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Shared Care - advice needed
#1
Hello Guys 

Firstly would like to say what a wonderful resource this is and thank you to all of you taking the time to help fellow dads in their time of need. Have been reading the forum for a while now while trying to pluck up the courage to submit my post and hope some of you will be generous enough to share your thoughts.

In a nut shell my sons mother and i separated 2 years ago. our son is just over 3 now. (we weren't married).
since separation we have had an arrangement (mutually agreed / nothing formal) whereby we each spend equal amounts of time with him, he spends 3 nights  (sat, sun, mon) with me one week and 4 (fri, sat, sun, mon) the next. 
He has attended nursery for just over the last 2 years on mon and tue which facilitated his mother being able to work part time on those days.
I work full time but am more flexible with regards to the hours i work so historically have done all of the nursery runs.
The agreement thus far has been very successful and most importantly benefited our son by allowing him as much time as possible with each of us and also provided us equality as his parents, preventing either one of us calling the shots etc
Recently his mother met a new partner and has decided to quit her job.
she now wants to reduce the time i get to spend with my son to every other weekend.
after building a bond with my son based on a 50 / 50 shared parenting basis, I feel this is unacceptable especially considering the existing status quo over the last 2 years or two thirds of his life.
I appreciate when he starts school next September we would need to look at the current pattern to allow for equal amounts of 'quality time' with each of us but am happy to look at other arrangements that would facilitate that. one possibly approach would be spending a week with each of us,being collected from school on a friday say and dropped off the next but am ultimately happy to also look at alternate arrangements that works favorably for us both.
We live within a couple of miles of each other and where he would eventually be attending to school.
Over the last couple of months his mother has become increasing difficult, even denying me access completely on a few occasions.
Her willingness to engage has completely dropped off and she is even insisting we do handovers via a third party which she knows is completely unnecessary. 
I arranged for mediation but this to my surprise was deemed unsuitable for reasons unknown to me...im assuming lies on her behalf.
She has now stated she wishes to take me to court and feels it appropriate for a complete stranger to decide the split of our sons time between us. cant help feeling she also has a financial motivation as i am not currently paying any maintenance.
Just wanted to try and gauge the likelihood of being granted a shared 50 /50 based level of care if it does go to court. Aware this is still  relatively rare in this country but based on the existing 'status quo' combined with the fact I have a proven track record of being a completely devoted dad. i.e worked mon to fri and had him more then every weekend without fail for the last 2 years.
can she just decide she wants to change what we have in place as it no longer suits her.
to me is evident she does not have our sons best interest at heart her but her own.
Happy for her to continue claiming all forms of benefits relating to the child etc.
Should i feel bullied into accepting her every other weekend proposal for fear of an unfavorable outcome in court or do i stand a good chance of being granted a 50 / 50 based level of custody.
I've been to see a couple of solicitors but cant help feeling they are just telling me what i want to hear to keep their pockets lined with gold.
Your thoughts / opinions would be very much appreciated.
Also while im here, can anyone tell me how long you get to submit a signed C100 to the court before the mediator's signature becomes invalid and you have to reattempt mediation process again? Heard 4 month mentioned a couple of time but been unable to confirm.
Thanks all in advance.
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#2
Be prepared for a fight, but it's certainly do-able if you have a solid history and good evidence. You'll need to build a good case that she is seeking to reduce your time against the child's interests because of her own personal circumstances.

I got exactly 50/50 in a contested final hearing, but it took a good solicitor and barrister, and a lot of work. One year on it is totally worth it though!

I can recommend someone excellent who won't just tell you want you want to hear, if you're looking for another opinion, PM me for details.
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#3
Go for it. You may or may not get 50/50 but the standard is every other week-end and a midweek night plus half the school holidays (an order can be progressive include this for when he starts school and before then say x weeks a year for a holiday).

It is the childrens' right to have regular and significant contact with both parents. It's very common for an ex, when they get a new partner to want one "normal" family and cut you out. If you've been to mediation and she won't go then ask to get signed off. The sign off lasts for 3 months. If it's expired you'll need to go for another MIAM and get signed off again. That sheet is a part of the C100 application form - take it with you and ask them to sign it there and then.

So she is talking about taking YOU to court? Has she actually made an application? She would also need to have attended a MIAM if she makes a court application - so she may have done so and be lying about mediation. Or she may be just trying to scare you off.

So yes you focus in your application on the pre-existing shared care arrangement of the last two years and how you wish your son to continue to have that ongoing stability and continuity with both parents and both homes. And the details about how arrangements with your son are being regularly changed and witheld causing stress and uncertainty for him and you are concerned for him in this respect. Dont even mention child support. All the things you have put above are your arguments - your flexible working hours etc, how your son has been used to you taking him to and from nursery EVERY day! Or every day he was at nursery.

Start filling your application out. I have a shared care "lives with both parents" order. It was achieved at pre-negotiations at a final hearing. It is not for 50/50 - I compromised on that - but still wonder if I may have got 50/50 if the hearing had gone ahead.

Before each hearing there is an opportunity for negotiations. If you don't have a solicitor or barrister it's best not to do negotiations and let the court make the decisions. A statement for a final hearing is the most important thing - that is your evidence and what influences what decisions the court makes. For that it's adviseable to have help from a Solicitor.

You will get an order if you do it yourself and there are people who have had 50/50 orders doing it themselves. A good barrister is very helpful for getting what you want though, I agree. Go for it.

I completed both my applications (long story) myself and hired a barrister and solicitor later. The one thing I learned from that was - it's important to state exactly what you want in the initial application, as you're unlikely to get more later. Best to ask for more and be prepared to negotiate down a bit later. Or just stick out for the full 50/50 and let the court decide. But be specific. It shows you've thought it through.

For example 2-2-5-5 is probably better for a younger child than a week on, week off. Not necessarily. The way that would work is you have them say every wednesday and thursday night and every other week-end from Friday through to Monday morning. So you have them 2 nights one week and 5 nights the next week and your ex has the same. It means they don't go too long between seeing either parent but also don't have too many changeovers. The week you have the 5 nights is the two after school nights followed by the week-end. And half the holidays. Maybe specify you wish to have them weeks 3,4 and 6 in the summer, the whole of say October half term and half of February half term and set out what alternate Christmas arrangements you want.
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#4
From my own personal experience, changing the overnight care arrangements through court is near on impossible when there is an established routine.

I also wouldn't worry about the money factor. If you are referring to CMS payments, these are NOT based the number of overnights. But purely on whether one parent is less involved in the day to day care I.e. school runs, doctors, dentists, costs for school uniforms and activities etc... again this is from personal experience having been through a CMS battle and tribunal.

I would refuse point blank. Don't let her call the shots, she is no additional rights. It is equal standing. So let her go court...call her bluff.

Good luck!
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#5
Just wanted to say a big thank you for the replies. Easy to feel very isolated, anxious and so insecure when the ones you love the most, the relationships you hold dearest feel constantly at threat. It's comments like yours that give the strength to stay strong and keep fighting for what's right. Also knowing that you are not alone helps massively. Baffles me how some people can be so immoral and blinded by their own selfishness especially when it comes to innocent children. I will post an update when I get the chance. Thank you all.
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