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Can I get shared custody
What Warwickshire said. You can organise mediation yourself. If you do it through a Solicitor it takes longer. Just google mediators in your area - ring round them and see who can give you the earliest appointment, You go to the first one yourself - the MIAM (mediation, information and assessment meeting) and tell them the situation. They will then invite your ex and they'll "mediate" to try and get you both to come to an agreement. However, it's not binding. Anything agreed in mediation is confidential so can't be referred to in court applications. In my case, ex would say all sorts in mediation and then just do something different. However if the mediator does manage to get an agreement and draws it up in writing it can be put into a consent order (rather than going to court). To do that you would need a solicitor and the two solicitors would draw it up and send it to the court for sealing. It's then legally binding.

Having said that ex's don't usually want to agree to anything and mediation fails, in which case you ask to be signed off and put an application into court. That's where you have to keep your cards close to your chest as if your ex thinks you are about to put an application in she may try and scupper things - ie lock you our or accuse you of something (some Dads have been arrested).

So although you're used to saying what you think and being open - it's a whole new ball game now. Sadly you can't be completely honest with her as you're on different sides right now. So I would go with the line that you think it's better to come to an agreement between you at mediation and keep things low key. Meanwhile I would have a C100 fully completed so if and when mediation fails, you can get signed off and take the application immediately to court before she can try and scupper anything.

She may just refuse to go or not turn up. You can download the form from the link below. It's fairly straightforward but you can ask on here if you're not sure about anything or ask a solicitor to check it over before it goes. Two tips.

1) Where it asks who the children live with it either says Applicant, Defendant or Other. Tick other and write in the box below - "the children live with both their parents". I made the mistake of ticking child lived with Mother on my first application and it gave her a residency order! While there are no orders in place there is no framework for them living with either of you as the main parent, and ideally you would want any order to say the children live with both parents (as opposed to liveswith mother and "spends time with" Father). This is the shared care aspect. Whoever the children live with is the"parent with care" which can give them the upper hand if they choose to abuse it. So shared care "lives with both parents" can be anyting from 4 nights a fortnight and half the holidays, upwards. But it would best to ask for 50/50 on a 2-2-5-5 basis - you can always negotiate down but hard to negotiate up.

2) The summary box is quite small. Suggest writing "see attached sheet" in there. And type out the wording of your Application on a sheet of A4. At the top put the application details and your name (ie application for Child Arrangements). At the bottom copy the statement of truth (at the end of the form) and sign and date it.

Basically it's about why you're applying, saying you've attempted mediation but unable to agree, what your history of care is with the children, what the other person's point of view is and why you don't agree with that. Explain how you see the care working (ie i have flexible hours, and can work them around parenting time) And then what you are asking the court to make an order for (ie Lives with both parents with 50/50 shared care on a 2-2-5-5 basis per fortnight).
Update from yesterday. I met with a solicitor who only charged me £24 for 1 hour of really good advice. I've been told that I will 100% get at least and average of two nights a week with my children staying over and half of all school holidays. My wife only wants me to have the children overnight every other saturday and no weeks away on holiday in the summer. This is mainly down to her being over possesive over the children and her wish to have a new kife in a home just her and the girls. I'm just updating in case other people have similar queries then this shoudl help out. all situations are different but because i have been a fully involved dad from day one and lived with them I have more rights than she thnks. If this all goes through and we split for good and move to seperate homes I will update you on what happens. Cheers
Hopefully you're still in the house
The two things to be focused on are getting a decent financial settlement and the custody you want.

The two go hand in hand as you will want somewhere decent to live with the kids. That's why you've got to stay put until this is sorted as moving out establishes a status quo in her favour.

As others have said keep a journal of all interaction with her and your time with the kids.
I would keep contact with her to a minimum and remain calm and polite within her presence.

You will probably find out about someone else at some stage so be prepared for that.

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