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school 'club' issue?
#1
Long story short - myself and my daughter's Mum have a private / family based arrangement which works well. My daughter (8) lives with me 3 days per week, all year round.
 
No safeguarding issues on either side. No dramas re child maintenance. All pretty much amicable and straightforward.

An issue has arisen over the past 9 months. My daughter goes to 'After school club' on the nights she lives with Mum (so 3 or 4 nights per week depending on where we are in the schedule). My daughter has raised on numerous occasions that she doesn't want to go and we've been through a 9 month phase of her being very anxious about going and getting very upset the night before and morning of. We've discussed with school and the club and she is fine 'once there'. I've been in a number of times myself and have observed her to be fine once there (however she does ask if she can 'come home'). However, this ongoing anxiety / distress remains and is clearly impacting on her wellbeing and her education.

 
I'm due to start a new job in a week and have the freedom to structure my working day as I see fit and am therefore 'available' to pick her up from school (on Mum's nights, as well as mine) and simply 'avoid' her having to go in the club on Mum's nights. She can then be picked from mine or I'd drop her at Mum's once Mum is home from work Job done you'd think?
 
Mum is adamant my daughter must remain attending the club on 'her' nights, even though I am available and live round the corner from the school. She wont give any rationale other than simply 'my nights, I say what goes'. This is also despite my daughter telling her, on numerous occasions in my presence, she'd rather be picked up by me.
 
Is anyone aware of the legal situation here? Surely in the absence of safeguarding concerns, the child expressing her wishes, and my availability to facilitate it, it makes complete sense? Is there anything within the law that addresses such a situation?
 
If she continues to be adamant, I take it I would be within my rights to override her wishes, in the best interests of the child, and simply just go and pick her up regardless?

Is it worth looking into a Specific Issues Order?


Please advise.....

Thanks Smile
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#2
I am afraid you will have to leave arrangement as it is. she is entitled to do what she likes in her time with daughter. All you can is politely say your 8 year old daughter doesnt want to go but other than that there is nothing you can do. if you just turn up and get her yourself you could find yourself in family court with a worse arrangement than you have now. Just like if you enrol daughter in after school clubs in your time there is nothing her mum can do as its your time

i have a situation where our son tells me he dont want to go to a certain club but when he is with his mum he chooses too.
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#3
(09-12-2018, 07:11 PM)warwickshire1 Wrote: I am afraid you will have to leave arrangement as it is. she is entitled to do what she likes in her time with daughter. All you can is politely say your 8 year old daughter doesnt want to go but other than that there is nothing you can do. if you just turn up and get her yourself you could find yourself in family court with a worse arrangement than you have now. Just like if you enrol daughter in after school clubs in your time there is nothing her mum can do as its your time


Even if its causing her clear, ongoing, avoidable emotional distress?
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#4
Yep.

On a lighter note it won’t be long before your daughter can just leave of her own accord. No way school will be able to stop her coming to yours if she wants to
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#5
Seems remarkably wrong that this is seen as ‘ok’ in law imo.

I was under the impression the welfare principle looks at what’s in the child’s best interests? and also that the child’s wishes must be ascertained and, if possible, acted upon? Not just a ‘what Mum says goes’ approach?

Could someone confirm if purely legally I’m within my rights to go and pick her up if she wants me to?

Let’s say I did, and Mum took reactive action and say tried to deny or reduce contact, surely that would be transparent to any court and they would intervene appropriately?

Btw we’ve had the same arrangement for 4 years so a ‘status quo’ is clearly embedded so I envisage it would be unlikely for a court to order a reduction in contact if I intervened in this way?
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#6
As there is no court order in place and you will both have PR, you’re right that there is nothing in law to stop you from going and picking up your daughter whenever you want. However, your ex could retaliate, and you have to think of what the consequences might be if the arrangement with her breaks down as a result, and what that would mean for you and your daughter.

Given that there is no safeguarding risk when your daughter attends the after-school club, and there has been no diagnosis from a medical professional that going to it is clearly detrimental to her health and well-being, it’s highly likely that a court would decline to formally rule on this. Also, as your daughter is only 8 they would not take her wishes into account (they normally don’t before the age of 10). The court would likely just formalise the times you and your ex have her, and make it clear that during your own time you each have the final decision on what you do.

As your private arrangement with your ex works well otherwise, I’d really try and build on that if you can, as you potentially have a lot to lose here. The family court can be slow, emotionally very draining, time consuming, and expensive, so if you take that route you need to be sure that the outcome is likely to be better than your current situation.

Have you thought of seeing if your ex would try mediation (which you would have to do before applying to court in any case) to see if that might help? Alternatively, seeing as your daughter is fine once she is there, could it be worth seeing if some sessions with a counsellor could address what’s behind her anxiety before going?
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#7
Second the mediation idea for the after school nights. Your arrangement works well so don't jeopardise it. Presumably she leaves her at after school club because she works? It's a long day and with changeovers etc it may be that kind of anxiety that is the problem - just not much home time and changeovers etc. Unless there is something or someone your daughter particularly doesn't like at after school club. It will really annoy your ex if you say you have discussed it with daughter and she wants you to pick her up.

Apart from mediation you could try emailing a carefully worded email to the ex (not suggesting you pick daughter up if she considers it her nights no question etc) - just briefly expressing concern that daughter is anxious about attending the after school club and becoming distressed and suggesting that maybe some counselling would help with her anxiety. And that if ex is in agreement with this you could both ask the school to organise it.
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#8
Yes, mediate first in case there is a more serious underlying issue you aren’t currently aware of, which might need to be brought to court later. The courts take a very dim view on repetitive applications. As above, you have a lot to lose. They aren’t on your side with your daughter, they aren’t on your daughter’s side either, they certainly will protect a mother and child relationship even at cost to the child.

Promote positive engagement in these after school clubs, it’s good for your child to have wider social connections as it helps grow the amygdaloid part of the brain. If your daughter begins to talk about being bullied at these events and mum won’t change the arrangement after discussions have taken place, then a specific issue order might be required following mediation. Talk to the school also?

All the best,

John
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