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It's been a year and a bit
So many ups and downs.  We split in June last year and she moved out to a nearby rented flat in late September.  She had had an affair and was involved with at least a couple of men… was drinking and smoking weed lots.  We agreed shared care 50/50 but I still pay maintenance and more than the CSA would make me pay.  I saw that as freedom, if she could support herself.  She seemed to pull herself together a bit earlier this year but I sense the weed is still a thing and she's chased a few men.  The kids often complain that she isn't interested in them, though I don't know if this is really true.  I’ve had the kids a bit more than her but it doesn’t matter. Initially she was bringing the kids to my house (our family home) after school on my nights, but I now WFH on those evenings so that I can avoid it.  Recently, she’s got the message that I don’t want her letting herself into the house when I’m not there.  She’s been ok about it.
My house has been under offer since February but my buyer’s sale has fallen through twice now and I’ve missed out on many houses.  Moving on was the best option for me, but a couple of days ago I put the wheels in motion to buy-out my ex-partner and she seems happy with this.  At least there’ll be some closure and security for me and it can be done quickly.  My ex hasn’t made any suggestion she wants to come back to the house or raise a mortgage to buy it… or buy anything for that matter.  Wish me luck with this!  I might finally be safe and will be able to get on with creating a brilliant home for my kids.
I heard that her mum has demonised me – blaming me for it all and attacking me as a father.  Why, I really have no idea.  She has been recommending to my ex that she goes to a solicitor to see if she can get some of my pension.  This vile, bitter old woman hasn’t got a clue and has no respect for me as a devoted father to her grandchildren and supportive ex-partner to her daughter.  We were never married and I reckon I paid into my pension for less than 2 years over the course of our relationship and when we were having kids.  My pension – which she can’t touch anyway – was almost entirely invested before we got together and would only last me 3-4 years if I retired now. 

The irony is that her mum was cheated on by her dad who left and married his mistress. He is still with her after 40 years but the mum has remained bitter.  So her daughter goes and does exactly the same yet it’s me who’s the bastard and her poor daughter had no option but to destroy her family and start shagging a stranger she met by chance.  You couldn’t make it up.
I’ve spent weeks on end happy, free, elated.  I’ve travelled. I’ve built a new life with my kids.  I have great interests and a good social life. I’m comfy for money, (but not rich - I have to be careful).   I was dating a woman early on. More recently, I made a good girl-friend but the attraction wasn’t there so we really are just mates.  But I still regress.  I’m having a bad one at the moment.  I thought the original guy that she was seeing when we split had long gone.  But then I heard he was staying at hers for a weekend recently.  I got an email from her a few days ago to say that she was getting serious with this guy and was telling the kids.  It’s hit me very badly. All the old memories, the grief, the yearning for those years as a family and a younger couple…. It’s all back.  It surprises me.  I thought these feelings were long gone.  We were amazing friends throughout our life together.  Admittedly, we had drifted apart on certain things but we were a nice family who did plenty together. We had a nice life, money, happy children.  We still had mutual interests but she had become totally absorbed into pseudo religious mumbo jumbo and ever-changing business ideas that have never earned her a penny.  I think she needed a partner who joined in on it all, never questioning on criticising. I just couldn’t keep up.  We never argued or were nasty to one another, but under it all she was constantly holding resentment towards me and making assumptinos about how I felt, very few of which were actually true.  She didn’t talk to me.  Instead, she resented, she acted (by starting something with someone else and splitting us up), then she blamed me and whined about the consequences.
Anyway, I can’t believe it’s been more than a year.  Progress?  For sure.  Lots.  But it’s still early days, isn't it? I had no idea how much this would dominate my life going forward when it first happened.  But if I can get this house sorted, it’s a huge step forwards as it is our last financial tie.  Then it’ll just be the kids but I can get on with my own life at last.
It is bound to drag things up, after you've moved on and had happiness and progress - maybe a week-end away would help banish this news from your mind.  Sounds like it won't last ling with your ex and this bloke again.  I found writing things down helps sometimes to get it out of your system - but a change of scene and distraction works best.  Could you and the kids go and stay with someone for a few days?

