I have two boys, 7 and 5, and the first hearing for a double application to court (one from my ex for residence and contact, and one from me for residence and contact and prohibited steps) is next week.
She has accused me of basically withholding contact after she broke our "shared care" arrangement by being continuously late and changing their routine without notice. In other words; I withheld contact when she was basically late/ didn''t show up etc.
I live with them in the FMH, and we''re trying to stick to a routine; my eldest is very comfortable at home and was very distressed when he was requested to sleep elsewhere. I encouraged contact as much as possible until the strain on him (and my youngest in the end too) got too much at which point my ex got very aggressive and abusive.
So, now I''m going to court.
I don''t have any representation (and am struggling with trying to get legal aid because of technicalities and paperwork, that''s another story!), so I''m having to go to court on my own.
I''m not sure what to do.
My eldest is very set (as I said above) on this routine, and whenever it''s disrupted there are massive problems of bedwetting/ clingyness etc saying that he was unable to find me/ feels like he''s been away from home for a week and a half... you name it.
I don''t want my kids to NOT have a relationship with my ex, but she is applying for residence, which I find upsetting because I know if he was moved out of his home (for what I can see as no good reason), he''d suffer so badly from it.
I plan to stand my ground, and offer contact (as is right), but suggest that we can''t be pretending that the kids are living in a small box room in someone else''s house.
Does anyone have any advice? Timescale/ CAFCASS (who still haven''t contacted me properly)/ what might be the outcome/ how I should conduct myself (though I have a pretty good idea!)/ what I should offer?
Courts expect people to turn up on time for contact and understand parents who eventually tire of explaining to disappointed children why a visit hasn''t happened when promised. Sure, offer contact and explain that you see it as a commitment, not a target. You may need chapter and verse about delays and cancellations (at the risk of sounding like network rail!).
At this hearing if you havent reached an agreement then the judge will set a timeline for dealing with the issue, I think its likely in your case that there will be Cafcass involvement - key here with Cafcass is that they dont do full scale investigations to start with, normally just some basic checks to establish any immediate risks.
Once the time line is laid out by the judge, then you will be given dates for the next hearing, Cafcass report deadline, statement deadline, and any other info as well.
My partners first hearing was only 20 minutes long.
Thanks for your replies you beautifully helpful people..
Fortunately I do have 2 diaries now which are full of all kinds of horrible things about the kids being let down by the lack of contact on relevant days.
I even have an entry where my eldest told me "mummy seems to be in a pretty bad mood doesn''t she daddy.. she doesn''t want to see us at all".
I do see contact by her as a commitment, but wish it was left as it is; my eldest in particular struggles with routine changes and I''ve seen him really suffer (in fact he''s about to be assessed for ASD (autism spectrum), so it may even be more obvious be struggles would change and he needs a routine).
I even offered to change it to every other weekend in order that she can have more quality time. She got very irate, abusive and demanding, attempting to change the adjustment to contact that I suggested to taking the children much more, which I think is a bad idea, since we''re all trying to stick to a routine.
I feel currently there are not necessarily immediate "risks", I feel my ex is much more neglectful than wantonly destructive, but I have heard her in the past scream unacceptable things towards all of us and end up physically risking the children''s lives... eek.. yes ok, CAFCASS will be involved..
I saw the appointment may only be 15 minutes.. I''ve no idea what on earth is supposed to be able to be said in such a short time frame!!!
What happens? Do you each get questioned, do you get cross examined?
All I can do is share my partners experience. A Cafcass duty officer spoke to both he and his ex, they couldnt agree on much, other than she said he could see his daughter Saturday and Sunday but no overnights, he had to see her in the local area, but he was allowed to include me and my children as the court recognised us as a family unit.
The judge gave a timeline - including a full S.7 report and then dates for statements to be filed and a final hearing date. In our case if youve read it, these did change due to Cafcass delays.
Nothing else happened on the day really, they spent more time in waiting rooms than anything
Cafcass then spent 3 hrs with my partner, 3 hrs with his daughter, some time with his ex, and an hr with me - report followed later and was heavily weighted in my partners favour - they have exercises called "Expressions" which they use with the children in order to get them to open up and they make assessments based on interviews, evidence from places like school, GP, police etc.
At the first hearing there will be an attempt to see if any agreement can be reached. If not the judge will just decide what is required to assist him/her make a decision which might be a CAFCASS report, sets a timetable and interim orders may be made. Then there can be review hearings and when there are allegations of DV there may be a fact finding hearing. At a final hearing evidence is heard and there is cross examination. If agreement still hasn''t been reached the judge will make a ruling.
Sounds like I have a lot of waiting and talking to do, which I''m not worried about.. It''s come to the point where I feel like I need this controlled atmosphere so it''s not more and more out of control.
I know the kids (particularly my eldest) really wants to stay at home.. it''s so painful to be pulled in so many Directions at the same time and feel somehow guilty or responsible for some of the problems, and I''ve tried for so long to explain what I feel is happening, and always get blocked out by some kind of abusive behaviour.
Oh well.. not long to wait now. I hope it''s a relief instead of painful!