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Do existing arrangements count for much?
Quick question: 

Let’s say you’ve managed a successful shared-care arrangement for a couple of years or more with exactly 50% of nights for each parent, shared day-to-day care, 50% of school holidays and no restrictions on access at other times, other than if infringes on the other parent’s plans or privacy.  No issues with cooperation, flexibility or conflict.  No suggestion that the kids are in any danger or risk of violence with either parent. Everything is backed up with written communications but no formal custody agreement exists and, for the sake of school and doctor, the kids are registered at their mum’s so that she can claim universal credit.
If those parents subsequently fall out and one starts trying to force changes to the amount of time the other parent has with their kids or even fight for legal custody, presumably a mediator would take the previously successful arrangement into consideration?  I believe I read this somewhere in the past and that family courts would frown on a parent if they effectively weaponise the kids or manipulate arrangements for financial gain.
To what you have suggested you would presume should be taken into full consideration either during a process of mediation or to a Court application .... sadly though what appears fair and reasonable often then becomes unfairly disputed to the actual facts and previous arrangements. Family Law it seems is never that precise.
I was told you should get back what you had before. Whilst they may not make an order for increased time - if you have had 50/50 shared care for a few years that is what you should get back - it is what is established for the kids. But you’d have to ask for it - explain the history, what has changed recently (eg ex reducing time since x date). And it helps to have some kind of evidence for a final hearing. I have religiously written down all the times don was here on a calendar each year along with snippets of info - events attended, his height, his shoe size (on the month measured). Never needed it though but I might have had to if going for 50/50.

Do you pay any CM and is it assessed through CMS. If there is an sssessnebt that says no CM due to equal shared care then that proves it.

Some of the above could depend on all kinds of circumstances, kids ages etc.
Many thanks, both, for your replies.

Charlie - we have a family arrangement where I pay something based on what the CMS would make me pay for the number of nights I have the kids.  HOWEVER, it is purely voluntary and I do it because it ensured she could house the kids and have plenty of income if she left, thereby allowing me to stay in the family home and arrange to sell it or buy her out.  If she'd stayed, I'd now be paying the mortgage and my own rent and would not be able to move on.  She's never demanded maintenance and we've never fought over it.  I pay her something every month without fail.  But I've read plenty that says the parent that receives CM is the one that has does the day-to-day care of the kids and in the event that day-to-day care is shared then no parent shall receive CM.  Well, that's us.  I do school runs, doctor visits, clothes shopping, shoe shopping, days off sick, football training, school uniform shopping.  I manage their bank accounts and all payments to the schools for lunches and trips, their phones and SIM cards, their google accounts, their bus passes.  If anything, I do more than her.  The difference between is WHEN we do the care because she doesn't work fixed hours so can do stuff for them while they're at school and after school.  I do a 9-5.

As for what I'm paying now, I've made the point to her that it can't be forever but, surprise surprise, she says she still needs it.  It does piss me off.  When she left, I worked out that she should have had an income of £2700 - £3000pm at least with her benefits and my CM.  But rather than build on that, she's let all her work slip away.  She hasn't tried to find a job or do anything to prepare for the children's futures.  She asked me for extra money for school uniforms this summer but I've ended up getting most of it anyway because she'd barely got half of what was needed by the time they went back.

Rant over.  All of this stems from the deterioration of our relationship over recent weeks - something that hasn't happened before.  So I'm preparing for threats to the status quo, even it it's unlikely. She clearly loves her freedom and I doubt she'd really want the kids more anyway.  Rather than work when she hasn't got them, she tends to go away with her boyfriend.  But if she started trying to alter out current plans, it'd impact on my job.
Technically child maintenance doesn’t come into child arrangements orders. I think you are thinking about the government child benefits and tax credits etc. Usually the parent who gets those is seen as the “main” parent. Those gov payments can’t be split - they can only be paid to one parent. So even if you had an order for 50/50 lives with both, she would still get the gov benefits- unless she agreed to let you have them. There would probably be no CM to pay unless it was a voluntary arrangement as now.

If you have the kids 50/50 as now I’m not sure how a CM calculation would mean you have to pay anything. Except that they reduce the assessed amount by the number of nights because there is no order that says it’s shared care.

However without any orders you are both equal and neither has residence as such.

