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Changes to contact arrangements
#1
Hi, I want to ask some advice please. My ex-wife and I divorced in 2014, and on her request, we agreed between us that she looks after our son from Monday afternoon to Wednesday, while I look after him Thursday to Monday morning. It's been a colloquial, but very successful arrangement. She's re-married just last month, and now her circumstances have changed she wants to change our childcare arrangement to one week for her, one for me. I'll really struggle with this because I work away sometimes, and it also means more child time for her, which may be considered fair, but she's never wanted it before. My son's 11, he's happy, so far as I can tell, and he's recently got into a good school, the interviews and exams for which were all administrated by me. I'm about to take on school fees, entirely on my own, which I can manage, but it'll be a struggle. The last thing I need is more time off work to accommodate a new childcare arrangement.
 
She's hired a solicitor, although I haven't yet received anything from them. It's frustrating. I'm happy with things as they are, and they've been successful for four years. So my question is this, can she do this? Will it be easy for her - do courts usually side with the mother? And is the whole thing going to cost me a fortune?
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#2
(07-02-2018, 06:09 PM)taco19685 Wrote: Hi, I want to ask some advice please. My ex-wife and I divorced in 2014, and on her request, we agreed between us that she looks after our son from Monday afternoon to Wednesday, while I look after him Thursday to Monday morning. It's been a colloquial, but very successful arrangement. She's re-married just last month, and now her circumstances have changed she wants to change our childcare arrangement to one week for her, one for me. I'll really struggle with this because I work away sometimes, and it also means more child time for her, which may be considered fair, but she's never wanted it before. My son's 11, he's happy, so far as I can tell, and he's recently got into a good school, the interviews and exams for which were all administrated by me. I'm about to take on school fees, entirely on my own, which I can manage, but it'll be a struggle. The last thing I need is more time off work to accommodate a new childcare arrangement.
 
She's hired a solicitor, although I haven't yet received anything from them. It's frustrating. I'm happy with things as they are, and they've been successful for four years. So my question is this, can she do this? Will it be easy for her - do courts usually side with the mother? And is the whole thing going to cost me a fortune?

She has to show good reason why to change the arrangements. I would agree to an increase in her contact, but not to shared care.

She has the right to every other weekend, if she is free then, and half school holidays.  You would still exceed 50% of the nights, so you will still claim for the child.
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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#3
So there are no court orders in place - you've had an informal arrangement where son spends most of the time with you. She would probably claim it is a shared care agreement, rather than him living with you and spending time with her and it may be seen as that with no court orders in place.

She should go to mediation with you first, before applying to court. I would book an appointment for a MIAM asap - it's an initial mediation appointment you go to on your own, explain the situation to the mediator, who will then invite your ex. Meanwhile you write her a brief and polite email suggesting you try and discuss and resolve any issues at mediation. It is unlikely to work and then you get signed off to apply to court. I would suggest, if she hasn't already applied to court herself, that you do so.

But you don't want it to get really hostile. It sounds like it has been amicable until she remarried (got the same issue here kind of although in my case it has never really been amicable unless it was on her terms, but has got worse since she had another child with her husband and wants rid of me).

The fact she is asking for a week on, week off, is not too bad because it shows she does consider he should spend a lot of time with both parents. It's not like she's wanting to reduce your time drastically to say every other week-end. However, as you say that doesn't work for you.

I agree that it would be a big change for your son to suddenly spend a lot less time with you after four years of this pattern and more time with a Stepdad he doesn't know that well.

Currently he has been spending 2 nights a week with his Mum and 5 nights a week with you. If she is prepared to go a whole week without seeing him, then one option might be to suggest he spends every other week-end with her from Thursday night through to Monday morning (ie 5 consecutive nights a fortnight). Which means he is still spending most of the time with you. Could you manage that? Probably not as it would mean a full week again.

I think the way to look at it is, if she can't do every Monday to Wednesday any more then something will need to change but it needs to work for you and your son as well.

At the moment you aren't required to pay Child Support. If it's 50/50 then usually there is no child support to pay by either also so unless she is currently paying you child support there would be no change. But if it did go to 50/50 I would want it clarified in writing that neither of you pays child support.

Here's an example of some patterns

2-2-5-5 (this is 50/50 - like a week on week off but shorter times - so Mon tues with one parent, wed thurs with the other and every other week-end with each, so one week you'd have thurs to Monday as now and the next week ypu'd have wed thurs nights - over a two week pattern).

The 2-2-5-5 pattern would fit with what you both have now - ie her having every Mon and Tues night and you having every Wed nd Thurs night but you would both get a week-end tacked on to the beginning/end of your days each week.

However - you may not want things to change at all as he basically lives with you and presumably has friends, a lifestyle and week-end activities. If she goes to court though, even if it's established he lives with you, she would get the standard of every other week-end and a midweek night. Or they may think 50/50 shared care is reasonable.

So maybe think about what you want. Also it's really important to be able to prove the schedule of the past four years. Is there any documentation to show son lives with you? Is his GP registered at your address? Is it registered at school that he lives with you? Do you have any diaries or calendars, or anything written down that show the schedule?

Because my ex just wiped out 3 years of history at my last court case and claimed son hadn't spent all that time wth me since birth and it was her word against mine. ie she lied. I wasn't asked to prove it but could have done if necessary as kept a diary since he was born and had various things in emails.

If you want to keep things as they are that may not happen if she wants week-end time. If he's 11 then a week on week off isn't too bad but I think 2-2-5-5 is better. If you want to keep him living with you most of the time then you may need to apply for a residence order and say you are prepared to adjust the schedule for son to spend time with his Mother but feel he should remain living with you as he has done for the past four years.

A way round keeping the residency and offering her more time could be 60/40 rather than 50/50. I can't think of a schedule that gives her alternate week-ends, son longer periods with both parents - and means you don't have a full week to manage.

I think this one is really hard as he is living with you and you want that established. And an argument might be why does she want more time now when there has been an established pattern for four years, and she didn't want more time before. How has it worked in school holidays in the past?

I think it comes down to - if she is going to get given every other week-end then you may need to have shared care 50/50 if you can't do Monday to Wednesday each week. If you want him to live with you as now you'd need to be able to have him for a full week and her have every other week-end Friday night to Monday morning.

If you can come to an agreement at mediation it can be put into a consent order via solicitors and stamped by the court.

If you put in an application to court yourself it should be that you are able to be flexible but feel son should continue to live with you as before and spend time with his Mother as he has had a very established life for the last four years.

If it does go to court they will ask your son's wishes and feelings as he is 11 and presumably nearly 12. What do you think he would want? He would probably want things to stay the same and I think it's unfair to ask kids about schedules as they don't understand the consequences of change.

Another thought. My ex has just decided to move further away. Do you think there might be a reason she wants 1 week on 1 week off? Or if she may be planning to live further away so midweek changes wouldn't work? I think it's really important you get it established that he lives with you and it isn't 50/50 - if you can. Which is basically what Mark said :-)
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