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SASH_Law
SASH_Law, Family Lawyer
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 1018
Experience:  LLB (Hons)
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My children are 7 and 10 do they have any say in the child

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My children are 7 and 10 do they have any say in the child custody arrangements? Thank you
JA: What steps have you taken? Have you filed any papers in family court?
Customer: My ex husband and I had been through mediation and had a parental agreement that was being followed. He has now decided to change wanting 50/50 and i
JA: Family Court normally sits in a local County and Magistrates' Court. Do you know the location of the court? If not, what county do you live in?
Customer: received a letter from his solicitor on Friday. The children do not want to spend any longer periods of time with him and occasions like Christmas etc summer holiday spilts week off and week on. Is their opinion considered?
JA: Anything else you want the Lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: Im in Epsom, Surrey
Customer: replied 4 days ago.
This is the letter I receieved

Hi, I'm Lea and I have reviewed your query.

 

Bear with me, I am going to read the letter you attached.

 

Please bear in mind this is an email service and not a live chat so responses may not be instantaneous. I am not available for calls, but in all cases it is very likely you can be helped online.

May I ask what the current pattern of contact is?

Customer: replied 4 days ago.
Thank you for your time. At present we have a 2 1/2 day to father, 4 1/2 mother spilt. So the children go to their Dads after church on a Sunday at 12.30 they stay at his house until he drops them to school Monday morning. They are collected my Mum Monday after school and sleep at mine until dropped off on Tuesday morning. Then Jonny will collect after school Tuesday and return back to me on Wednesday at 6.30 pm. I then have them until Sunday 12.30. This was all established to fit around Jonny's working hours. Our daughter who is 7 still finds it difficult and weekly will cry about going to her Dads and struggles to sleep when she's there. At all times I am very amicable with Jonny but he is the one who is argumentative and speaks negatively about me to the children.

Do you have a general objection to the changes he proposes, or is it because the children have said they don't want things to change?

Also, do you live in very close proximity to each other?

Customer: replied 4 days ago.
My concerns are the children's well being and the effect the present situation is having on their emotional and mental well being -my son stutters and suffers with anxiety and my daughter is displaying anxiety and weekly distress.
I am not in favour for a spilt of 2 nights and 5 nights in the months of October to April, the changes to May to September is more reasonable but isn't what the children want.
Customer: replied 4 days ago.
Yes close proximity I am Epsom he is in Ash stead so 10 / 15 mins away
Customer: replied 4 days ago.
Also currently the arrangements for Summer holiday are we both have a week each and then the following weeks are spilt 2 1/2 to 4/12.
The new plan of one week every other week I am not happy with as this going to cause a lot of distress to the children. I am also a teacher so I have the 6 weeks holiday off and seems wrong that when Jonny is working as he is a wedding photographer during his weeks the children will be cared for my his Grandparents and girlfriend when I could be caring for them.

I am not convinced, despite how nicely his solicitor's letter is written and set out (it's very conciliatory) that the changes look like they are in the best interests of the children as the changes seem to be primarily needed to accommodate the father. If that is the case, a court would not necessarily make the changes as anything the court orders must be in the children's best interests.

 

At 7 and 10 your children are very young to have their views be a determinative factor in court proceedings, but they are certainly old enough where their views and opinions will be sought by a CAFCASS officer if the court decides to order a s7 report, as to what it is they would like to happen.

 

It seems dad wants to avoid having any contact with you - which is his prerogative, but in that case, perhaps a pattern of Friday after school to Monday morning return to school on alternate weekends, with a collection from school and a return to school one day in the other week when he doesn't have them on weekends. This is a very usual pattern for children of school age as it allows the non resident parent to have a weekend with the children but also to have regular contact with the school. Perhaps you could suggest this to the solicitor as an alternative given the children's wishes and feelings which they have expressed to you. I suspect they won't agree, but you are at least engaging with the discussion process. Father will have to attend a MIAM (mediation information and assessment meeting) before he can apply to court in any case - if you agree to attend mediation, then you can discuss your preferences there. If you both can't agree at that stage, he will need to apply to the court. He's not going to get a hearing this side of Christmas though - unless your local court is not as busy as other courts I know of.

 

So to be clear - if this did end up in court, your children's wishes and feelings would definitely be sought by the court and would play a factor in the decision making, but would not be determinative. Any emotional or anxiety issues the children are displaying would also be investigated a bit further to see what is causing it.

 

Does that assist?

Customer: replied 4 days ago.
Thank you so much for your advice and help, I really do appreciate it. Can I ask as the children are Christians attend weekly Sunday morning church would I be able to ask that they still attend on Jonny's weekends. Is it also mandatory that the father is entitled to Christmas despite the children,s wishes, at present he has the Christmas eve, eve and Christmas eve and then Boxing day.

Yes, it is perfectly possible for you to ask that the children attend church. If father doesn't agree, the court will order what it believes to be in the children's best interests.

 

If there is no current court order in place, then there is nothing mandatory about the arrangements you currently have. As I said, the father is unlikely to get a hearing this side of CHristmas, so if you can't agree the changes, he has only a couple of options, a) retain the children and not return them to you (which I am sure from the tone of his solicitor's letter that she would strongly advise him against this), or b) to apply to court...he will only get a hearing on an urgent basis before Christmas, otherwise it will be listed for the New Year.

Customer: replied 4 days ago.
Ok thank you for clarifying Church. I understand that it would not be this year for Christmas but the following Christmas's would the courts grant him Christmas day?
Customer: replied 4 days ago.
Summer holidays? Do you know what I could suggest as an alternative solution?

If he requests alternate Christmases, then it is likely that will be granted. I can only really think of scenarios where the father is not religious at all, or of a different religion, whereby the court may decide that a religious event should be spent with the religious parent.

 

I think you should suggest that the summer holiday pattern remain the same as you are available all summer to have them.

 

 

The court is likely to consider a 50/50 split - but how that split is made up will depend (again!) on what the court thinks is in the children's best interests. This 'best interests' that I keep referring to is the paramount consideration for the court. Alternate weeks throughout the summer may not necessarily be in the children's best interests, particularly if one or other parent would like to go away for a two week block.

Customer: replied 4 days ago.
Thank you ever so much for your support you have been very helpful. Do you have any recommendations for a family lawyer in my area that I could get to represent me?

What area are you in?

Customer: replied 4 days ago.
Epsom, surrey

I don't have a personal recommendation for a solicitor in that area (I'm in west London), but you will be able to find a solicitor here: https://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk/

 

If you are happy with the assistance you have received, please take a moment to rate positively using the five stars at the top of your page as that is how I am paid for assisting you today. Thank you.

SASH_Law and other Family Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 days ago.
Thank you for your help, I really have appreciated it.

You're very welcome.

 

I hope it all turns out well for you.

 

All the best.

Thank you very much for the bonus. That was very kind of you.

Customer: replied 4 days ago.
Sorry one more question, what should I email back to Jonny's solicitor to make an initial response that I received her email?

Just say something like:

 

"Thank you for your letter. I am considering the proposal put forward and will get back to you within the next seven days" (or suitable time frame for you).

 

It doesn't have to be any more complicated than the above.

Customer: replied 4 days ago.
Thank you very much

You're welcome.

 

Remember if you have future questions you can mark them for my attention by putting SASH_Law in the heading.

Customer: replied 4 days ago.
Ok brilliant, thank you