First, some background:
As I mentioned here
, access has never been a problem. I wasn''t as much of a daddy as I wanted to be, but I did get alternate weekends with my girls (5 and 3). Handovers for my weekends weren''t fun; the girls were deposited on the driveway at the FMH when I picked them up on alternate Fridays and the door was opened a crack when I took them home two days later. Apart from that, I had no access to the girls whatsoever - the phone was never answered (not even on birthdays), I didn''t get any updates on what they''d done between their visits with me, school progress, nothing. It worked though.
There was a date in May last year when I dropped the girls off, and the 5yo (4 at the time) didn''t want to leave me. It took about 30 minutes of debate with her to get her to go into the house before she agreed to. After 25 minutes or so, the ex wife came out, asked her in for tea, and was told by our daughter that she wanted to stay with me. The ex told her "fine, have it your f*cking way then!", before the door was slammed shut again.
I went to pick the girls up in November for a scheduled visit, and the elder one didn''t want to come with me. The ex wife didn''t encourage her to, and I left in a cloud of tire smoke, having accused the ex and her family of finally having got their way. Her mother had divorced some 30 years previously, and to this day will only refer to her ex hushband and wife as "those two c*nts in Scotland". Nice! If only I''d read the warning signs before getting married!
I''d lost my job in July, but had continued to pay maintenance at the CSA rate for some months after. A cynic would suggest that the November incident was directly related to maintenance stopping. The CSA had never been involved, but called me a couple of days later asking for money. They were told that I wasn''t working or in receipt of benefits, but were adamant that I should be paying. One flippant comment about a shotgun and my mouth later, and the police arrived. As a result, I haven''t seen my girls since my last weekend with them in October, apart from a few moments at each of their nativity plays.
I''ve filed a C100 for access, and the first hearing was on 12th March. We''re due back in court on 15th May, with the deadline for the CAFCASS report set for 30th April. I''m hoping that I''ll have some access before then via a contact centre. Not ideal, but at least it''s daddy time.
I''ve just found out that a friend is divorcing his wife, having been falsely accused of having an affair. His wife is my ex wife''s best friend. They and the children spend a lot of time together.
My friend''s wife has admitted that she has a drink problem, and that this has contributed to the breakdown of their marriage. My concern is that my ex wife is also drinking excessively, as it wasn''t unusual for her to get through a bottle of wine a night when we were together.
My friend saw his son (6) a couple of days ago, and told him that he had been talking to me and to tell the girls that I love them. It wasn''t prompted by me, but his wife overheard, and muttered that is wasn''t a good idea. She then told his son not to pass the message on.
I''ve reported my concerns to CAFCASS (the officer is on leave until next week) and to the local Child Services, but I''m concerned about the environment in which the girls are being brought up.
I''m self-repping, and this was straightforward (relatively) when I started, but this new information concerns me. I have the following questions: -
How can I ensure that my ex wife isn''t drinking excessively?
What can I do about the negativity being spread around my children?
If you have concerns about your ex wife drinking to excess, then you must raise these with CAFCASS, and if you think it necessary, Social Services.
It might be a good idea to find out as much about this as you can however, so that you can be sure you are reporting facts to CAFCASS and SS. Certainly, in a household where there is excess drinking, negativity can be rife, and it could be affecting your children.
I say this because we have personal experience of it. My stepdaughter, now 13, is living with us, her own choice. Her mum is alcoholic, and your situation sounds very similar. One thing is sure, if your ex IS drinking to excess and could be alcoholic, it will affect your children, without a shadow of doubt, at some stage in their lives. My advice is not to ignore this, but find out what you can. You need to be sure, and once you are, you must act.
SS won''t do anything unless there''s a report of the children being at risk, in which case they would expect me to contact the police in the first instance. I''m not sure that she''s an alcoholic, but there''s a fine line between being one and being drunk and potentially causing a risk to the girls.
The CAFCASS officer is out on leave until next week, so I''m limited to the hope that she picks my email up early on her return on Monday.
