Thank you so much for your wording. it was absolutely perfect and just what I needed. I had no idea whatsoever to say and I'm really glad that I came here and asked you.
I know this wasn't part of the original question, but I've just received Bella's father's statement and thought you might like to have a look at it.
I, GAVIN JOHN HEALY of THE BARN, TAMAR VIEW FARM, SHERWELL CALLINGTON, PL17 SHY, the Applicant herein will say as follows:-
I am the Father of Isabella Jade Scurfield. I make this statement pursuant to the order made by the Family Court on 1st February 2016.
2. Following Isabella's birth in 2014, I would say that the Respondent, Ms Scurfield has been reluctant to facilitate Isabella spending time with me. I have always made it clear that I would like to spend as much time as possible with Isabella as I believe it is important for her to have constant regular contact with me starting from a young age, in order for a bond to build between us.
3. I did not think that the low level of contact I was being allowed by Ms Scurfield was in Isabella's best interests and this led to me filing an application in September 2014 for a Child Arrangements Order. This Honourable Court made an Order by consent on 9 February 2015. That Order set out a minimum level of contact with a progression to full day contact in June 2015. It also recorded that contact would progress to staying contact at some date in the future.
4. After that Order was made, Ms Scurfield regularly tried to alter the court ordered contact, for example, in trying to "run together" the two defined periods of weekly contact and therefore limiting my time with Isabella to fortnightly contact only. When the time came for contact to increase in accordance with the Order, she tried to postpone the date of the increase from 8 June to 15 June 2015 on the basis that it was Isabella's birthday. She would unilaterally move contact days and times and this meant that Isabella was missing out on her time with me.
5. Despite correspondence and negotiation to try to increase the time that I spend with Isabella, it was not possible for Ms Scurfield and I to agree any further increase in contact between us. After six months from the beginning of the one full day contact, it was clear to me that Ms Scurfield would not voluntarily increase contact. She told me that she would not agree to Isabella staying over with me until Isabella was at least 2 years old. Now Isabella is 2 years old Ms Scurfield is now saying she will not agree until she is 3 years old. I decided that the only way I would be able to spend more time with Isabella would be to make an application for variation of the child arrangements order and to ask the court to increase her time with me.
6. At court on 1 February 2016, it was agreed that Isabella would spend time with me between 8.30am until 6pm on Friday and Saturday or Sunday and Monday, depending upon my work shifts. Isabella would be returned home to ***** over night, but would spend two consecutive days with me.
7. Although I consider that the time that Isabella spends with me has gone very well, there have been several issues arising from this.
Isabella lives in Truro and I live in Callington. I usually take Isabella to my Mother's house when we are spending time together. My Mother lives in Plymouth, with my Grandmother. The journey time to either property is between 1¾ - 2 hours depending upon traffic. Isabella is travelling for 3 - 4 hours each day when she is with me, so about 6 - 8 hours each time I have her for the two day period. The time spent in the car is not "quality time" for Isabella and me. I have found the travel costs rather expensive and I would worry about financial costs of this if the situation were to continue the same indefinitely. I am asking the court to increase my time with Isabella which would cut down on the current amount of travel time.
The first time that I picked Isabella up from her home, I was informed by Ms Scurfield that I wasn't allowed to park outside her house as the spaces were private parking and for residents use only. I parked away from the house because of this. Ms Scurfield never voiced any concern about the weather conditions or how far I would have to carry Isabella to the car. Subsequently, after the court hearing in February 2016, her solicitor informed mine that the spaces were in fact not private and I must use them when I collected Isabella. I duly parked in Daniell Court, mostly out of sight of Ms Scurfield's front door as I noticed that she would watch me intently at handovers which made me uncomfortable. Unfortunately, I feel that Ms Scurfield's attitude at handovers is creating an unpleasant atmosphere. During handover, she makes criticisms of my care of Isabella. This has been even worse when Ms Scurfield's Mother has been present, for example, when I dropped Isabella back one on occasion, I had put her in warmer clothes than those she has been sent in because it was very cold and I felt they were insufficient. Ms Scurfield's Mother said while waiting for Ms Scurfield to arrive "Those trousers are far too big for her! Her mother would never allow her to wear them. She doesn't need to have a hat on! That's bloody ridiculous what she is wearing!" This was despite her wearing a headscarf herself, so clearly it was cold enough for a hat for Isabella.
