50/50 shared care? Just part of the merry go round?

Why a presumption of 50/50 Shared Care is a waste of time.

…a story from the near future when there is a presumption of 50/50 Shared Care:

`…newly appointed President of the Family Division Sir James Holman has issued new Practice Guidance in relation to the quantum of time children spend with their separated parents. All courts have been advised that any parent wishing to depart from a routine that provides children with equal amounts of time with each parent will be required to demonstrate why this view is in line with the paramountcy principle. Fathers rights groups hailed this as a major step forward, whilst Women’s Aid…’

`Hello, Family Law Assistance – how can we help?’

50/50 shared care? Just part of the merry go round?`Hi there. I’m looking for advice. I separated from my ex 3 months ago. She won’t let me see the kids. I’ve told her that the law means they are meant to be with me for half the time but she won’t listen’.

`Have you tried mediation? It’s always best to try to avoid court and besides it’s a requirement if you are going to make an application.

Contact National Family Mediation and organise to meet them. You’ll attend a MIAM. If mediation doesn’t work you’ll need section 14 of the C100 signed and stamped in any case’.

`Already done that. I went to the MIAM’.

`How did it go?’

`She went to the first one but said she wouldn’t agree to anything more than the kids seeing me on alternate weekends and mid week contact. Because there’s 50/50 Shared Care now isn’t there? She didn’t listen and refused to go to another session’.

`You’re right. There is a presumption of 50/50 Shared Care now’.

50/50 Shared Care. Would it change anything?`OK thanks. She told me I had committed DV against her and abused the kids which is why she won’t agree to anything else. Will the court ignore that?’

`Allegations made will either be ignored, or you’ll be asked about them. Possibly order a Finding of Fact’.

`Will that slow things down? Will I get my kids half the time until then?’

`It’s unlikely at this stage. The court has an obligation to investigate allegations. Since the changes to Practice Direction 12J were made last year however contact may be difficult for the moment’.

`I was told that if the kids are with her and not seeing me it’ll make things harder for me to get 50/50 is that true?’

`The court has to work in the best interests of the child and if they’ve not seen you for a long time it may want to work on a schedule of increasing contact…’

Sound familar? How would a presumption of 50/50 work?

Non resident mums are becoming more common

MATCH Mothers – helping non resident mums

There are significant numbers of non resident mothers as well as fathers. In the first of a series of guest blogs by people involved in the Family Law is an article written by Rosalind Barton, Secretary of MATCH Mothers. This charity offers non-judgemental support and information to mothers apart from their children in a wide variety of circumstances, assisting those whose children who do not see them at all, to those who are in shared parenting arrangements.

Non resident mothers are fewer than their male counterparts but are becoming more common. They face the same issues that any other non resident parent experience, albeit with sometimes additional ones as a result of the different expectations of mothers and fathers in society…

MATCH Mothers – helping non resident mums

As a young lady I began a difficult stage of my life as I faced divorce from not only my husband but a divorce from my 3 beautiful young children. In the 2001 I began a 3 year court battle for the residency of my children. I turned to MATCH Mothers for support and the strength I had was enhanced by this national charity.

Non resident mums are becoming more commonFortunately I had obtained Legal Aid and found an amazing barrister to see me through the legal minefield. The largest obstacle for me seeing the children was my health. I have Multiple Sclerosis. The judge who oversaw the 3 year case admitted he knew nothing about the condition. My barrister asked if professionals who knew me could be brought in to court. My consultant from Poole and a psychiatrist from Brighton were accepted and the fight began.

An uncertain future

According to the professionals I had a limited future and would not be strong enough for my 3 children. The judge did not ask my views on this; he just accepted the professionals’ views. This was a disaster for my children – particularly when they were moved from Winchester to Halifax by their father.

I began a new diet and exercise programme to maintain my health; with MATCH Mothers’ mental support  I was strengthened and able to maintain alternate weekend visits, 6.5 hours’ drive each way. Sadly my eldest son never spent time with me without explanation.

It was time to return to court.

Returning to court

A final court hearing in Bournemouth brought to head the hostility I had faced, culminating in me being told by our son’s other parent that nothing would change and our eldest son would still not spend time with me.

But around the age of 16 years he found the confidence to phone me and at last we began a (secret) mother/son relationship.

