though our son can’t drive. We will do it so our son sees his children. She moans, if on the rare occasion, she has to drive down.

We are ‘expected’ to take them back up to parties if they fall on his weekend (6 trips!), including buying the birthday present for the last one! The children don’t even join in. We put our foot down and refused to go to the last one. Are we being unreasonable at wanting to put a stop to it? We feel she is taking the p***.

Because of our refusal to take them to the party and the fact that my son refuses to give her any more money, we feel this is the reason she has decided to cut his contact with the children to every other weekend now. Our son isn’t happy with this. She hasn’t discussed this with him, just told him or rather texted him, as she normally does, with this new rota.  As far as she is concerned, that is the end of the matter. He doesn’t have a right to have any say in it. She has asked the children (age 6 and 4) about this new arrangement and it’s ok by them. At their age they can’t be asked to make decisions like that, can they?  Without any prompt from anyone, the children wanted to stop longer at their dads this weekend! 

She says she wants to see the children more and so does her family (they haven’t bothered much with them before).  She wants the rota to be every other weekend but to be flexible (to suit her!). And they still have to go to parties even if is our son’s weekend. We and our son (if he does agree to every other weekend) want it more fixed, so we aren't messed about. We feel we are being dictated to and so does our son.
We know she plays us off against each other, thinking we aren't communicating. eg She'll say, well 'our son'  said he agreed or said something, when in fact he hasn't at all.

She says her decision is final as she is the main carer. What rights has our son got? We desperately need advice.  Our son is prepared to see a solicitor, if necessary.
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#2
An ex that feels that she can do what the hell she wants when it comes to the kids, and constantly changes things to suit herself... your situation will sound very familiar to many on here!

The good news for you is that assuming your son’s name is on the birth certificate of his kids then he has parental responsibility for them and is on the same legal standing as his ex. Until there is a court order is in place, her decision is no more “final” than his is.  As she clearly isn’t interested in reaching a mutual agreement, start the legal route straight away to establish consistent contact: your son will have to initiate mediation first, and if this doesn’t lead to any agreement or she refuses to engage with it, he can apply to the family court for a Child Arrangements Order that lays down when he will have access to the children. The courts work on the basis that children are entitled to quality time with both parents. At an absolute minimum your son should get every other weekend and half school holidays, but it could be more – he should make clear what he would like. Your ex’s claim that the children approve of any arrangement she comes up with will count for nothing, as the court will consider them too young at 6 and 4 to be able to give informed consent.

You can use a solicitor (try finding one who'll give a free half hour consultation in the first instance), but you can also do it without one or get legal advice only when you need it, as the costs can pile up quickly. There are plenty on here who have self-represented and can advise you, and there is lots of information on the main part of this site.

Child maintenance is a completely separate issue as far as the law is concerned, and access to the kids has nothing to do with what is or isn’t being paid. If he is paying through the CMS, he should make sure that they have all the information including how many nights the children stay with him and how far he has to travel to see them, as this may reduce the amount he has to pay.
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#3
Thank you for your reply. Very useful information.
Yes he is on their birth certificates.

I take it, it would be best to write a formal letter to her regarding mediation. Are there any template letters available?
I don't think she will agree to mediation. She didn't first time round and I think, she will think, he's bluffing and won't take the matter further. But we will write a letter first.

The reason our son wants a legally written document, is to stop her from
a. reducing contact further,
b, rearranging weekends eg to take the children away on 'his' weekend (which she has done before) rather than arranging things on 'her' weekend.
c. arranging for the children to go to birthday parties, which she deems so important, on 'his' weekend

Her rearranging weekends, means the weekends get mixed up and our son might not even get to see the children for 3 weeks! But she can't see that. Also, we need some sort of routine to our lives.

She has also mentioned that she is moving yet again! We are hoping that it isn't very far where she is now but we don't know for sure.

