Contact stopped unreasonably

Hi,

The summary is I am trying to find the quickest way to get Contact restored.

My son is nearly 13. I separated from his mother when he was nearly 2. I have parental responsibility. I have seen him regularly (at least every other weekend plus some holidays) for those 11 years.

I have always paid child support, initially by personal agreement and for nearly 5 years directly through the CSA.

His mother and I have a very difficult relationship. For the past year, we have had no direct contact. I collect and return him on my weekends from one of her friends' houses. I often find out the details with only a couple of hours' notice. She informs me by email, always copying in his social worker; he has severe learning disabilities and other special needs.

Today I informed her that I cannot have him for one weekend in 9 weeks' time. It is for a holiday. It is the only change I have made this year. She has made several changes, and also prevented contact where I haven't been able to comply with her last minute requests for me to have him for additional nights. I used to try to negotiate holiday dates with her but no longer do that as she invariably just says no to whatever I propose making holiday arrangements near impossible.

She has now said I am not to contact her and that she is banning all contact with my son. She claims this is because I attempt to dominate and control her. Apart from this being nonsense - I only deal with her to have contact with my son - and all contact is via email only over the last year where she constantly makes "digs" and I simply do not respond beyond confirming where and when he can be picked up and dropped off.

I called his social worker today. She said she couldn't get involved as my son was in no danger. However, she confirmed that she had no concerns with his welfare in my care or his mother's.

Ultimately, I believe the only grounds for preventing contact would be a concern with his welfare in my care.

Now, I need to find out the quickest way to resolve this. I have contacted a mediator I saw with her some years ago and understand I need to get an MIAM signed in order to get a Court order.

I am concerned with how long this process will take as change is very distressing for him. He will be distressed with the change in routine when he doesn't see me, and then again when he starts seeing me.

I also need to decide if it is necessary to spend (lots of?) money on a solicitor, or if this is a straight forward process where I simply turn up, and calmly defend myself?

Any advice would be gratefully received.

Thanks,
Roadweary
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Comments

  • TBagpuss
    TBagpuss Posts: 11,199 Forumite
    First Post First Anniversary Name Dropper
    Do you have an existing Order or has everything been done informally up until now?

    If you have an existing order, you would be applying to enforce it. If you don't, then you would be making an application for a child arrangements order.

    I would recommend that you see a solicitor and get some initial advice, and see whether they can send a formal letter - it may be that she will back down.

    Also speak again to the social worker. Explain that you are concerned about the emotional harm to your son if the contact suddenly stops, ask her whether she would be willing to arrange a joint meeting to allow you and your ex to discuss the arrangements.

    If you apply to court, it is open to a Judge or Magistrates to make an interim order if they are waiting for further information - so even if your wife claimed that you were controlling or that she was scared of you, the court could make an order for some contact while her allegations were explored.

    it may be worth thinking about whether there is any way to put some distance between the two of you at hand overs - for instance, if she were to claim that she doesn't want you coming to her home to pick up or drop off your son, because she claims you are harassing her, then a way to address that might be to propose arrangements whereby you collect him direct from school, and return him there (if he stays overnight), to have a third party such as a friend or family member collect or drop him off, or to have handover take place in a public place (car park of a big supermarket, for instance, as there will typically be CCTV and security guards, which should be reassuring for her if she is genuinely nervous, and should also give you some securiry against false allegations being made.
    All posts are my personal opinion, not formal advice Always get proper, professional advice (particularly about anything legal!)
  • roadweary
    roadweary Posts: 219 Forumite
    Name Dropper First Post First Anniversary Combo Breaker
    Hi,

    Thanks, I will seek legal advice. There is no formal order in place. We were never married. For the last year we have had no face to face contact, I have always collected and returned via friends of hers at their houses so I fail to see how she can justify any concerns about seeing me.

    The social worker will not get involved at all.

    Mediation might suggest something but I can't see them for a week.

    A letter from a solicitor may be the only short-term method.

