Thanks! will do
I received a message from F saying that his lawyers (who he now says no longer work for him) advised him to discuss the issues raised in my email, at SFT. I really don't want to have to discuss the definition of a sailing vessel and whether or not I feel the Order bars him from taking L onto a canoe or kayak, motor boat or barge. I feel that our SFT sessions should be about regaining some trust and co-parenting in general. However, i didn't want to write and say this as it could be perceived as obstructive or unreasonable? And, it could be that if I refuse to discuss these matters in SFT, that F will state that he has no option than to return the matter to court because I am being unreasonable because a canoe is obviously not a sailing vessel. If it went back to court i could look stupid if I have said that i consider, for example, a canoe, a sailing vessel, and have therefore stated that if f takes L onto a canoe that i will take the matter to court.
I am not sure what to say in SFT. Options are: Say i don't want to discuss anything to do with sailing, or, talk about sailing and say I consider him unsafe on any vessel on water and therefore oppose it whatever our different interpretations of the Order, or agree that a canoe is not a sailing vessel if he asks me if I consider it is.
What do you suggest?
All the best,
The Final court order agreed in October directs that F has Lily (aged 8 at end April this year) for half of the holidays. The most L has stayed with F is 4 nights so far as there have been no long holiday periods. Christmas was broken up into bite size chunks for Lily as per the order. L is aware there is a court order because the social worker told her about this. I was talking to her about plans for Easter a few days ago and she made it really clear to me that she wouldn't want to stay with F for more than 4 nights as she would miss me too much and "couldn't manage". She does genuinely miss me very much if she knows she will be away form home for more than a few nights - A few days ago, when at my parents', she got in a state because she realised she wouldn't see me for 4 nights and I had to drive over there. I was surprised at her fearful/negative reaction to the idea of 7 nights with F at Easter (and had plans to go away myself without her!) I am not surprised, however, that she finds the idea of 14 nights in a row over summer, as directed, overwhelming.
I wrote to F and explained Lily's wishes and feelings, as expressed to me. I suggested that I encourage L stay 5 nights with him, and then the further 2 nights of the 7 to be attached to a weekend so that it constituted another 4 night stay. He has replied stating that L is very happy when at his place thanks very much, and that both he and his partner think she is ready for holidays with them as per the order. He suggests that L says one thing with him and another with me. He told me that she has expressed excitement at the idea of going to France and Germany with them in the summer. However, Lily could not have been clearer to me when she expressed her wishes.
He is a clever bit of work and the email he has sent is measured and diplomatic, but it is saying that he does not wish to go along with Lily's wishes as expressed to me. He suggests that when she is with him she is fine and happy. I accept that this is the case, and am very happy that it is, but it is only because she has a clear understanding of how many nights she will be away from home and that this is not a big number.
Before the LA pulled out, I had a social worker who talked to Lily and Lily was able to express unease about a lengthy period of time away from home. However, her section 7 recommended L spend half the holidays with F. This was on the basis, however, that Lily be able to come home of she expressed the desire to do so. We no longer have a social worker involved.
F wants to take Lily abroad in the summer. Clearly she wouldn't be able to come home if she wanted to.
I am not sure of my options and would be prepared to encourage L to stay a minimum of 5 nights at easter and then if she wanted to stay longer just to let me and F know. But I am not happy telling L she HAS to go for 7 nights, period. I am also absolutely not comfortable with the idea of 14 nights abroad in the summer as, without wishing to dramatise or catastrophise, I believe this would be traumatic for Lily.
Can you advise me on the best way forward?
Thank you Clare. That sounds an excellent approach as regards Easter.
But what about the summer? It appears F is imminently intending to plan and book tickets for a two week holiday abroad with L.
We can see how it goes at Easter, but even if Lily were to manage and enjoy 7 days with F locally (unlikely) this is very different to 14 in other countries.
