TOPIC: Contact complication!

Contact complication! 5 months 3 weeks ago #96538

Hi All,

Hope everyone is well. I used to post quite regularly here back in 2013-14 with questions and updates about my own child contact case, the outcome of which was successful, and a court order was obtained. I also tried to give advice to help others where possible. Since then, my own contact has proceeded unhindered, pretty much in line with what was agreed to in court. That was until this Christmas period, and I now find myself requiring the assistance of the kind people on this forum once again.

Firstly, it may be of benefit to summarise the contact arrangements that were agreed in court in 2014 and stated in the order before describing the issue that has arisen. I am based in the south east and my son, now just shy of 6 years old, lives with his mum (my ex-partner) in the north east. In terms of direct contact, I visit my son at the weekend on a fortnightly basis and we stay together at a local well-known hotel chain. My son visits me at my home in the south east a minimum of 4 weeks during the year. These weekly stays now take place in school holiday time. My ex and I share contact with our son at Christmas and Birthday on an alternating yearly basis.
This year it was mum’s turn to spend Christmas with our son, however, I did see him for a long weekend 2 weeks prior to Christmas, and we had an early Christmas together so to speak.

As mentioned, this contact has proceeded unhindered for the most part, except for a few minor blips in the period shortly after the court order was issued. For the most part, the ex and I cooperate and agree things as and when they arise. The days of hostility and trouble seem to be a distant memory.

Now, in addition to the direct contact described, my ex agreed in court to facetime/skype contact on a regular basis. This has been taking place on a weekly basis, without fail for at least 18 months, on a Wednesday, using Whatsapp video call. Obviously, these conversations between me and my son are important to tide us over in between fortnightly visits. We talk about school, any problems he is having, general chit chat e.t.c. It is with these video calls that a problem has arisen.

The last time I saw my son in person was on 16th December. I then spoke to him via a video call on Friday 21st December, 2 days later than normal, because he was feeling a little unwell. The call ended with me saying to him, shall we speak again at Christmas, to which he said “Yes”. As to when exactly this would take place, my view on this was I would let my ex enjoy Christmas with our son and let her suggest during the day a convenient time to speak. An offer to chat to my son was not forthcoming on Christmas eve or Christmas day. I waited patiently, not wanting to impose, and no offer was forthcoming on boxing day either.

On the 27th of December, I sent the ex a Whatsapp message around 8am whilst I was travelling to work, asking her if I could speak to our son. At some stage during the day, I still had not received a reply, and could see in Whatsapp she had indeed read my message. I’m fairly patient, so waited until the next day and followed up with a message. No reply, and the message went unread. The day after that, the 29th, I sent another message which again went unread and unanswered.

On the 30th I tried to phone the ex. The phone rang but the call went unanswered. Perhaps she ignored that as my number would show on caller display. I thought at this stage that completely disappearing over the Christmas period was slightly odd. I know she has a laptop computer and internet access, so I tried emailing her, but again that has gone totally unanswered. I get on well with the ex’s mum and partner, and so sent her a text to ask her if she knew why her daughter had gone AWOL, and after a few hours replied to me telling me that the phone is “Broken”.
So, I wait until New years day and give the ex another call, this time withholding my number, and on the “broken” phone, my ex answers! She sounds surprised that it is me. Go figure. I ask her what has happened to result her in ignoring my requests to speak to our son. She claims her phone is broken; the screen won’t turn on, she can’t ring out, and she can’t take incoming calls. Well she took my call….so at this stage I believe she is being dishonest with me.

I then ask if our son is there. She claims she is at her sister’s house and that our son is playing with his younger cousin. The strange thing with that is that there was absolutely zero background noise. On New Years’s day, at a relative’s house, being caught by surprise with no opportunity to go somewhere quiet, I find it hard to believe there was no background noise; Tv, music, voices, kids playing. That seems very suspicious. She doesn’t call our son over to the phone for a quick chat with me, despite knowing I was keen to speak to him and hadn’t had a chance to talk to him over Christmas. At this point, I suspect something is not right. I do ask her when she will resolve the broken phone issue. I get a wishy-washy answer. I don’t press the issue, and I say goodbye. I’m left at this point mulling over what to do.

Yesterday it was brought to my attention upon returning home from work that the ex has posted an engagement announcement on Facebook and has replied to multiple comments from friends. Most people these days interact with Facebook via the mobile phone. So, for her to do this on a phone that is stated to be “broken”, seems hard to fathom. She may well have posted updates via her computer, but then if that were the case, I believe she would have seen my email.

With all these inconsistencies presenting themselves, I reached out to the ex’s mum one more time, telling her that things are not adding up and if she knows the real reason for the ex -pulling a disappearing act, then please tell me. She read the message yesterday evening and has since not replied. So, at this stage I have to believe that if she knew nothing further than a “broken” phone, she would tell me as such. The silence speaks volumes.