    Cheers,
    R
  • Valli
    Valli Posts: 24,746 Forumite
    Name Dropper Photogenic First Anniversary First Post
    edited 21 August 2015 at 6:45PM
    Just from another perspective, you have arranged a holiday (booked?) and then informed her you 'can't have your son'. How do you know she hadn't already made arrangements for this weekend? It is controlling to say when you will, or conversely will not have your son; though I wouldn't call it 'dominating'.

    This might well be why she is 'lashing back' and stopping contact. FWIW I don't agree with anyone witholding contact. IMO it's tantamount to child abuse.

    I do hope you can resolve this.
    Don't put it DOWN; put it AWAY
    "I would like more sisters, that the taking out of one, might not leave such stillness" Emily Dickinson
    :heart:Janice 1964-2016:heart:

    Thank you Honey Bear
  • roadweary
    roadweary Posts: 219 Forumite
    Name Dropper First Post First Anniversary Combo Breaker
    Hi,

    Yes, I can see that point, but it's all in the context.

    The history is that she has intentionally disrupted any attempts for me to take a holiday that might impact a weekend where I would normally have contact with my son. Most holidays run weekend to weekend so inevitably this is the case. I have always made up the missed weekend's contact. After many years of fruitless arguments of the pattern:

    1. Find some options for a holiday.
    2. Present those and ask if it's ok (with months of notice).
    3. Get no response.
    4. Ask for a response.
    5. Get no response.
    6. Say if I get no response I will just go ahead and book.
    7. Get a tirade of why I am a terrible person and parent.

    Alternatively she will say that she has something booked....however far in advance I ask.....she will do this many times in a row to the point that it is farcical and transparent to anyone that she is simply being as difficult as possible.

    I now simply book a holiday in advance and state that there will be a weekend I cannot have my son. I know it's not ideal, but it is usually the least cause of arguments.

    I should add that this impacts one weekend of contact per year only - all other weekends are unchanged. I daren't change a weekend for anything short of a funeral or all hell will break loose. I am married with a step son and of course these restrictions cause many "challenges" for that relationship.

    Conversely, she will change or cancel my contact with my son multiple times per year - if I can't make alternative weekends to have my son it is "tough".

    She has also threatened Court proceedings when she has wanted to dictate additional weeks that I should have my son - a guaranteed week every school holiday. It had to be explained to her that things don't work that way legally.

    Ultimately, she takes maximum advantage (yes I understand I have a biased view point) of the benefits that she gets as the PWC of a disabled child....but believes equally that she can dictate when I have to have him.

    For the record, I have requested to have my son full time, and would love that, but she refuses to consider it. In the past she has told social services that she couldn't cope, and I offered to have him full time, at which point she claimed I was threatening to take him away from her.

    Finally, there is no rhyme or reason. When there have been periods that I have had my son for additional days above our standard agreement, and been as flexible as possible, she has then gone on an abusive tirade as if from nowhere.

    If by doing more, or being more flexible, our relationship improved, I would clearly be more accommodating.

    This comes from 10 years of experience.

    I have printed out every email communication from the last year, which I am getting ready to annotate so that anybody that needs can see the pattern. Eg, all of my communications are polite....and many of her responses are abusive.

    Regards,
    R
  • Valli
    Valli Posts: 24,746 Forumite
    Name Dropper Photogenic First Anniversary First Post
    If she is not responding then I quite see how you have chosen to 'work' it like this; I know it's hard. Unfortunately I know how hard both from the perspective of being both a child and a single parent. I know that it takes both parents to be able to communicate without animosity and I hope you find a resolution.
    Don't put it DOWN; put it AWAY
    "I would like more sisters, that the taking out of one, might not leave such stillness" Emily Dickinson
    :heart:Janice 1964-2016:heart:

    Thank you Honey Bear
  • swingaloo
    swingaloo Posts: 2,706 Forumite
    First Anniversary Name Dropper First Post
    If I didn't know differently I would swear you had the same ex as my husband, you are following the same pattern as we did for the last 16 years.

    Unfortunately there is no satisfactory answer with a woman like this. Some women, and some men, seem to make it a lifetime challenge to use their children as control weapons. We had contact stopped and had to go through mediation and court to get it back. Even with it laid down by the court that we were to be able to see her every other Saturday and holidays it did no good.