I am very keen to attend medical appointments about Isabella wherever possible. I feel that provision of my work rota to Ms Scurfield may have hampered this. I suspect that Ms Scurfield has made medical appointments for Isabella knowing that I would be unable to attend because of my work commitments. She also gives me no notice of appointments. For example, on 12 May 2016 Ms Scurfield informed me at 10am that Isabella had an x-ray appointment scheduled at 4pm that day. This gives me no time to make arrangements to attend medical appointments about Isabella. I do not accept that this appointment would have been made at the last minute and I am afraid that the conclusion I draw is that Ms Scurfield is seeking to stop me attending appointments. Due to Isabella's special needs I do not think this is in her best interests.
At court in February it was agreed that Ms Scurfield's Mother would not attend at medical appointments because her attitude towards me was increasing the tension at the appointments, which I felt was to Isabella's detriment. However, Ms Scurfield has breached the agreement reached at Court and insisted her Mother attend an appointment on 14 April 2016. This was at Isabella's hydrotherapy appointment when she was present throughout at the poolside. Ms Scurfield claimed that as there were seats around the pool, it was fine for her Mother to attend.
I also have concerns because I do not feel that I am fully updated after I have not been able to attend a medical appointment with Isabella. This is important because with her cerebral palsy Isabella has special needs and there are things that I should be doing with her and I worry that I have not been provided with the information. For instance, on 22 December 2015 Isabella was prescribed a support belt. Ms Scurfield did not inform me of this until 3 January 2016 in an email. I did not actually ever see the support belt until 26 January when I attended an appointment with a physiotherapist and realised that Isabella was supposed to wear this for 2 hours in the morning, putting it on 30 minutes after eating. I was concerned because I realised that Isabella should have been wearing the support belt in the mornings during her time spent with me, but Ms Scurfield had not told me this or provided it for me to use and a significant period of time had passed. I was then given the support belt for the first time on 31 January 2016 and I began to put it on Isabella. In February 2016 when I returned Isabella one evening, Ms Scurfield asked me if Isabella had worn her support belt in the car and I confirmed that she had. Ms Scurfield then informed me angrily that Isabella shouldn't wear the support belt in a car. Unfortunately, she had never told me of this before and so I was unaware of it. I love my daughter and want what is best for her welfare and naturally would not have done anything that could harm her. If I am not involved or informed I worry that I may inadvertently take the wrong action. A further example of Ms Scurfield not keeping me informed of what is happening with Isabella's medical situation is that on 9 March she told me that I would be receiving a letter about Isabella's posture or spine. This was finally given to me on 12 May 2016, despite it apparently being sent on the 1 March to Ms Scurfield.
My Proposals for time spent with Isabella
8. Isabella has now spent time with me from 8.30am to 6pm on two consecutive days per fortnight since the beginning of February, along with a further day contact in the intervening week. I believe now is the right time for Isabella's time with me to progress to overnight stays. This will be beneficial for Isabella as it will significantly cut down her travel time because she will only have one round trip to undertake. In addition, I can play a fuller role in caring for her. I would take Isabella to stay at my Mother's house in Plymouth. This would mean that she would also be able to spend quality time with her grandmother and great-grandmother as they live together. She would have her own toddler bed and there would be 3 adults in the house overnight to meet her needs. In this way it will enable her to connect with her family on my side as well. Ultimately, it is my intention to move into a house with my Mother and Grandmother.
9. I would like Isabella to start staying overnight with me every week, taking into account my shift pattern which largely dictates when I am free to spend time with her. Initially I propose one overnight per week to enable her to begin settling to this and start a routine when staying with me. Sometimes this may be on weekdays but as she is not at school I cannot see any reason why contact cannot take place on any particular day. I believe that Isabella attends appointments on Tuesday and Thursday and I will be happy to attend those appointments with her, wherever they take place. I would suggest that I collect Isabella at 08.30am as I do now, but return her at 6pm the following day. I attach a Schedule that I have compiled taking into account my work rota to show the dates that Iam proposing Isabella spend time with me, marked "Exhibit A".
10. After a settling-in period for Isabella, which I suggest would take until mid August 2016, I would like to increase the time she spends with me to two nights on alternate weeks while the intervening week remains at one night. I propose that the alternate two nights further increase later in the year to 3 consecutive nights per week and two nights every other week. This is a gradual increase in the time Isabella spends with me over a period of five months which I think would not rush her and would give her time to adjust.