Do you think she would agree to formalise the current arrangements in a consent order? Probably not if she is starting to play up. What has changed? Does she have a new man or something?
To be honest, this is me losing my cool and feeling a bit exposed because we have no formal agreement.  If I start discussing a consent order with her now it would spook her unnecessarily. She’d wonder what was going on.  I probably need to relax  bit but it helps to understand the options.  The purpose of the original post was to ask whether the proven success of the current shared-care plan would protect me in the event that she wanted to fight me for custody, given that we don’t have a consent order.

Concerning the benefits she receives, it’s not my intention to try and share these with her.  Certainly not while I’m working anyway.  But I think from what you say and, from what I’ve read on various sites, I wouldn’t be made to pay any CM, which is good to know.  For now, I’m going to keep paying. I’ll raise it again in a few months and plan to move to a fairer arrangement within a couple of years perhaps.  Such as splitting all costs for the kids 50/50, other than the cost of each of our homes.  As it is, running my house costs me a lot more than it costs her to run her flat.  Her benefits and the CM I pay mean that she hardly has to work, it seems.  Whereas I work a good 50 hours a week and do the same amount of child care that she does.

The breakdown in the “friendship” has arisen from her beliefs.  She was always a bit of a hippy, which was harmless.  But she went deeply “new age” in the final 2-3 years of our relationship, which alienated me and was a big factor in us splitting up.  It’s got much worse over the 2.5 years since we broke up. She’s anti-medicine, anti-vax, anti-science, anti-society… She believes that Covid-19 is a hoax and has bought into the tenets of the Q-Anon conspiracy nonsense, “plandemic”, the 5G rubbish.  She’s angry with me because I won’t follow her down the rabbit hole, says I’m letting my children down. She’s angry with me about the example I’m setting for my kids by wearing a face covering in shops.  She entirely ignored the original lockdown and all rules since.  She’s started taking digs at me whenever she can about “what I’m teaching the children” to criticise me as a father.  This is a mother that would happily take her kids out of school to go travelling or to show non-compliance.  Drinks a bottle of wine a night while they’re with her and smokes weed. She hardly works and spends her days spreading mis-information on Facebook about the pandemic, brainwashes the kids and tells them she’s saving the world.  She's become so fanatical with this stuff that I can see her fighting me for custody so that she can fully immerse the kids into her cult.  This is no exaggeration but I obviously hope I'm largely wrong about what she'd want for them.
Hmm. Smoking weed in front of the kids is enough to lose custody I think. And teaching children to disobey the law as well. But these things are hard to prove. So is the main concern that if you reduce CM then she would reduce the 50/50 and “take” custody (which would force you into applying to court).
Interesting.  The kids are old enough to repeat what they see and hear at their mum's place. They find evidence of weed smoking lying around and they know what it is and where she gets it.  They're bright kids and they reject a lot of what their mum dumps on them with her messed up beliefs.

But my main concern isn't really the CM.  I'm worried because she's levelling a lot of criticism at me recently because I'm not supporting her in teaching the kids her beliefs, such as ignoring the law, treating teachers as liars, not teaching them that main stream media is all lies, not teaching them her pseudo-religious/scientific beliefs etc etc.  She's become so fanatical that I'm worried she'll try to prise the kids away from me because she sees me as a bad influence or a "blocker" to what she wants to teach them.  I'm sure I'm over-reacting.  But, for example, she'd happily take them out of school and try to home school them.  She's refusing to let them have any vaccines from now on.  I just want to be ready to fight her in the unlikely event it happens.

She knows I want to stop CM but that isn't the main issue and I'm not going to force this until life is back to some sort of normal, even though I think she could make more of an effort to find work.
I think this is what is described as "different parenting styles" but I am sure a court would find in your favour regarding not smoking weed. Vaccines and schooling is something I don't know what a court would decide if, say, either of those was put to the court as a specific issue to be decided on. I am not sure it is enough for residency either. Except for the weed smoking.

You could apply for a specific issues order over, say, vaccines. If it came to an important issue. But I think I'd be tempted to apply for a Child Arrangements order to formalise the 50/50 shared care and have specific clauses put in it (I did a draft order for final hearing which included some specific issues). Keeping it to a fairly straight application but saying that there are some issues over how the children are brought up which also need deciding by the court. In fact you could apply for Child Arrangements and specific issues on the same application and have them heard at the same time.

