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-   -   Family law question (Northern Ireland) - parental access (https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=890050)

Dead Cat 02-14-2020 04:57 AM

Family law question (Northern Ireland) - parental access
 
Background: about 4 years ago a good friend of mine fell hard for a nice young girl from Northern Ireland, who was living and working in England at the time. Within a year or so they moved in together, got engaged, and then married (in Northern Ireland). Not long after that, they bought a house together in Northern Ireland and had a kid.

Things seemed to go downhill from there and a year or two ago they mutually agreed to separate, and then divorced. He had no other connections over in Ireland so moved back to England, but used a lot of his time and money on visiting to see his son whenever possible (several times a year). I'm not sure of the details of the divorce but I think he basically gave over any rights he might have had to the entire house in exchange for not being required to pay maintenance (but I could be wrong about the latter detail). Those of my friends who know more about it seem to think he got a pretty raw deal financially but didn't want to contest it in order to get it over with more quickly.

His ex has since remarried and had another child with her new husband. As I understand it, visiting arrangements remained amicable at first, though apparently she wasn't willing to travel the other way to assist with this, nor to allow him to bring his son over to England for a visit.

However, he recently informed us that following his most recent visit, he had a phone call from his ex informing him that the kid appears upset and withdrawn for a few days following his visits, and as such she wants them to stop altogether. A letter from her solicitor will follow.

He will obviously contest this as he loves his son, wishes he could spend more time with him, and by all accounts the feeling is mutual. Any judge would laugh this out of court, right? How can she not realise that her son is most likely upset because he enjoys the time with his dad and wishes it were longer, and this is therefore a terrible way to address this? Several of my friends are of the opinion she was using our friend all along, and while I've been willing to give her the benefit of the doubt up to now, not any more.

Obviously he will be lawyering up, so I'm not looking for legal advice, mainly just wanted to vent. But if anyone has experience of this in general, especially if it happens to relate to the Northern Irish legal system, that might be useful.

I am 99.99% certain (and I've chosen that percentage carefully - I can't completely rule it out, of course) that there is nothing untoward going on between my friend and his son, but I worry that if she goes full-on crazy she might imply that, and it could be hard for him to disprove. It seems to me that's the only way she is likely to succeed in her apparent objective of cutting him out of their son's life, provided he follows the appropriate legal channels. But what an awful experience it's going to be for the kid, whatever the outcome. People are so horrible and selfish sometimes.

SciFiSam 02-14-2020 07:05 PM

Well, it sounds like he has legal parental responsibility (it's automatic if you're named as the parent on the birth certificate), so legally she won't be able to stop him seeing his son without a really good reason. Hopefully she won't make something up and put her son (as well as her ex) through the trauma of that. Usually courts ask the parents to go through some mediation, and sometimes that does work.

How old is the son? Courts take the child's opinion into consideration too, to varying degrees depending on the child's age.

There are groups out there that can support him. Gingerbread might be a good first port of call - they mostly work with custodial parents, but they do work with non-custodial parents too, and would be able to point him in the right direction to find groups and lawyers that can help him. He should avoid Fathers 4 Justice because they're basically an insane men's rights group that isn't necessarily helpful, and would make him look bad when it comes to mediation or in a court.

Good luck to him. It can be disruptive to the child to only see their non-custodial parent sporadically, but there are ways of improving that, and it's better than not seeing a loving parent at all.

Dead Cat 02-15-2020 06:14 PM

Thank you very much for the helpful reply.

Quote:

Originally Posted by SciFiSam (Post 22139709)
Well, it sounds like he has legal parental responsibility (it's automatic if you're named as the parent on the birth certificate)

I'm pretty sure he is.

Quote:

, so legally she won't be able to stop him seeing his son without a really good reason.
Good news.

Quote:

Hopefully she won't make something up and put her son (as well as her ex) through the trauma of that.
Indeed.

Quote:

Usually courts ask the parents to go through some mediation, and sometimes that does work.
Could be tricky given they live hundreds of miles apart across the Irish Sea, I wonder if it could be done over a really good Skype connection.

Quote:

How old is the son? Courts take the child's opinion into consideration too, to varying degrees depending on the child's age.
He's 3 I think. So probably not old enough to carry much weight either way.

Quote:

There are groups out there that can support him. Gingerbread might be a good first port of call - they mostly work with custodial parents, but they do work with non-custodial parents too, and would be able to point him in the right direction to find groups and lawyers that can help him. He should avoid Fathers 4 Justice because they're basically an insane men's rights group that isn't necessarily helpful, and would make him look bad when it comes to mediation or in a court.
Thanks, I'll pass that on.

Quote:

Good luck to him. It can be disruptive to the child to only see their non-custodial parent sporadically, but there are ways of improving that, and it's better than not seeing a loving parent at all.
Quite right.

Dead Cat 02-18-2020 04:35 AM

Just going to give this one bump in case anyone has anything else to add.


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