Hello, thank you for your question. My name is***** am a barrister and will assist you with this issue today.
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You're right to refuse to put your son on the spot as the father suggests. To do so will cause him emotional harm.
It sounds like you've tried the best approach which is to come to sensible arrangements. I'd suggest speaking to the Family Support Worker to see if there is any further support they can offer.
If you can't come to an agreement as to the long term future of where your son is to live and there are so many ongoing issues you might feel the need to step things up and get the court involved.
You'd still need to try mediation first. I know you've done this via the support worker but you'd need to attend a formal mediation assessment session. You might want to try full mediation. 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 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
You will have to pay an issue fee (£215) to the court but if you are on a limited income then sometimes you can apply for a remission: https://www.gov.uk/get-help-with-court-fees.
If you do issue an application usually what happens is when the case is first listed, Cafcass inform the court about any safeguarding issues. Often the court needs more information and order a s.7 report. If appropriate this includes finding out the “wishes and feelings” of the child. 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/. The social worker will approach this in a sympathetic way and in a neutral location. It won't be as simple as asking him where he wants to live.
The case only progresses to a contested hearing with a judicial decision if an agreement cannot be reached between yourselves.
In general the court will always look to encourage a relationship between the child and both parents if it is safe. The overriding factor in any decision is always the welfare of the child.
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