Advice on shared custody court order, what would you do?
I am looking to gain 50:50 shared custody of our my daughters who are 11 and 14.
Background as follows;
Split from ex wife in 2015 with divorce made official in 2016. Had the girls every other weekend and every other Monday for the next couple of years. In 2018 my wife and I had my twin daughters, the girls half sisters. As a result their mother agreed to them spending more time with us to see the girls. My eldest daughter also started attending a secondary school 5 minutes from our house and 25 minutes from hers so it was also more convenient for us to have them more in terms of school runs. We now have them 4 nights Fri/Sat/Sun/Mon one week and 2 nights Mon/Tues the next week.
We would like to apply for a court order for shared custody as now both girls are at the secondary school by our house, they are spending more ad hoc time at our house for example when they get detention (the eldest mainly!) and for convenience for their mother not having to wait around, the child in detention can walk back to ours. They also spend extra time with us in holidays and when their mother needs childcare or they want to see their friends here.
We have had an issue recently where the mother stopped contact for a weekend with 14 yo daughter. She wasn’t allowed to come to ours that weekend as she was being left home alone with her partner's 14 yo daughter to look after the dogs whilst her and her partner went away to Ireland for the weekend. We called social services and NSPCC as this did not seem safe to us but nobody could do anything. My husband went down several times that weekend to check they were ok and she is doing the same on New Years Eve, she has asked us to have my 11 yo daughter and her partners 10 year old daughter but leaving the 14 year olds home alone whilst they go away for the night to a wedding. The 14 year olds have been told they can have a party.
The mother’s partner has two children, 14 and 10 who live part time with them 4 and 2 also I think. He has a history of alcohol abuse and police were called to their house in 2020 and I had my 14 year old daughter on the phone in tears crying that he had hit their mother.
Overall we feel it is in the children’s best interest to be with us 50/50, logistically and for the sake of their education and overall wellbeing.
We have asked the mother for shared custody but she refuses as she wants to get the child maintenance money that she gets for the extra 2 days a month that she has them, she claims this isn’t enough money but won’t let me have them more in order to help with fuel and food costs etc of their living.
Could you please advise if the court would be likely to grant 50/50 in this situation and if you can help? As it is practically shared care but we want it made official so that we don't have to pay her child maintenance and the girls can stay here as many nights as they wish, more than 50/50 if they want! I am worried that she will end up making up some lies as she does and then we end up having them less, is this likely to happen?
We want to use a mckenzie friend and avoid the cost of a solicitor as with 4 children, money is very tight!
I have just today applied for mediation, but know she won’t attend as she has already told me but we know we have to go to mediation as a formality.
is your ex reasonable? for example, if your child asks that she wants to spend an extra day or 2 with you, does mother allow it? It's just my opinion but I think you have a very good arrangement in place already. applying to court may create hostility between both of you. also there is no guarantee that courts will give 50/50. I often hear dads having to fight tooth and nail for 50/50, and some end up having 5 or 6 court hearings! Court can be unpredictable, and there is also a risk of your time with kids being reduced, if your ex convinces them well enough.
Thanks for your reply. She will let them stay extra nights, especially if it is convenient for her. But she is completely unreasonable in that she dictates everything about the children. We have had the current arrangement in place for over a year now, I don't see how the courts could reduce the time as that would make no sense, I don't think she would request it either as it is far too convenient for us to have them for her. I'm just fed up of her dictating everything like she owns the children, and claiming we don't pay her enough money. If she can't afford to look after them for those 2 extra days a month as she claims on the money she gets, then surely they would be better off financially with us as then she won't have that financial burden of looking after them for those extra two days?
@t11 yes it does seem bizarre if a court reduces parenting time, but it does happen. I have seen cases from this forum, where a dad went back to court, arguing to have an extra 1 or 2 nights. his ex convinced the court that current arrangement is disrupting child's routine, so he came out of court with less time. also if it's a child maintenance-related dispute then that's something they frown upon.
Tricky one this. If you apply to the court for shared custody you'll need to try mediation first. Cost is about £100. Perhaps try that first and see if she'll agree. If she won't then the mediator will sign a form explaining that you've tried. On the plus side, the courts are making more shared custody orders and your girls are old enough for their views to be taken into account. For example, if they decided to move in with you, she would find it hard to make them go back. Its not right for 14 year old to be left alone overnight and I think you should express your concerns to social services. They will talk to the children when they investigate. You can also speak to the school and find out how the children are doing and if there are any issues coming to light with their demeanour.
Beware using a McKenzie friend in place of a solicitor as some are not qualified in any way. There is guidance on how to do this yourself on the advicenow.org.uk website. If you make an application on a C100 form, then CAFCASS will most likely do a report and the girls wishes will be taken into account
i know a freind who had good access then after a later s7 from his original one cafcass tried to give him less time. so it can happen.
like others have said lucky yr daughters are a bit older and can say their viewpoint, hopefully without any influence from mother. 50/50 is hard to get, i was advised not to go for this and go for 60/40 with shared residency, and thats what i got.
i think you need to be cautious, mainly as you already have got good access. but if cafcass speak to your daughters and they say they want more time with you then i see no reason why you wont get it. but you also need to have a good reason for 50/50 being in the interest of the children and not for yr own interest.