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Clare, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 35055
Experience:  I have been a solicitor in High Street Practice since 1985 with a wide general experience.
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Hello I am a father of 2 sons (10 and 12) who live with

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I am a father of 2 sons (10 and 12) who live with my ex, her husband of 5 years and their two half siblings. For years I have shielded my sons from any bitterness between myself and my ex and I am happiest when we are all getting on. Over the years however she has done some erroneous things like trying to enrol the boys at a new school under a made up surname that joined her's together with that of her (now) husband's, hand written letters of mine to my sons going missing 'in the post' and more recently my number being barred on my 12 year old son's phone. In 2009 however I had to take several matters to court, including contact, (regular, Christmas and holidays) all of which I obtained.
To cut a very long story short, My ex has always resented this but gradually I felt that all animosity was behind us and 2 weeks ago tagged on to an email about boring school fees (of which I pay half) a paragraph stating how happy I was that we are all getting along and showing a 'united front' where the boys are concerned.
This must have struck a nerve as just days later a huge row was conspired by her over a minor misunderstanding and she is now saying she no longer agrees to our court order and contact agreement. More worryingly she says the boys are with her on the matter and we should all meet around their kitchen table and ask the boys what they want. The boys and I have a wonderful relationship but faced under those conditions I really don't know how the stress put on them would effect them. I have refused to put them through that. She has said that if I don't agree to her demands she will insist on going back to court.
Why now? Well, my work takes me abroad on short term contracts but never so far that I don't fly home to see my boys at the pre arranged weekends. However, she is aware that from March to June this year I have to go to South Africa where I will be working 6 day weeks and flying home will be impossible. I hate to leave them for this long and my boys were saddened too when I told them.
There is absolutely no way my contact would be reduced in court if I was there. The boys are with me for one weekend with an overnight stay every 3 weeks. I myself recently suggested reducing from every 2 weeks because it is increasingly obvious that as they grow their lives, interests, circle of friends and independence also grows with them. For Christmas, I did not ever want to split the boys from their half brother on Christmas day so fought to have them every Boxing day when we have our own Christmas day with their Grandparents, cousins, Uncle and Aunts from my side of their family. My ex is now saying the boys want to stay at home on Boxing day. For holidays, the 3 of us have enjoyed brilliantly enriching times away once a year including camping, road trips, and going abroad to Gibraltar and Budapest.
I hate the idea of my boys having split loyalties as I know they would say one thing to her in their house and another to me. And what pressures is she putting on them?
My question (at last) is this. If she arranges a court date while I am in South Africa and Im not there...
a. Could I postpone it?
b. Could I prevent the boys taking part if I can't postpone it?
c. Would it look bad if I wasn't there under the circumstances?
d. Wouldn't her getting the boys involved look bad on her anyway?
e. If Im not there would a new date be arranged?
f. If a new date isn't arranged would any decision be final?
I am worried because she is a very manipulative person. Which brings me on to another question...
Since the court hearing in 2009 I have always paid 20% of my income in maintenance. Prior to that is was much more. Paying half the fees for one son at private school has increased this to roughly 40% for the last 2 years. Now, since September, with both sons, my total maintenance has been roughly 60% of my income.
I was reluctant to raise this point as I did not want to 'rock the boat' - we had been getting on well for a while. Still, I suggested that from now on we just calculate the payments as half the school fees which would always be much more than the 20% of my income but it means that I feel the money's going to something tangible.
To my surprise my ex said I did not need to pay the school fees anymore and I can go back to only paying 20%. ( Her husband earns a great deal more than me). I refused as I know this is not fair and I want to contribute to their education more than anything. I attend every single parents evening and have one on one meetings with teachers and heads. My mother was a teacher so I know how important that relationship is.
Question.... Is there a ruling with private schools that if I do not contribute to the fees I have a limited say in their education and interaction with that school?
I apologise for the long explanations to each question. Thank you very much for your time.
Kind regards
Thank you for your question.
My name is Clare
I will do my best to help you but I need some further information first.
Have you seen the boys at all since this demand was made?
When you dropped from every two weeks to every three weeks - did you discuss this with them to agree this?
What contact does your ex want?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I have seen Archie (10) in his school play along with my parents and things were great between us and him. Felix (12) was surprisingly absent and when I asked him on the phone (the one time I've got through) he said his mother didn't let him go. He had been looking forward to it so that was odd. I had hoped that my family and hers would all be sitting together but the reception was frosty. Since then she has made the demands on changing contact

(This has all happened in the last week following a 'mis-understanding' of what time to get the boys back last Saturday. I was subjected to a barrage of shouting and swearing from both her and her husband - She had obviously spent time working him up. Our phones were off because we were in a cinema.)

Yes it was discussed and agreed all round.

She wants to have a veto on all contact and not be legally bound to anything. At the moment there is flexibility which has been great. If they have something in the diary then it is flagged up before and the time is made up in another way. It is already one sided though as I always change my plans to suit hers. BUT I have the legal leverage!

She says she is only following the boys lead as they are 'happiest in their family home' and 'mummy's boys' .

Of course, having something legally binding was important to me as before that time I could never plan properly when I would see them. Her plans took priority over my side of the boys' family. She would also take them away for the entire 2 week Christmas period and not allow me that holiday away. I do not want my relationship with the boys to go back to that.

Thanks. T

Thank you for that.
To answer your second question first the fact that you do not pay towards the School fees would not effect your right to be involved with the school in terms of attending events and discussing progress etc.
With regard to contact what you shoudl offer is to discuss matters at Family mediation
using a mediator trained to work with young people.
Your sons can then speak to someone away from both of you and their views can be brought to the discussions.
In fact your ex cannot take the matter to court UNLESS there has been an attempt at mediation
If she does go to court whilst you are abroad then yes you can ask for an adjournment or you can deal with it via video link.
Unless you can attend then no Final Order will be made UNLESS it is clear that you are simply ignoring the case (which would mean that your ex would have to prove that the paperwork has been served on you)
Whilst recent changes mean that Children can be brought into the process it remains unusual and frankly in this case I suspect that your ex will find it counterproductive
I hope that this is of assistance - please ask if you need further details
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