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Clare
Clare, Family Solicitor
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 33538
Experience:  I have been a solicitor in High Street Practise since 1985 and have specialised in Family Law for the last 10 years
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I have been divorced for four and a half years. I do not currently

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I have been divorced for four and a half years. I do not currently pay maintenance for my children as the CSA has agreed that my earnings are too low. I do however provide a considerable amount of clothing and other necessities for the children and I regularly help out with ancillary costs such as school trips etc. I also look after the children during, as a minimum, six days and three nights in every fourteen. My Ex and I have always agreed Access, always based on her needs rather than what might suit me, (I have NEVER been asked), but which has always been a minimum of every other weekend and two evenings a week after school. My Ex is now seeking to impose changes and a reduction to my Access about which she has explicitly refused to consult with me. She has no compelling grounds to do this and I have offered several compromises to try and resolve the situation amicably, all to no avail. I am about to advise her that she CANNOT effect changes unilaterally and without my agreement. I do not wish to apply to Court for a Contact Order as I do not wish my children to be embroiled in that legal process...but I'm starting to think I have no choice. My Ex, who has re-married, is insisting on changes primarily to prevent my continuing to take my eight year old to Tae Kwon Do classes which she has now been attending, at my expense, for 18 months. My eight year old is very distraught and has told me that she knows her mother just doesn't want her to enjoy any activity that I have arranged. In reply my Ex just says I'm wrong and the children are perfectly happy with her proposals. My children are suffering and I feel helpless.....I cannot afford to engage solicitors so please do not recommend this. I have done so previously and my Ex has been told she must not impose changes to access, but she simply takes no notice. I have heard that there are now legal precedents in cases where a mother enforcing a change to access which is not in the children's interest and which she has made no attempt to discuss with their father, can be prosecuted. Is this correct? What can I do?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
Thank you for your question.
My name is Clare
I will do my best to help you but I need some further information first.
How old are the children; what is the current pattern of contact and what changes does she wish to make?
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi Clare:

The children are 11 and 8

For the last four and a half years the pattern of access has been;

- every other weekend from Friday after school until 6pm Sunday

- two evenings after school til 6pm

She is seeking to remove Mondays on the basis that our eldest is starting Comprehensive school in Sept and cant do homework in my flat!

At the same time she is asking me to have the girls on Sunday nights through to Monday mornings on weekends that I have them

My youngest has taken Tae Kwon Do classes on Mondays for 18 months and they have been fantastic for her. She loves them. My Ex wants to prevent either child enjoying activities I arrange - its always been the same, this is just worse than previously because its really hurting my daughter badly

I have offered to drop the older girl off en route to taking the youngest to Tae Kwon Do and I have been advised by the new school that no homework given on a Monday would have to be in on a Tuesday

There is no reason for the change, which is a reduction in my Access. My Ex just wants to stop the Tea kwon Do lessons

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
Are you willing to accept the offer of Sunday nights?
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Possibly, but not as a substitute for a second weekday evening after school and not necessarily as a permanent fixture. I have said we should discuss it further. It flies in the face of seeking to establish a regular pattern of school mornings for both girls and is being used as yet another attempt to fix access at times that suit my Ex, rather than thinking about what would be best for the girls or my relationship with them.

I have examined the possibility of Tae Kwon Do on a Friday - since Fridays after school are already agreed - rather than a Monday (but at an additional cost to me of £100 pcm for a Gym membership) and am thinking of perhaps agreeing to the loss of Mondays provided they are replaced with any other after school weekday evening.

I know solicitors think that after school on weekdays does not constitute "Quality Time" but it most definitely does in my book and in our lives- and my Ex does actually agree with that!

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
What time is the club on a Monday?
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

6.30- 7.30pm. We usually leave at 6pm and the children would be home by 8pm with their mother. As I say, to address the issues with regard to homework, I have offered to drop the eldest off en route - which idea thoroughly appeals to my eldest, who would have all evening at home without her sister to commence any homework. I have had no reply to date to that offer of a compromise.

