Hi, the children are 2 years old and 4 years old (both boys). The child arrangement order that we have in place is for the children to have contact with their father (my ex-partner) every Saturday from 10.00am until 1.00pm (3 hours) at a Contact Centre (supervised by volunteers). This arrangement has been in place since February 2014 and the children have only missed 4 sessions in 9 months, due to illness and a holiday I took them on. Occasionally we are late arriving for contact, never more than 15 minutes, because we travel over 25 miles to the contact centre (which is in a city centre by a hospital) from home along very busy roads with constant roadworks. Often the boys are reluctant to go out and want to stay and play at home, as I work full time, and for them its another morning of rushing about - no matter how exciting I try and make it sound. As for my ex-partner's extended family - they are not part of the child arrangement order and have never contacted me to ask to see or spend time with the children. I use a communication book to pass on any messages about the boys and their father rarely replies and has never made a request that his family be involved in contact. Our Cafcass officer, in her section 7 report, recommended that my ex-partner's parents could be involved in contact at the contact centre as long ago as last April - I am still waiting for him to ask for this via the communication book. The final hearing, which is on 23rd January 2015, is meant to finally sort out how contact should progress in the future and take into account all issues surrounding contact - so I am horrified that a judge has allowed a further directions hearing. I do not think a variation of the current contact order is in the best interests of the boys, given their ages. I am also very alarmed that my ex-partner is seeking to take me to court for what he views as 'Contempt of court' claiming that I lied about the boys having a passport in my application to court in August 2012 and then again in January 2014. Can he do this? The boys have never held passports as I do not intend to take them out of the country in the next few years. I am, however, worried that my ex-partner (although white British) intends to take the boys abroad and refuse to return them, as he has relatives in Cyprus and has a history of refusing to return our eldest boy to me after contact (this was prior to me gaining a residence order in September 2012).
Hi, the current Order specifies that contact remains at the contact centre for the 3 hours on a Saturday and that this is the only contact that my ex-partner is allowed until it is changed by any further Orders. The current arrangement is in place because my ex-partner attempted to assault me with a knife in front of the children last December. This incident was reported to the police and they took it to court last April. My ex-partner was found not guilty and the criminal proceedings meant the contact arrangement has remained in the contact centre. He is seeking to have overnight contact with the children every fortnight, despite my concerns about his hostile and aggressive behaviour towards me, the unsuitability of his property (a tiny, open plan house with no proper bedroom) and his lack of awareness of the children's needs. That aside, I have not given him details of the Nativity play because it does not fall on a contact day and the children's nursery do not want to have anything to do with him as he is, again, hostile, aggressive and confrontational with the staff when he phones the nursery to the point where even the manager at the head office is reluctant to speak to him. Whenever he doesn't get what he wants he makes official complaints to whoever will take him seriously via lengthy phone calls and multiple-page letters and emails. So far he has done this with Cafcass, the children's nursery, Derbyshire Women's Aid (following the knife assault in December I arranged for our eldest boy to have counselling), Social Care, the courts and even the police as he felt that he had been treated unfairly during the criminal proceedings. The section 7 report advises that contact should begin to move away from the contact centre incrementally, over time, and eventually he be allowed a full day's contact with the contact centre being used as a dropping off and collecting venue. The report also stated that overnight contact should not occur until such a time that his property deemed suitable - he has consistently refused to allow anyone in Cafcass or Social Care to visit his property to check whether its safe for children. The Cafcass officer even wrote that she was at a loss as to how contact should progress beyond this due to his attitude. On the other issue I have not asked for a Prohibited Steps Order as the courts only seem interested in discussing current contact arrangements and whenever I voice any concerns about him refusing to return the children I am told to shut up (by the judge) and that such concerns should wait until the final hearing. I am unrepresented, I feel that I lack the knowledge and legal-speak to adequately put my concerns across, as the previous family court proceedings in 2012 took all of my savings as I was only just above the threshold for legal aid (I know that legal aid is now no longer available). Ultimately, all I am trying to do is protect my children and myself from being in a situation where we are at risk of harm (physical, mental and emotional) from my ex-partner (their father) and because he hasn't actually physically harmed us I feel that I am not being taken seriously by the courts.
Hi, as far as I know he is unrepresented. Although, it appears he has asked for legal advice from 2 different solicitors (his letter to the court shows he has had 2 free half an hour sessions) and it is based on this advice that he has made his further application to the court.
Regarding the nativity play - whilst I accept that he is entitled to information about this, to my knowledge he has not yet asked anyone, either myself or the nursery about it. If he asks then he will be informed of the date and time - surely this is enough? Each family is allowed 3 tickets and I have only bought 2 of them - again he just needs to ask nursery and buy a ticket.
As for the contact that I have offered with a view to moving on - I have already put my thoughts into a statement which I was asked to submit to court as part of the court bundle for the final hearing. I suggested that contact move to a contact centre closer to mine and the boys home town (I have already found and made enquiries at this contact centre). I also asked that contact be made fortnightly in order to allow myself and the boys to have quality time which is lacking in the current arrangement as I work full time. This particular contact centre offers sessions where a named key worker is available to facilitate hand-overs and for contact to go out of the contact centre. The centre runs sessions between 10.00am and 2.00pm, although the centre manager did say she could possibly extend this to 3.00pm for a hand-over - as I asked about this some time ago I need to contact the centre again and check if places will be available in January. It doesn't help the situation of trying to move contact on when my ex-partner does not work, nor have a car and lives 50 miles away.
Further to this, in his letter to the court requesting a further directions hearing asap, my ex-partner is also asking that the cross-application I made in January 2014 be dismissed on the grounds that he was found not guilty of assault against myself and that previous hearings in the family courts dealt with the issues surrounding his two previous abductions of our eldest son and all police involvement concerning previous incidents of assault against me (dating back to 2011) . Basically, that it has become his word against mine and, apart from the assault in December 2013, no criminal proceedings or prosecutions could be brought about due to a lack of evidence. I think it is extremely unfair if the judge allows this given that the only reason my application was a cross-application was because my ex-partner managed to get his application into the court before I did. Also, just because he was found not guilty of assault, I was told by the court that it was down to the three judges not being 100% certain that he should be found guilty, then it doesn't mean that it didn't happen - the police and the CPS were satisfied that there was enough evidence and a case to answer to submit it to the criminal courts. As I was a witness in this case, along with my teenage daughter, am I entitled to see the ruling and reasons for the decision? And if so, who do I ask to get this from? Unfortunately, our eldest son was not allowed to give any evidence by the CPS as I was told he was too young, yet during his counselling sessions after the trial he recounted, in his own words, what happened during the assault.