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Clare, Family Solicitor
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 35063
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 and I have an 11 month old daughter. He has already

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My ex and I have an 11 month old daughter. He has already taken me to Court over contact to her, he is very bullying and only happy when he gets his own way. Court finished on 9 February 2015 with contact being agreed at 5 hours on a weekday (due to my work) and 3 hours on a weekend. It was also agreed that when Bella reaches a year old (8 June) contact will progress to the father having her for a whole day and 3 hours on the weekend. It was not specified in the Court Order but I intended the whole day to be on a week day as I would be working and it would be better for Bella to spend time with her father rather than being in childcare. The agreement was mutual between myself and the father and the Court did not involve itself in our decision but created the Order. However her father as of this month is pushing and bullying me for the Order to be changed. He wants to be able to take Bella to his parents' to see her extended family. They live an hour and a half away. To take this into account he wants the full day to be held on alternate weekends.

The father works shifts and his contact days change every 6 weeks. He will have her either Sunday/Monday or Friday/Saturday. I work 2.5 days a week in an office and my days are set. I work Monday morning, all day Wednesday and all day Friday. It should be noted that at this current time I do not get 2 days together with my daughter.

To allow for this I suggested the following proposal:

Week 1

Sunday/Saturday - 6 hours

Monday/Friday - 8.30am to 5.45pm

Week 2 Monday/Friday 8.30am to 5.45pm.

This gave him one full day a week, which helped me with childcare, and the two 3 hour sessions were consolidated into one 6 hour session to be held every other weekend. He refused this and suggested the following:-

Week 1

Sunday/Saturday - 3 hours

Monday/Friday - all day

Week 2

Sunday/Saturday - all day

Monday/Friday - 5 hours.

This was his comment in reply to my proposal -

"As for your 2 week router suggestion I can not and will not agree to it as you are reducing my visitations from 2 visits each week to 2 visits every second week."

Whereas his suggestion in principle would work, it would create problems for me because I do not have childcare in place to cover the remainder of Friday. For the previous Friday sessions I took half days off work, knowing it was only a short-term arrangement, but this cannot continue and I will have to work a full day on Friday. By having her for 5 hours on a Friday (presumably the morning) it will leave her with nobody to look after her for the afternoon. I would suggest going ahead with the Sunday/Monday changes now, but the Friday/Saturday changes would have to wait until October, when my nanny for Bella goes on maternity leave and Bella will be moved to a nursery. As his time with Bella increased, he would actually have 2 days in a row with Bella, and an overnight as well, and I would only have one full day on a weekend. He also intends to have Bella for overnight contact at 18 months old and wants her to stay with him 3 nights a week by the time she is 4. He brought this up in Court but the Court refused to plan this far ahead however he is pushing now for a date for overnights:-

"I would also like a date from you in which Isabella will be able to start staying the night with myself. This will give me something to look forward to and start preparing for. I will not accept your “wait and see” suggestion as that day will never come.

Isabella's happiness, as I have previously mentioned, is my number one priority and should I feel that things are not going well with her staying over then I would be the first to say so and an alternative plan would have to be made."

Bella currently co-sleeps with me and he is aware of this. She also suffered a stroke prior to birth and this caused extensive damage to the right side of her brain. She is therefore behind in her development from normal babies. She can only just sit up and cannot roll over or crawl yet. She sleeps on her belly and will not sleep on her back, when she wakes as I co sleep I am able to quickly turn her over and put her on her back to save her struggling to lift her head up. Her left arm and hand do not work very well.

My ex currently lives over an hour's drive from me and I do not agree to him having her for 3 nights a week every week as this would severely limit my quality of time with Bella, however that is not being enforced at this current time although it is what he wants. I should also point out that Bella will be attending a preschool next year due to the fact that I am a single parent on a low income.

What sort of contact should be allowed right now? What can I do about overnights? When does a Court consider it acceptable to allow overnight contact in young children? I read on the Family Link website that this was possible at one night a month initially.

Apologies for the lengthy message x

Thank you for your question.
My name is Clare
I will do my best to help you but I need some further information first.
What is his current shift pattern and why are his ocntact days consecutive?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi Clare, I dealt with a Clare before, earlier this year, in January, and it must have been you!! That was with a different email address of***@******.***. I am not sure whether you will be able to look into the advice etc given then, but I was unable to save my current question under the original email.

To answer your question, he does 12 hour shifts, 3 days a week. His shifts are Sunday, Monday and Tuesday or Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. These shifts also alternate between 12 hour night and day shifts, starting at 6am or 6pm. He will work a 6 week pattern of Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and then change to a 6 week pattern of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The rest of the week he will have free.

