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Instructed my solicitor finally – What to expect next?
Hello Dads,

I won't go into too much detail at this stage (unless anyone has any questions) but I have recently given my solicitor the go ahead to apply to the courts/inform the ex that they are representing me – Child arrangement order.

I have a million questions that I'd like to sit and discuss with the solicitor but I am very worried about money and getting billed, so thought I'd ask here!

Basically, my ex moved out a month ago and went to her parents house. She didn't tell me she was leaving or that she was taking the kids with her. It was only via text I found out they were all gone, permanently. 

Since she left I have had a whole range of accusations thrown my way (all untrue or complete bending of half truths). This has resulted in the ex saying that I am not allowed to see the children alone – I have not seen or spoken to my daughter since they left and I have seen my son twice, for an hour each time (with my ex's friend sitting watching us). I have always been a great Dad to them and my children love me as I do them - We were so very close until she took them and they do not deserve this and neither do I. 

My question is a general one - What actually happens now that my solicitor if submitting a CAO to the courts? What will the likely context of the letter that is being sent to my ex be? How long does this process usually take? What sort of evidence do I need to collate? Sorry! so many questions...Maybe there's a link someone could point me toward that answers these questions. What is the point of Parental Responsibility if my ex can just take the kids away and not inform me of schooling matters/doctors etc and will likely keep our home and my children for 90% of the time?

It's not worth going into details of the breakup because it's all so complicated, but will somebody official talk/question my children (aged 5 and 9). I don't want them to be dragged into anything but they are the only ones who can disprove much of what their mother accusing me of. I feel like I can't win either way.

I don't think I could handle 4 days a Month – It seems so unfair when I read about great Dads going through this. 

Sorry for the rant.
before the CAO gets submitted you need to attempt mediation

Don't sweat about all accusations in the court - it's for them to prove it's true not for you to defend them

At your children's age it's unlikely anyone will talk to them but a Section 7 may be asked for if any safeguarding concerns are listed
The opinions here are not that of Separated Dads, but merely a loving father who has been through the process and has come out the other side.
Sorry to hear your story. I am sure you will get all your questions answered here bit by bit.

But yes, it is a totally one sided system we are in with all the cards stacked against fathers. But you will just have to take care of yourself and take it one step at a time, and don't try to think too far ahead or it will drive you crazy.

In terms of next steps, I think you will have a first hearing in court. Usually a short one, where the judge will hear the case and direct what needs to be done. No evidence usually presented or anything.

The main objective is to see if there are any safeguarding concerns. If either of you indicate that there are, they will probably get CAFCASS to produce a section 7 report for the next hearing. At the very minimum the judge will want CAFCASS to do a phone interview and run some police/criminal checks. As the courts can't make any orders without that.

Familly courts are really not proper courts at all. There will be a judge who will pretty much listen to both of you and decides who to believe. Most of the "evidence" is your word is against "hers" and you will be mostly at the mercy of the judge.

You will read here that the most common arrangement is that the father gets alternate weekends and half holidays if there are no safeguarding issues. If there is a section 7 report, the judges may well choose to go with their recommendation.

It is a leap into the unknown I know and there are no laws to speak of. Just a wishy washy woolly law that "best interest of the child is paramount" and the judge can spin things any which way he/she likes. It is a lottery. It helps a lot if the judge likes you.

Take a deep breath and go in there expect the worst, hope for the best.
Thanks for your comments.

Really seems crazy that my kids know how I am around them and I'm sure would tell the truth - nothing but love and warmth from me. Yet I stand to loose everything on the twisted spite of their mum.

Does it make any difference if you can prove that you have been a hands on father. I have been unemployed for a while and until the moment they left I cooked, bathed them, did the school runs, put them to bed, got them dressed etc. Does that not count for anything? My kids know the truth! :-(
It does. You will need to put all that in a position statement when the court asks you to.
As a stay at home dad you have a better chance. There are stay at home dad people on this forum who I know got 50/50 shared care order. But it seems to be very rare.

it is a lottery. Depends on the judge I would say.