Club would be the same times on a Friday - but different venue where I need to be a Gym member - hence the additional costs which I am reluctant to incur.

Thanks for your time with this....

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
Your offer of a compromise is well thought through and deals with the problems that she has identified
It is expected that parents can agree how and when the children spend time with each of them, but since it seems that your ex is not will to be reasonable you are going to have ti take the steps which could lead to an arrangement imposed by the court.
The starting point is to offer to discuss matters with her using Family Mediation (www.familymediationhelpline.co.uk) - using a mediator also trained to work with young people so that the children's real wishes can be heard
It is very very important that you do NOT repeat your true belief - that this is about interfering with the time you stay with the children - instead say that you respect her concerns and are addressing them as you are.
Do not offer to change classes unless your ex mentions it and even then do not be too eager (why should you)
If Mediation fails then you can apply for a Child Arrangement Order - details here
http://www.familylaw.co.uk/system/uploads/attachments/0000/2078/CB1_1108.pdf
Please ask if you need further details
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi Clare,

I am very grateful for the time you have spent on this and for the links provided, but you have not answered my main query, which was whether it is in fact the case that any legal precedent has been set, or cases resulted in an outcome, where a parent was successfully prosecuted (in UK) for wilfully obstructing previously agreed access. This is crucially important as I propose to make it clear that I will be turning up as usual to collect my children after school on a Monday and wish to advise my Ex, in the strongest possible terms, that she must not seek to obstruct that access or remove the children at that time....which I am sure she will seek to do. It is my access time, as it always has been and my expectation is that that should remain so and not that I should have to pursue formal legal action to achieve that.

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
No I am afraid that the only one who could "prosecute" your ex is you - and then only when there is an existing Court Order in place which was breached.
In your case there is no existing order to enforce and until there is there is no action that can be taken
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Clare,

Sorry, perhaps I didn't express myself sufficiently well - my question is not whether I can or should look to prosecute but more simply:

Are there cases on the record (in UK) where one parent has successfully prosecuted the other for willful obstruction of access?

and in particularly, where a father has done so to protect his access, whether or not a Court Order was in place?

thanks

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
No there are no such cases.
Frustrating contact is not in itself a Criminal Offence for which anyone can be prosecuted
However there are numerous cases whereby one parent has successfully enforced court orders for contact - with more being successful every working day
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi Clare

Thank you once again for the time you have spent on this. I am extremely grateful and this is simply a concluding message. Unfortunately, taking the route to mediation and court is not a viable option for me (just as it isn't for many other fathers in my position), for several reasons, which it might be helpful for the law and courts to consider:

1. I cannot afford it

2. I am not prepared to put my children in a situation where they would be a part of the process - it would be immensely painful for them and their mother would use it to try to score points with them, but additionally:

3. I have not done anything in this situation. I have not caused any rupture or difficulty. I am not insisting on changes. It shouldn't be me that has to go to Court. If my Ex wants to force through changes that are unreasonable and is refusing (she has repeatedly refused) to discuss these with me then the law ought to provide for her, not me, having to take the steps you have recommended.

The whole situation is skewed against the more responsible and reasonable parent (whether it be Mother or Father) who happens not to be the Primary Carer. When the Primary Carer behaves so atrociously, (and this is just the worst example in four and a half years of unremitting nastiness) the law offers no real and effective support for the other parent. In effect, and although I shall continue to try to change my Exs viewpoint, I am screwed - simply because she couldn't give two hoots!

The law badly needs to change, because in these situations, as is very much the case here, the children are suffering at the hands of a tyrannical parent determined to destroy their relationship with their father. Concluding that I'll have to take legal action is NOT in the childrens best interest!

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
In fact Legal Aid is still available for mediation and you can deal with the court application yourself
Your children may welcome the chance to tell a mediator how they really feel
There is an old saying - All it takes for Evil to triumph is for Good men to do nothing
Clare
Clare, Family Solicitor
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 33538
Experience: I have been a solicitor in High Street Practise since 1985 and have specialised in Family Law for the last 10 years
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