11. I would like Isabella to alternate spending time with me and her Mother at Christmas each year. As she has never spent any time with me at Christmas before, I would ask that she spend from 3pm on Christmas Eve through to 6pm on Boxing Day with me. This was the arrangement for Isabella that Ms Scurfield suggested and put into place last Christmas when Isabella was with her and I see no reason why we cannot alternate that this year.
12. I further suggest that Isabella's time on her birthday is ***** between her Mother and I so that she gets to see both of us. However, this year, due to my work rota, I will not be able to see Isabella on her birthday and I would therefore ask that I get to spend time with her next year on her birthday so that my family and I can celebrate her birthday with her and make it a fun occasion for her.
13. I do not always get every Bank Holiday off but generally Iwill usually not work around the New Year. I therefore would like Isabella to spend time with me from 3pm on New Year's Eve to 6pm on New Year's Day
14. I have made certain, in my schedule, that Isabella is able to spend time on alternate weekends with Ms Scurfield and me. I believe this will benefit Isabella as this gives us both more time to be able to undertake more activities with Isabella, which is important for both her growth and her health.
15. It is my intention to move to Truro within the next 2 years so that by the time Isabella is at school she can spend one-half of her time with me, perhaps on a week-on/week off basis. My Mother and Grandmother also intend to move with me to Truro. I believe that if I am living in Truro, once Isabella starts school we will be able to maintain the level of time she spends with me. Otherwise I can see that this will probably decrease due to the school commitments. If I am living in the same city I can see no reason why I should not be able to take Isabella to school and pick her up.
16. It has been really difficult at handovers because of the constant "nit-picking" remarks made by Ms Scurfield that are unnecessary. This makes the situation both stressful and unsettling, especially for Isabella. The times when I drop Isabella back or pick her up should be able to be completed calmly with ease and no tension, in order to make sure that Isabella is happy and not distressed. However, with Ms Scurfield makes the remarks it makes the situation stressful which makes me concerned about Isabella's well being. I would suggest that rather than meeting at Ms Scurfield's home, we meet at a neutral venue such at Truro train station and that we have minimum interaction with each other, to avoid this. We do have a handover book which should keep communication to a minimum. I have updated this handover book diligently.
17. I do have concerns that Ms Scurfield's refusal to consider any increase in the time Isabella spends with me is due to her personal feelings and opinions of me. I have noticed that when we are at appointments together, she will go out of her way to ensure that I cannot see or touch Isabella. There have been occasions when Isabella has been reaching out to me to pick her up, but Ms Scurfield has picked her up and placed her with her back to me so that she cannot see me. This happened at a medical appointment I attended in December 2015 and again in March 2016. There is no reason for this behaviour on Ms Scurfield's part and I find it sad that she cannot allow Isabella to interact with me in this way. I fear that without an order put into place underpinning any arrangements made, she will always make it difficult for me to see and spend time with Isabella, except on her terms.
18. I understand that Isabella has important appointments for her health every Tuesday and Thursday. I wish to reassure Ms Scurfield that it is my intention to ensure that Isabella attends these appointments when she will be in my care on those days. I will also make certain that if there are any additional appointments made for days when Isabella is to be in my care, I will ensure she attends. I also have concerns about Ms Scurfield not putting Isabella's medical needs first. I have now seen on at least two occasions Ms Scurfield say that she is too "busy" to make an appointment which means there would be a two week gap in appointments for Isabella. I have offered to take Isabella to these appointments myself but this has been declined by Ms Scurfield. I do not believe that anything could be more important than Isabella's health and that Ms Scurfield ought to prioritise this. I see no reason why I should not take Isabella to appointments. It would help me to understand what is happening with her and I would be able to be more involved in this way
19. Isabella now has to use a standing frame which is quite a large item and quite heavy. This is to help her to gain strength in her legs. I am aware that Isabella must use this but I am not sure about the current frequency as I have not been updated about this. I know that initially it was for 20 minutes at a time but I think it has possibly been increased by now. I will need to be given this information. Currently it is too big for me to transport in my car. I am in the process of fitting a tow bar to my car so that I can pop the standing frame into a small trailer to ensure Isabella has access to it when she is spending time with me.
20. I wish to carry on with the use of the handover book and for all information to be communicated through this.
I believe that the facts stated in this witness statement are true.