Oh after first hearing, if safeguarding issues are raised by your Ex, you might just get supervised contact until the CAFCASS report is made. I have not been in that situation, so not sure what the interim order is likely to be.
After the court case regarding the children it's straight onto the property. She wants me to vacate and offered me about a third of what my half of the equity would be.

I must say, with this stuff going on in the world right now and women's rights/equality at the forefront - I find it very hard to have any sympathy to their cause. Men are getting shafted for literally no other reason than being male.

Edit: btw the ex claims because I went through a period of serious depression and anxiety a couple of years back that I am a danger to the children and unstable (she doesn't really believe this but is using it to spite me) that is her main reason for my having only had 2 hours supervised time in over a month. First thing my solicitor did is write to my doctor/counseller (who I see once a week) and they supplied me with a letter saying I am stable, not in crisis and not a danger to anyone, including my children. Will that be of any use in court?

Sorry. I'm feeling rather bitter!
My Ex threatened to bring all sorts of mental issues when we first separated, such as ADHD, autism, etc. All suggested by her solicitor and with no basis whatsoever.

None of it came up in court, because they knew they had to prove it. I think they would need to prove it somehow. They may mention it anyway, but without proof of may backfire on them.
Last I heard mental illness wasnt a crime, Ive been watching TV adverts and radio segments for years trying to improve awareness. Improving peoples perception, its not a disease. Personally I think its really risky making claims like that, all you need is a judge that has a family member with a mental illness and youre toast. At best youre gonna come off as using a mental illness for your own gains. It seems all is fair game in family court.

And yeah, Ive always been the first to advocate equality in all areas, especially feminism, I have a daughter and I want her to grow up knowing how she should expect to be treated. But I struggle not to become bitter about it, about the fact the mother is seemingly given the instant authority upon separation to "withhold permission/access/contact"

If you want to get your juices flowing get your ass over to mumsnet. Heres one for ya

Not to get too touchy feely but I like this site because it really encourages putting the kids first, my first post I was in a complete state and ready to take on the world. I got a pasting from LTCDAD for it. This site has been my saving.
Thanks everyone. It's all really useful information - and yes, it is extremely difficult to not feel bitter. I can say hand on heart even if I fell out of love with someone I would still be very compassionate of their feelings, even moreso if they stood to loose a home and 80% of their time with the children. It's not just the kids and home but people I spoke to and saw everyday have stopped contacting me because of her false accusations. Difficult times.

Quick update: Yesterday my solicitor wrote to the ex regarding her 'unilaterally denying regular unsupervised time with the children'.

They then go on 'You will be aware that our client holds parental responsibility for the children and it is essential for the welfare of the children that he maintains regular, quality time with his children. Your attempts to alienate the children and suggest that our client is unable to care for the children are unfounded. Our client provided the day to day care of the children since April 2017 without issue'.

'Our client has contacted his doctor who supports his assertions that his health condition has no impact on his ability to care for the children. Our client is also in direct communication with the children’s school to inform them of the false accusations that have been made against him and to correct any inaccuracies in their records'.

'The ex keeps texting me saying she wants to get the property signed over asap even though we have never discussed any options. So they then say...

'Our clients primary concern is to re-establish time with the children and therefore we will not be dealing with any issues relating to the property, jointly owned by you both, until the children matters have been resolved'.

We would propose that the children’s time with our client be re-established, unsupervised, without delay on the following basis:

Alternate weekends from Friday evening until Sunday evening. Our client will collect the children from your address, with you collecting the children for return on Sunday evening.
One evening during the week, every week.
Half of all school holidays.
Phone / video calls at times agreed by both parties on a dedicated device to be provided by our client
Such further and additional contact as can be agreed.

She has 14 days to respond. It is not my motivation to anger her but she will be livid. She cannot stand the fact that I have even seen my son for 3 hours in the last 5 weeks and not seen my daughter once. For the first time she faces not being in total control.

In the meantime the solicitors have made a CAO application and are sending it to me to sign in the event that the ex does not respond.

Does this all seem standard practice? My only concern is that she will argue that until the property is sorted we cannot make reasonable child arrangements.

*Deep breath*
Hang in there mate, keep us all posted how you get on in the next letters too and forth. Very frustrating!

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