I'm acutely conscious that I'm trying to negotiate with F, a situation which, despite being the wishes and feelings of the child, is contrary to the Final child arrangements order. This makes me afraid. Whilst I know, as Lily's mum, what she needs emotionally, and whilst I am prepared to encourage her and push her gradually towards longer periods with her father, I am not of the opinion that what the order directs is right. I can communicate with F but ultimately, the Order is there saying what he wants to happen, not Lily. I don't want to break the law, I would rather return to court if necessary, and ask the Judge. Or perhaps I could ask for a CAFCASS officer to talk to Lily? How do I manage this?
I must clarify - the only record of the SW's advice that the child should be able to come home if she asks, is in a follow-up report in November, at the point when the LA pulled out. There is nothing like this in the final order, nor in the s7. These two simply state that F should have half of the holidays as periods of contact. The SW's advice followed Lily finding contact of more than a small number of nights overwhelming in November, wanting to come home, not having the courage to express her feelings to F directly when with him and getting very upset to the point of headache and going quiet and into a another room from F to call me. At that point, I had to recruit the SW's advice, a month after the final hearing and this was referred to in their final report.
I have been thinking long and hard about your advice. F has told me that he believes Lily tells me one thing and him another. He has aid Lily is looking forward to a holiday in Germany and France in the summer with him. I have talked to Lily and have tried to persuade her in the kindest of ways, to go to F for 7 nights at Easter and to think about going camping. She tells me that she didn't realise that this would be more than four nights. She is adamant she does not want to go for longer than 4 nights away. I explained again about the court order and again she said what she has said in the past that she wishes she didn't have this court order, and that her other friends whose mummies and daddies have split up "don't have all this but live like normal people." I really don't want to mention the bleeding court order to her again for a while. When I told her that at Easter she should try for 7 nights and she told me that if I made her do that she would run away (from daddy's I presume).
I don't want to traumatise my little girl! I just want to find a solution where she is heard and can do what she is comfortable with. Surely this must be possible!!??
You mention above about supporting my daughter if she decides to tell her father she does not wish to go. I think you were referring to the summer holidays? But regarding Easter, I could invite father to come to the house for a chat with me and Lily about what to do in the holidays, both Easter and summer. Lily could then express her feelings in front of us both?
I am confused.
Lily is only 7. She can't cross a road on her own, because she doesn't look, doesn't know anything about being on her own out of the home, doesn't know anything about money. She doesn't have a mobile phone. Please can you explain?
Can you elaborate on what you meant by "except supporting your daughter if she tells her father she doesn't want to go"? That is what I was suggesting I could do with the meeting. Why would it backfire?
Look, I do not understand this system! What am I missing here?! The Child's wishes are top of the Welfare checklist. Lily's wishes are not to go away from home and me for more than 4 nights. Yes, the court order says she should but SHE was not consulted at that point. I do understand that she must be encouraged by me to be brave and try longer periods with F, and I have done this, but ultimately if the child's wishes are paramount and she sticks to her guns - can her wishes not be acted upon by me, as her representative/mother?
OK. I will.
Do I tell F that she has a luggage tracker and some money?
Do I tell him she has threatened to run away?
I've realised a tracker should be on her person, not in her rucksack? Again, she is very young and I don't think if she did run away she would take a bag.
Before writing to F, I asked my daughter if she could have a chat about the holidays with F this evening as he is having her overnight. I don't know if she will, it may be too hard for her.
Should I tell F this and ask that if she doesn't bring it up, for him to? And ask him to feedback to me - as I would be interested to know what she says when I am not there?
OK, thanks, ***** ***** Yes, I presume he won't, or worse, he might tell me she said something other than she did.
I sent the following email to F:
"I mentioned to Lily this morning that it would be a good idea if she could chat with you about the holidays and how she’s feeling. This might be the best way forwards given that she is growing up and has to learn to express her wishes and feelings even when it feels awkward. I can’t always be in this position - where she wants me to protect her from doing what she feels she can’t manage, especially given there is a court order. Until this morning she would not budge from her position of no more than 4 nights. It would be good if you could hear it from her. But she may not want to bring it up directly with you so perhaps you can if she doesn’t and I’d be grateful for feedback as to how the conversation goes?