I'll have a look at the website in more depth and will probably need more advice on self-representation.
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#4
If it went to court you would probably end up with every other weekend. What you wouldnt have to do is take them to any parties if they fall on your weekend. Its up to you what you doing whilst you have them. You didnt ask her to move 30 miles away and if your boys need to attend parties they can do it the weekends she has them. You could also consider swapping a weekend now and again if they had a party but still making sure u had 2 weekends a month if she discussed this with you.

I think you can possibly put a stop to her moving especially if she was planning of moving 100's of miles away cause that is just being spiteful and is disrupting your childrens education as well
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#5
How long ago was the last mediation? If it was recently then go back to the same mediator and just ask to be signed off (your son that is). Yes it is common. Similar situation here after 9 years now child's Mother wants a new life. The others have said most of it, but it's clear your son won't get a reasonable set up unless she either comes to a reasonable agreement (on everything) at mediation and it's put into a consent order, or he applies to court for a child arrangements order. We waited too long. I would just get the application in front of a Judge and she can answer to him.

First thing though - if she is planning to move again, suggest he applies for a prohibited steps order. This will prevent her moving without the court's permission. If she has a genuine reason to move - eg a new job in another town - they will allow it but at the same time your son can apply for a child arrangements order. If the court thinks she is just moving further away to make contact with your son harder and for no real reason, they could make an order to say she can't move further than x miles away, and they could also order that the children remain at the same school. It would presumably mean another change of school for them.

It's very unpleasant how some Mothers see the childrens Father as irrelevant apart from money because the children need good relationships and quality time with both parents.

If it it was me I would just go straight to mediation, ask to be signed off and apply to court straight away. Actually did that, and mediation was ordered between 1st and 2nd hearings, but it did save some time. And time may be important if she is thinking of moving.

She is also alienating the children - by having a four and six year old have to agree with what she says regarding seeing their Father. And no children that age are not old enough to decide on such things. They need parental guidance to do what is best for them.

The Childrens Act was amended in 2014 to say that children have a right to regular and significant time with both parents. And as the others say, at the very least, your son should be given every other week-end and half the holidays.

If you do decide to try mediation first, ring the same mediator and ask for an urgent appointment or cancellation as it can be slow. He will go for another MIAM (first appointment) and the mediator will then write to his ex and invite her to attend. If you do decide to write to her first about the mediation keep it very brief and formal but not unfriendly, as with all communication with her from now on. Email would do. She will have no incentive to mediate as she has things all her own way at the moment.

Whether you write to her first, or just let the mediator invite her, she may cause ructions, thinking he may be going to court, but just take it as it comes. I would do the mediation yourselves rather than via a Solicitor as that can take longer. You can also do the application to court yourselves as well. There are lots of resources to help. Using a Solicitor for some of it could be an option - eg after the application is in, or just go to a Solicitor and they will do the application.

I would suggest he asks for "lives with both parents". Rather than a "spends time with" application. It will make things more equal. Even now she is not supposed to change schools without both of them agreeing - but it does happen.

What you could do is, on the same C100 application form, ask for a prohibited steps order to stop her moving further away and changing the childrens schools again, and a Child Arrangements order for children to live with both parents. And in the summary part on the form (you can attach a sheet of paper to make that bit longer) when he writes what the situation is and what he would like the court to do, he could ask that the hearing for the Prohibited steps order be considered as the first hearing for the Child Arrangements. I would have a Solicitor for the first hearing if you can because sometimes the Solicitors thrash out an agreement and the court just approves it and issues an order, so all done at one hearing.
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#6
(01-16-2018, 07:53 PM)Marg 1963 Wrote: I am writing on behalf our son. 
What are our son’s rights as a father?

Our son left his ex (girlfriend ) 3 and a half years ago. They have 2 children together, aged 6 and 4.
Our son is severely sight impaired. He can ‘see’, but his vision is limited and he cannot drive. However, he does work and is self-employed.