He initially saw her on Sunday/Tuesday or Thursday/Saturday but I do not work on either of those days and I felt it would be better to have the visits on consecutive days so that he could have Bella while I was working. It was also felt better to have them on consecutive days for eventual overnight contact - which again he wants weekly.

I have prepared a file with the emails going back and forth between us if you wanted to see them, but I don't know how to attach it here. These would show his bullying attitude and how he threatens me with legal action when he doesn't get his own way. He can afford solicitors, I cannot.

Below is a copy of advice you gave previously -

It is not about what he wants it is about what is best for the child.
At the moment his solicitor is bullying you and you have not been able to present your case in a way that does not make it look as though you are just objecting to contact full stop.
The starting point is that you have to accept that contact will happen - and that the fact that her father wants a relationship with his daughter is a good and positive thing.
It is very very important that you say this loud and often.
HOWEVER contact has to be for the benefit of the child
You are entitled to ask firmly and politely for details of what your ex will do with the child if he does not have the car - and to say that spending two hours three times a week being pushed around town is NOT in the best interests of the child at this time of year.
Ask for specific details. Is he going to a friends; a play place or what - make it plain that you simply need to be sure he has somewhere safe and warm to take her. Say that in the interests of your daughter you wish to offer him a longer period - say 9.30 to 4.30 once a week so that he can take her home plus one shorter contact each week. Refusing this will be difficult for him as it will immediately make the court wonder what and how he expects to cope and question his commitment.
The warning notice will stay in place because people do simply ignore court orders.
However if the child is ill - even a cold - and your ex is not taking her to his or someone else's home you are entitled to refuse contact for her sake.

Thank you for that reminder.
You still need to be very careful in your approach to this as the arrangements are not there to help you with the childcare.
Having said that clearly your childcare arrangements are relevant - as are your daughters special needs.
It is also reasonable that your ex wishes to take the child to visit his parents at their home from time to time - and equally that you would like to be able to have a full weekend with your child sometimes
The key to this so far as you are concerned is in fact to offer to add extra hours to the contact to achieve the balance that you need.
One possibility could be
Alternate Saturdays all day plus either Monday or Friday all day depending on his shift
If he still says he needs the second visit in the intervening week then offer two hours on a Wednesday/tuesday.
This should give you more time with your child at the weekends
You do need to have a date to plan towards for overnight contact - say 18 months so that she gets over the change to nursery first.
Unless your ex moves closer to you then his aim for three nights a week will remain a fantasy - although there is no need to say that
Please ask if you need further details
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thank you for your reply however I am not sure I entirely agree with you. You are asking me to give a man who is clearly bullying me exactly what he wants and more time with our daughter. This surely is going to set a precedent for the future because every time he bullies me I just roll over and agree.

If I offer an extra 2 hour visit on a Tuesday he will expect this all the time and I will have no chance of getting it back to alternate weekends with one midweek visit. Also, if he has her for 2 hours, he does not let her sleep properly and she has physiotherapy appointments on Tuesdays. This would mean that she would be grouchy and even more upset for her physiotherapy, which she finds hard to deal with at the best of times.

I have just received this email from him - I hope this can show you how bullying and nasty he is being.

Dear Miss Scurfield

I am writing to remind you that your mother does not have parental rights over Isabella and therefore her presents will not be required during any appointments that take place while I am attending.

Furthermore I would also like to remind you about the Court order that was placed over derogatory comments made by each parent towards the other while in the company of Isabella. That also includes anycomments that your mother might make.

Should you or your mother fail to accept the Court order, further steps will be taken to prevent a situation occurring again in the future.

Kind regards

Gavin Healy
I appreciate how you feel - but this is not about rolling over it is about managing the ocntact that he is likely to get in a way that suits your child - and you so far as possible.
You are going to have to deal with your ex for many years to come so it is important that you start to manage this in a way which allows you to retain some control in a way that will not lead a court to feel you are being obstructive
The offer amounts to three days a fortnight plus a few hours one evening - which can more easily segue into alternate weekends plus one evening/night a week
i appreciate how curt and terse his emails is - and in fact if YOU will feel better with your mother there then there is no reason for her not to be there IF she can refrain form making comments (and I can understand why she says them)
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

The trouble is that this attitude isn't going to stop. He is going to try to be as obstructive as possible at every step of the way. One benefit to me of having my suggested contact was that I would actually have to see him less. Yes, I appreciate he is the father of my child and I can't escape that, but I was bullied as a child and he continually bullies me now.

Last week he parked outside to pick Bella up and I noticed that he had a new forward facing car seat. I pointed out to him that this was illegal. Bella only weighs 7.6kg and the legal requirement for forward facing car seats is a weight of at least 9kgs. Since then he refuses to park outside my property and instead walks at least half a mile to get to his car. I did attempt to follow him to try and see if the car seat had been changed but was unable to see the car. He also stood outside my property and took a photograph which I can only assume to be of the car that was parked nearby. This car belonged to a neighbour but perhaps he thought I had someone staying over. Unless he took the photo of me because I opened the door to see where he had gone. Although he could not have known I would do so.

