grandparents taking me to court for custody of my children

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Hello,


Im new to this and am unsure if I am on the right thread.


I am in court this week coming. I was sent a private order from my deseased wifes mum and stepfather.


I have to represent myself in court as I cannot afford a solicitor.
I have filled in relevent forms and sent them to court in time, I have filled out an harrassment form as the grandparents have been harassing me, my friends and my boss. I have concerns about their motives and reported these to the police back in Feb18 not long after my wife passed away. This was well before the court papers arrived.


I have submitted witness statements and so have mutual family members, I have a huge support from the applicants family. They have all submitted statements that support me and not the respondants. Also friends and the applicants neighbours have concerns about the applicants.14 statements were sent to the applicants solicitor.


I recieved email from the applicants solicitor telling me that "they appreciate I dont understand the court process and that we cannot allow our clients costs to escalate as a result of that". They also told me that I had to see the applicants barrister before court to go through the documentation.


I have spoken to a PSU dept and they advised me I had done the right thing sending the statements to the applicants solicitor. So I dont understand the applicants response.

I do not want my children to have any contact with the applicants as I feel they are a threat to my children. But I have written up a basic statement offering the maternal grandmother supervised access at a childrens centre. Where she will have to pay the fee for this.


Do I sound like Im doing the right thng..I really dont understand what will happen at the hearing , Im not sure if my children are seeing cafcass as they have told me they would get back to me but they havent?



Many thanks for any advice offered, Im feeling very anxious and worried.
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  • Armorica
    Armorica Posts: 866 Forumite
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    The time to ask was probably earlier in the process.

    You shouldn't go to Court alone. Make sure you take a friend or colleague. A family member would find it difficult.

    Are you a member of a union at work? Sometimes that comes with free legal advice? And some employers provide it as a service as well.
  • chesky
    chesky Posts: 1,341 Forumite
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    How old are your children? What do their grandparents actually want? How long has your wife been dead? What do you mean by 'threat' to your children?
  • FBaby
    FBaby Posts: 18,367 Forumite
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    I do not want my children to have any contact with the applicants as I feel they are a threat to my children
    Did you explain why? Did they have access to them without supervision before? Are they taking you to court for custody because they think you are neglecting them, or because you stopped all contact with them and what they hope is to gain regular contact with them?

    The judge will look at the kids' best interests and that is to have contact with all members of their family unless doing so will cause them harm. If they had contact with them unsupervised before, you'll have to justify what has changed that puts your kids under threat and that will have to be stronger than 'they are polluting them with ideas about me', unless you have evidence from health experts that this is the case.
  • kingfisherblue
    kingfisherblue Posts: 9,203 Forumite
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    gixer71100 wrote: »
    Hello,


    Im new to this and am unsure if I am on the right thread.


    I am in court this week coming. I was sent a private order from my deseased wifes mum and stepfather.


    I have to represent myself in court as I cannot afford a solicitor.
    I have filled in relevent forms and sent them to court in time, I have filled out an harrassment form as the grandparents have been harassing me, my friends and my boss. I have concerns about their motives and reported these to the police back in Feb18 not long after my wife passed away. This was well before the court papers arrived.


    I have submitted witness statements and so have mutual family members, I have a huge support from the applicants family. They have all submitted statements that support me and not the respondants. Also friends and the applicants neighbours have concerns about the applicants.14 statements were sent to the applicants solicitor.


    I recieved email from the applicants solicitor telling me that "they appreciate I dont understand the court process and that we cannot allow our clients costs to escalate as a result of that". They also told me that I had to see the applicants barrister before court to go through the documentation.


    I have spoken to a PSU dept and they advised me I had done the right thing sending the statements to the applicants solicitor. So I dont understand the applicants response.

    I do not want my children to have any contact with the applicants as I feel they are a threat to my children. But I have written up a basic statement offering the maternal grandmother supervised access at a childrens centre. Where she will have to pay the fee for this.


    Do I sound like Im doing the right thng..I really dont understand what will happen at the hearing , Im not sure if my children are seeing cafcass as they have told me they would get back to me but they havent?



    Many thanks for any advice offered, Im feeling very anxious and worried.


