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Advice Needed: Co-Parent Plans & Court Cases against New Partners


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Hello Everyone,
I have a CAFCAS meeting tomorrow regarding an appeal I have over my son's custody and was wondering if anybody could offer some knowledge or general advice that might help me in terms of 'step-parents' and any troubles you might have faced with similar situations.

Some brief background history:
Me and Son's Mother (SM) had quite a bad breakup due to various issues. We were not right together and this mutual decision to end things and put our son first was the right choice. Fast forward years later, I meet a new girlfriend (NG) who I feel works well with me and my son. My son enjoys being around her, she is specialised in NHS training with children, and we worked well as a team of three. When it came to discussing agreements with SM about potentially having my son with a 50/50 custody plan which would stop SM's child maintenance payments, she became stand-offish and made empty promises about signing the new parenting plan. I wanted to be able to spend more time with my son that wasn't just on days when he was at school and could not spend much time with him. I let NG really take the lead in parenting my son which I know was a major fault at this point in time, but back then I felt like she was really making a difference in teaching and disciplining him, so I let her take charge. SM was not happy with the larger involvement of NG in my son's life, but we were still keeping things civil. After some time, we started seeing signs of neglect whenever my son was staying with his mother. He was living in terribly dirty conditions and we felt this wasn't fair. On top of this, SM was also neglecting to inform me about my son's school records, or informing me of doctor's appointments. I felt like I was being punished, and that my son was being punished alongside me, because NG was a part of his life. One day when my son was ill and I dropped him to SM's house, me and NG noticed that his room was filthy and unclean. I voiced this concern to my own mother, who informed me that the room had been in the same condition at least 2 months prior when she dropped my son there. On the next visit when me and NG dropped my son to SM's house, we stepped in to say goodbye and tried to go up to his room to look at a new toy and also see if the room was still in the same state. SM's mother grabbed NG and screamed at her to get out, physically hurting her. Me and NG did not respond to this and left once we ensured that my son had calmed down.

Current situation:
My Son's Mother (SM) is fighting for a 60/40 custody plan which I am appealing in court. There are unfortunately a lot of lies and blame being spread over the care of my son, which has now involved my new girlfriend (NG) who I have mutually separated from in order to focus on my son's case. However, SM's Mother has opened an abuse case against NG for that day which has completely overturned the focus from my son to that incident. NG did not hurt anyone, nor would she ever. I have some evidence of the one sided abuse from SM's mother but not enough to clear NG's name. Whilst this case has been ongoing, NG has been in touch with me to inform she has fallen pregnant with my child. NG is not allowed to see my son as stated by the court, and we have very strictly adhered to that.

I want what's best for my son, but I also want to simultaneously support my new girlfriend (NG) and the wrongful experience she is being put through. Although me and NG are not together at this moment due to the court order (case ongoing), I still want to support her pregnancy and help to clear her from any convictions as she has done nothing but be a supportive role model for my son when my son's mother and even myself have made mistakes.

What should I say to CAFCAS if they ask about my relationship with my new girlfriend? Has anyone had similar issues in regards to co-parenting plans and new partners when it comes to custody? I am struggling to find the right words to express to the lawyers. My focus, of course, is always my son. It's the reason why I am fighting so hard to appeal against my son's mother's unfair 60/40 parent plan. I just need some advice on how to proceed with the case and also help with the wrongful accusations against my new girlfriend which have stemmed over money issues and a general argument over my son's wellbeing.

Any advice or knowledge is welcome, no matter how small. Thank you.
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Hi @Adam2308 , welcome to the forum, sorry to hear what you and the family have been through.

It's always challenging to start any new relationship after a separation and whilst you've had a stable platform for a few years, inevitably when you do get a new partner this rocks the boat for the EX.

You've got a lot going on from what you've said but it feels like you've been coping with it so far, if it ever becomes to much, just do onto the forum and post.

A few questions:

Is your relationship with NG over or just in pause, I want quite sure?

Is there currently a c100 application in the court, who applied?