They lived in a house we own. He treated her to many holidays and bought a nice car, which he paid over half for. My son and I looked after the children while she was working. 

When the relationship finally ended, she did not want to discuss the car, or all the money she took out of their joint account or the unpaid debts.  We tried mediation with her, but she didn’t turn up to the meeting.  

She moved into a nice house nearby, while he went to live in an awful flat, the area frequented by druggies. He was there for 6 months before we decided to move him back to the previous house, rather than sell it.

She went to the CMO for child maintenance. At first, she told them he didn’t have them any nights, when he actually had them 2 nights a week! The CMO then rang her. He has never claimed for his new child or the extra nights he has had the children, (mainly, while she was on holiday with her new boyfriend), because of the underlying threat she will stop him from seeing them.

He has always paid maintenance on time, but she asks for more money to buy clothes. We now have the added cost of fuel as she has now moved over 30 miles to be with her new boyfriend. She told our son she was moving, very suddenly. Our son didn’t have any say in the schools she chose. One of the children took a long time to settle in. She wanted to come back to her daddy.

The rota has always been on her terms. Our son did have the children every weekend, of varying lengths. The Sunday only day was dropped, by mutual consent, last September. So it was then, 3 weekends out of 4. We are expected to do all the driving, even though our son can’t drive. We will do it so our son sees his children. She moans, if on the rare occasion, she has to drive down.

We are ‘expected’ to take them back up to parties if they fall on his weekend (6 trips!), including buying the birthday present for the last one! The children don’t even join in. We put our foot down and refused to go to the last one. Are we being unreasonable at wanting to put a stop to it? We feel she is taking the p***.

Because of our refusal to take them to the party and the fact that my son refuses to give her any more money, we feel this is the reason she has decided to cut his contact with the children to every other weekend now. Our son isn’t happy with this. She hasn’t discussed this with him, just told him or rather texted him, as she normally does, with this new rota.  As far as she is concerned, that is the end of the matter. He doesn’t have a right to have any say in it. She has asked the children (age 6 and 4) about this new arrangement and it’s ok by them. At their age they can’t be asked to make decisions like that, can they?  Without any prompt from anyone, the children wanted to stop longer at their dads this weekend! 

She says she wants to see the children more and so does her family (they haven’t bothered much with them before).  She wants the rota to be every other weekend but to be flexible (to suit her!). And they still have to go to parties even if is our son’s weekend. We and our son (if he does agree to every other weekend) want it more fixed, so we aren't messed about. We feel we are being dictated to and so does our son.
We know she plays us off against each other, thinking we aren't communicating. eg She'll say, well 'our son'  said he agreed or said something, when in fact he hasn't at all.

She says her decision is final as she is the main carer. What rights has our son got? We desperately need advice.  Our son is prepared to see a solicitor, if necessary.

As far as the law is concerened, assuming he has PR by being named on the Birth Certificate, they are both on the same legal standing. Who the child lives with until a Child Arrangements (or consent order covering them) is made.

Once a CAO is made, he outranks her in the time the court puts the child in his care, but she must seek his opinion on any education or medical matters.

When working out what contact he should have, the starting point is half the Quality Time each. Courts consider that to be weekends and school holidays.
Due to the fact she allowed 3 out of 4 weekends, while she can reduce that, he now has a case for shared care, so that its not a reduction overall.

My suggestion is
w1, Friday pm till Sunday pm.
w2, a mid week night that suits his work timetable, from school to school might be best.

However, as school holidays, the above rota stops, and its

3 x 1 week half terms, Normal weekend with 2.5 days tagged on, so contact starts or ends Wednesday lunchtime.

Easter and Christmas, a 1 week block, and the significant days should be shared or turns each.

Summer, a 2 week block, agreed 3 months in advance, so that he can book a holiday or make plans. His ex also has the right to this, so he would then have either 1 x 8 day block, or 2x4 days blocks.