    As our solicitor said, 'Even with a court order she can still be difficult' and the number of times we drove 150 miles to be told when we arrived that 'She's not feeling too well so cant come out with you' proved that he was right.

    Going back to court is costly and upsetting and ultimately achieves nothing when dealing with this type of person.

    I really feel for you,
  • roadweary
    roadweary Posts: 219 Forumite
    Name Dropper First Post First Anniversary Combo Breaker
    Hi,

    So I saw the mediator today. Surprisingly, he didn't push for mediation; I guess based on the information I gave and the knowledge he has from our previous mediation sessions, 10 years, and 5 years ago. He is going to contact my ex in case she is prepared to come in for an initial assessment and/or the information she provides gives him some reason to believe there is any likelihood of success.

    However, he has signed the part of the C100 form that is required for me to make a court application for a child arrangements order. He also made it clear that there was nothing preventing me from applying for the order whilst pursuing mediation and that even if mediation were successful in the short-term, that is wouldn't stop her from banning contact in the future.

    I don't wish to be represented by a solicitor and I will not qualify for legal aid. I want to make sure I put sufficient information in to support my application (not too little or too much), and I also note there is a section 4 "Urgent and without notice hearings".

    I understand that it can take 4-6 weeks for a first hearing, and until then there is nothing that I can do about contact with my son. I don't know if section 4 can be used to accelerate the process or to request contact until the hearing has taken place? My son has autism amongst his other special needs (global developmental delay) and changes in routine are very distressing for him. I'm confident that I can prove the case for access to him asap, but don't know whether section 4 is the place to do this.

    Can anyone advise on the best way to get help filling in the C100. Happy to pay if need be, but not looking to have the thousands that a solicitor will cost for representation throughout based upon my understanding of my rights and how "straight-forward" my case should be. Eg, 11 years of the same Contact pattern, my son's social worker expressing there are no concerns over his welfare with either parent etc,

    Thanks,
    R
  • Valli
    Valli Posts: 24,746 Forumite
    Name Dropper Photogenic First Anniversary First Post
    Hi

    I cannot advise but would it be worth contacting the campaign group (Families need Fathers IIRC) as they might be able to advise?
    Don't put it DOWN; put it AWAY
    "I would like more sisters, that the taking out of one, might not leave such stillness" Emily Dickinson
    :heart:Janice 1964-2016:heart:

    Thank you Honey Bear
  • roadweary
    roadweary Posts: 219 Forumite
    Name Dropper First Post First Anniversary Combo Breaker
    I found the website, and called and spoke with a very sympathetic lady. However, I have to say it felt like I was speaking to someone too biased to my side! In completing the form, and in particular the section requesting an Urgent Hearing, I would feel more confident speaking with someone who could demonstrate either more experience or a more considered stance. I'm guessing this means paying for a session with a solicitor unless anyone can think of any alternative?

    Thanks,
    R
  • roadweary
    roadweary Posts: 219 Forumite
    Name Dropper First Post First Anniversary Combo Breaker
    A quick update. I have my court hearing next week.

    CAFCASS has interviewed myself and my ex and sent the report.

    Neither party or any authorities have concerns about my son's welfare with either parent. I was concerned she might lie there, so that's a relief.

    My ex maintains that she wants my son to have more contact with me and stopped contact to "get him to listen".

    She has lied saying that when I miss a weekend I do not offer an alternative. She has lied saying that she cannot have a week's holiday as I will not agree to have my son for a week.

    She says that I tell her when I will have my son.....when actually I just tell her about one weekend a year that I can't have him.

    I am trying to contact the lady from CAFCASS to understand what evidence the Court would be interested in. I just took my son away for a week at the end of July.

    I have emails going back for years showing me having him for a week at time.

    I can demonstrate that the only weekend I had tried to change this year was for the end of October, where I offer an alternative weekend, but instead she blocks all contact.

    It would be laughable if it weren't so traumatic.

    I really hope the Court will admonish her as she clearly has stopped contact with my son for "parental" reasons and not in the interest of our son.

    Does anyone have experience / advice related to this hearing next week?

    Thanks,
    R
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