Now, I know all of this is just circumstantial, but in light of what I have described above I feel very strongly that she has gone away with her boyfriend in the period following Christmas day and boxing day for the purposes of getting engaged and has left our son in the care of someone else.
If it is the case that she has done what I allege, then she has made no effort to inform me about her plans to stop the video calls indefinitely. She has made no effort at all to make alternative arrangements for the continuation of the video calls at the regular times. In fact, she would have deliberately lied to me and involved a family member in the dishonesty too.

If the phone is genuinely broken, then still, she has made no effort to contact me to let know why the video calls have been called off. She has made no effort to make an alternative arrangement. It has been me up until this point that has been the one to take reasonable steps to find out what is going on.

So, my dilemma now, is how to handle this situation. Technically, regardless of the reason for it, she has breached the court order on 2 separate occasions by not making our son available for the scheduled video calls. If I let this slide, then it will reinforce the idea in her mind, more so if this is a result of a deliberate action, that she can repeat this behaviour in the future as and when it suits her. My thinking is that I should point out to her that I won’t tolerate her unilaterally cancelling any form of contact.

On the flip side, I don’t want to rock the boat and send things back to the way they were. Having said that, it isn’t me that started this chain of events. I’m sticking up for my son’s rights to have contact with me not be trampled all over. Whatever she does in response to me politely pointing out her poor behaviour is up to her, but she has to remember she is accountable to the court and the orders it has set out, and if she breaches it any further, there could be consequences.

Thoughts, guys and girls? Any advice would be greatly received.

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A dedicated dad travelling the lonely road to secure the relationship with my son that we both deserve, while helping other lonely travellers along the way.

Contact complication! 5 months 3 weeks ago #96561

  • Mojo
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Long time no see Simon... I think, as contact has been proceeding well on the whole, it’s important to try and keep things on an even keel.

Perhaps a letter to her might be a good first step. Keep it civil and non threatening, express the fact that you have been happy with how you have both been able to get on with things and that getting on is what’s best for your son.

Express concern at the sudden breakdown in communication between you and also the cessation of FaceTime, which whilst a breach of the order, is of concern because it disrupts the schedule that he is used to, which isn’t in his best interests.

Ask that things get back to normal ASAP, that you really dont want to return to court and would far rather try and sort any differences out between yourselves.
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DadTalk Moderator... I'm not legally trained and my responses are my own views based on my experiences of the family court. I have plenty of common sense and can offer you emotional support and guide you to answers.

Contact complication! 5 months 3 weeks ago #96569

  • actd
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Might be worth saying that you've been told she's got engaged and congratulating her on that - gets it out in the open without making an issue of it.
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Contact complication! 5 months 2 weeks ago #96606

Mojo/Actd,

I think sending a letter to the ex is becoming more and more the likely outcome here. The next routine video call would be this coming Wednesday, the 9th, and still she has not contacted me in any way shape or form. I fully expect that video call to not take place, and that will make it 3 consecutive video calls that she has failed to facilitate.

I checked over the court order to make absolutely sure she was breaching it. The aspect relating to phone, and video calls states as follows:

“The mother agrees to make the child available to spend time with the father as follows - Reasonable telephone and/or Skype or FaceTime contact when appropriate for the child.”

Missing 3 straight calls has to be interpreted as a breach. So on those grounds alone, my logical mind tells I have to remind her of this fact if she fails to facilitate the call on the 9th of this month. The letter will have to state that if the calls do not resume on the 16th of this month, then I will notify the court. But how can I point out to her what I believe she has done wrong, and what action I will have to take, and make it sound "nicey nice"? I have written a draft letter which is factual, describes events as they occurred, and is non argumentative and child focused. But she is going to hate it and see it as a direct challenge

Ultimately, I really do not want to do this. I do not want to go down this road - for I know it will spark ill feeling towards me. I would much rather continue on with the amicable and cooperative relations of the last 4 years. But she is forcing my hand and leaving me no other option. Ultimately I'm protecting my son's rights to a relationship with me.

But yes, I fear a letter of this nature could spark conflict. And especially with the next physical visit to my son being on Jan 19th, she could very well try to disrupt that too.

Feel as though I'm really between a rock and hard place here.

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Contact complication! 5 months 2 weeks ago #96607

  • Yoda
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Hi Simon

Long time no speak too!

I would really try to resolve this as Mojo suggests above - a court wouldn't thank you for taking it back over this just yet. I also like actd's suggestion of congratulating her on her engagement.

Hopefully it will be a minor blip and you can carry on as you were.

If she has gone away, it seems silly of her not to give you and your son the opportunity of some extra time together.

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I have several years experience supporting parents in family proceedings as a McKenzie Friend. I am, however, not a lawyer or barrister and my responses are based on my own opinions or experiences of the family court.

Contact complication! 5 months 2 weeks ago #96610

Yoda,

Glad you are well.

As mentioned, if the video call for this Wednesday the 9th is missed, then that will be 3 in a row. I will send the letter (along the lines Mojo suggested) to the ex on Thursday the 10th, special delivery, so she will have it Friday the 11th. That will give her 5-6 days to get in touch with me to discuss reinstating the video calls by my requested date of Jan 16th.

