Family & children 1
Lisa lives with her two children, Anna aged 8 and Bella aged 9. Lisa undertakes shift work during the day as an ambulance paramedic. She has a new partner, Steve who also works and gets on very well with all the children.
Unfortunately, Lisa has a poor relationship with Terry; Anna and Bella’s Dad. They used to argue a lot before they split up; partly because Terry used to drink too much. Terry used to see the children but then stopped. Recently he has been sending Lisa lots of texts saying he wants to start seeing the children again. He says that if she won’t let him see them he will have to visit their school to see them there. He is named on the children’s birth certificates and has parental responsibility.
Anna and Bella love their Dad and tell Lisa that they want to see him. Lisa supports the children’s wishes but is very worried because of Terry’s use of alcohol which may or may not be continuing. In addition, she wants Terry to be consistent about seeing the children. She doesn’t want contact to start and then stop.
Terry has just issued an application for a Child Arrangements Order (for contact) and the Court have set a date for the first hearing. He will represent himself. He is aggressive and plans to accuse Lisa of leaving the children at school late into the afternoon so she can work and of working night shifts. He also plans to say that Lisa does not properly manage Bella’s eczema.
Steve tells Lisa it’s too dangerous to allow Terry to see his children. Lisa feels caught in the middle. She wants to trust Terry but is not sure what to do. People give her different advice. Lisa just wants the children to be safe around Terry. She does not want any confrontation with him so doesn’t want to manage the handovers for contact herself. She is annoyed at being accused of leaving the children at school and is adamant that she does not work night shifts.
Lisa doesn’t qualify for public funding/legal aid and is desperate for some completely independent advice. She instructs a direct access barrister who can stand up to Terry at Court and who can also guide her through the Court process without her having to see too many professionals. She wants to know how contact can be safe and what the Court will think about the children’s views. She is able to obtain letters from her employers to prove the hours she is working and also acquires a letter from the school about arrangements for the children in the afternoons that demonstrates that she does not leave the children there after school. She can also obtain a letter from her GP if needed about how she is managing Bella’s eczema and is able to send this evidence onto to Terry.
Prior to the first hearing Lisa meets the Barrister and they talk through every aspect of the case and formulate a plan. They meet again at Court at the first hearing. A CAFCASS* Officer is appointed and suggests supervised contact at a Contact centre to start with. Terry submits the results of tests that prove he’s abstinent from alcohol. A contact routine is established. Over time contact moves out into the community and is safe and enjoyable for the children. At the final hearing the direct access Barrister negotiates a sensible Child Arrangements order that is agreed by both Lisa and Terry after a lot of negotiation. They are able to communicate in future by text and email about contact arrangements for the children.
*Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service