Drugs, Contact and Mediation

Question by CC:

The Question:

My ex partner who I lived with for several years and I have broken up.

I left him in January 2013 as he looked after our 9 month old son stoned on cannabis. He has a 20 year plus history with drugs, got thrown out of home at 16 etc I could go on, but when he met me he tried to turn his life around and at the time believed him. But not anymore. Our child is now 17 months. He was stoned from the moment I was pregnant till I left, 18 months in total, always sorry always saying it would stop, he saw a doctor, got patches, saw a hypnotist twice, typical addict behaviour. He is in denial of his addiction. Eventually pushed he went to an addiction group in February 2013 which he has been attending on and off since then, he lies, is sneaky, can't be trusted, hostile, insular, anti social, edgy mostly.

I went back in March 2013 to try again as I didn't want a broken family but left in July 2013 for good as could not seeing the relationship working out and wanted a better life for myself and my son.

He is now taking me to court as he is denial of my concerns and addiction and can't be trusted, I'm allowing access (
contact) but won't allow him to take our son to his house for fortnightly weekend access as I have strong concerns re his responsibility and addiction as he stops and starts a lot and am concerned for my sons welfare. I want him to do a hair test to show he's ok. He will only do this if the judge tells him to but not because I've asked him too he has told me and thinks I will grant access in the pre court mediation next month.

I want him to be in our sons life and for us to both be positive role models and friends for our sons sake.

He is addicted, he smokes daily , was putting himself in dangerous situations all the time i.e. he would drive a heavy goods van under the influence, go up ladders, drive his motorbike etc. always stating things like but I never crashed, or got stopped etc. I especially think he has gone back to it even more now I've left.

I was going to represent myself but am now seeing a solicitor this week to do that, I have tried to reason with outside of court and say this will be no good for any of us but he is impossible to deal with.

Any advice?

The Answer:

The first thing to say is that mediation cannot impose any form of agreement on you or him. That is not to say it is pointless, and the mediator will help both of you express the concerns each of you have and will see if any agreement can be reached. However, if you do not agree, the mediator cannot impose or force either of you into a certain course of action.

If you cannot agree anything in mediation, the matter will go to court.

My approach would be to put down in writing your concerns as clearly as possible as soon as possible in a statement for the court. I write another website called
www.mfjc.co.uk which is for the Merseyside and Cheshire Area. In our area we are trying a scheme whereby people file statement very early on and there is a template. If you click on this link here you can download the template from that website. It sets out headings for the sort of things the court wants to know when people make applications for contact, and helps people put them in order. You may find it helpful. If you are getting a solicitor it may be helpful to fill it in and give it to them so they can turn it into a statement for the court you may be going to.

The important things it to make clear not only what your assertions are about him using drugs but also what
effect that has and what you contend the risks are. Some specific examples, if you have some, of things that have happened in the past would be helpful. I emphasis this because drug use is so endemic in society that the important point is not necessarily that someone is using drugs (many parents do recreationally and still adequately parent children) but the fact that the drug use has a negative effect on a parent’s ability to safely care for a child (see for example the NSPCC website here.)

In relation to drug testing the court can order that, however it costs money and
usually the Court will order that the cost is shared between both parties, now that legal aid has gone. The more drugs you test for, the more money it costs. The further back you go in time, the more money it costs. It can be ‘segmented’ on a monthly basis (to see if consumption has increased or reduced) but again, this involves an extra charge. As a very rough guide one test for the 5 most popular illegal drugs, for six months (unsegmented) costs in the region of £500 (i.e. £250 each parent), although this may vary considerably.

For that reason it is very important to be clear about what you want him to be tested for. If he denies use or seriously underplays the amount he uses, you
may be able to argue that he should pay all the cost if it turns out that he was lying - but I would not bank on it.

You describe a serious problem on his part. For that reason it may be worth asking the court to order him to provide his medical records and details of his attendance and engagement at the addiction group you refer to (i.e. a report from them).

You have acted appropriately. Allowing him some contact but making sure it is safe is much better than letting him have no contact at all.
From what you have said I suspect a court will be slow to entrust him with the care of your 17 months old son for extended periods without him first dealing with his difficulties.

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