Equal Parental responsibility

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    I am employed and work from home for a number of years. My ex also works full time and leaves home for work at 7.00 5 days a week returning at 6.30.

    We  separated in February 2019 after I confessed that I  had a serious ‘on line’ gambling addiction that I  was participating in during breaks in my working day. (Never when i was caring for my son).   When the amount of debt became unmanageable andie was unable to maintain the loan and credit card repayments I  admitted what I  had done.. The impact on both families was enormous. I was suicidal and full of remorse that i could have done this to his partner and son. The ex asked him to leave.

    Using some of parents savings I paid back the debt accrued in exs name and i moved in with my parents started to repay us some of the money back.  i started to pay maintenance to my ex of 275 a month for y son. I was referred to counselling and joined Gamblers Anonymous. During therapy it was identified that i was using gambling as an escape from the stresses within his relationship with my ex, I have  since overcome his addiction and have not gambled since prior to the relationship breaking down.  i was discharged from counselling in July 2019. To reassure my parents I also gave them access to my credit report and bank account and there have been no problems since.

    During the first three years of my sons life i was his  main carer as ex working day was so long and I worked from home. During the days my son  was looked after by his maternal grandparents for two days and by my grandparents for two days. On a Monday he went to nursery. During the working week my role included getting him up, dressed and fed on a morning and applying his eczema creams. At the end of the day I gave him his tea, bathed him and put his pyjamas on. If he woke during the night it was usually me who attended to him. When my ex returned home from work her tea was ready and bath run. i did this willingly to allow her quality time with our son before he went to bed. On a weekend we  did things together as a family. As a result my son and i have a really close bond that continues to this day. Everyone who knows me (including exs family) have commented on what a wonderful father I am and what a close relationship we have.

    After the separation i continued to have access to my son but this was not formalised. In April last year my son started to attend nursery 3 days a week.

    In September 2019 i moved into a lovely rented house that is a three minute walk from my my sons nursery and the primary school that we are hoping he will go to in September.  Since the move my son has started to stay over at my  house one day one week and two the next. He has his own bedroom that was decorated based upon his favourite superheroes.

    Last year my ex dictated to what access i could have and i produced a plan largely based around her working patterns and demands. Although I wanted more access I  complied with her request as he felt so guilty about my gambling.

    My son r is a bright articulate little boy and he regularly asks his daddy if he can sleep over on more nights. Although I sees his my regularly (I am also  involved in some of his nursery runs for example on the days he sleeps over) i only has him one full day a fortnight as opposed to ex having him four full days a fortnight. This means there is little opportunity to do anything significant with him and he is also missing out on having any meaningful contact with his paternal family and his cousins who he adores.

    To try and compensate i have taken the occasional Friday off (which is one of the days when exs parents have him) and asked if he could have him. Despite being given at least two weeks notice she has always refused. Although I knows i hves precedence over her parents I have not pursued as I did not want to create a scene in front of my son

    The relationship between myself and my ex is generally quite stable as long as i fully comply with her demands. i do, however, still get the occasional one off texts from her that makes it clear that she is in charge of our son we  have been to parents evenings and nativity plays together at the nursery and attended  hospital appointments together. We were together for three days when he was admitted to hospital last year. His last hospital appointment was on Tuesday 11<sup>th</sup> of February. Things were so cordial that my ex , my son and i went for a coffee together and played a game of pool. Within 10 days of the hospital appointment she started accusing me of abuse. This was directly linked to the example noted in the paragraph below.

    Around two months ago i advised my ex that in order to spend more quality time with our son that I was taking a weeks leave week commencing 24th of February and taking him to away on a city break on the Monday for two nights. i suggested he still go to nursery on the Thursday in order to maintain part of his routine for the week.  i texted ex to say I would like him on the Friday as I was on leave and she was at work anyway. At first she ignored me but after i asked again she simply said no and that her parents were having him. At this stage she started to imply she was being intimidated. Around this time I , at my exs request, signed a statement allowing my son to go to Portugal on holiday with her in April. She is also reminded me that i would have to sign another form allowing her and her family to take him to Florida for 2 weeks next year.

    Since then my has suggested that she is being intimidated by me  and said she doesn’t want any texts from me unless they are directly linked to his welfare. She sent a text threatening to send her father to take him from me when I was with him , simply because i had mentioned again that i wanted our son on the Friday when i was on leave. Now when I  collect him from my ex she now gets her father to hand  over or take him back from me

    I has since learned that on the Friday that i asked for our son that shetook the day off and worked the Saturday.  Her parents had him  all day and overnight when she went to a party.

    My ex has also said to  last year “I am going to play the long game” with you.

    The main area of concern, however, is the impact this is having on my son. Due to the disjointed access arrangements (when no two days are the same) he is too young to comprehend what his weekly routine is. Sometimes he even asks who he is going to be with the next day.

    My  home working arrangements gives me the flexibility to provide greater stability and routine in his life and I am now keen to increase and formalise my access.

    The primary cause of the relationship breakdown was my gambling addiction but in the long term I  did not think that their relationship would survive due to other issues.

    I have since attended meditation and informed my ex I was doing so, she has today gone and they have said we are unable to resolve, and so the next stage I will be going to see a solicitor on Thursday

    The main points of my long post and anyone with advise is the following:

    Would it not be clear and obvious from the text messages that she suddenly now says I am abusing her just as I have stated my rights to have him when I am off work and she is not. How do I handle these false accusations of abuse?

    She seems to be using tactics to look like I am abusing her by having parents there for handovers, however again this only ever started when I requested him on the Friday I was off and that I had been to mediation and they would contact her. She has had zero issues with me having on my own or going in the house with him on drop offs?

    Surely any judge in court will look at this and see its just a father who wants his parental rights, and she cant just bring up stuff from one year ago to say I cant have him unless its agreed days or I am taking away on holiday. She can take to Portugal for a week but I cant afford to take him abroad so took him away on a city break for two nights and simply wanted him during the day on the Friday as I was still off work. This is not right!

    To advise I have never been abusive other than financially when we were together, she has had 1 since this came out and now only because I want my son when I am on holiday is she trying to claim abuse. I have texts from her that show her been demanding, myself always remaining calm and collective?

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