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familylawexpert, Family Solicitor
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 311
Experience:  Substantial experience (14yrs +) in divorce, financial cases, cohabitation, pre-nuptial agreements and civil partnerships.
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My ex husband and I agreed to co parenting of our children

Customer Question

My ex husband and I agreed to co parenting of our children 7 years ago. For the last 4 years he has been with his new partner who does all the child care when our children are at his home. Our children could be with me but he insists that he has 50 50 custody and that it's his right the girls are at his house even when he is not there. I'm not happy about this because I agree to do co parenting so that he could spend time with the girls but it would appear that his career comes first and the girls spend more time with their step mum. Do I have any rights to change this. Or children are now 11 and 9 and do find the changeover between home upsetting.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  familylawexpert replied 4 years ago.
My name is XXXXX XXXXX I will be able to help you with your questions, but first I need a bit more information:

- do you know what hours he works normally?
- can you describe what the sharing of a normal week/fortnight looks like?
- do you know (but do not ask them) what your daughters think of their time at his house, and whether they get on with his new partner?
- do they have children of their own? If so, how old?
- when you say they find the changeover upsetting, what is it about that transfer that upsets them?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi Mac,


I'm not exactly sure of the hours he works but he is a teacher and would appear to be involved in out of school activities. He also has parents evenings and he seems to spend a lot of the weekends either preparing lessons or marking. I have asked him on several occasions over the last 2 months if we could meet to discuss the girls and repeatedly he has said he is too busy due to work.


Girls with him Mon and Tues, me Wed and thurs then alternate weekends.


Over the years the girls have told me things including that she is quite strict and I get the sense they are scared of her. Its a difficult situation as she suffers from MS and so does get tired...I think she has too much to handle and takes some things out on the girls. They are worried if they forget anything before they go back to their dad's e.g. jumpers left at school, gloves missing etc.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi Mac,


I'm not sure what is going on but I've tried to reply via my tablet but it keeps crashing so I'm now on my laptop..fingers crossed this works!!


I'm not exactly sure how many hours he works but he is a teacher and would appear to be involved in out of school activities. He also has parents evenings and he seems to spend a lot of time working on a weekend either marking or preparing lessons. Our youngest Katie got upset the other week as even though she'd just spent the weekend at her dads she said that she missed daddy and she'd not really seen him.


Girls with him Mon/Tues, me Wed/Thurs then alternate weekends Fri-Sun.


Over the years the girls have tole me things which indicate that she is quite strict (bed before 7.30pm - even at 11 year old). It's a difficult situation as she does have MS and therefore I know she gets tired. I personally think she has too much to handle and takes it out on the girls when he is not there. They are worried if they forget anything before they go back to their dad's e.g. school jumpers, gloves etc and they have a completely different wardrobe of clothes for mum and dad's house even though I've always said that they are their clothes and they can wear what they want!


They have a son aged 4. I have also re-married but Richard and I have been together for 7 years, married 4 years ago. He has two children now aged 17 and 19 and we've had a 50/50 arrangement with them...absolutely no problems there. We also have a daughter between us aged 9 months who is very much loved and cherished by all the children.


Both girls get anxious with the changeover and say that they the don't want to go. My ex says that they say this at their end also so it probably is just the change but the home situation is so different between us that I think the girls struggle with the changes and bearing in mind that their dad is not always there and if he is it would appear that they are always entertaining therefore the girls don't get any quality time with their dad. Quite often when I ask the girls if they've had a good weekend with their dad they will say it was ok but so and so were there to visit.


I hope this gives you enough background to our situation,


We've tried mediation. He insists that I communicate by phone and do a weekly handover call but in that call he is controlling and patronising. I've tried doing e-mail handovers and copying in his wife who appears to be doing all the arrangments anyway and I've been accused of being nasty, vicious and not co-operative. To be honest I'm at my wits end and don't know what to do for the best.




Expert:  familylawexpert replied 4 years ago.
No arrangement in relation to the care of children is ever set in stone. The fact that you agreed to co-parenting seven years ago does not mean that it is necessarily the best thing now. The key is what is best for the children. From what you say, I can see why you think it might be worth altering the arrangments.

I'm going to write briefly about what approach a court might take. That does not mean that I think that you should necessarily rush to court, but it is the backdrop against which you might then make your decisions as to how to proceed.

If he won't cooperate, ultimately you would need to persuade a court that a change was in the best interests of the children. The needs of the children encompasses a lot of different aspects, some of which probably aren't affected by whose house they are staying in (such as their health) and also includes such things as a right to have a good relationship with each parent (where possible, as it obviously is here).

You should try and take a mental step back and consider what arrangements would really be best for the children. If, after doing that, you still think that it would be best for the current pattern to be altered, then try and write down the reasons that make that new pattern better. This will help to focus your thoughts on how you might start to build a framework for justifying a change. Then think about how you are going to try and sell the idea to the girls' father. (Although that may not be possible). Perhaps you could offer him a bit more holiday time in exchange for the girls being more based with you during term-time?

If you do go to Court, the girls are now of an age where their views will be influential, but probably not determinative. I am not suggesting you try to colour their views not, but it would be a good idea to try and subtly get an idea as to what they would like - as if they are against the idea of changing from 50/50, then you will find it extremely hard to force a change through the court. However, given what you say about their attitude, it may be that if asked by someone neutral (they would be interviewed by a specially trained children specialist appointed by the court), they would say things that would be helpful for an application for different arrangements.

That's enough about an application itself. However, as you are finding it hard to get him to engage in a discussion, it might be worth writing a detailed email/letter to him explaining why you think the new arrangements would be worth trying and asking him again to discuss them with you (probably with a mediator). If he ignores you, and you still feel strongly that change is best, email/write again saying that if he won't engage constructively in discussion, then he's leaving you no option but to make an application to the Court. In fact, the first substantive thing that will happen after such an application is that the court will want to get the two of you to try and discuss things to see if they can be resolved without the court needing to make an order - in which case, you'll have the court helping you to try to force him to discuss things. And if that isn't successful, then a court would make its own assessment, and then its own order. Co-parenting doesn't mean an exactly equal 50/50 split of time, so he doesn't need to lose the badge of co-parent (which some parents attach a lot of emotional value to) just because the children spend an extra night or two a week/fortnight with you.

I hope at least some of that is helpful!

Expert:  familylawexpert replied 4 years ago.

I notice that you have not yet rated my answer. If I can give you any clarification, please do let me know.

If you have the information you need, I would be very grateful if you could rate my answer (otherwise I don't get paid). Sorry to ask.

Expert:  familylawexpert replied 4 years ago.

I apologise for messaging you again. If I don't hear from you, it will be the last time I disturb you.

I just wanted to ask once more if you would be kind enough to rate my answer (OK or above) as, if you don't, the website company simply retain the deposit and we (the experts) remain unpaid.

Thank you very much,