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Refusing to engage

Posted by Dustyandbiscuit 
Refusing to engage
May 29, 2021 04:00AM
My spouse and I have been married since 2018 (3 years in august) and have once already separated and I’d started the separation process (invitation to mediate). The result was a very sorry wife who regretted her questionable behaviour (pursuing a career in online sex work, adultery) and wanted the marriage to work, citing poor mental health. She was in a&e having been suicidal and self-harmed - I committed to getting her the help she needed but sadly we’ve come full circle. We own a property in joint names, probably worth 100-120k and have been here since 2016. Equity is naff all (£25k at best). I am the sole earner, she is lazy/full of excuses (poor health, ideas above her station re what she’s capable of), she hasn’t had a steady job for 10+ years, having not been in employment at any one place for longer than 12 months. We have 2 children - 14yo (not mine biologically, not adopted, no parental responsibility), 4yo (mine biologically). We agreed to separate in December 2020, still living under the same roof.

I have pushed to separate and divorce but she is burying her head in the sand. Her invitation to mediation was 10 weeks ago, and her only engagement with them has been to say she’d like to be assessed for legal aid two weeks after receiving her invitation. I am seeking (Citizens) advice on getting her on the social housing register (she was in social housing before I moved in because her benefits were to be cut after a work capability assessment deemed her fit to work) and her eligibility for universal credit. Through mediation I hope to agree to sell the marital home, split whatever small amount of money is made and agree 50:50 split of the children (providing assurances are given that their welfare is paramount and there will be no neglect). Of course, I will pay whatever is legally expected of me for child support.

She claims to be the ‘main caregiver’, albeit I have evidence to show she contributes the bare minimum and without my action there would be serious child safety/welfare issues (cat poo on 14yo’s bedroom floor, dirty/soiled bedsheets not washed, no engagement with dentists/paediatrician etc without me first taking the initiative). My main concern is she is refusing to engage as she feels that as the ‘main caregiver’ she has rights to the house til 4yo turns 18, and I pay for it. I worry about the financial pressure this could bring, particularly with someone who is as work-shy as she is.

My questions are:
1. If 14yo chooses to stay with mum (and no agreement is reached between us pre-family court), does this hamper my access to 4yo as they’re brothers?
2. If she claims to be the ‘main caregiver’ would this force me to have to prove that it would not be in the children’s best interests (or otherwise be financially supporting her and paying the mortgage on a house I don’t live in)?
3. If she doesn’t engage with mediation (at the very least attend MIAM), does this work in my favour (except financially) when decision makers are asked to make decisions on our behalf?

Thank you
Re: Refusing to engage
May 29, 2021 11:39AM
1. If 14yo chooses to stay with mum (and no agreement is reached between us pre-family court), does this hamper my access to 4yo as they’re brothers?

No, it doesn't hamper your access but the two children are unlikely to be separated so if the 14 year old lives with mother so will the 4 year old.

2. If she claims to be the ‘main caregiver’ would this force me to have to prove that it would not be in the children’s best interests (or otherwise be financially supporting her and paying the mortgage on a house I don’t live in)?

Yes, although whether you can establish it would be in the children's best interests to live with you is another matter. Typically children do live with their mother and if their mother has problems coping social services tend to provide help and support rather than suggest a change of custody.

3. If she doesn’t engage with mediation (at the very least attend MIAM), does this work in my favour (except financially) when decision makers are asked to make decisions on our behalf?

No, it makes no difference. There are all sorts of reasons why people sometimes don't engage in mediation. That doesn't affect the outcome in any way.
Re: Refusing to engage
May 29, 2021 11:53AM
Thank you.

So am I right in my understanding that the right to remain in the marital home (with the children) trumps everything else? If she refuses to leave, I’ve no option but to let her stay (or continue to live with my ex for another 14 years)?
Re: Refusing to engage
May 29, 2021 06:40PM
The problem is (a) where she and the children would live if the house was sold and (b) there is not enough equity to provide adequately for both of you if it was sold.
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