I have explained clearly to Lily what is expected to happen at Easter. She knows about the court order because Lisa told her about it and I have told her that the court order says a week. I have told her that the court order is to make things fair and that because you love her very much you want holiday time with her, too. I am sure that a child of Lily’s age will always feel a bit apprehensive about longer stays away and I have tried my best. I am hoping that it is the thought that she is afraid of, more than the reality, and that when the time comes she will not miss home as much as she thinks.
I am sure you are correct and that Lily does indeed say one thing to you and another to me when it comes to these new situations for her. But this doesn’t mean that what she is saying to you is correct. Maybe she gets bound into a surrounding enthusiasm and excitement when with you, Jodie, Spike and Billie, which at the time makes it difficult for her to say or even feel differently to the rest of you. And she hasn’t asked you any details - for example, she has told me that she did say she would like to go camping, but that she said she thought it was to France or Germany, not France and Germany. Nor have you given her details re the length of stay e.g. she didn’t know that camping in the summer would be more than 4 nights.
I have explained to Lily about how holidays are important with you as well as me and I have tried to find out why she feels the way she does - She can’t give a clear reason - just that she would want to come home after that amount of time. I presume it’s just a feeling she has that she herself doesn’t understand. Anyway, I have told her that if she is unhappy and missing mummy, she only has to tell you and you will bring her home. Given her feelings, I suggest you give her the chance to return after 5 days, as this seems the best way forward for the child.
As for the summer two weeks, when I mentioned this she threatened to run away. I am sure that, in theory, she should be ready for a summer holiday abroad but I really think we need to see how Easter goes. If Lily herself sees that, despite what she has told me about not being able to spend more than 4 nights at Easter, that when it came to it, she was fine and happy, she herself will be able to envisage the summer holidays more positively.
Re the mini mile - Lily has told me she wants to do it. I notice it is on the last weekend of the holidays so can we just say that she will do it, I will make sure she is with you for that day if it is that week I am down to have her? I haven’t made any plans yet for Easter but don’t intend to go away, so have no personal preferences about weeks. However, given my suggestion that you offer Lily the opportunity to see me for a bit, or come home, after 5 days, why don’t you have her the first week, and then should she have taken you up on the offer for a night or two (on your days 6 and 7), we could make up for this in the second week of Easter."
I then sent a quick email to him the day after asking if he had talked to L about the holidays. I got a "No, I haven't" back.
I feel insulted because I am putting in so much thought and can't help feeling emotional about all this. It seems to me that the best thing for Lily is to talk to her Dad. Maybe she would feel much more comfortable about going away for a week or two weeks if it came from him and I wasn't there. Surely this is in his interests, too - to prepare her for a long time away from me and explain where they would go and what it would be like, so that she feels more comfortable with it.
I am so drained after three and a half years of a legal battle. I spent two and a half of them raising L without him, thinking he would be found guilty, living the nightmare of being the mother of a sexually abused child. He has now completed a 30 week programme called Living without Violence through the LA. In it he identified many of his abusive behaviours towards me and his other, older, child. I know this through the woman's safety worker attached to the programme. I am traumatised, but am having counselling, which has identified just how totally traumatised I am. Not just by my daughter's disclosure and all that resulted from it but by the fact that the Judge let F off for some unknown reason and refused to even accept the evidence of an expert witness child psychologist. I will move in about 6 months, but not so far away that it will affect contact. I want a more peaceful life and I thought that asking F to talk to Lily about the holidays, rather than me doing it, and then possibly projecting my own anxieties onto her, would be the best way forward. Now and in the future. So I am very disappointed.
First thing this morning I got a phone call from Lily on F's phone asking if she could stay another night. I would have been OK with this but we had a three way conversation because F was in the car with her and F and I agreed that it was not going to be possible due to F's work, but it was a really positive exchange with a positive result where we worked together to try and accomodate Lily's wishes. So, when I got the "No, I haven't" my heart sank. I felt angry and then reminded the mind games he used to play. However, in his Living Without Violence, one of the things F identified was that the more I asked for something or expressed a need for something, the more this made him want to not do it. I hope so much that he won't continue to do this but fear that he will. He has not done one thing just because I asked him to, that I can recall. He is a mean, rational, calculated and bitter person. I am a soft, kind, emotional, warm and open person.
