I would be grateful for any advice on the situation that I find myself in.
I separated from my ex-wife, and left the matrimonial home in late 2009. We have a son aged 8 years old (was 5 years old then). Since that date I have seen my son 1 day on alternate weekend days each week, together with at least 1 day per week in school holidays.
However, in that time my son has not stayed overnight with me at all. This is a situation that has caused me a lot of anxiety and distress. When I have asked my son why he will not stay over he has said it is as a result of something that a member of my ex-wife''s family has said to him, and that he believes will happen should he stay over. I have attempted to allay his fears over time, but he has still not stayed overnight.
I have now applied to the County Court for a Contact Order for him to stay overnight with me at alternate Fri-Sundays, together with defined contact in school holidays and half-term. This application was made after my ex-wife refused my suggestion to attend mediation, child counselling (to alleviate his fears of staying over) and Parent Counselling (to improve our relations with each other).
It would seem that my ex-wife''s solicitor''s stance is that my son doesn''t want to stay with me, and that my ex-wife has tried her best to get him to stay over. However, the reality is completely different - my son has repeated the reason for him not staying over (unduly influenced) on at least 3 occasions to me. In addition, I have not had one single discussion with her, or with my son and her present in all this time. The reality of the situation is that she has effectively controlled the time I have spent with him. My ex has made a suggestion that we simply revisit him staying overnight with me in 18 months time - this is ridiculous as surely his fears need to be addressed now so that they don''t get any worse.
How would a Court be likely to view this, and what would be the best approach for me to take when the matter does go to Court ? I am a caring and loving father (with no drink, drugs or criminal history etc) who wants to have a meaningful relationship with my son
Sorry for the length of this message - any help/advice would be greatly appreciated.
I think you are right to take this to court to try and resolve matters. The court''s presumption is that spending time with both parents including overnights is in the interests of children in all but the most exceptional circumstances. A child focused approach is best and a child''s resistance to contact can be difficult to overcome so if you haven''t tried perhaps a carrot (eg going somewhere exciting that involves an overnight stay) might prove irresistible and overcome the fear.
Initially courts tend to focus on finding solutions rather than apportioning blame. Hopefully a way forward can be found.
Children''s views are important and whilst I agree your son is too young to be making a decision forcing an anxious child with fears may be counter productive. Have you thought of trying to organise a sleepover? Your son might be less anxious if he had a friend or two for company.
The problem is children often tell a parent what they think they want to hear and without independent factual evidence a judge is going to have difficulty choosing between two parents'' versions of the same story. At the first hearing if no agreement can be reached the judge will decide what information he/she requires to assist with making a decision and sets a timetable for future hearings. You will then know better where you stand.
The information might be in the form of a wishes and feelings or welfare report and CAFCASS make recommendations as to a way forward.
Good idea on a freind staying over, do you have any relatives like your childs cousin that can stay over also . ive got a daughter that is 8 and refuses to sleep over at her mums but ive managed everytime to send her.
a child has school time and mum time and dad time, if they refused to go to school you would first look at the reasons why and deal with that but they would eventually be going to school in school time. its ashame your ex doesnt encourage overnight contact as you said there is no welfare issues so as parents you should be firm with the child as longer its left worse it will probably get . . defo court will encourage overnight contact.