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How to protect myself from future dishonest claims of abuse

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Hi there,

I have been separated from my ex-partner now for two months and we are currently going through the FDR process with the next stage being where we meet to discuss and agree upon the parenting plan.  After some initial minor conflict between both parents, things seemed to be calm but as soon as my ex-parter realised that I had a good case to get at least 50% shared care, her attitude and intent changed.  FYI I have been the primary care giver for 6 months prior to separation.  My problem now is that my ex-partner is trying to alienate me from our 14 month old son and I am aware that she will refuse to give him to me next week as per our documented agreement that we currently have (not legally formalised).  I also believe she has no intent to provide me access until a parenting plan is formalised which will take at least 5 weeks.  I know there is currently nothing I can do about gaining access to my son, until such time that a parenting plan has been made into consent orders or there has been a ruling through Family Court. 

My problem however is that when my ex-partner decided she wanted to alienate me from our son, she also began to fabricate stories against me.  I have been made aware that she intends to phone the police next week claiming abuse when I come to collect my son as per our agreement.  Being abusive is the very last thing that I am, and obviously knowing this I would be particularly careful, but if she calls the police it will be her word against mine.  Is there anything I can do to protect myself from such an unfounded claim.  I have considered taking someone with me, but this is neither easy or practical.  I have also considered a recording device but am unsure whether its use is legal.  I no doubt intend to call the Police myself when I am refused access to my son, but know they can do nothing.  I will only request that it is put on file as I suspect that this behaviour will become a pattern.  I really don't know what to do to protect myself.  I only have our sons best interests in mind but it seems that selfishness has taken hold with my ex-partner.  Any advice would be much appreciated.

Thanks,

malf
There is a lot of relevant info already on the site regarding recording conversations. Have you tried the search feature?

Malf, if you have reason to believe she will attempt to make false allegations against you, I would advise you to do EVERYTHING possible to protect yourself. Once the allegations are made and it's down to your word against hers, it's very hard to undo the chain of events that follows. If she requests an AVO, the system is unfortunately geared in the "victim's" favour - whether the claims are real or not. She does not need proof have an interim order placed on you. She can make up any old rubbish and walk into a chamber magistrate to have a stamp put on it, and then you are at her mercy until the case is heard. In my very biased opinion, I feel that men are at a disadvantage by default in these issues. Judges can often err on the side of caution and grant a permanent DVO. A DVO will have a great bearing on family court proceedings. Avoid it at all costs.

It may not be practical to take somebody with you, but if it is at all humanly possible, do it. Record conversations. Document ABSOLUTELY EVERY encounter you have with her - dates, times, and details of any interaction or comments between your ex and yourself. If you walk past her in the supermarket and nothing at all happens, document it anyway. I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping a diary. Don't wait until something bad happens to start taking notes. You have the advantage of foresight, so use it.

Good luck.
Thanks rabbit,

I browsed the site for a couple of hours after posting and did read much about recording conversations.  

I have been keeping a diary since separation and already have a few valuable entries.  She is claiming emotional abuse yet is comfortable enough to take her shoes off, put her feet up on the lounge and talk to me when she comes to pick up our son.  I cannot begin to describe how all this unnecessary behaviour eats at me.

I think I will get myself a recording device and also try to get someone to come with me when I pick up my son tomorrow.  I also have been given evidence of what she intends to do.

My biggest problem is that in the past I have been too nice and too accommodating.  I will continue to remain calm and just hope that good prevails.

Thanks.
Do not underestimate the involvement of Police and note the valuable post made by Rabbit. What seems like an amiable working arrangement could easily turn quickly with Police involvement.  Usually when you least expect it. It is important at this delicate time that you go the extra distance to avoid any actions which might preclude the issuance of an application for an ADVO.

Allegations may be made and the Police could initiate ADVO proceedings. Having an ADVO in place during family proceedings is particularly useful for anyone wanting to make it more difficult to get a shared parenting outcome. Not so important at the mediation centre where Parenting Plans are being talked about but in the Federal Magistrates Court a more powerful tool.

Taking someone with you is a good idea in this case and have them in the car with the window down so they can hear what might be going on. On the one hand she seems comfortable to drop in and pick up the child while on the other not happy (it seems) with a shared parenting arrangement. The PDR will flesh that out and you will know where you are at the end of that. She will be under immense pressure to consider the financial ramifications / implications of a 50/50 shared parenting arrangement which will reduce the Centrelink and CSA incomes.  

At the end of your mediation, you will either have an agreement and a Parenting plan underway or a 60I certificate and our SRL-Resources partners here will be getting an email from you no doubt.

Hopefully your Mediation will work out and things will settle down. Mediation is the best bet and a great deal of effort should be applied to resolve issues here. The bottom line will be what sort of time you are prepared to forgo. I would suggest also that some sort of graduated time sharing may be in order with such a young child as all research we have suggests frequent and regular contacts at that age. It will be hard to work up a plan now that works until 18 years of age so you will might consider a graduated plan with shorter more regular contacts now going into longer periods when he is at pre school. It will all be dependent on what you can accommodate and any arrangements your employer may assist you with.

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
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malf said
My problem however is that when my ex-partner decided she wanted to alienate me from our son, she also began to fabricate stories against me. I have been made aware that she intends to phone the police next week claiming abuse when I come to collect my son as per our agreement. Being abusive is the very last thing that I am, and obviously knowing this I would be particularly careful, but if she calls the police it will be her word against mine. Is there anything I can do to protect myself from such an unfounded claim. I have considered taking someone with me, but this is neither easy or practical. I have also considered a recording device but am unsure whether its use is legal. I no doubt intend to call the Police myself when I am refused access to my son, but know they can do nothing. I will only request that it is put on file as I suspect that this behaviour will become a pattern. I really don't know what to do to protect myself. I only have our sons best interests in mind but it seems that selfishness has taken hold with my ex-partner. Any advice would be much appreciated.