Do you have any advice on how to handle this holiday contact business form here on? I think I need to protect myself from him. But I wanted to hear that he would talk to Lily so that all the burden is not on me to find out her wishes and feelings about going away for a long period without me.And to hear that he had done that involved further communication with him.
I am really glad (and relieved) that you liked the email.
I thought you might say I had laid some sort of trap for myself.
I have lost all confidence in my communications with him, partly because of the fact that so many of them were twisted and abused by his barrister for the fact-finding hearing. I constantly see things in terms of how they would be seen by a court. I have visions of that same Judge ruling that I have made things up, or coached Lily, and not taking Lily's wishes and feelings seriously and forcing contact against Lily's wishes, with me being found in contempt of court and trying to meddle with the law. That's the trauma. I have lost my sense of being on control of my own life and of Lily's protection. The trauma of losing the case after the police, the LA, a QC and a barrister all told me I'd be fine, has led to fear I'll lose everything I do and that it will be my fault.
My counsellor has said a few useful things. He said that more and more, it will not be me vs F, but Lily being able to speak for herself. That helped. He told me also that a court order represents what the court ruled at the time it was written, but that it can be changed if circumstances change or the child's wishes and feelings are clearly different from what is ordered. That also helped, although the last thing in the world I want is to go back to court.
Anyway, no need to reply - I just wanted you to know.
Another issue. I have changed the names for security reasons.
My daughter's surname is Taylor (my surname) Petzold (F's surname). I agreed with F that it would be TaylorPetzold - one word. This is legal. However when put on the birth certificate there was a mistake and it appeared as two separate names with no hyphen. This error was then translated onto her passport.
As you may recall, I have some abduction concerns because F threatened to abduct her.
Over the last six years there have been many incidences where, as a result of the omission of the hyphen and the space in between the surnames, but no hyphen, my daughter could not be found on a database because it was not known whether she had been registered under T or P. Sometimes under T, sometimes under P. Taylor is sometimes looked upon as a middle name and her surname is ***** ***** be Petzold. In the chemist for a prescription, at the doctor;s, the school, the hospital, on airplanes, I never know whether she will have been registered under T or P.
Recently, we had an incident where I was told I had not paid for a club. This was because F had registered her under Petzold! I had registered her under T for TaylorPetzold.
Particularly as F now has the right to take our daughter abroad without me, I am concerned that this issue could cause a problem. Or if she were to travel alone, say, with the school.
I have asked F if we can revert her name officially back to Taylor and he has not agreed. I asked if he would agree to replacing the hyphen so her name is ***** ***** therefore recognisable as a surname, a double-barrelled one, always filed under the same letter - T. He did not agree. I have therefore told him I will apply on a C100, to the court, to assist.
Looking at the C100 there is a section about the law stating there mjst be mediation prior to an application to the court. In our relationship there was domestic violence, although he was never charged. I have it in writing that there was domestic violence, from the LA and the doctor. At the fact-finding, some findings were made but it wasn't criminal. F has now completed a 36 week Living without Violence course.
Do I have to attend mediation with F on the subject of the name change?
Do you have any further advice about how to progress with the name problem? Many thanks,
1) I am tired of never knowing whether L has been filed under T or P and things like registration at clubs or medical clinics often going wrong
2) F intends to take L abroad in July or August. I have some abduction concerns, recognised by the LA die to F having threatened this in the past, and do not wish to give F L's passport with the problem name on it.
OK.F has had unsupervised contact for 6 months now. Will wait another 6 months - so that makes it mid-September. I will have moved by then. Hope it won't look like I'm doing it deliberately to distance myself and L from F at that stage. Maybe the following Jan (2016) might look better?