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Changing access arrangements
#1
Hi all,

Its a complex one so grab a cup of tea, you are in it for the long haul!

My ex and I separated on 27th of Dec 2017 and I agreed to move out the house (back to my mums initially, or so I thought...) on the same day to avoid the awkwardness. My ex had obviously planned it because she presented me with an access plan for the kids (two girls, 7 and 4 now) which seemed reasonable Fri-sat alternating weekends and Weds-Thurs alternating weeks (so 2 days a week basically). A few months later she then requested that I take them on the Sunday after the Fri-Sat which I eventually agreed to but only on a trial basis. 

Since then things went downhill in our relationship as we could not agree the financial side. We didn't have a lot to fight over but obviously the house was the main asset albeit with not much equity in it. Long story short we went to court because I was initially paying £1200 p/m voluntarily but this was not sustainable so I started paying according to the online CMS calculation instead (didn't go down well...). Anyway I ended up taking her to court (unusual I believe) because we couldn't agreed through mediation how to divide the assets. What I had hoped was that she would keep the house for girls sake but would buy me out thus freeing me up to get another house eventually. However she said she couldn't afford to do that and the judge agreed in court and said she kept the house but with a charge of some nominal amount which doesn't come into effect until my youngest is in senior school. So in effect she has the house for the foreseeable future and I have nothing and cannot be removed from the mortgage either!

In addition to this I met someone new around 6 months after separating and am still with her, all going well etc. So at the moment I live between my mums (when I have the girls) and my new partners when I don't. I also travel a lot with work during the week with work so I'm living out of bags really. Obviously this lifestyle is taking its toll and I feel down quite a lot of the time. The real kicker is that our weekends we have our respective kids are out of sync and my new g/f's ex will not change weekends because its written in a court order. I tried to swap with my ex shortly after meeting the new g/f but she was non-committal and that has now changed to a flat no. She uses the excuse that she cant because her work schedule is organised around it but you would think she could at least give a date when her commitments are no longer booked up and do it from then, but no...

On top of this it has become increasingly difficult to look after the girls on the Weds/Thurs simply because I travel and have to rely on my mum to take care of them often. Clearly this is not the point of me having them but I need to be able to travel on those days sometimes.

So this is an odd and convoluted story leading to a vague set of questions.

Now that the financial side is sorted I want to change the access arrangements but unlike most of you guys on here I need to scale back my access which I am certain my ex will not agree to. Most mums tend to want their kids more not less but not in her case (partly because of work reasons etc, she works part time though). Also because she has the house and I do not have my own house yet I feel there ought to be more onus on her looking after them anyway. Obviously if the number of days I have them reduces then my CMS calculation will increase which is fine by me. I would look to take them more on school holidays etc to balance up any reduction in days anyway though its almost certainly going to be less days overall.

In addition to this I want to get the weekends swapped over but I'm not sure how important a judge would see this if it comes to court. We obviously want both sets of kids to see each other as much as possible so we can be a "proper family" as and when. So in summary I am looking for advice, experience, feedback on how to achieve the changes above i.e. remove Weds/Thurs nights but Fri/Sun nights to remain except swapping the weekend over eventually. I've tried multiple times to change weekends amicably but no discussions ever go well and we are now down to basic functional communications about the kids, dates etc.

Sorry for the ramble but it was therapeutic to get it all in writing even if no-one reads it!

Simon
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#2
Hi there. Sorry to hear about the house and finances. Doesn't seem right you don't get anything from it for a long time. At 7 and 4 your kids are at school so your ex could be working and earning a decent wage.

Re the child arrangements. If your ex won't agree to a schedule that works for you then you'd need to apply for a court order, but before you can do that you have to try mediation. You need a sign off from mediation to be able to apply to court. It's unlikely mediation will sort it, but it might. Main sticking point is it costs you both for each session and ex's don't want to pay so don't go to mediation - then you get signed off and apply to court.

If she does go, and the mediator helps you reach agreement, that is a start, but ideally you want any agreement in a consent order. That would mean each of you having a solicitor, solicitors draw up the agreement and send it to the court for sealing. So you get a court order without going to court.Your ex may not want to commit to it being in a consent order though.

At the back of this I think your ex is refusing to change week-ends because you have a new partner. Very common. They can get really difficult about you playing happy families wiht the kids and a new partner. Just my feeling there - sounds like excuses.

So you need to google mediators in the area, make an appointment - just for yourself. The first appointment is the MiAM (mediation information and assessment meeting). That is the legal requirement to apply to court - to have had a MIAM. You tell the mediator about the situation, mediator tells you about mediation, then invites your ex to attend the next session with you. If your ex says no or just doesn't turn up then you get signed off. Could be an idea to send her a brief text or email after your MIAM to say you have started mediation and would like her to come so you can try and agree ongoing child arrangements.

Can imagine your lifestyle is hard right now, but I wouldn't drop any time with your kids. If you do go to court then the more time you have now, the easier it will be to get a decent schedule.

The standard the court orders is every other week-end - Friday through to Sunday evening (or maybe through to Monday morning return to school if you want that), plus one midweek overnight and half the school holidays.

