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Aaron D
Aaron D, Barrister
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 150
Experience:  LLB, BPTC
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After 4 years seperated reasonably amicably and sharing

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Hi. After 4 years seperated reasonably amicably and sharing childcare equally with my ex things have broken down recently. I have always paid over and above for maintenance etc. The issue is with the negativity and the arguments about childcare and not having fixed days arranged to see the children. What would be the best avenue to arrange a formal agreement for joint custody
JA: What steps has your ex taken? Have they filed any papers in family court?
Customer: No it’s always been amicable and agreed week to week generally which days they are here or there. More recently it’s as and when it suits and I’m expected to drop work / change arrangements to fit into her needs. I work full time so tend to prefer Fri - Monday’s to have the kids. Always have been flexible but there are other contributing factors
JA: Family Court normally sits in a local County and Magistrates' Court. Do you know the location of the court? If not, what county does your ex live in?
Customer: We are both Somerset
JA: Anything else you want the Lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: No except I have a history of drug use in the past (5+ years ago) which was part of the reason we split. I have dealt with this through treatment and counselling and now just want to move forward and have my children as much as possible. My eldest is autistic also and has a big attracted to her mum which makes it difficult sometimes for her being here any longer than a few nights

Hello, thank you for your question. I can assist with this, please just bear with me a moment whilst I type out an answer for you.

Whilst coming to an informal agreement is always best for the children, I understand that is not always possible.

If you think you might still be able to discuss agreements you could consider a parenting plan: https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/parents-and-carers/divorce-and-separation/parenting-plan/https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/parents-and-carers/divorce-and-separation/parenting-plan/. These aren't legally binding however, just a useful tool to help you manage an otherwise informal agreement.

A mediator can sometimes help too and they can help you draw up agreements between you, again these wouldn't normally be legally binding however. You can explore this here: https://www.familymediationcouncil.org.uk/find-local-mediator.

If you feel that you've reached the stage where court is necessary then you could consider applying to the court for an order called a Child Arrangements Order (CAO).

Specifically within a CAO it often dictates who the child is to live with. You can apply for the child to live with you or for a joint live with order which is what people sometimes refer to as "joint custody". You don't have to apply for a live with order, you can just apply to spend time with the child if that's all you want (this is what people often refer to as "contact").

You can instruct a solicitor to apply for this for you or you can apply yourself.

You can find a solicitor who specialises in family law here: https://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk

If you wanted to apply yourself then you can find the form here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/form-c100-application-under-the-children-act-1989-for-a-child-arrangements-prohibited-steps-specific-issue-section-8-order-or-to-vary-or-discharge

Before you issue an application, you are expected to try to negotiate and attend a mediation assessment session (MIAM). You can find information about this here: https://www.familymediationcouncil.org.uk/family-mediation/assessment-meeting-miam/.

If you do issue an application usually what happens is when the case is first listed, Cafcass inform the court about any safeguarding issues.

The case only progresses to a contested hearing with a judicial decision if an agreement cannot be reached between yourselves.

I hope this helps, if you can please accept my answer and rate me 5 stars (in the top right of your screen) then Just Answer will credit me for helping you today.

I will remain available for any follow-up questions.

Customer: replied 7 days ago.
Thank you, ***** ***** is I keep getting threatened with the whole drug thing which she constantly brings up despite 5+ years of being clean. She seems to think this will result in me simply not being allowed to see my children for good. So she holds all the cards. Yes I made big mistakes in the past. It’s taken me several years to get to a point where that is well behind me (all the while sharing parenting responsibility - on her terms however ie when she wants a break). I work hard, I’m well paid I’m very grounded right now and I feel the past Is constantly being used as control mechanism by her to get me to play ball. I average 3 nights a week with the kids here as it is. She’s now claiming it’s only 1 night and demanding monthly payments are increased. Which is why I’d prefer to fix days / times for childcare let the CSA define the payments needed from this and move forward.

So in terms of drug misuse, if it is raised by the mother then obviously the court will want to make sure this isn't an issue that will affect the safety of the children.

Sometimes the court orders what is called a s.7 report and it may be directed that the alleged drug misuse is investigated as part of the s.7 process. You can find out more about s.7 reports here: https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/parents-and-carers/divorce-and-separation/section-7-report/.

IF the court thinks that drug misuse is a relevant factor then they might order drugs testing. This is usually carried out by taking a few hair strands. It has to be done by a court approved testing facility. It usually covers 6 months.

Basically, if the test comes back clean for 6 months then it's unlikely the court will be troubled by your past usage so long as you are open and honest with everybody.

If you wish, you could volunteer to do a drugs test (and pay for it). It could put the mother's mind at rest if it is a genuine concern of hers. If you use an approved testing facility you can always keep hold of the results and volunteer the report to the court at the first opportunity to show this isn't an issue.

The alternative is that you point out to the court that you have been having contact for many years and the mother hasn't stopped contact so it isn't a genuine concern and you the court need not look into the issue.

Aaron D and other Family Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 7 days ago.
That’s great. Thank you for the advice. I’ll look into the relevant links you provided and see what the best logical next step is. Many thanks again

You are most welcome. Good luck with getting it all resolved.