I Won Full Time Care of My Daughter
One of our readers tells his story of how, against the usual course of events, he fought and won custody of his two year old daughter. Here's his story:
I won full time care of my 2 year old girl. I try and help others if I can, with what I went through and learnt.
My story...My case to win the full time care of my then 2 year old daughter was unique. But I hope the methods I used and this information may help other fathers out there.
Social services got involved due to my ex and some of her family members with a hidden past. They told me I had to take care of my daughter that night or they would take her into care. So I had to quit my full time job of 15 years in one night but still managed to keep on my part time job.
After five months of court hearings and meetings with the bodies involved i.e. Social services, nursery, mental health team (for my ex), playgroup people, contact centre persons, families first and even the police (that even turned out once), I got my own place with my daughter.
What kept me goingThrough these meetings that you may also have, all I can say is:
- Keep calm all the time and tell the truth, even if puts you in a dark light for some of it
- Keep a log of all meetings with your child and your ex. This includes writing/texting/ringing/social media - if this happens to you, keep everything as I did. Respond with dead answers as this will keep it going but show you're trying be reasonable
- Take photos of messages on your phone as back up to what you're saying, but ensure you capture the date sent
- Stop other people getting involved in the fighting, they are there to support you and your child, not fight
The court hearingsFinally I got to the first court hearing, which in my opinion is a waste of time. I waited 5 hours to be seen for twelve minutes, just to set the case outlines and be given another date.
In preparation for the second hearing they ask each party questions and sometimes request written information - which I highly recommend you get a lawyer to do. I tried to do my own but it just turned into a slagging letter which is a massive no no. It's worth the money for this. I've also listed the sites and books plus the methods that I used below.
In between all this I had threats, nasty things written about me and my friends and family. Keep it all and don't respond in a bad manner. I even got police involved on couple of occasions when my ex was throwing things at me and I had help from the victim support unit. I did not really need the latter but they are linked to social services and you should show any of their official reports to the judge to help your case.
Tips for court appearancesMeetings continued as we waited for the third court appearance. Here are some more tips for the court appearances and any meetings you have:
- Make sure you turn up 20/30 minutes before your time
- Be clean and smart and don't drink for 24 hours before
- Keep your cool and always be respectful to your ex and the staff (even the staff you don't deal with watch you)
- This also counts for contact centres if you go down that road
My ex missed times of meetings and pick up times and I kept a note of all this as a back up. Don't make anything up - if you do and you get found out it unsettles and weakens everything for you. Sometimes even the official bodies involved will accidentally get information wrong or miss something. Because I had recorded everything, there were a few times when they had to change what they had written in their reports .
At the 3rd court hearing I had hoped this was it…three times is usually about the amount of times you will go court. Mine nearly went to a fourth and I was willing to battle on. Luckily though, I had done enough; I had all the information there all to show and if needed, backed up with proof.
Don't bombard the judge with files of work, make a few key points and the rest will fall in. If there is anything he/she wants to go in to further you will have it there to show. My ex had to admit in court that our daughter was better off with me in full care because of what I had shown and done. For example our daughter was behind in nursery in everything, but within two months she had got past all their markers and was top in some things. It was the best thing I ever did - my daughter is great now and she understands that she lives with her dad and is different to most other children in that way.
There is so much more to write but I can help answer anything for you if you contact me.
A few points (and opinions)There are no equal rights, even though they say there are. My lawyer and social services pulled me aside after court and told me it won't change for years if ever. I was only the 2nd or 3rd father they knew of to win care of a girl under 3, apparently 96% of women will get care of a girl. But it can be done with good research and methods as I have shown.
If the law was fair then I would not have had to play things out the way I did. Think about it as like playing chess - move your pieces one by one. The timing of what you do and how you do things is important.
I kept a camera in my living room to take photos if I had any problems with people coming round. I recorded how little my ex interacted with our daughter during her time seeing her at mine. If you do this you have to put a sign up by law, saying recording in operation at these premises outside your home. I did this and used the videos to show to the bodies involved. Keep a diary of everything. I still do this for all the times she's not turned up or arrived late etc. It's there and supported by messages/photos.
Even if you think it might not work out - as I thought it might not for me at some points - keep everything. I have diaries /letter/reports - social, police, nursery, victims unit, medical assessments and all sorts of documents. Keep a record of what you had to pay for as well. This way, if it does not turn out you can show your child that you went though everything for them and above all you tried.
Always say our child, not my child, this is a point they will pick up on. That you are acting in the child's best interest, you want the child to have a good relationship with both parents and that you know the best way to ensure this is by steadiness from you and your support network for the child.
Some information I found useful:
- The best source is people that have walked this route already
- Apps - for single parents and body language (help read your ex and others in meetings)
- Court sites these differ a little if in Wales/England/Scotland
- I would not say read old court hearings - I did not find these much use because the content for each case is so different
- Websites: SeparatedDads.co.uk for sure. Also single fathers, dad info, rights for dads they are just a few. I even sighed up for some of the female based ones to see what they were saying because if you know the answer before asked the question, you're onto a winner. This was a massive help in meetings and the 2nd/3rd court hearings.
- Books: An introduction to the child safety act 1989 (this was my best source of information. Even social services took the book name down for themselves) family court. When you look at these books, look at suggestions of similar books, this will help for each of your own cases.
- Guide to representing yourself in court
- Residence orders
- Reasons fathers get sole custody
- Hawthorne effect (I used this along with videos/text to demonstrate my ex's different behaviour around different people)
- Guide to court/ CafCass
- NSPCC fact sheet - child protection legislation (if helpful to your case)
- Family court Do's and Don'ts
These are the main ones I used to help me win.Check out the Separated Dads Forum... It's a great resource where you can ask for advice on topics including Child Access, Maintenance, CAFCASS, Fathers Rights, Court, Behaviour or simply to have a chat with other dads.