Also want to urge caution now.  Your ex may become less amenable to you having the kids so much if she gets serious with someone and is talking about having a family life with the kids and a partner.  If you have nothing formalised in writing about the child arrangements, then do keep very careful records. Make sure everything for the kids is registered at your address - their GP, school etc.  You might even see if she will go to mediation and draw up a consent order.  There are stories of ex's suddenly upping and moving away and taking the kids with them and if you have nothing legal, to say who they live with, it isn't abduction.  Possession is 9/10ths of the law.

So although you are feeling down, understandably, becoming alert to this danger could bring you out of it - make sure she doesn't try and take the kids.

Just wanted to add this, after your comment about the Mother in law - saw the review on Amazon recently and it made me laugh. It's for magnesium sulfate paste that draws things out of wounds (looked it up after son had grit in a wound.  But just to be clear - turns out it's not suitable for open wounds - just for boils etc).

"This has done a good job of pulling infection from wound on the wife - next I shall try using it to draw the venom from my mother in law... I might need a bigger pot
116 people found this helpful"
Good update Fatcat. Staying in the old family home requires a constitution. I've bought my wife out two years ago but am still moving out soon, too many memories to start on over with someone new. The ex wife will always feel it is 'hers' to a degree. My ex rang me this morning for a catch up from guess where? ... the driveway of the old family home.

If staying can work out for you it may be a good option, certainly makes financial (if not emotional) sense.
ROFL that amazon review being helpful, I let a roar reading that lol...

anyway - I could have written exactly the same story about mother in law and pension claims (eerily similar). I was even married for 2 years. Ex and mother in law thought they are going to to get half of pension (total 100K) - they ended up getting not a penny from my pension as Ex had 2 degrees to her name. Judge said 'You are a scientist, go get a job' !
Spiteful mother in laws are a disgraceful especially the ones who have had their own troubles in relationship, they are sure shot recipe for family disaster.
:-) I enhanced it slightly so it's easy to read :-) Hope it cheered you up Fatcat. I know how these things can really knock you. Try and distract yourself and not focus on it, and focus on you, kids, and plans. But do keep on guard.
Charlie - thank you mate.  I love this sort of thing and this one is a gem!
I note what you say about the kids and it makes me a bit uneasy because we have registered them at hers with school to ensure she got the benefits (I can't claim them).  It's a bit muddled - my son's new senior school writes to me at the old family home too.

Thanks Sandman - I may move on from the family home soon and it would be ideal, but wanted to draw a line under things.  But see my question below...

Sean - this is very interesting.  My ex knows I've been very fair. We have nothing to fight over really.  We both split with virtually equal amounts in the bank, although I owed all of mine to a family member and still do.  We both had debts in our names - mine much higher. I had to pay tax on her child benefit money and still owe more - I haven't asked her to contribute.  I only invested something like £8k into my pension the whole time we were together. The rest is SERPS put away in my 20s. I don't see how she could have a claim on that even if we were married.  No - my fear has always been that if she goes to a solicitor we will both dump thousands on legal fees fighting for nothing.  She says she agrees but she has poisonous influences!  EDIT: it's relevant because my ex also has a degree and was a healthcare professional until she became disillusioned with the NHS and conventional medicine and became obsessed with the alternative healing scene along with countless short-lived business ideas that never get off the ground and just sucked money out of our household income.

