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Ask Clare Your Own Question
Clare, Family Solicitor
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 34887
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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I hope you can advise me as the best way forward. I

Customer Question

I hope you can advise me as the best way forward.
I am separated but not divorced from my husband. We have 2 girls aged 14 and 7 -My problem is that my ex is quite controlling and decided that our youngest must spend 2 nights ( Tues and Weds) and every other weekend with him and on most occasions his girlfriend. The weekend consists of Friday - Monday with me collecting my daughter from school again on Monday afternoon. I was not consulted about this but told it was how it would be as he wants to have exactly the same time with our daughter that I have.
Before he left our family( 2 years ago) he was not interested in our youngest daughter but was very close to our eldest. This relationship suffered hugely when he left and has only recently started to improve. Of course our eldest cannot be forced to see her father because of her age.
However T has no choice, and, from seeing her for just 1 night a week and never at weekends, the situation is now as I described.
This is too much for my daughter and she finds it very distressing. Only this morning I had her in floods of tears yet again at the prospect of the weekend away from me.
Begging me to allow her to stay home.
I have absolutely no problem with him seeing the girls. I have gone out of my way to ensure that he has unlimited access, inviting him and his family to co-host birthday parties,& arranging days out with him as this makes our youngest happy. My intention is always to put the girls at the centre of every decision. However my tolerance seems to be working against me. I have a very unhappy little girl who is furious that her sister gets to choose when she sees their dad but she cannot.
I also found out from my daughter that he does not want her to have any contact with me when she is with him - she had an iPad for Xmas and was face-timing ( for the first time from his house) to me to tell me some news, this angered him and he smacked her.
I am very shocked by this as we always agreed never to smack our children.
This is the second time he has smacked her - He was raised in a very violent household but never hit me or the children whilst we were together.
There is no court order re access. All access arrangements have been made between us…or rather he decided and, to keep the peace as he is a bullying sort, I agreed to what he requested.
I firmly believe children need both their parents in their lives and I know we both love our girls. But I also believe that at 7 T is too young to spend so long away from me, especially if this isn't what she wants.
What is your advice?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
HiThank you for your questionMy name is ***** ***** do my best to help you but I need some further information firstHow long has this arrangement been in place?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Since last autumn, but Tabby has never been very happy about it. I hoped she would settle down to the arrangement. I also hoped that if she didn't her father would be flexible. But this isn't the case. She finds it very hard and asks regularly to only have one night at a time with him. He is adamant that he wants exactly the same amount of time with her that I have…
Initially after he left she didn't stay over at all and even 1 night away from me was hard for her. I played devils advocate and told her she could choose to either live with me and see her dad or live with him and see me, but she had to see us both.
She wasn't happy about it but got the idea. The problem for her is he wants to have her stay with him more often than she wants to…she would happily see him every day, just not stay away from home( me)
If Tabby was happy with the arrangement and thriving I would have no problem at all. But dealing with her distress is heartbreaking.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I have been checking online and see that normally such young children do not have such a chaotic schedule forced on them. I would be quite happy for her to have Thursday and every other weekend - friday- sunday but I am not happy with what we are doing now. It isn't fair on Tabby at all. I believe it is making her feel very anxious - and have evidence of this.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I have not received an answer yet - are you still working on this?
Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
My apologies for the delay
Neither parents can simply insist on what contact there should be - it is something that needs to be agreed - and which must above all else be child centred - which this clearly is not
You need to try and discuss matters with your ex using Family Mediation - possibly using a mediator trained to work with children so that your daughter's wishes can be brought to the discussions.
If your ex will not agree then you have two options.
If you feel strongly then you can simply change the arrangements - pick your daughter up from school on a Tuesday - or you can apply to the courts for a Child ArrangemenT order setting out the times the child spends with her father
It would be useful if the school has any comments about the arrangements and the effect on the child as this will strengthen your case
You may find this website useful
I hope that this is of assistance - please ask if you need further details