What SS did tell me is that they have a duty to tell my ex of my report, albeit anonymously. I''m sure that''ll just thrown more wood on the already raging inferno...
Hmm, depends what they mean by ''risk'' though doesn''t it? My view is somewhat warped (possibly), because for 8 years we reported numerous concerns to SS only to be told, constantly that everything was fine. They did initial assessments however every time we reported concerns (always the same concern). But, there were other issues, relating to mum''s alcoholism such as poor school attendance and visible neglect. It might be wise to contact your childrens school and see if their attendance is okay, or if the school have any concerns.
As it happens, following my stepdaughter leaving under her own steam, she reported to SS that she was concerned about her young half brother who was still with mum, and then, because the issues we had been raising for years had come from the horses mouth so to speak, they jumped into action and subsequently SD''s half brother was removed from mum''s care and now lives with his dad. Mum has denied she even drinks all these years and continues to do so, but SS now don''t believe her, nor do CAFCASS. It''s a shame it''s taken this long for them to finally acknowledge there is a problem, and sadly my stepdaughter has a lot of issues because she was raised in a household with parental alcohol abuse. We always knew we would be picking up the pieces, and we were right.
Our situation has been well and truly awful, and you''re right, there is a fine line between drinking and alcoholism. But, anyone drinking a bottle of wine every night has a problem. Whether they keep it to just drinking that bottle of wine when the kids are in bed or not doesn''t matter, because the fact remains they are still drinking it. She must wake up in the morning with a hangover, and as such that doesn''t necessarily mean your kids are at risk of harm, but it could mean her parenting isn''t satisfactory.
It''s very difficult because some would say a parent can drink to excess and still parent effectively. Maybe so, but what is important is the impact of that drinking on the children, on their view of it and how it can affect them in later life.
Well, during the first year of my divorce I was contacted by social services stating that they had received an anonymous (right!) complaint about the physical appearence (being scruffy) of my eldest child.
So social services came round to talk to me and investigate. It was the disabled team as it was about our disabled child.
The complaint was that he was seen out with dirt under his fingernails and with scruffy clothes.
It has always been an uphill battle keeping him looking neat and tidy as he is basically just like a 6 or 7 year old albeit he was 18 at the time (now 20).
It ws obvious to me where the complaint had come from (who else would know that he always has dirt under his fingernails as he doesn''t wonder about unsupervised in public and I was already in contact with social services about getting help for him due to his age with personal care - there comes a time when it is not appropriate for a mother to keep washing an adult son) so I can say that social services will go round to your wifes house with the anonymous complaint.
For me it did not pour fuel on my fire it just made me more distressed and anxious than I already was - but I suspect if you find your wife hostile that it will do just what you expect and make negotiations even harder and more difficult than they are already.
You are right, social services telling your ex of the report even anonymously is likely to inflame the situation. However, when there are real concerns it is much better to be safe than sorry. If the authorities investigate and children are found to be at risk of harm measures may be put in place to minimize the risk.
The authorities are well used to separated parents allegations and counter-allegations and without independent evidence will have difficulty choosing between two sides of the same story. When there is evidence from teachers, social workers, doctors etc that children aren''t surviving well an assessment is made.
Any harm or risk of harm children suffer from the behaviour of a parent is balanced against the the strengths of the relationship, including the children''s attachment with a parent and measures that might be put in place to assess if the parenting is "good enough."
If necessary the courts can attach conditions to orders that parents aren''t to denigrate each other. Although there are hundreds of reasons why children may be hostile to contact and denigration is only one. Often both parents and even the children might be implicated in the problem and it takes a professional with experience of children to get to the root cause.
Just to be clear here, there is bitterness, but this isn''t tit for tat. I''ve received unsolicited contact from someone who I haven''t heard from for some time, suggesting that my ex wife may be drinking excessively.
My contact with Child Services was to seek advice, I would not have contacted them if I had known in advance that they would contact my ex. I agree that this will only serve to inflame the situation.
My next step, as a self-repper, will be to write to the Court, asking that the suspected drinking is taken into consideration when it makes judgement.
All I want is for my children to be brought up in a safe and healthy environment.