So this is my worry.  And I appreciate that I'm being a bit controlling here, but for me it's all about being able to build a future for the kids and I am committed to this.  We agreed a buy-out figure for the house last night. When she left, with the maintenance I was paying and her benefits, our incomes were virtually the same.  She went to live in a flat, but in her wisdom, decided that a 2-bed flat for her and three kids would do.  She could easily have afforded a house.   Now she is working much less (her choice - she is refusing to seek medical treatment for a condition she has, instead trying to treat herself alternatively, and this makes it hard for her to work at times) and I reckon she's struggling.  She is utterly inept with money. Even my 8-year old daughter said it!  She won't got to a doctor but spends hundreds on a quack.  She's been chasing this man, then another, and another, since we split.  So one of the legal forms says that if you are cohabiting with kids you must have sought legal advice.  We aren't cohabiting - we each have a place to live and we do 50/50 with the kids.  So I've said she doesn't need this and she agrees. She wants to get on with it too.  But I'm worried someone will tell her she shouldn't be doing this.  She can't house the kids adequately etc etc.  Obviously, I CAN house the kids.  I can have them full-time if need be. I can afford it, I am stable, capable, nearby to the school, reasonably intelligent, I don't drink or smoke and the kids live a clean healthy life with me with routine, sport, learning etc.  Just the other day, my daughter begged to come and live with me permanently because she's terrified this new man is going to move in. I'm paying her maintenance at the moment but even she realises I don't have to.  I promised her I wouldn't make her poor but have said to her that I want her to tell me when she no longer needs the help.  I'm pooping myself that someone is going to try and block this.  Perhaps say that she should've stayed in the family home with a mesher order.  I don't want a legal fight or custody battle.  I just want a home of my own and to be able to be a dad.
You're not being controlling. As you said, you're being fair. That doesn't mean she will be fair if this new man gets involved. All's fair in love and war and all that.

My suggestion would be to ask her to go to mediation and agree to put the 50/50 shared care into an agreement for a consent order. To get the consent order, you would need it drawn up by a solicitor,and she would also need a solicitor to approve the content and wording. When it's approved by both solicitors, it gets sent to the court for sealing. And then you legally have the kids 50/50.

I think it does need legalising and at this time she is in agreement with you. My concern is - if she is getting the child benefits, and they are registered with her with the school, she could be classed as the resident Mother. So really you need something legal, on paper to say who they live with. If they live with both parents, then she can still get the child benefits (someone has to get them and they won't split them between you) - so that can be in the agreement you draw up.

It might be possible to just bypass mediation,draw up a consent order for 50/50 (yourself at first and then have a solicitor put it in the right format) and ask her to have it approved by a solicitor so it can be sealed with the court.

Nobody wants to fight a legal or custody battle, and your ex probably doesn't want to either. Although she may be psyched up to by this guy - possibly. Which is why a consent order would be a good thing - it legalises what you currently have. Then the children legally live with both of you. It doesn't even have to be 50/50 - it could be 60/40 with you, if she agrees. The trouble is the child benefits would then be paid to you as the one who has them the most. So it might be better to go for 50/50 and just agree she has the child benefits.

Your daughter will be anxious about this change, and maybe scared she will be taken away from you also. So another reason to legalise the child arrangements.

Once they legally live with both parents - if there are issues in future, you have a much better chance of them living with you, because legally they already do. My concern is, that by not having it legalised now, she will claim she is the resident Mother and may be psyched up by someone to go for an occupation order for the house. (Sector on here had this recently - different circumstances - so don't worry too much - his ex moved out with the kids and he remained in the house. She applied for an occupation order and he had to move out of his home so she could move back in with the kids).

So your anxieties may have some merit and it's best to try and get something legalised now, rather than have to go to court to see the kids later.

That's my suggestion. Ask her to "formalise" the kids living with both of you 50/50, so they have security with both parents long term. That will reassure her you're not trying to take them away from her and have their best interests at heart. If in the future there are welfare issues at hers, and your daughter isn't happy, then it will be easier to have her/them with you more, if it becomes a matter for social services or if your daughter expresses her wishes strongly.

The way 50/50 could/would work would be 2 consecutive midweek nights with each parent - either Monday and Tuesday or Wednesday and Thursday (2 nights). And every other week-end with each parent - Friday from school through to Monday morning (3 nights).