The 2 week rota would start again after holidays.

This would keep him in the same child support bracket. Regarding the cost of transport, he can claim a reduction of Child Support for this. He needs to contact CMS.
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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#7
UPDATE:

We have a court date!
Our son sought the advice of a solicitor. He had the mediation signed off, as there was no way his ex would agree to mediation. The solicitor agreed that it looked highly unlikely that nothing would be solved by mediation.

As the rota went from every weekend, then to 3 weeks out of 4, down to every other weekend. Our son is applying for contact for 2 out of 3 weekends - Fri - Sun. Half the holidays and alternate Christmas. 
Due to work commitments and him not being able to drive, and the distance involved it isn't practical to have the children during the week, when they are at school.

The main bug bear is that his ex thinks that the children going to friends birthday parties, (and the parties are a regular occurance) should take priority over seeing their dad!
She asked to swap a weekend because of a party, then she decided that as they had a party the weekend after and something else was arranged the weekend before that he wouldn't see them for 3 weekends in a row. After managing to get her to talk, she gave in and agreed he could have them Friday til saturday afternoon only.

Should our son inform the solicitor of her behaviour, as this has happened after she would have received the solicitors letter?

What is the likelihood of getting alternate Christmas's, as she is opposed to him having the children on Christmas morning?

She is self-representing, whereas our son will have a solicitor. My third question is, can her new boyfriend act as her support (MacKenzie friend)? He has been through this all before with his ex.
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#8
The very good thing about her self representing is that she isn’t making any DV claims which is a huge barrier removed from contact.

I think your son has a good chance of getting exactly what he wants and because of his disability she may be ordered to do a lot of the driving. They cannot order you to do it.

Birthday parties ... I don’t think they need to go to every single one. They’re not compulsory! I’m not 100% sure how the court may see this but I would hope that they favour Dad here.
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#9
(02-26-2018, 04:15 PM)Hazy Wrote: The very good thing about her self representing is that she isn’t making any DV claims which is a huge barrier removed from contact.

I think your  son has a good chance of getting exactly what he wants and because of his disability she may be ordered to do a lot of the driving.  They cannot order you to do it.

Birthday parties ... I don’t think they need to go to every single one. They’re not compulsory!  I’m not 100% sure how the court may see this but I would hope that they favour Dad here.

While he wouldn't want to stop them going to parties, the birthday parties are beyond a joke. They have one or two every month. 

Should our son inform his solicitor about how she's nearly tried to stop him from seeing the girls for 3 weekends in a row?The solicitor said that if she stopped contact, (as she did threaten to do) then it wouldn't look very good on her part. Not sure of the protocol, if the solicitor should be informed of any issues before it goes to court.
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#10
Glad you have a court date. If you have anything in writing about stopped contact it can be used as evidence at a final hearing. Assume the court date is for first hearing. If his solicitor is good (and if the ex has any sense) they could thrash out an agreement at first hearing, to be put into a consent order. Your son needs to think about what is his "bottom line" ie where he would compromise. In my case there were no compromises on the amount of time, or a "lives with" order and if she wouldn't agree (which she didn't) it would go to a final hearing. If there is no agreement at first hearing, Cafcass/Judge may order mediation before next hearing to see if they can come to agreements (pointless if they can't at first hearing!) and then have an agreement in a consent order.

One option for compromise could be to see them every other week-end and have more time in the holidays. But your son may want to see the girls more than every other week-end.

First hearing is really just to see if there are any welfare issues (ie safety issues) and to try and reach an agreement if possible. If no agreement it goes to a final (contested) hearing.

The birthday parties are just excuses. My ex claimed she worked every week-end as a reason to want to keep changing week-ends,but she had so many week-ends away and holidays each year that that got seen as an excuse. Anyway how many birthday parties does a kid want to go to? It's the Mother's job to encourage the kids to want to see their Dad and not to tell them about the parties rather than saying they are missing out on them!
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