My point is, it doesn't matter how nice I am to him or how much I try to make a better situation, he will not allow it. He has anger issues and really has a vendetta against me. He had an argument with his grandfather over a light bulb four years ago and has refused to speak to him since.

Going back to the contact, yes, I appreciate that he would like Bella to see his family and I have no objection to that, although I do worry about her safety in a possibly illegal car seat. How would the Courts see my proposal of alternate Saturdays or Sundays all day plus either Monday or Friday all day depending on his shift, without the extra 2 hours? How would the Court feel about him bringing the matter back to them so soon after the Court had finished?

If I had to give a date for overnights, I would say by the time Bella is 2. Once he hits overnights, I will not allow him to have overnights every week, it will have to be alternate weekends. I am tired of having to face him all the time and his attitude. I need a break from him. His attitude is making me extremely depressed and as much as I love Bella, I wish I had never had her because I cannot cope with his attitude.

Regarding my mother - I need to point out that at no time has she or I ever been abusive or derogatory to him. He told the Court that we had been and his solicitor put that wording in. He wanted it to apply to me, but I told the solicitor that it was him that had been abusive etc, and he changed the wording of the recital to cover both of us. The Court have an unfair view of the whole matter based on his application, which cited my mother and I as being abusive to him.

Offering the alternate Saturdays plus the one day a week is still a good offer - and if he goes back to court with that on the table he is unlikely to get much sympathy from the court - so yes hold off on the two hours for now.
2 is an equally good age to start overnight contact especially given her special needs - so set out as well the ocntact you anticipate them (I assume wither Friday/Saturday or Saturday/Sunday in alternate weeks plus a midweek time
I am not sure if you have ever come across the "Freedom programme"
but you may find it helpful!
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thank you. I am sorry for the delay in getting back to you but I have been quite ill this week with swollen glands and a fever. And then on Tuesday I had a confrontation with Gavin at the physiotherapy appointment - where he tried to stop my mum coming in with me. At one point the physiotherapist said that we should do what was best for Bella and he got all excited thinking she was about to tell my mum to stay out. And then she continued by saying "Well she quite likes having her granny in there". She left us to try and sort it out, he still continued to fight. He threatened me with Court action again and said the law was on his side, and also said that as I don't allow his mum quality time with Bella he won't allow mine to have it!! That just shows this whole thing is built around his jealousy and spite. I can only assume he is alluding to the fact that I have not yet allowed alternate weekends as per his proposal. In the end I walked away from him with my mum following and went to find the physiotherapist to start treatment. He had 2 choices - either stay behind or follow us. He followed and he was fuming. After the physio he walked out without a word, not even saying goodbye to the therapist. I stayed behind and apologised and explained what was going on. She was very understanding and helpful.

His offer of contact was sent to me on Monday at 7.40pm. He emailed this morning to say that he wants an answer first thing tomorrow!! I think he may have to wait for that!

One final question to ask with regard to your overnight suggestion. Bella will be starting preschool next September because I am a single parent on a low income and she will qualify for the free 15 hours a week care. Or at least, that's the plan, its trying to get her into one I guess. The nursery that I am going to put her into also runs a preschool so if she gets into that then there shouldn't be a problem for her moving up to preschool.

Anyway, what concerns me is that when he has Friday/Saturday overnight, he won't be able to have a full day on the Friday because of Bella's school. I can see him creating a problem over that. Of course the Saturday/Sunday would be absolutely fine but there would be an uneven split between the 2 shifts as the he would lose 6 hours contact on the Friday. Is that just something he will have to deal with? I can't see anyway of changing it unless she doesn't go to school on a Friday - which is ludicrous!!

Thanks also for the Freedom Programme information - its something I am very interested in doing although I cannot see an available group down here in Truro. But I see that they do an online course and that would definitely be a help.

Incidents like that - whilst deeply distressing for you - are very useful to you in terms of the court.
It is understandable that when having a hospital appointment with your baby and having to face your ex you need the support of your mum and his comment indeed says it all!
You can indeed delay your response - he is not entitled to make such demands and the courts will see it as rather early to re-apply particularly if you have made an offer that is reasonable - which yours are.
Once your daughter has started school then contact has to work around it!
Clare and other Family Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thank you so much for all your help. I have a feeling that I will be in touch again at some point, with Gavin being the way he is. Its really difficult being in this situation and not being able to have a solicitor, so I really do appreciate all the advice and help you have given me.

I fear you are right - it i snot going to be easy - you are welcome to ask for me next time you need to ask a question