If she ignores my letter and the video call for the 16th does not take place, then that's 4 consecutive missed video calls. I think in that case I can prove to the court that I exercised patience, I tried reasonable steps to resolve things without court intervention, and could also prove beyond reasonable doubt that there has been a breach of the court order.

Hopefully it doesn't come to having to witness breach number 3 and/or 4. I will keep you guys posted.

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Contact complication! 5 months 2 weeks ago #96613

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As you say, hopefully will all get sorted. Things have gone so well for so long, it would seem silly for things to deteriorate now.

It's a bit of a grey area really as the order doesn't lay out dates and times so it could be a variation application or enforcement. For variation you have to try to mediate, for enforcement, you don't.

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Contact complication! 5 months 2 weeks ago #96618

Yes, there certainty is grey area to a degree.

In the final hearing we had in 2014, because we agreed a contact schedule between us both prior to the judge approving it, he didn't feel the need to make the order too prescriptive. He seemed quite happy for us to sort things ourselves. That of course leads to this grey area, which does concern me. Going back to the wording in the order, I wonder what exactly does "Reasonable" and "Appropriate" mean? Perhaps they only have meaning in the context in which they are being applied.

So in terms of enforcing the order, I think that the context I'm applying the terms regular and appropriate to is the "status quo" currently in operation. The regular routine that has been in place for at least 18 months is a call taking place every Wednesday evening. Of course there have been times that day and time has not been possible due to son being tired, unwell, on holiday e.t.c but I have been flexible and re-arranged without any complaint at all. I'm not quick to escalate matters.

I think now that the regular routine has been stopped unilaterally, it demonstrates the regularity has been compromised. Whether it's an active decision on the ex's part to do this, or the result of ignorance, I don't know, as I can't contact her by any channel to discuss things.

I do believe the court would be sympathetic to my situation here and not berate me for seeking assistance from them. But as I say, I'm being patient and giving the ex opportunity after opportunity to contact me and resolved things. But there are times when enough is enough.

Time will tell as they say!

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Contact complication! 5 months 2 weeks ago #96620

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Try everything you can to resolve it before taking it back to court. A gentle letter at first perhaps? Then if she doesn't respond to that, maybe then mention court?

Court would expect you to have tried every avenue available before making an application.

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Contact complication! 5 months 2 weeks ago #96686

Update. I sent my ex a recorded delivery letter yesterday. It arrived today and I got a reply by email.

The email states that my son has said something to my ex over Christmas and she has reported that to the authorities because his safety is her priority. It then says to not contact her until the authorities have been in touch with me to investigate.

So, she did not say what my son said, what the allegations are, or which authority she made a report to.

I'm at a loss here, because I have never put my son's safety in jeopardy. I have never harmed him or subjected him to any form of abuse at all. It doesn't make sense because my son is always happy with me and tells me he misses me and can't wait to see me the next time. I'm obviously being accused of something, but I just don't know what it could be.

Obviously contact is now terminated by my ex until whenever, and I'm at a loss about what to do now.

What are going to be my steps to resolve this?

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Contact complication! 5 months 2 weeks ago #96689

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She is making it difficult by asking you not to contact her, perhaps you could go through her mother and partner, acting as third party contact?

I wouldn’t ask them for details of the allegations,, keep the communication about your position and keep it brief... a couple of sentences about why you have contacted them, as you have been told not to contact their daughter directly and do not wish to make the situation worse.

You could ask which agency you should expect to be contacted by and perhaps offer a timeframe of how long you are prepared to wait for them to contact you before taking action to enforce the order for breach of the terms of the order.

Best of luck

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DadTalk Moderator... I'm not legally trained and my responses are my own views based on my experiences of the family court. I have plenty of common sense and can offer you emotional support and guide you to answers.

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Contact complication! 5 months 2 weeks ago #96693

Well, I had previously contacted her mother at some point last week to find out why the ex had suddenly gone quiet. But the mum has ignored me. So I would gather from that, that she does not wish to speak with me, or has been told not to speak to me.

As I say, I don't know what the allegations are, I don't know who they have been made to, and I don't know when I can be expecting to hear from the "authorities" she refers to in her email.

A few things spring to mind initially, and I say this on the truthful basis that I have never harmed my son and never would.....what if she is saying this to me today to try and scare me off? It's a monumental task for me to deal with something like this, and she knows that, so could be deliberately using this to run me out of town so to speak, especially as her relationship with the new guy is hotting up. It all seems coincidental that she gets engaged and then this all starts off.

Secondly, since I just can't comprehend how my son would say things that end up with me being reported to local authorities, what if the ex and her new partner are beginning to coach him to turn against me (parental alienation) and say things that could inevitably lead to a court stopping any and all contact.

I don't know what is going on from her side. So all I feel I can do is file for a breach of the order as I was originally planning to. The next time I'm due to visit my son is next Saturday, and have been told he will not be available to see me for the aforementioned reason.

I did phone the police force for her area and explain the situation, and ask them if any allegation had been made against me, but they told me due to data protection they couldn't tell me anything. So they wouldn't say even say if there were any allegations made to them, let alone what they were. I did get the call logged and obtained a reference number.

All I can do is try to get back in court asap to sort this mess out.

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