I am new to the forum, so please bear with me. Hopefully, this is in the right place.
I am looking to see if a Prohibited Steps Order is the right course of action and if it has any chance of being successful.
The situation is below.
My ex-partner of several years separated around a year ago. We had an informal agreement around our 4-year-old child that I would see her on my days off. I work shifts so work 6 days on and 4 days off. This has worked fine, however, there have been some issues around finances and further help on top of the days I have our child. She is frequently short of money and asks me for further financial help. The CMS set the amount I have to pay her directly into her bank account. She sometimes asks for more on top and sometimes, if I feel it is reasonable (school clothes, some winter clothes, shoes etc.) then I oblige, other times, when she had a minor car accident and needed support paying for her car excess, I refused. This created tension and she become difficult to communicate with for some time. Other times she requests I assist her with short notice childcare and I am unable to. This also creates tension and she claims I am a bad father and is offensive (not to the extent that it's criminal). Since we separated a year ago, I have been in a happy and supportive relationship for just over 9 months. She has had two relationships.
I requested we attended mediation and agreed on the following, though it is only recorded in the mediator's memo:
1) That we would wait 3 months for new partners to be introduced to our child and 6 months before overnight stays
2)That we would consult on any changes to school/GP
3)That our child would be in a childminders 5 days a week, and if one or more of those days fell on one of 'my' days with her, I would still have to keep her in the childminders except I contributed the cost of the childminder for that day, as she has paid for this (either directly, or through her free 30hrs from the state) and that it is a significant expense to her, so I have to either keep her in, or pay for that day to take her out.
4)That I would have her on my days off work, starting with the second day, as the first is sleeping off a night shift the following night and have her for 3 days.
5) Any significant changes, including to our child's routine etc.
6) All communication would be via email.
In the time since this mediators agreement, my ex-partner has gone against every single point above.
1) That we would wait 3 months for new partners to be introduced to our child and 6 months before overnight stays. She has introduced the first boyfriend to our child the day we separated. The second boyfriend she waited 2 months before she explained that she had told our child that he was her step-father. she explained ot me he had shared parental responsibility as they came as a partnership now.
2)That we would consult on any changes to school/GP. My ex-ex partner has taken our child our of her nursery and changed her GP. She did not add me as an emergency contact. She did not consult me and refused to provide the information on the changes. I asked a solicitor to draft a letter asking for this information and after this she provided it. Since then she has made suggestions she is moving our child to a new school, new GP and to a new city to move in with her new boyfriend of roughly 2 months. She states she will consult me when this is likely to happen, though I have since had no further contact from her and on my childs last visit, just prior to this breakdown in contact, my child commented that she no longer had toys at her mothers house, because she had moved them to her new step-dads house. This suggests to me this is now in motion and she is unlikely to respect our agreement/parental rights.
3)That our child would be in a childminders 5 days a week, and if one or more of those days fell on one of 'my' days with her, I would still have to keep her in the childminders except I contributed the cost of the childminder for that day, as she has paid for this (either directly, or through her free 30hrs from the state) and that it is a significant expense to her, so I have to either keep her in, or pay for that day to take her out. She has asked me on occasion to have our child on extra days and some I have agreed, though stated I would not feel it is fair to pay towards the childcare on these days and would also like to actually spend the day with our child, rather than dropping her off to the childminders and waiting 8 hours to pick her up again. She has accepted this, but only on the 'extra' days where she needs short notice help.
4)That I would have her on my days off work, starting with the second day, as the first is sleeping off a night shift the following night and have her for 3 days. She has stated that when she moves in with the new partner, I will have to see my child every other weekend. it will be a 3hr wound trip, rather than the current 1.5hrs round trip. also, this is very difficult for me as I work a 6 on, 4 off shift pattern and rarely have weekends off, so would have to use all of my leave and also rely on family and my new partner and potentially call in sick, to prevent missing anything and creating further tension.
5) Any significant changes, including to our child's routine etc. My ex-partner has only disclosed that she is likely to move with her new partner and change schools etc., as my daughter disclosed to me that she doesn't have any toys at her mothers, I challenged her on this, as when we separated she took everything from our child's bedroom, including all of her toys. she told me they are all at her new step-daddy's house and they are moving in with him. I asked my ex-partner if this was accurate, or if it was just a child-like misunderstanding and she stated it was true that she was planning to move in with her new partner, in another city, twice the distance away, change her school (and presumably GP, though she didn't say this), but that only a few toys had been moved to his house. I explained that this information should have come from her as it is significant and that it was, in my opinion, incorrect to disclose the move, the step-father element, until the required 6 months that we had agreed. This made my ex-partner become challenging and the communication has since broken down and she is not speaking with me. She has not sent me any further childcare date requests via google calendar, suggesting something imminent is happening.
6) all communication would be via email. I have stuck to this, with the exception of one occasion when we were going to a zoo together and I was not allowed in without a child. I called her to meet me at the entrance to prove I had a child and to allow me in. She has, on several occasions, made phone calls and sent text messages with what she considered 'urgent', but was actually just asking about specific dates in the future, as she happened to have her works calendar in front of her. Basically, I have stuck to this rigidly, with the exception of two occasions - the zoo and when she had a car accident and asked me to come and take our child as she had been in the car. she has called a number of times, including when her last partner left her as a shoulder to cry on.
So now I am stuck wondering what to do? I have heard some positive things about a Prohibited steps Order, but feel this would just prolong the inevitable. I have also heard that fathers are significantly under-represented in successful outcomes in family courts and worry it will make her up the anti and take significant steps to speed up her plan. Equally, it will cost a lot of money that I am going to have to get into significant debt to be able to afford and she is likely to obtain some support with legal aid as she is in receipt of Universal Credits.
REALLY sorry this thread is so long and I hope that's OK and detailed enough for some advice.
I am at a loss and for the first time in my life unable to sleep and concentrate at work worried I am going to slowly lose my little girl.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
you should forget about prohibited steps order. if you apply for that, then what is the reason? you want to stop your ex from seeing your child, and for what reason?
i think you should just apply for a child arrangements order, setting out how much time you want to spend with your child, days, nights etc. i did that. i was not in right frame of mine to self-represent. spent bit of money hiring a barrister.