    Presumably you lived with your wife and children before her death? So if the children went to live with their grandparents it would be a complete change for them?


    How are you coping with your children? Is there any neglect? Are the grandparents worried that you are not coping?



    Also, how old are your children? The courts will look at what is the best interests of the child. The older they are, the more the courts will listen to what the children want (assuming no abuse or neglect).


    I think that you need to be clear on why the grandparents are trying to get custody. Is it because they are grieving, and they want to have their daughter's children with them to help with their loss, or do they have genuine concerns about the safety of the children?
  • TBagpuss
    TBagpuss Posts: 11,205 Forumite
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    OK, from what you say, it sounds as though the appointment you have this week is the first appointment. Is that right?

    If so, then it explains a few things.

    Cafcass Before the first appointment, Cafcass do safeguarding checks. This measn that they speak briefly to you, and to the applicants, about the application and what you each want, and what concerns you have. They also take personal details to do a check to see whether any party is known to police, probation or social services. Before the hearing they will send a letter to the court, copied to you and the grandparents, summarising those conversations, telliing the court whether there is any history with police or social services and if so, whether it is of a nature which might be relevant to the proceedings.

    They *don't* talk to the children at this stage as they have not been ordered to by the court.

    At the first appointment, a Cafcass reporter will be at court. They will give you the chance to talk to cafcass and the grandparents to see if you can agree on any contact, before you go in to court to speak to the Judge or magistrates. They will also, when you do go into court, be present and will tell the Judge if they think it would be appropriate for them to do a full report.

    If the Judge thinks that would be useful, then an order will be made for a report and it will involve them then speaking to the children, and to any third parties, such as the school, they think are relevant.

    Statements You mention that you have sent 14 statements to the applicant's solicitor. Why? You should not be doing an statements at all unless the Court has ordered them. I suspect that what you were advised is that if you send any documents to the court, you should also send copies to the applicant's solicitors. However, if at this stage you've just got a 1st hearing coming up, all you should be sending is the Acknowledgement of Service (C7) and, if the grandparents includes a C1A, the back page of that filled in with your response to their allegations of harm, or if they didn't, but you wish to allege that they have caused harm to you or the children, your own completed C1A.

    At the first appointment, if an agreement is not reached, the Court will go on to decide what evidence it will need in order to make a decision about the children This may include giving you permission to file statements. It would be extremely unusual for it to be appropriate to have as many as 14 statements. In most cases, the court will only need statements from the applicant and the respondent i.e. from the grandparents, and from you.

    If you think that other statements are necessary, think carefully about why, and who should provide a statement. For instance, if you are alleging that the grandparents have been abusive, it might be relevant to provide a statement from the person who witnessed that abuse. If a lot of people saw the same incident, pick one or two of them.

    It is almost never relevant to have 'character witnesses' in family cases.

    Also, bear in mind that the court is going to be making a decision based on what is in the best interests of the children, looking forward. You have made clear that you would be willing for the children to see their grandparents, but you would like that contact to be supervised. So the questions the court will have will be about Why you feel the contact should be supervised. What harm do you think will be caused to the children if it is unsupervised? When and how will it progress ? What would have to change for you to be happy with contact being unsupervised, in the future?

    Then think about whether you need statements from anyone except yourself to be able to give the court the information they need to make a decision.

    For instance, if you allege that the grandparents have harassed you and that has been witnessed by the children, then it might be relevant to have a statement from a person who witnessed that first hand. It would not be relevant to have statements from people who heard about it later, or who had similar experiences themselves.

    It won't normally be appropriate to file statements from people if the statements are simply giving opinions, or if they are about things the children are saying (Cafcass will be asked to do a report if it is necessary to hear from the children)

    Be prepared to justify to the Judge or Magistrates why you need to file any extra statements. Think about what information, specifically, the witness can provide that is directly relevant to the issue the court is deciding.

