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Ask Clare Your Own Question

Clare
Clare, Family Solicitor
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 33325
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 an 11 year old son from a marriage that ended in 2005.

Customer Question

I have an 11 year old son from a marriage that ended in 2005. He has a diagnoses of autism and diabetes and as such has high medical and educational needs. For several years his mother and I have been co-parenting, generally with me having him at weekends and her during the week. For several years she has been struggling with his behaviour - in her care he shouts, hits, kicks and occassionally bites. With me his behaviour is expemplary. He has a 6-year old sister on his mother's side and on my side three sisters aged 5, 3, and 9 months. His relationship with his maternal sister is volatile, but with my daughters he gets on very well.
After a break-up with the father of his maternal sister, his mother was struggling - she took an overdose of paracetamol, was drunk and pushed my son (albeit by accident) into a bookcase - following these incidents he came to live with me after a social services recommendation. The arrangement then (from October 2013) was that he was with me during the week and with her at weekends. During that school year his school work increased dramatically and he achieved many small awards from school which he had never done before.
From August this year we switched the arrangement back - her situation appeared to have improved and she seemed "in a better place". That has since deteriorated and his behaviour has worsened in her care significantly. A week and a half ago in a meeting with school I learnt from his mother directly that she had recently been diagnosed with "Borderline Personality Disorder" (BPD). The school stated that she needed to get a professional report that stated that "her mental condition was such that she was unable to parent effectively and could not support the emotional needs of her children". Their stated intent was that this would allow social services to put in as much support as possible. She already gets a significant amount of support for my son but this does not appear to be effective.
She has left my son at home on more than one occassion to go to the shops, or a doctors appointment. On one of those occasions he left the flat to tend to their cat and found himself locked out of the building that his flat is in and had to be let back in by a neighbour. From talking with him it appears he has been given no guidelines what to do in an emergency.
I have researched significantly the condition BPD and the potential effect it has on children, and the studies are very concerning. Do I have a case for sole custody?
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.
Have you spoken to your ex about returning to the arrangement where he lives with you in the week?
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi Clare

I mentioned it in a friendly way after the meeting at the school recently (24 October) to see "if it would help" but she said she found it harder that way round, but I think "harder" in this sense is more that she misses him.

I am not sure I want to just reverse the situation - I would want to ensure that he spent the majority of his time with me so that I can reduce any negative influence as much as possible. My thinking at the moment is that he is with me continuously with her seeing him once every other weekend. Over night I would be reluctant - she has told be she has medication which she takes at night which "wipes her out" for a few hours, and I'm concerned about her ability to manage his diabetes should something go wrong, which it does, albeit rarely.

Regards

Dan

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
Have Social Services actually been involved at this point?
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi

Yes, several times. He has been known to social services for many years, and I'm not sure of every involvement as much of it was done directly with his mother. However, last year when she took an overdose social services were contacted by the hospital who then contacted me. Shortly after was the drunken incident when I contacted them, and that started the process of a child protection investigation. The conclusion of that was that he was not in danger but they recommended he live with me during the week and that we went through a Family Group Conference. The Conference was of little benefit - there were some short lived improvements. To date social services have been primarily interested in getting her the help she needs to parent more effectively but over the long term this doesn't appear to be improving. If anything I would say his behaviour, as reported by her, is deteriorating. I'm not prepared to sit by and watch his behaviour continue to go unmanaged any more hence wanting to take direct action.

I have tried contacting social services in the last few days as the BPD diagnosis is new (new information to me at least) and reinforces my view.

Thanks

Dan

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
Your starting point has to be to try and discuss matters with your ex using Family mediation (www.familymediationehlplin.co.uk)
If she refuses or when it fails then you can apply to the court for a Child arrangement Order stating that the child lives with you and setting out the time he spends with his mother.
The priority of the court is the needs of the child and no one else - and from all that you have said it is certainly in the interests of the child for you to be the principal carer.
The issue of overnight contact is less clear - but the medical issues do mean that at the very least the court will require some reassurance of the mother's ability to properly care for the child.
You can read more about court applications here
http://hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk/courtfinder/forms/cb001-eng.pdf
I hope that this is of assistance - please ask if you need further details
Clare

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