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Advice needed - Hoping to get more time with Step daughter

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Birth mother repeatdly witholds access, says she can say when we see etc - in process of getting court orders

Hi there,

new to forum and hoping i have posted in correct place.

We have a almost 10 yr old daughter(my husbands) and for the past 10 years its been on nightmare after another.  We have had access then the mother refuses, saying child doesnt want to come (at 4yrs of age??!) she doesnt think our house is suitable for her daughter (brand new 4 bed home :(  ) basically if we dont do what she wants in terms of giving her money (on top of CS) and doing all driving etc then she goes 'missing' for periods of time.  Up until recently daughter didnt really understand however now she is at an age where she understands she has two families, (birth mother has remarried and now has a step son and 3 new kids to her hubby), she understands she has one birth mum and one birth dad etc.

We have finally taken to getting legal advice as we were wasitng years at mediation and never successfully getting anywhere.  Even with an agreed family parenting plan the birth mother decided she was not happy with our care and literally dissappeared - we hired lawyers to track her down, $$$$ and 1.5 yrs later we found them (yes and we never once stopped paying CS even thou we were tempted).  Now with daughter being older it would obviously be very hard for birth mother to take her away without valid reason (im sure daughter would ask!).  We are in process of getting court papers etc however birth mother and her hubby consistantly tell us they are worth nothing and all the favour still lies with the birth mother (yes in theri situation they have court orders for the hubbys son but they still dont see him as the sons mother doesnt send him and they dont see any need to chase him).  So as you can see its one strange living situation they have there.

Basically my questions are:  are court orders our best chance of actually seeing the daughter?  Can the mother just deny access to us?  Our lawyer has suggested we say we want 50/50 care, which we would love and Im sure daughter would too!  But of course Im not sure thats in the childs best interest?  We live approx 60kms apart, not huge and it has been worse but thankfully they have recently bought a house so cant seem them up and moving without drama etc.  Is it even remotely possible we could gain more time with daughter?  She certainly loves spending time with us and the EOW that we currently do (we are on tender hooks with this as no formal papers so at the mothers mercey to have EOW continue) are just so short.

As it stands we have been told 'sorry too bad' about having our next EOW visit as their family is going away and too bad it falls on our weekend, she told us to 'deal with it'.  Its very depressing and Im sure daughter is quite confused by it all as she said to me on the weekend that she will miss me but she has been told she has to go by her mum.

Can anyone shed some advice here?

For a note we pay $1200 a month in child support, yet the poor child is neglected to a point - never has shoes/clothes are always 4 sizes too small (she says her mum buys her clothes so she can share with her 4yr old sister!!) we do have a full wardrobe here for her and originally let her take some with her, inc shoes, books, craft, games etc but it never came back and daughter tells us she 'lost' it.  Its a horrible situation for all involved and I just want it to end now.  Any advice?

Thank you for reading this far - I can only imagine the confusion of what I have written!
Court orders are certainly not "worth nothing". If you gain court ordered time with the child, the mother is obligated to make her available on the days ordered, regardless of any plans she may have (usually birhdays, xmas, easter etc are all covered in the orders to avoid argument over who will get what time on special occasions). If she fails to do so, you have the option of filing a contravention or orders with the court, and if she consistently flaunts orders, she will be punished.

I think 50/50 is unworkable with your current living arrangments. The child would have to travel a fair distance each way for school, which woudl make things difficult. If you really wanted 50/50, the usual suggestion would be to move closer. Generally, in the absence of any significant problems, the bare minimum the non-resident parent should get is EOW plus half of school holidays, so you have a fairly good chance of at least getting this. However, if you honestly feel the child is being neglected (and you have solid evidence of this) and the mother continues to be unwilling to take all steps to facilitate a relationship between child and father, you may be able to seek majority care and suggest that the mother have EOW and half school holidays. You may be able to further this argument by  demonstrating how the mother has absconded with the child on many occasions in the past - this looks very bad for her, and the court has to consider whether a resident parent will facilitate an ongoing relationship - and if your partner is more likely to do this than she is, that is a good argument for HIM being made resident parent (it's not unheard of).  

Also, the child is 10 now, so her wishes will be taken into account. You need to get an idea of what she would prefer before deciding on what time to ask for.

You should not give this woman any more money than CS has asked of you, and you should document every occasion where she seeks extra money or threatens to restrict time. You should probably document EVERY interaction with her now, as this may prove useful later on in court. You absolutely need to get those court orders established one way or another. She is completely abusing her power to the detriment of the child, and she has no right to do the things she is doing.
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