Has she always been this fanatical or has it got worse since the covid 19 thing? It has driven some people a bit bonkers. I can understand someone wanting to do home schooling at the moment! To avoid risk of the virus - although that can't be her reason if she thinks it's a hoax. Have the kids had any vaccinations at all? The danger would be that if Cafcass decide parenting styles are extremely different - that the kids would be better with just one main parent rather than disagreements about everything. So you wouldn't want to bring up too many issues and just get the order and deal with each one as it occurs.

I think the strongest reason would be the smoking weed. She is therefore a drug user and using drugs in front of the kids. That is not a parenting style, that is being a drug user. And I think any court would find in your favour over that.

So you'd be looking at applying for residency on a near 50/50 basis in my view, with examples of the care and time you give and concerns that the Mother uses drugs freely and openly in front of the children as part of her chosen lifestyle. That you also have concerns that they have never had any vaccinations, due to her lifestyle choice, and wish them to receive vaccinations for protection against the usual childhood illnesses. And you have concerns that the children are being taught to disobey the law due to her lifestyle choices.

Lifestyle choices don't make her a "bad Mother" as such - if she feeds, houses and clothes them and gives them love and attention. But the drug using would probably lead to the court saying she has to stop and ordering 50/50. Even so I would apply for residency. That will also solve the CM issue longer term. None to pay. That can actually be a sticking point with residency though if they feel the Mother has been used to and needs a level of income to provide for the children. ie if she is dependant on the money you pay.

Applying to court is usually seen as a last resort and the current circumstances with the pandemic maybe aren't the best time. And you would need to have had mediation first as well to try and resolve any issues. But it looks like you will need to sooner or later if things are getting difficult. Of course once she sees the application she will probably stop smoking dope and get a clean test and say it isn't true.

So providing you see the kids regularly and they know whats what and you can show them a different way it may be best to muddle on. But you could try mediation. A good mediator might help get some compromises. If she is really entrenched in her beliefs though, that won't help.
hi Charlie, I appreciate you taking time to provide such a detailed reply.  You've framed that pretty accurately - different parenting styles.  The thought that a court might determine that one parent should have the bulk of the contact because of this is a bit scary and something I want to avoid.  Fortunately, I think my kids are old enough now to make up their own minds about what they see, think and hear.  I don't want to exclude their mum's beliefs from their upbringing, so long as I can provide balance.  My worry is just that she'll take it too far and try to take them away or take them out of school, both of which I believe I could fight successfully. (a friend of hers took her two boys travelling for 4 months, both of whom had learning difficulties.  They lost their places at school and are now home schooled and her friend was almost prosecuted for benefits fraud because she was claiming housing benefit.  My ex thinks this was all brilliant).

They all had childhood vaccinations, thankfully.  She's already said they can't have flu vaccines at school or the HPV vaccine. She didn't ask my thoughts.  Yes, the pandemic has definitely made her worse but she had started on her "journey" a long time ago.  If you read anything about Covid conspiracy theories, you may know that they've all melted into the same pot because of the pandemic under things like QAnon and Covid is being seen as proof for them all.  The conspiracy theories of the far right are finding a home in the wellness community and it's this that my ex had become obsessed with.  It's bizarre.  The psychology of this actually fascinates me and I read a lot about it and why people buy into it and my ex ticks all the boxes - a textbook case.  She's always smoked weed. She stopped for a few years when the kids were young.  One day she just started again and she used to smoke a little bit several times a day.  As far as I know she still does.  She doesn't see it for what it is.  She' say it's something spiritual. She'll drive. She'll lie to the kids about it.  She'll say it's good for her.

I think it's true that my CM is very helpful and she may struggle without it, but I'd argue that it's her choice.  She has a degree and experience and could earn very well.  It's her choice not to.  She didn't give up her career because of the kids.  She indulges herself in whatever she wants to do and calls it a business, even though it generates no turnover.  For example, I've had the kids 15 nights out of the past 20. She's been away for at least 10 of those nights with her boyfriend.  She'll say it was because she had a business idea she wanted to think about.

Anyway, I didn't mean to turn this into an ex-bashing comment but it has.  I agree that it's probably best not to rock the boat at the moment.  I know that my ex is enjoying a lot of freedom and she won't want to lose that.  She never wanted to settle down. She liked the idea of having children but not what went with it.  If she starts pushing things I'm ready to push back and I'll suggest the child arrangement order if it comes to it.  It'll protect us both and the kids.  For now there's no reason not to just muddle on.  If the kids were a lot younger I might be more anxious but they're really growing up now.  In 2-3 years things will be very different.

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