That is a 2-2-5-5 pattern over a fortnight. So if you had them every Wed and Thurs nights, then one week it would be Wed, Thurs, followed by 5 nights with the Mother (Friday through to Mon am week-end with Mon Tues nights tagged on). Then 5 nights with you (Wed and Thurs night with your 3 night week-end tagged on). Then back to Mon andTues night with her and Wed and Thurs night with you. Then 5 nights each again.

Is that similar to what you have now? It would also be half the school holidays each, and if drawing up a consent order you'd ideally want the weeks specified in that. eg May half term with you, October half term with her, February half term split with consecutive nights. Half of Easter and Christmas holidays (however you decide to split them), and say weeks 1,2, and 5 of the summer with the Mother (the remaining weeks 3, 4 and 6 with you). This would prevent a return to court later if there were difficulties agreeing holiday dates and weeks and she and her partner decided to take the upper hand.

If you think she would be happy to agree to a bit more time with you, but still on a "lives with both parents" basis then it could be 5 nights a fortnight with her instead of 7. eg every other week-end Friday to Monday (3 nights) and every Thursday night. So one week it would be Thursday night with her, the following week it would be Thursday through to Monday morning.

Having 50/50 time by agreement isn't the same as a legal document saying who the children live with. And although you would most likely get it back, if it went to court later, if she suddenly decided to change things, that would mean full court applications etc.
Thank you very much for the advice you’ve given here and for taking the time to provide so much detail.

I guess it’s never crossed my mind because she isn’t the confrontational type and we know other couples that have split that have never legally formalised the childcare arrangements. To be honest, I don’t think this guy is serious about her. He doesn’t live round here. He has his own kids (that are resident with his ex) and he travels a lot for work. I think she’s imagining that it’s more than it really is.

I should be able to prove that the kids are with me half the time (more, in reality). There is plenty of email traffic on this and I keep a diary. There would be witnesses too. I really wanted to get this house sorted first and perhaps the next step after the buy-out will be to sell it fairly promptly. To be clear, on her normal earnings, my ex would have an income of around £3k per month with maintenance and benefits. She can easily rent a 3-bed house and could probably buy one if she would just get medical help, get back to work normally and let me help a bit. She will also have a heap of money in the bank when I buy her out.

We currently do the 2:2:5:5 and it works very well. I set all this up. I’ve worked out all the plans. She’s happy for me to do it because it isn’t really her thing. I will do at least half the holidays this year and I offer to have them in the evenings on her holiday days so that she can go and work if she needs to. We help one another plenty.

But like you say, this is now… the future is uncertain. I’ll review everything you’ve suggested again. I guess I just want the house sorted first but I still don’t know if I’ll feel safe even then. One consolation I suppose is that I saw my counsellor yesterday and she assured me that the courts aren’t as sexist as they used to be. Kids don’t automatically go to their mum. They favour the most stable parent. I hope it never comes to this.

I had a quick look at Occupation Orders and I'm not worried about this. No-one's in danger. I guess my question really is, what happens if she turns around now or in future and says she can't afford to house the kids, could you leave please and let me live there?

The facts are that she can afford to house the kids if only she'd get medical help so that she could work regularly again.  Even if she doesn't, her benefits and maintenance alone cover her current rent, bills and food.
Even if she was working, she doesn't care about maximising her mortgage capacity.
She will have a large amount of money in the bank soon if the buy-out goes through
We're doing 50/50 and I'm certainly the stable parent of the two of us right now.
I am the sole mortgagee and she would not get agreement to take over the mortgage.
coming up close to 2 years next month i left the family home due to my ex, although relationship was done well before then.

keep your head held up, i feel like im cheating myself saying this but people say it will become better.
Thanks Tom. It is better. Life is good if still emotional, stressful and painful at times. But my life with my kids is really special and I feel empty when they're not with me.
My situation could be far worse. My ex is friendly, cooperative and supportive, even if she does drive mad and worry me to death. And I'm obviously still full of resentment. But it's me who stresses and is anxious. I probably create my own nightmares when things aren't all that bad.

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