Well today was an incredibly emotional day, trying to work out legal stuff… and …. ah… this is so hard to explain.
For a month or so now, my mum and I have been researching, consulting lawyers (costing us thousands of dollars already), and drafting potential Parenting Consent Orders.
The idea behind this is that as things stand now, my ex husband has just as much ‘right’ to the children as I do. If he ran off with them and didn’t bring them back, and I didn’t know where they were, the police would not help me. He could turn up at the school before pick up time and take my son without my permission/knowledge. I’m a parent. He is a parent. I have heard several cautionary tales from friends and relatives, all insisting that I must get something in place so that I have that security. Although the possibility of him running off with the kids is somewhat remote, given that he is incredibly unpredictable and has narcissistic tendencies (massive understatement), I don’t particularly want to be left in a position where he would be within his legal rights to do such a thing.
So I downloaded the forms, it was a bit overwhelming and confusing, so we decided to get legal advice. One of the main things we wanted to know was about the questions in the ‘Annexure’ or attachment. The Annexure asks firstly whether or not I consider the children have been or are at risk of being subjected to or exposed to abuse, neglect or family violence. And secondly whether or not I consider myself to be at risk of being subjected to family violence. I’m not battered and bruised… but from my understanding of family violence, if I were being honest, I would need to tick both of those boxes. He is verbally, and emotionally abusive and he is physically intimidating (I will spare you the details) and the kids see this happen (i.e. they are exposed to it, so I should tick that first box). Unless perhaps I am wrong about my interpretation of family violence, since I am not really scared of him, in the sense that I am scared for my (and the children’s immediate physical safety. (I might write more on this later)
So we wanted to know, if I ticked those boxes, would it get back to him that I had accused him of being abusive. We drafted some orders allowing him three visits per week during the day. We went and saw a lawyer. We told her that he was abusive, we told her that we wanted to tick one, if not both, of the boxes regarding family violence, we told her about concerns we had about my ex looking after the children. And she said, that the court would likely not pass what we were proposing because the father should be getting ‘substantial and significant time’ with the children, i.e. he should have the overnight on some weeknights, some weekends, and for extended periods over the holidays. She said that he didn’t have to be the world’s best dad to have these rights to his children. Eventually she said she could try putting some very careful wording in the Annexure to explain that these orders were limiting the fathers contact due to Family Violence. When I gave her more details of things that had been happening, she said I should probably get a protection order. A week and $2000 later she sent me consent orders that I had asked her to draft and a letter of legal advice. The legal advice (among other things) said that unless I could provide evidence of family violence the court would likely not pass it without regular overnight visits. The consent orders that she sent were not really what we wanted, much of it was just cut and pasted, and she put in set days and hours (rather than simply the number of days and hours) when the father was to take/visit the children. The set days and times is just not going to work for my ex. For one thing he barely plans in thing more than a day ahead of time, and his work hours are completely irregular, and he is not notified until the night before whether or not he is working the next day. I also feeling that seeing this on paper he would feel like I was trying to control and limit his time with the children, and react badly to such an insult. I don’t think he would sign it. If it were just a given number of days or hours (similar to the number of days and hours he is seeing the children now, at randomly negotiated times, I think he would be more likely to sign it since that is what we are already doing.
Anyway. Stay tuned for Part Two tomorrow. I really must go to bed. I have a massive headache.