Did you do mediation or attend a MIAM?

How is the abuse case being handled, is it a criminal investigation?

How exactly did Cafcass get involved, through court? is it just a safeguarding call? are they doing an s7 report ?

I think this will help understand exactly where you are and what advice to give.

Keep Going,

Hi. Really sorry to hear about your situation. In hindsight it might have been better if you and NG hadn't tried to go inside ex's house and look at son's room. She did have a right to throw you out of her own house. Ok so it's fairly common for an ex to feel threatened by or jealous of, a new partner on the scene. Been there, got the t shirt. I have some experience which may be helpful after my partner had some false allegations made against her too and I understand the massive stress of this on both of you. All I can say is - it needs dealing with robustly and you need a strong position statement for the hearing.

So it sounds like your ex has put in an application for 60.40 in her favour, is that right? And you have the Cafcass call tomorrow. That is important and you need to prepare for it. You have the difficult situation, as I had, that if you mention anything about ex's neglect being the cause if this, it will simply be seen as retaliation for the allegations ex has made, so you need to tread carefully.

The advice when talking to Cafcass is to keep it child focused and don't say anything negative about the ex. However tempting it is, it doesn't achieve anything and can make things worse. If both parents make allegations, then Cafcass designate it as "conflict between parents" and because they decide parental conflict is bad for the child, they basically recommend sole residency for the Mother usually and possibly minimal time with you.

So I would be prepared to talk about positive things - how long you've been parenting your child, what things he likes doing, what a great relationship he has with you and your partner for x months /years. If they then put to you what ex's allegations are you then say something like - it's unfortunate she's made these allegations as they are not true. And you think ex feels a bit threatened by your partner being involved with child and this has been building up for some time.

To be honest if she's asking for 60/40 that might not be a bad order! If it's "lives with both parents" then it's equal shared care even if the number of nights is unequal. You could say to Cafcass that you had broached the idea of a 50/50 arrangement with child's Mother and that also appears to have triggered her to react in this way, but you do feel it would be better for your son who needs regular contact with both parents and families as he has always had. With any luck, if they warm to you, they will either recommend 50/50 or they will leave it vague so it's decided by the courts or by agreement via the court process. They may recommend mediation.

Can I ask who has said your partner cannot see your child if you're only at the Cafcass interview stage? Have social services or the police been involved? I'll PM you with my experience - the allegations were much worse!
Just a tip also - don't use the term custody - it's historic and outdated. There is more parent friendly/child friendly terminology now. A child either lives with a parent (formerly custody or residency) or lives with both parents (what used to be joint custody or joint residency). Or spends time with a parent (what used to be access or contact but some lawyers still use the term contact unfortunately, usually in a derogatory way).

So you can have a Child Arrangements order that says a child "lives with" both parents, even if it is 60/40. The minimum time for "lives with" or shared care is usually 5 nights a fortnight with Dad. Which would be every other week-end from Friday to Monday morning and one midweek overnight weekly. 50/50 would be the same except it would be two consecutive midweek overnights.

There is a chance you could agree matters, by consent, at a first hearing. Do you have any representation? It would be a good idea to use a direct access barrister for the first hearing - they are experts at hearings and could help get the allegations knocked on the head. Your ex may well be hoping to get legal aid (free lawyers) by making these allegations.
Thank you all for your responses.

I've had my first CAFCASS interview back in July, and also first hearing in August.
This whole situation caused my relationship a lot of arguments to the point where we agreed it would be best if I moved out at least for a year and until this whole case with my ex is finished and closed.
At the 1st hearing the court was on my ex's side but also asked for section 7 to happen. Second hearing is due in March. For the time being, the court gave a consent order that my ( at then) ex partner is not allowed to be in contact with xxxxxx. And the time for now to remain 50/50.
CAFCASS also told me they don't do home visits no more?
There's a lot more to it...
I reverted to Islam, as my partner is muslim and we wanted soon to get married. My ex was fuming (part of allegations) that I took my son occassionaly to mosque. I've made it clear that I am not teaching him to become muslim, but I want him to understand what I am going through and he can choose his religion (or none) in the future, but he will have knowledge, specially if we live in London in a multiculti society.