I'm rather curious to know how YOU KNOW she will take the actions outlined by you above. Is she a vindictive person? Does she have 'personality difficulties'? Or a mental health disorder? Have you seen her behaviour this way with other people, other partners? Or was she told you she's going to take these actions?

I'm a little concerned that you may be forming these views without proper basis.

If you expect the worst from a situation, that's the reality you will likely CREATE. If you don't believe a person can, or will, reach for a 'higher choice', you take away the opportunities for them to make those higher choices. The "Law of Attraction".

Carrying such beliefs (those you've outlined above) into dispute resolution would surely undermine the conciliation process - wouldn't it?

Having been in the Family Court continuously over the last 5 years - involving fabricated sexual abuse allegations - my advice to you would be AVOID THE FAMILY COURT AT ALL COSTS!!!! ITS NOT A PLACE YOU WANT TO BE IN.

Unfortunately, sometimes that's unavoidable.

At this stage if I were you I would take advantage of FDR to resolve the situation amicably. Put aside your worries (and preconceptions) and negotiate in GOOD FAITH. Forget about 'alienation' and other such thoughts. Having such thoughts floating around in your head will not serve you in successfully resolving this situation though FDR.

If she makes allegations - theres not much you can do except keep a cool head and not react.

Without knowing your personal circumstances I'd point out that you would unlikely get 50% shared care - and if you could - would you really want it?






4MYDAUGHTER
Many thanks for all the feedback, advice and questions.  

Let me assure you, these are not personally formed views; I have solid evidence of what my ex-partner is doing.  I however have been fortunate that she eventually got some good advice and things have calmed somewhat.  Regarding your questions about her personality etc, I can say little except that some of the questions you ask do apply to a certain degree.  Unfortunately she is continually being badly influenced by third party people who do not know the situation or the law.   

My solicitor gave me the best advice right from the start, that being go through the FDR process.  Unfortunately my ex is trying to undermine this process by continually going to her solicitor and having me served with letters about what she wants regarding custody.  Each time this happens, my time with my son is significantly reduced.  She also seems to think that any letter from her solicitor is a formal agreement and legally binding.  I keep explaining to her that we need to go through the FDR process and that there will be no formal agreement until such time that both parties agree.  Eventually it got to the stage where I had to seek the costly services of a solicitor.  By all means, I am trying to avoid family court but it is out of my hands.  I am not dealing with one person; I am dealing with a person who is being influenced by many others.  As such, I am expecting to have to go to family court to get what is best for my son, not what is best for me.  I am not being selfish in what I want; I have very legitimate reasons that the family court would have to take into consideration.

I was the primary care giver of our son for the 6 months prior to separation and as such was the person he bonded with the most.  I am self employed and am able to provide the care that my son needs.  By this, I do not have to work during the days I have my son as my business only requires a maximum of two days of my time per week.  Do I want my son 50%? By all means yes.  I am fortunate that I have the luxury of being able to dedicate so much quality time to my son.

For now I will wait for our mediation session and hope that we can agree on a parenting plan.  On the other hand, I am aware that my ex is doing her best to get legal aid so she can take the fight further when I do not agree to her terms.  Sadly, this is not about what is best for our son; it is about selfish reasons and control.  I just hope that being calm and reasonable, as well as doing what is best for my son will see me through.

Many thanks.
Well if she's sending you letters of 'offer' (which presumably included shared care proposals) via a solicitor - she can't then subsequently make abuse allegations - she'd have no credibility.

Her letters form 'evidence' that she is attempting to negotiate a settlement - its might win her some brownie points in court. If in her letters she proposing unsupervised shared care arrangements -  she is providing "evidence" that she has no genuine risk of harm concerns whilst the child is in your care.

Those letters of offer (presuming they outline proposals for unsupervised care arrangements) supports your case should matters end up in Court.

With respect 50% shared care arrangements - the problem she will have with that proposal - presuming she doesn't work full-time - is that such an arrangement would seriously undermine her financial position with respect child support entitlements as her entitlement would be significantly reduced. Have you factor this consideration into your equations?


4MYDAUGHTER
I agree with 4md. Stay out of the family court at all costs. Unfortunately 50/50 is out of the question for that far too self-important court taking years to judge the now “hard” cases.

With respect of the circumstances you describe I have concern regarding the low ball offers. Given the involvement of a family law solicitor and the dirty tricks menace (presumably the family violence insurers) your rejection of their offers of settlement might be submitted to legal aid to support their application for a grant. They tried to negotiate. If this happens you can kiss mediated settlement and your financial ass goodbye.

In my humble opinion you might consider turning their intent by submitting your own application to legal aid. It would be important to highlight the evidence that you were the primary carer before separation, the Mother’s disingenuous negotiation and refusal to attend mediation. Two people will then be looking at the family’s application. If you don’t qualify you might at least frustrate her.

Don’t wait 3 to 6 months for a mediation appointment at Relationships Australia, etc. If necessary try a private certified mediator. The longer this goes on the harder it becomes to change the status quo.

At all costs avoid an intervention order. This will become her prima facie case for custody, legal aid and void mediation. One might consider shifting changeover to a mutually safe place like McDonalds. There are witnesses and security cameras.  Check where they are with Manager and be in their view. Even if you don’t carry a recorder I would at least tell the mother you are recording the changeover.

If you can stay out of trouble, ie not give the mother evidence of abuse, violence, …  I do not see why 50/50 is not possible in FMC. Likely you will have to ask more for the inevitable court split the difference decision. If you hope to negotiate you need this room.
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