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Urgent Help - re. CAFCAS Watford and waiting times

  • elindio
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04 Jun 09 #121372 by elindio
Topic started by elindio
First post by new member (dual posting in another forum too) - dad of 2 great kids with de facto shared residence. Ex applied for sole residence, but agreed a near equal split after judge cajoled her to do so, hence 'no order'.

4-5 years on, ex has applied for sole residence again! The kids are not at risk, but ex has made false accusations about me not helping kids with homework, not feeding them well, not ensuring effective medical/dental care, etc. It is true that
she/I have continued to argue about various issues, although both of us have generally tried to ensure kids are not affected by that.

Kids accept current (complicated bi-weekly pattern) arrangement, are happy and doing great at school, socially, etc. They are close to both parents and wouldn’t dream of living with just one parent. However, living in 2 homes is not easy and they have often asked both parents (for the last 5 years!) for a simpler week on/off with each parent (less so recently since their views have not been acted on for so long, and more to me than their mother since they know I am very much in favour of such a change).

I have been advised to make an URGENT application to court to specifically involve CAFCAS (to make a short report to take into account the kids' views - presumably by interviewing the kids, my ex and me, but not having a full investigation since there are no welfare issues). I have read various horror stories about CAFCAS – but have also heard they have improved in recent years. I would be really grateful for any experiences/advice about having CAFCAS involved, their short report of this nature, and especially if anyone has experience of CAFCAS in Watford and can provide some handle on how long their reports take, etc.

Thanks in advance for any experiences/advice you can share.

Background info – in case it is useful (sorry its so long!):
I prioritised the kids and look after them myself when they are with me by using flexitime at work (obviously not without sacrifices in career/finances), whilst my ex has a live-in childminder. She had always felt she lost out (because I 'got more than any other divorced dad'), is terrible at communicating, and has refused to discuss/agree any improvements to shared residence for 4 years (ignoring my proposals, and also soft pleas from the kids). That, along with ambiguities in our original court agreement (and the finance split for the divorce), has continued to cause arguments - though we have both generally kept that away from the kids. After my ex's refusal to discuss our daughter's secondary school for a year prevented her from getting a place at a grammar/private school (forcing her to go to the state school which my ex always wanted), I also wanted to go to court – but did not – to avoid risking a worse situation for the kids and me.

For the new court case, my ex has exaggerated our arguments, made them worse by purposely breaking past agreements/norms and using high powered lawyers (which I cannot afford) to make many false accusations about me supposedly bullying her, about me supposedly not helping the kids with their homework, not feeding them well, not clothing them well, etc. I feel she is the one who has bullied me and manipulated the laws/situation to get even for her past gripes against me. But dealing with her false accusations is also diverting attention from the positive changes that I (and the kids) have wanted for so long, and I fear the court may well decide shared residence is no longer practical/workable.

The night before the first hearing, my ex asked both kids at bedtime what they wanted. They both categorically told her they wanted week with alternate parent (obviously without any coaching from me – and they are not overly assertive/articulate, so they must feel this pretty strongly to tell their mum despite knowing she is against that idea, etc - they told me that they got encouraged by one another saying it). Next day, at court, my ex’s barrister argued that CAFCAS should not be involved since there was no risk to the kids (although she had accused me of ‘blindfold kidnapping’ of the kids, of me taking the kids out of jurisdiction, etc), and the judge agreed especially to not delay the final hearing – envisaged for May.

I did not fully realise this meant that the kids cannot get their views heard at all……and now that the final hearing is set for August, and I have been advised to apply urgently to the court to get CAFCAS to do a short report just on the kids’ views (presumably interviewing the kids, my ex and me) – although my ex’s solicitors have said they would strongly oppose this application. I am worried about the costs of such an application to he court, and also about involving the kids into this – they know the court case is ongoing, but not much more – but my daughter had said she really wanted to tell the judge what she wants (I think its partly coz she is very curious about seeing a court/judge – which I know she wont get to see – but I presume she must also feel strongly about being heard, coz she is not normally overly assertive and I would have expected her to be quite shy about this and refuse to even talk about it, let alone volunteer to go to court, etc). I am also scared of actually inviting CAFCAS involvement in view of what I have read about their traditional bias against dads, etc - but I also do not wish to have the judge decide without knowing what the kids want......it is all so very confusing, and all seems so critical coz it can really affect the kids and me forever!

Other issues I have requested help on in a different forum are:
Kids will be 9y11mo and 11 y11 mo at the time of the final hearing. Is that old enough for the courts to consider their views? Could their views really influence the judge's decision? How do I deal with my ex’s vehement opposition to have the kids’ views heard by the court? How do I deal with my ex’s accusations that I have unduly influenced the kids (I am more communicative and do ask the kids for their opinion about their views/feelings, but I wouldnt dream of putting them in a situation where they have to choose between their mum/me, nor try to influence them consciously. And the kids are far too sensible to side with one parent – and they have told both parents they want week on/off with each parent for the last 5 years – and I couldn’t possibly have engineered/sustained that for so long when the kids are at least as close to their mother and spend more time with her than me).

  • Fiona
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04 Jun 09 #121390 by Fiona
Reply from Fiona

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