Divorce Coach Rhiannon Ford responds to a request from a mother feeling bullied by her ex husband, who demands to see more of their young child via angry solicitor’s letters.
“I am at my wits end with my ex husband. We divorced earlier this year, but despite him moving on (he has a new partner who lives with him), he is not allowing the children and I to do the same. I have already spent the best part of £6500 in defending myself but he continues to bombard me with solicitors letters making unreasonable demands.
After assaulting me last October (in front of our young child) I refused to see him. I made arrangements for him to see our son through a third party and then a contact order was put in place. He is demanding that the additional contact be split into periods of 24 hours at a time. Bearing in mind, that I have another child from a previous relationship and I have to drive 20 miles to drop off and collect our now 4 year old, I felt that it was not only disruptive to him but to the whole family. It was for that reason that I refused the additional contact.
I am now at my wits end, after receiving their latest letter this weekend. I took the children to Corfu on a last minute booking, and I emailed my ex husband to advise him of the name of the hotel, the resort, who was going and when we would be back. The letter I have received from his solicitors is demanding that I give my ex husband one months notice should I wish to take our son out of the country.
This is the last straw and I have had enough of his unreasonable demands. Its not even as though he wants to take his son away, he doesn’t seem to be able to cope with him any longer that the alternate weekends. His behaviour is disruptive to our whole family and the only way I can see us being able to ‘get on with our lives’ is to apply for a residence order. I cant afford to instruct a solicitor again and wondered what my chances of being successful in obtaining a residence order?
Any help or advice you could give me would be very gratefully received.“ A.
Divorce and separation is very complicated for those with children. You have found yourself in the uncomfortable situation of your “ex” continuing to be a big part of your life, as you continue to co-parent your children. Most divorcing couples without children, are lucky enough to walk away from the marriage, not having to set eyes on their ex- spouse ever again. I am sure that your ex- husband’s continued involvement in your life must be very difficult. Not only are there the complications with arrangements for the children, but it also makes it so much more difficult for you to feel able to move on emotionally from the marriage breakdown.
I note that you do all the ferrying back and forth for contact arrangements. It would be more appropriate for this responsibility to be split between you and your ex – husband. If one of you drops off, the other should collect afterwards. If you are not comfortable with him coming to your house, you could arrange to meet him somewhere between the 2 houses, perhaps at the home of a friend or relative. Somewhere that is neutral ground.
I am concerned to hear that your husband assaulted you AND that it was in the presence of your 3 year old son. This is totally unacceptable. I do hope it was brought up in the court proceedings for Contact. It was completely appropriate that after the assault you arranged for contact to take place through a third party. If you are ever at all concerned about the safety of your son when he is in the care of your ex- husband you can request he has “supervised contact”. His contact with your son, would then take place in the presence of a third party, e.g. a neutral friend/ family member, or at a contact centre.
I understand that the court has ordered that your ex -husband can have additional contact on top of his alternate weekends. I can appreciate his request for the contact to be split into periods of 24hrs is going to be very disruptive for you and the children. Unless the court order sets out that the additional contact is to be in 24hrs periods, or it states it is at the discretion of your ex –husband (which I very much doubt), you are not obliged to agree to his request. I recommend you think about what arrangements would suit you and your son, for all the additional contact and all the contact travel arrangements. Your suggestions could then be set out in a Contact Schedule. Whilst it may feel cumbersome now, it is a good idea to work out all the contact arrangements for the rest of the year. The Schedule will clearly show the arrangements and everyone will know where they stand.
If you are unable to reach agreement with your husband about the additional contact, either of you can apply to the court for some guidance. The courts do not like to become involved in children matters unless they are forced to do so. They prefer the families to reach an agreement about what arrangements work for them. The courts are the last resort when it comes to resolving children issues. It is far more appropriate for the two of you to attend Mediation. This would involve meetings with your husband and a trained family mediator who will promote discussions between the two of you in the hope of reaching an agreement.
Residence is the legal term for where the children live on a daily basis. The parent who has residence is the children’s “primary carer”. The other parent, not living with the children, then has “contact” with the children. From my understanding of your situation, you in fact already have residence of your son. As your husband agrees for your son to live with you for the majority of the time, I suspect the courts would not have thought it necessary for there to be an order made about residence. Having an order for residence would not in fact give you very much more “power “over your husband regarding your son. The bad news is that you will continue to share legal rights for your son, with your ex-husband. These legal rights are called “parental responsibility”.
Each of you is obliged to give as much notice as possible to the other, regarding holiday plans. It sounds like you gave as much notice as you could regarding your recent holiday and you did exactly the right thing by providing your ex with details of your trip, hotel information etc. The solicitor’s letter asking for one month’s notice to take your son out of the country, is only a request from a solicitor. Whilst you are not legally obliged to comply with their request (unless stated in the court order), I do think the request is reasonable; if only to keep the peace and avoid nasty solicitor letters. No doubt, you would expect your ex-husband to do the same for you, if he planned to take your son on holiday. It is important for you both to conduct yourselves with the same level of expectation you would want from the other.
I do not think your husband is approaching matters in the appropriate manner. He is throwing money at solicitors with little success or progress, other than continuing to upset you. It is vitally important for estranged parents to put aside their personal feelings for each other, and put the needs of the children first. However much you want to forget your ex-husband exists, you do unfortunately have to continue to have a working relationship with him as your son’s mum and dad.
I highly recommend investigating the mediation option. It can be a very effective means of reaching agreement and saving money on legal costs. Whilst it is not free, mediators do take account of the financial position of the clients with their fees. You may also be entitled to public funding (previously known as legal aid).
Good luck and stay strong!
Kind Regards Rhiannon Divorce Coach
Rhiannon Ford Divorce Coaching provides step by step support for people going through divorce or separation. A qualified solicitor, Rhiannon has valuable insight into the legal process, providing her with a clear understanding of the emotional difficulties facing her clients. She can also help on a practical level, translating legal jargon, completing legal forms and giving guidance to prepare for court and mediation. Book a free 1-1 powwow with Rhiannon at the Starting Over Show. Click here for SOS powwow details……