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Clare, Family Solicitor
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 35037
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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My ex-partner's abusive behaviour towards myself culminated last December in him thre

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My ex-partner's abusive behaviour towards myself culminated last December in him threatening me with a knife in front of our children. We are due to have a final hearing at the family court on January 23rd 2015. The children have been having contact with their father (my ex-partner) for the last 9 months at a Child Contact Centre. I need advice because my ex-partner has been granted a directions hearing for next week claiming that I am in breach of the child arrangement order, that I refuse to allow any of his family to see the children, deliberately exclude him and his family from the children's birthdays/Christmas/nursery nativity plays etc, he is also seeking to serve a contempt of court affidavit on me claiming that I lied about passports on two separate applications I made to the family courts - which is simply not true!
Thank you for your question.
My name is Clare
I will do my best to help you but I need some further information first.
How old are the children and what exactly is the basis of this claim?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

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).

Does the Order specify that contact has to be at a Contact Centre?
Have you provided him with details of nativity plays etc?
What did the Section 7 report say about the progress of contact?
Have you asked for a Prohibited Steps Order to reassure you on the other issue?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

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.

What contact have you offered with a view to contact moving on?
You do understand that he is entitled to the information regarding the Nativity play etc?
Is he represented?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

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.

No I am afraid that you have no right to see any of the reasons for the decisions of the Magistrates - the police and the CPS decide if there is a viable case - the Magistrates hear evidence from both sides and make a decision - although you are of course correct that does not mean it did not happen.
As I understand it - and I am sorry if I am confused - all the assaults on you predate the Section 7 report BUT that does not mean that your cross application is invalid as it was clear;y justified on the basis of the 2013 assault.
Your 4 years old (was he only three at the time) certainly could not have given evidence - which is not to say he did not witness it - just that it would not have been appropriate
One of the hardest things to have to say to you is that even if the assault had been proved it would not necessarily change the position on contact - the fact that he is a bad partner does not necessarily mean that he is a bad father.
It is not unreasonable for you to want to have a weekend with your children - but you are going to have to offer something in exchange.
Moving the centre is also not unreasonable for handover - but if your suggestion is that he is escorted when taking the children out this is not likely to be viewed as acceptable UNLESS it is recommended in the CAFCASS report
This is on the assumption that the Centre is reachable by train or bus by your ex.
It would be more realistic to suggest that he starts to take the children out during the existing sessions - then build then up to a whole day on alternate weekends unless and until he allows an inspection of his home.
From what you have said you have little to fear from the new directions hearing - and with a full final hearing already scheduled for January it is hard to see what he hopes to achieve.
However at the moment you are playing into his hands - it is so easy to do so that is not an accusation.
If there is a communications book then you should use it to give details of school activities - plays parents evenings etc.
If you are willing for his parents to attend contact (and the centre allows it) say so in the book.
You need to show that you are proactive on this as it is much too easy for him to turn the tables at this point and say that you are being obstructive
Use the book to show your commitment to promoting the relationship between your children and their father
I understand your fears about him bringing them back BUT it is likely that the court will take the attitude that you are being over cautious. I understand your concerns about Cyprus - but the fact that it is part of the Hague Convention on Abducted children means that the risk is slim in the eyes of the court (harsh but sadly realistic)
I am sorry - i feel bad saying all the above - but I am concerned that this man is trying to turn the tables on you and it is important that you do not allow this to happen
Please ask if you need further details
Clare and other Family Law Specialists are ready to help you