Assume that would work better for you. You could even have the thursday night midweek every week, so one week you'd have thursday night and the following week you'd have thursday through to Sunday night, so they'd be with you 3 nights every fortnight and one night in between. Plus half the school holidays.

Have a think about what schedule would work best for you on the basis of 4 nights a fortnight (ie the standard). If your ex is happy for you to have them more, then how about you having them every week-end? A court wouldn't order that but you could do it by agreement. Although sounds like she doesn't want you having them the week-end your partner's kids are around.

Also sounds like you need your own place. Can you afford to rent now you've got the CM reduced?
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#3
(12-18-2019, 01:05 AM)Charlie7000 Wrote: Hi there.  Sorry to hear about the house and finances.  Doesn't seem right you don't get anything from it for a long time.  At 7 and 4 your kids are at school so your ex could be working and earning a decent wage.

Re the child arrangements.  If your ex won't agree to a schedule that works for you then you'd need to apply for a court order, but before you can do that you have to try mediation.  You need a sign off from mediation to be able to apply to court.  It's unlikely mediation will sort it, but it might.  Main sticking point is it costs you both for each session and ex's don't want to pay so don't go to mediation - then you get signed off and apply to court.

If she does go, and the mediator helps you reach agreement, that is a start, but ideally you want any agreement in a consent order.  That would mean each of you having a solicitor, solicitors draw up the agreement and send it to the court for sealing.  So you get a court order without going to court.Your ex may not want to commit to it being in a consent order though.

At the back of this I think your ex is refusing to change week-ends because you have a new partner.  Very common.  They can get really difficult about you playing happy families wiht the kids and a new partner.  Just my feeling there - sounds like excuses.

So you need to google mediators in the area, make an appointment - just for yourself.  The first appointment is the MiAM (mediation information and assessment meeting).  That is the legal requirement to apply to court - to have had a MIAM.  You tell the mediator about the situation, mediator tells you about mediation, then invites your ex to attend the next session with you.  If your ex says no or just doesn't turn up then you get signed off.  Could be an idea to send her a brief text or email after your MIAM to say you have started mediation and would like her to come so you can try and agree ongoing child arrangements.

Can imagine your lifestyle is hard right now, but I wouldn't drop any time with your kids.  If you do go to court then the more time you have now, the easier it will be to get a decent schedule.

The standard the court orders is every other week-end - Friday through to Sunday evening (or maybe through to Monday morning return to school if you want that), plus one midweek overnight and half the school holidays.

Assume that would work better for you.  You could even have the thursday night midweek every week, so one week you'd have thursday night and the following week you'd have thursday through to Sunday night, so they'd be with you 3 nights every fortnight and one night in between.  Plus half the school holidays.

Have a think about what schedule would work best for you on the basis of 4 nights a fortnight (ie the standard). If your ex is happy for you to have them more, then how about you having them every week-end?  A court wouldn't order that but you could do it by agreement.  Although sounds like she doesn't want you having them the week-end your partner's kids are around.

Also sounds like you need your own place.  Can you afford to rent now you've got the CM reduced?

Hi mate,

I really appreciate your thought out response, it was very useful to me (and generally helped me feel less impotent...).

We attended a MIAM about 18 months ago where we agreed something then it fell apart because she wanted to change something after which I didn't agree to. That said the child access part of the mediation was minimal because back then we were ok with the current arrangement. Do you need to attend a separate MIAM for child access if it was discussed (albeit briefly) at the first one? 

If not mediation then I suppose my best course of action is to write her a letter/email to state my situation and what I want to change regards access and see what happens. As she has the house and I do not have one yet I assume the onus will be on her to look after them if I am unable to? Your suggestions regarding different arrangements make a lot of sense also, I might try reframing my preferences along those lines. As for changing weekends, yes I suspect you are right but will a judge see it as important. My partner and I want our kids to spend time together and we need them on the same weekends for that.

Probably one of those situations where I know what I need to do, I am just postponing the inevitable argument Smile

Simon
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#4
A MIAM only lasts 3 or 4 months for court applications so you’d need to have another one. It doesn’t matter if she goes to the second appointment or not - the main thing is that you went to the first one. Then if she won’t mediate you get signed off with proof of having attended a MIAM. If she does go to mediation and you don’t reach agreement you still get signed off to be able to apply to court.

Re finances - it sounds like that isn’t sorted either. Suggest getting an assessment by the child maintenance service which will tell you how much chikd support you should be paying and formalise it. So if you pay for anything else (mortgage eg) then make sure the child maintenance is paid as a separate amount and it shows what it is for on the reference on your bank statement.

So if you pay £600 a month to her to cover everything and cms says you have to pay £200 Cm then make two separate payments each month . One for £200 with the reference “child maintenance” and a separate standing order for £400. Just let her know you’ll be making two separate payments but the amount might change. This is quite important as it is know for ex’s to say you’ve never paid any Cm and you get a backdated bill from cms! Paying the mortgage isn’t the same - the money isn’t formally designated as CM.

I would see if she’ll go to mediation first over the week-ends.
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