    Speaking to the applicant's representative IT's common for a first appointment to include provision that you must be at court an hour before the time the hearing is listed, and even if the order doesn't say that, it is sensible to arrive early to allow time for discussion. It is normal to talk to the other person's solicitor or barrister to see whether any agreement can be reached about the contact, and if not, to try to agree 'directions' (the order the court needs to make to allow things to progress, e.g. details of who is to file statements, whether a cafcass report is needed and if so what it needs to cover, and so on)


    You might find it helpful to join the 'Wikivorce' forum where you will find others who have been through a similar situation.
    All posts are my personal opinion, not formal advice Always get proper, professional advice (particularly about anything legal!)
  • getmore4less
    getmore4less Posts: 46,882 Forumite
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    Why no mention of children's services?
  • TBagpuss
    TBagpuss Posts: 11,205 Forumite
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    To add :

    A change of residence is a very big deal. Unless the children lived with your wife and her parents, rather than with you, before your wife died, or there are serious concerns about your ability to look after the children, there is very little likelihood that the grandparents would succeed in getting residence (when you go to court, don't use the term 'custody. It's not been used since 1989, as children are not either property or prisoners!)

    In terms of contact between the children and their grandparents, the issue is whether it is in the interests of the children to see them. It's likely that the court will start from the perspective that the children have a right to see, and have a relationship with, their grandparents, particularly as their mum has died so the grandparents are a key connection to that side of their family.

    So, the court will be looking at whether there are good reasons to say that the children should not have that contact, or that the contact should be restricted or supervised.

    Depending on the nature of your concerns about the grandparents, it may be that ptions other than a contact centre could address those concerns. For instance:

    * Would another member of the children's family be prepared to have the contact at their home, or to go to grandparents with the children.
    * Could the concerns be addressed by having specific conditions on the contact (for instance, if the concerns were that one grandparent drinks heavily, it could be a condition of contact that they did not drink any alcohol while the children were with them, and that the contact would not take place if they were or appeared to be under the influence of alcohol at had over. If the concern is that the grandparents don't have suitable accommodation, then that could be addressed by having visiting contact but not overnight stays, )
    All posts are my personal opinion, not formal advice Always get proper, professional advice (particularly about anything legal!)
  • gixer71100
    gixer71100 Posts: 14 Forumite
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    chesky wrote: »
    How old are your children? What do their grandparents actually want? How long has your wife been dead? What do you mean by 'threat' to your children?


    The children are 12 and 5.The grandaprents have asked for full custody and/or unsupervised contact to included over night stay. The maternal grandmother used to beat her own children, tie them up and when one child of her was abused she didnt take help for him. He then ended up dying of a drug overdose. One child of her was raped by her (grandmother) then partner, her husband who is step grandad has been caught by neigbours in sexual encounters with children. The grandparents dont work and are on benefit, grandma is a carer for her husband. Both children have additional needs, but both grandparents dont believe the children have this and will not support their diagnosis. We have spoken to the police but they havent done anything. We did this not long after my wife passed away in Feb 18.
  • geminilady
    geminilady Posts: 1,922 Forumite
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    I presume the step grandad was reported to the police,what happened?
  • gixer71100
    gixer71100 Posts: 14 Forumite
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    FBaby wrote: »
    Did you explain why? Did they have access to them without supervision before? Are they taking you to court for custody because they think you are neglecting them, or because you stopped all contact with them and what they hope is to gain regular contact with them?

    The judge will look at the kids' best interests and that is to have contact with all members of their family unless doing so will cause them harm. If they had contact with them unsupervised before, you'll have to justify what has changed that puts your kids under threat and that will have to be stronger than 'they are polluting them with ideas about me', unless you have evidence from health experts that this is the case.


    When their daughter was alive she started to stop the grandparent and step grandfather having access. They used to have the granddaughter more that the grandson. In fact they are obsessed over my daughter and arent interested in my son. They treat them differently.



    All they have sited in c100 form is that childrens mum died, she was divorcing me and that I refused to deal with the divorce (which isnt true - we were divorcing though) they state they have always been involved in the childrens lives, however since the death of thire daughter they have seen the kids 2hrs.


    Despite their efforts of sending messages, ringing etc.. I have refused contact. I have even stopped the school from talking to them (how many grandparents speak to school about their own children?). Therefore they request the court to consider the children living with them permanently with grandparents or at least have overnight contact.



    We have learnt some awful things from family oonce my wife passed away, we belive both grandparent to be abusive. Also we feel on a practical level they wouldnt be able to look after them and their needs.
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