My ex and I met to discuss our family mediation topics last night.
I requested that we meet. I thought long and hard about this. I didn’t really want to talk about things outside of family mediation for fear that he would get angry, shout and that the conversation would break down. But then part of me thought that it was only fair and right to outline my position in advance of mediation. You never know, he may even agree with me!
He didn’t, not by any stretch of the imagination, but this was always going to be highly unlikely.
I deliberately chose a public place because I thought that he would be less likely to kick off in public. I also wanted neutral territory. I didn’t want him coming to my flat because my flat is my haven of tranquillity. Similarly, I didn’t want to go to his house because I think it would be uncomfortable. My parents babysat for an hour or so.
I wanted to discuss our current arrangements for contact time with our son and my view that we are not currently acting in our son’s best interests. At the moment, my ex has our 11 month old son on a Tuesday night, alternate Thursday nights and one day and one night at a weekend. In future, he wants us to alternate weekends and to have him for two nights. I don’t think that these arrangements are appropriate for an 11 month old.
I think that at 11 months old a baby needs:
- to see his Daddy regularly and frequently but for shorter periods of time
- a stable regime
- a familiar environment
- not to spend extended periods of time away from his primary caregiver (me)
- to spend quality time with both parents
In terms of our current arrangements, I therefore believe that:
- alternate nights (Monday night at mine, Tuesday night at his, Wednesday at mine, Thursday at his) are really disruptive and stress inducing for a very young child.
- Tuesday nights, when my ex collects our son from my flat at 18:10 to put him to bed in his house at 19:00 and then get him up in the morning at 07:00 to then drop him round to my flat again by 07:45 are again really disruptive. I don’t believe that there can be much quality time spent. Our son is being taken away from the environment that he has been in all day, when he is tired and grouchy to go and sleep somewhere else.
In terms of a solution I suggested:
- That my ex and I split the weekends. He has one day and one night and I have one day and one night. There will obviously have to be exceptions to this, but in the short term, this should be the norm.
- That on alternate Thursdays when my ex takes a day off work to look after our son, it makes absolute sense for our son to spend the night with his Daddy. It would in fact be quite disruptive to bring him back to mine for him to go to bed.
- On the Thursday when my ex doesn’t take the day off work (and our son is at my flat all day being looked after by my Mum) I have suggested that my ex come round to my flat, feed, bath and put our son to bed. I will make myself scarce so that my ex has exclusivity. My ex didn’t like this idea. He said that he likes the feeling of having our son down the corridor for him in his own house.
My ex also stated that he feels he is being hit with a ‘double whammy’ because the guidance on the CSA website suggests that the higher the number of nights that our son is spending with his Mummy, the more money his Daddy has to pay.
I have made it absolutely clear that I want us to separate contact time and finances during mediation discussions. There is a danger that tying finances to contact time could present an obstacle for us trying to work out what is in the best interests of our child.
Our son’s needs will change as he grows older (obviously). As he gets older he will start to identify with his dad and will want to spend more time with him. That’s right and fine by me. As he gets older and starts to speak, we will be able to explain to him what is going on. We’ll be able to tell him that he is spending the weekend with Mummy or with Daddy. He will know that he is not being abandoned or punished by being taken away.
I fear that this family mediation is going to be a long process.