My ex is saying I don’t look after the kids and is threatening to phone social services. What should I do?
Unfortunately, when people separate their relationships can rapidly deteriorate and allegations can be made by one person against the other. Whilst it is impossible to control what the other party is saying about you, the first thing to remember is not to panic and not to get drawn into a back-and-forth with them. It will be possible to mitigate and address their allegations.
Before they contact social services, communicate
If the other party is threatening to contact social services but has not yet done so, you could try and enter into discussions with them about their concerns. One of the main reasons for children’s applications being made to court is a breakdown of communication between the child’s parents and it is best to try and re-establish communications if at all possible. This does not have to be face-to-face communication and often, having a separate method of communication for parenting conversations can help to diffuse the situation. For example, having a separate email address or a notebook in which things are written down.
Another forum to encourage communication is family mediation, with the assistance of a neutral third party to offer some guidance to the discussions. You might want to consider making a referral to your local mediation service. Family mediation involves the parties sitting down and discussing their concerns and trying to broker an agreement with the assistance of the mediator. Legal aid is available in qualifying circumstances for mediation or you can apply for a Family Mediation Voucher, so it is also a good method of keeping costs to a minimum.
After they contact social services, cooperate
If the other party has already contacted social services or is unwilling to mediate and subsequently makes a report, it is important that you do not treat social services as the enemy and remember they are just doing their job.
Social Services are there to provide protection for children and, unfortunately, in some circumstances, the reports they get are validated, so they have an obligation to investigate every situation. In order to demonstrate to social services that the reports made by the other party are unsubstantiated or unfounded, you should cooperate with them and be open and honest. It is wise to avoid mudslinging although, of course, if you have genuine concerns about the other party’s care of the children, you should raise these.
Prioritise your children
On the basis that social services do not progress the matters further, it makes sense to consider what can be done to avoid similar reports being made in the future. This, again, comes down to re-establishing some level of communication with the other party. It is always difficult to be the more reasonable person but in doing this, you will demonstrate that you can prioritise your children over the dispute with your ex and focus on their best interests. At this stage, you could consider mediation if you have not previously done so; you could attempt negotiation directly or via solicitors or consider implementing a parenting plan. A sample parenting plan can be found on the CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory Service) website.
Child Arrangement Orders
Ultimately, you may feel that you need to make an application to the court for a defined Child Arrangements Order that sets out the arrangements for the children and would offer you some protection against reports in the future. Within the court proceedings, it is likely that a CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory Service) report would be directed and this would fully investigate both parties’ positions and make recommendations to the court. This will provide a written record of the CAFCASS Officer’s views on any allegations being made and would be something that could be referred to at a later date if similar reports were made again. It is important to note, however, that an order can still be varied in future if the circumstances change or if there are new allegations that can be substantiated. Information about Child Arrangement Proceedings can be found on our family law website.
Irrespective of which option you choose, you should consider keeping a diary and following up on agreements and discussions in writing, by text or email, as this will give you some evidence to refer to at a future date if further false allegations are made against you.
Emma Taylor, Partner in our Family Department is a proud member of the Only Mum’s and Only Dad’s specialist Family Law Panel.
If you have an issue with your ex-partner or matters regarding children, please do not hesitate to contact Emma Taylor in our family department at 01273 956270 or email@example.com.