I moved on with my life and gained a psychology degree with the Open University and began and working with autistic children. Sadly this job ended this year. But with a lottery grant MATCH Mothers opened a free phone line to help and support mothers apart from their children. I also began a job as the Project Worker for matchmothers.org as well as acting as secretary.

Non resident mums face the same problems as dadsMATCH Mothers knows that there are many more mums struggling to cope with separation from their children and from many situations besides divorce.

Our aim is to reach and help each of them throughout the UK. Our charity will be celebrating its 40 year anniversary in 2019. Beginning in London by an English mum separated by miles as her children were taken to the USA by her ex-husband.

As with my own situation and many others there is reconciliation. The positives and rewards that can happen are our motivation to have this necessary charity.

A MATCH mother now living in Australia moved away from her daughter at the age of 3, the ex-husband had residency but no communication with the mum existed as the child grew up. With our support and recommendations to always keep communication open, never affected by the distance, the mother sent a letter every month to her daughter and kept phone contact open though never used.

At the age of 18 her daughter phoned the Mum and 48 hours later the excited mother flew back to the UK. She spent 10 days with her daughter and now her daughter lives in Australia with her.

Myself I don’t have residency with my 3 children but I do have open contact and the ability to talk with my children at any point of time.

Alienation

An issue which we deal with in 98% of cases is parental alienation. This occurs when the residential parent stops the non-residential parent seeing their child/children by alleged negativity and destruction.

In other words abuse.

We aim to keep up to date with this issue and attend the government’s debates on this and the legal profession’s acceptance or ignorance to this form of manipulation.

On the 27th June 2012 I attended a PA parliamentary meeting in the House of Commons for Mr Nick Child, A family therapist and expert in Parental Alienation, and three senior Family Court were present. Unfortunately little or no progress developed from this meeting.

Reconciliation

I had a difficult case; I was concerned my eldest son’s father had been painting a bad picture of me as a mother. However on that first meeting with my son, aged 17 years old I found out the truth. We went to dinner in a fancy restaurant and while sitting across the table my son said ‘I’m sorry’.

‘For what?’ I asked.

I then was told how he had been treated. Every time he was naughty, ranging from forgotten homework to kicking a football through a window he was told the same thing:

‘That’s another year you won’t see your Mum.’

12 years in total. How I still had dry eyes I will never know. I immediately told him it was not his fault, all boys are naughty at some time.

I am a mum and very proud to be the secretary of MATCH Mothers. I can tell all these mothers apart how special they are too. I am very proud of their aims and their achievements.

Will my ex stop me taking my kids abroad on holiday?

Holiday times are busy here at Family Law Assistance Towers. It’s up there with Christmas, Easter and any other occasion you really, really don’t want ruined.

It’s also a situation where there is a lot of disinformation and misunderstanding.

So to cut to the chase, here are a few truth bombs:

  1. It doesn’t matter if you or your ex has a Residence Order (or neither of you do) – if you have PR for your kids you can get a passport for them – you will need to provide the Passport Agency with a copy of your court order to do this. Make sure you do this way ahead of travel.
  2. If your ex has a Residence Order and you don’t you need his/her permission (it doesn’t have to be written permission mind) to take the kids abroad for up to 28 days.
  3. If there is a Shared Residence Order or no order at all made with regard to residence at all you can both take the kids abroad for up to 28 days without the other parent’s permission.
  4. You don’t have to give the other parent details of where you are going – but do it, OK? If you’re withholding it you’re liable to be seen as `sticking it to the ex’ rather than doing it for any child-focused reason. Flight details and the resort, etc. It’s a just normal courtesy.
  5. If your ex has the passports and refuses to hand them over organise mediation (if there is time) or make an application for a Specific Issues Order (if there isn’t) – completing a C100 form. Bear in mind with this one that delays in the court are especially pronounced around holiday time so make sure you organise all of this plenty of time ahead. You will get a hearing date after your holiday if you don’t get your skates on.

Hope this helps. Unless you have a court order that modifies or limits it, it is all about PR (Parental Responsibility). As I repeat ad nauseum it’s not really about Residence Orders despite everyone absolutely positively needing one to make sure the kids aren’t taken away.

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