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Child access and where I stand
#1
I have 2 children with my ex partner aged 5 and 6 and I’m named on both birth certificates. We have been separated for 4 years now and it has been really messy.

I have always had my children (since break up) a minimum of 3 days a week and I pay her £260 pm in maintenance.

Our current arrangement is that I have  the children Sunday morning to Wednesday morning(take them to school) this has been working well. Now she has decided that this no longer works for her and she wants me to just have them weekends. I do not agree with her new arrangement but she is simply refusing to compromise in the slightest.

As some back to this I have have concerns in the past about the care of the children when they are with her due to a number of things (mainly my children saying she stays in bed all day and they look after themselves) they have missed school on a number of occasions, the house is a mess, they say they don’t eat properly and the house regularly smells of weed. I have reported this to social services a number of times but they have investigated but never took it further. When we were together their was a number of incidents where I had to get the police involved due to her behaviour.

I have the children 3 nights a week but at least twice a month she asks me to have them more for a number of different reasons, she is also consistently asking for either help financially or if I can give her   maintenance money early etc.

Now she is simply refusing to let me take the children on the days we have done for a long time as says I either change to the arrangement she wants for I don’t see them.

Can anyone help me with where I stand on this? I will do whatever it takes to get equal access to ,y children and if that means going through the courts then it’s fine. It would be good to have some advice from people in here on what I should do and where I stand.

Thanks

Chris
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#2
At the moment it is best to agree to what your ex is suggesting. We are under lockdown and you can make your own arrangements. Is it not best you see your children rather than not at all. ? It isnt right shes changed it but most parents who dont get on with their ex partners only offer a phone call at best. When school resumes you just go back to your old arrangement. If she fails then later down line when restrictions are lifted you can attempt mediaton amd then family court.

Also rather than raise allegations which you can see never ever get followed up by professional bodies, log concerns down and email them to yourself incase you ever need to refer back to it in future. This can be anything children say unprompted.
If you raise concerns in this difficult period it will make your ex more hostile and potentially stop contact conpletely
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#3
I don't know what the situation is with the lockdown but I would not just accept this as she may try to impose it as the new status quo.

The normal route would be to send her an email with your concerns and rationale on and asking to reinstate normal contact (perhaps you could suggest a temporary alternative?). I wouldn't bother with the allegations at this stage save them for court.

Then mediation if she ignores or rejects it.

Then court (via C100) if mediation doesnt sort it. I would prepare for court by asking school for your children's full records (via an SAR subject access request) including full absence records including unauthorised absences.

Is your contact at the moment set in stone or more flexible? it will be easier for you and the children if it is routine every week.
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#4
Did she say why she had changed it? There is no school at the moment but any change should be agreed - especially as it’s now only 2 nights a week instead of 3 to 4 days a week (ie half the time). It also doesn’t seem to make any sense re the lockdown - can’t see the advantage of making it every week end.

I would write to her (email) a polite biff email (biff is brief, informative, friendly, formal - as if writing to a business colleague - nothing personal, no arguing etc. These are very useful for court evidence in future and can also be persuasive. Her written responses (text or email) can also be good evidence. From now on see everything as possible evidence - keeping diary notes, records and all emails or texts.

Anyway would suggest

Dear Ex name

I would prefer the children to keep coming Sunday to Wednesday as usual please. I realise the schools are closed right now but I don’t see any reason to change their usual schedule or to see less of me by coming just at weekends. Please can you let me know what the reason is for you wishing to change the schedule and maybe we can come up with something we are both agreed on. One option might be to have a school holiday schedule during this situation - with say a week in each home alternately until the schools re-open. Please let me know if that is agreeable. If not I would prefer to keep to Sun to wed with me and wed to Sunday with you.

Regards, you”

Sometimes it confuses them getting a biff email as it’s impersonal and courteous and she might just agree. If not and she gives no good reason for the change (can’t think of one as the schedule doesn’t fit with self isolating) then you have evidence for the future/court that it was 50/50 and she’s reduced it.

If she won’t agree and you don’t have a court order then getting one now might be a good idea. Providing you suggest something sensible and reasonable as a short term option until things go back to normal (week on week off or two weeks on two weeks off with phone contact).

As mentioned above you are supposed to try mediation before applying to court. Tricky but possible by conference call if your ex will agree. If she refuses then the only legal requirement before applying to court is to have a MIAM (first mediation session in your own). You get signed off from that and can send it in with your court application.

Actually I’d amend that suggestion in the email to two weeks alternately with phone contact with the other parent. Because it’s better. Also it allows for symptoms to appear if anyone gets the virus and has to self isolate.
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