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What sort of contact is acceptable or should be expected to be agreed?
#1
So my next hearing after numerous delays by my ex wife is the the Dispute Resolutions hearing.
Now, finally having the chance to speak with my ex she comes across as being amicable, but it's all lip service. Weeks ago she was happy to go for alternating weekends and half the holidays and today after having mentioned to her last Saturday that when the children spend time overnight with me, that her maintenance money will drop due to shared care, her tune has now changed.

My ex is now suggesting the following:
Contact to be every weekend or other weekend in her local area with me staying in a hotel to allow overnight contact.
To allow one weekend a month for the children to visit me at my home.

She is putting all the blame for this onto her solicitor saying that is what her solicitor wants, something that we all know is not true as they work on the individuals instruction, not their own agenda.
The ex also claims that CAFCASS will be making the recommendation as to how long the children can see me and where along with who can be involved. Primarily because she does not want my partner meeting my son's or for my family to be involved.

But she is basing all of this on loose points at best such as me having to do 6 - 8 hours worth of driving, 3.5 - 4 hours being getting up to where they live and then the same home. So claiming this is a hazard, that CAFCASS will see the journey as stressful on the children. Despite the fact she had to drive them up to where she is now for them to live there? Also dragging my son's ages into effect saying it's not appropriate at their age. 1 and half and 3 years old? Saying that when they are older they can visit. So am I supposed to wait until my youngest is about 7 before overnights?

Personally I see this as her intentionally trying to again restrict contact so she can maintain control and also because she doesn't want her maintenance to drop.

What is everyone else's opinions? What should I expect to push for, for contact? I mean I live in Portsmouth and they in Stoke on Trent, so it's not like weekdays is exactly an option.
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#2
The big problem is you have here is that one of your children is only 1 1/2 years old. Most dads would only get 4-6 hours a week
It is true a solicitor can only advise but end of the day its the client your ex partner who instructs. I would not mention lowering child maintenance payments, infact i would say as you still going through court anyway that you said that as u was annoyed.

The good thing we got here is despite you have a child thats 1 1/2 years old is that she is offering overnight contact which is really good actually. I would due to their age actually accept having weekend overnight once a month at yours and doing the other weekend locally to your ex's if you can say for example saturday lunchtime until sunday 5/6 pm but have it as a phased order so it becomes every other weekend perhaps by start of january 2020. I would push at a final hearing to have dates defined when it starts so u dont have to return. It sounds a long time but you are actually in court still and crucially your youngest child will be 2 by then.
Once they are 2 they cant stop overnights unless there is safeguarding issues.

Only other thing left for you to sort out would be what would happen during holidays..perhaps a similar arrangement.
I dont think she is restricting contact due to their ages and been actually offered a weekend a month in portsmouth is very good and i would be taking that offer and although a bit frustrating the weekend in stoke on trent every month will soon fly by and you may enjoy it with summer coming up.

Also you need to get Cafcass on side and you want to hope she has suggested this to cafcass as this is where you come across really child focused and say i would like children every other weekend at mine but in best interests of children could do it so its phased.

If your ex is only worried about maintenance you could suggest keeping payments same and not lowering them and she agrees to what she originally said every other weekend and half of the holidays
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#3
I echo what Warwickshire has said and would like to emphasise the point regarding overnight contact. I'll give you my personal experience here.

Myself and the ex separated in May 2018 when my two daughters were 17 months and 3 years old. The ex agreed to 6 overnights a month but would not budge on this, she threw in some false allegations. Just a point to note, if any false allegations are made then don't get involved in debating any of these, the fact that she has allowed overnight contact is reflective of the fact that she believes their are no welfare issues and that you can meet the needs of the kids - stick to this rationale. I put in a court application on the back of having 6 nights a month and Cafcass recommending this should be increased, I now have 12 nights a month and half the holidays which was endorsed by the court at the final hearing.

Take whatever overnight contact that you can and let Cafcass make their recommendations, you need to keep them well onside as this organisation is very powerful in the court arena. Also, keep thinking long term strategy as you will be in a good position, once you have your overnights and a good Cafcass report then any overnight contact that you get now will only increase going forward.
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#4
Thanks for the replies guys.

Fortunately my youngest will be two in August, so I don't have long to wait for the age restriction nonsense to be overlooked, if what you're saying is the case. So theoretically seeing as this will all probably be finished in July, I'll only have a month for it to be phased if that was the case.

I like the strategic approach to looking for a phased approach as ultimately in the long run this would mean that I will get the alternative weekends. The problem I have here is that I work a shift pattern of 6 days on 3 days off so it's rather rare to get weekends off and sometimes if I do then it is immediately following a night shift.

Considering I have to factor school into the mix as well when they are older, I feel I need to push for as much contact time and overnights as I can before then as I will undoubtedly lose out on seeing them as they get older!

Leader - I've already had all of the false allegations thrown at me over the last year, hence why I am only now just getting the Dispute Resolutions hearing, because she delayed the court through her solicitor until I disproved the allegations to the court.

Warwickshire - I didn't suggest to her that I would decrease the payments, but that Child Maintenance will do so after the court has ordered and allowed overnight stays. So I feel that this is her intentionally trying to stop this from happening.
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#5
Yes it is all leverage, bluff and double bluff. My ex, also after loads of false allegations, suddenly wanted to come to agreements and have a consent order, when a final hearing was looming. But there was no way I was withdrawing my application as she'd just go back on things straight away. It was sorted as a (mostly) consent order during pre-hearing discussions at the final hearing. We had mediation ordered between hearings "to narrow the issues" - but any agreements reached there can't be disclosed at court - and aren't enforceable - so it was a waste of time and just her trying to look like she wanted to be reasonable to the courts.

Has your ex put this "proposal" in writing? Email or text - or is it just verbal. I actually think your mention of Child Support reducing, has made her think about being more "amenable" - so you did have some leverage there - possibly. But - what have you actually applied for to the court? Did you ask for 50/50? If so how did you ask for it to work?

I think what you'd need to try for - with the distance and your work shifts - is every week-end that you are available - so if that is 3 week-ends out of four then try for that. Or is your shift pattern not fixed? Cafcass may well say that a long journey every week-end is too much for a young child.

Leaving your work pattern aside, I would look to getting 3 week-ends out of four (one there and two at your home) and a Skype call on the fourth week-end, plus more than half the holidays - as a near 50/50 schedule. But it really depends what you've asked for in the initial application. So if you can tell us that, can comment further.
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