I have solicistors, and a good barrister that was defending me on my first hearing.

Cafcass wasn't much on my side during the first hearing. It was weird as at the end of the first interview, it went well and the report was netrual, basically saying that we need cooparenting classes and better communication. and then right before hearing, me and my barrister are told that this is no longer valid and got changed my cafcass manager as she wasn't happy with the report. Has anyone ever experienced this?! We were shocked.

Me and my partner are unoficially back together, we have also found out she's pregnant (before we separated)...

The school involved social services, GP involved safeguarding ( my ex would hide appoitments for my son - in response to this I changed his GP and the new GP has put a stop to any further transfers) I know I wasn't allowed that but I felt like I had to. - This is all prior to my ex even filing c100 forms.

Me and NG wanted to use MIAMI but my ex didn't. And because she made it look like she's being abused, MIAMI at this stage will not be possible due to of course potential abuse.

It was my ex who filed c100 and C2 forms - claiming that my son is being psychologically abused by my NG and she's also verbally and psychologically abusing my ex and that I'm under her full control and manipulated.
When it comes to 60/40 it of course will involve child maintenance wouldn't it ?
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To begin with, my interview lasted just over 2hrs! - To my surprise we were talking the least about my son xxxx. She was asking questions around the allegations my ex made, so it was pretty difficult as I wasn't fully ready for this sort of conversation. However I spoke the truth, I shared my findings, and reflections. I wasn't blaming but trying to paint a bigger picture of where and why the problems began and how we all went about them. Things I'd do different now, the changes I am going to make and general coparenting plan.
At the end of the interview, she said she found this interview positive, she was happy that I have reflected on my past, she felt I was being honest - I see this as a good feedback.
On top of that I felt it wasn't enough. I emailed her all the things I do with my son i.e. football training, arranging play dates with his school friends, showing I have other parents trust to look after the child, did screenshots of conversation between me and teachers, explained what and how I'm helping to develop xxxxx(he is very behind skills wise in every subject and also under SEND investigation) as well as all the fun we have when we spend time together, how I let xxxxx pick a meal for dinner every week and many other stuff.
Alongside with explanation that my partner is not a threat at all, and some additional pictures when we would spend time as 3 together and also when it was just my son and my partner.
About a week after she called me and asked if she can have contact details to my partner (bare in mind that there is a consent order which says she's not allowed to have contact with my son and she's also pregnant with my child) she called her and it was a similar interview with similar questions, to gather my partners views and do safeguarding checks around her.
Fingers crossed the report will come positive to my side.

My hearing is due 19/03 - After the interview I was asked to complete Coparenting e-learning and have been invited for a group zoom call that takes about 2.5hrs. Lastly I will be able to create a coparenting plan using CAFCASS's module. There will be certificates of e-learning and zoom call completion send out to court before the hearing.

I'm hoping this would help other dads as I certainly would benefit from reading such posts before the interviews ;)
Sounds like it went well! Fingers crossed. Please can you be careful not to put your child's name in messages :) I've edited them out.
Thanks for sharing the update @Adam2308

I'm glad you feel its gone well and you've been able to put your honest feelings across whilst remaining focused on your Son.

It's important to remember that you'll have an opportunity to reflect on this more once the S7 report is published, did they give timeframes for this? Will you be sent a copy before court in March?

Did you have the opportunity to question or ask Cafcass like you wanted to, why they were not going to be visiting with you and your Son at home?
Report will be available couple days before the hearing. I've got this group interactive zoom call tomorrow that will last 2.5hrs - does anyone know what would that be about ?

Tbh I completely forgot to ask them those questions..
If I am not mistaken this is the Planning Together course delivered by Action for Children, it seems to be standard procedure.
You will have completed the online interaction modules already before they booked you on this interactive part.

It will be you & a mix of other parents, all in differing situations with a host who ensures you made the most of the course.