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I am worried my ex will not bring our sons back from interstate

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I am a mother of three sons aged 13, 12 and 9. Divorced from their father since last month and custody has never been an issue since we separated 5 years ago as i believe my sons have a right to have equal access to their father as they to with their moth

Hi, I am a mother of three sons aged 13, 12 and 9. Divorced from their father since last month and custody has never been an issue since we separated 5 years ago as i believe my sons have a right to have equal access to their father as they to with their mother.

He does not help in their upbringing in any way (including financially), all he gives them is his time when he is with them. He calls them maybe once a week, more often now since i called him and asked him to call our eldest son more often because he was finding it hard not seeing his father for a month as he moved to Brisbane from Sydney.  There is a current AVO against him for violence towards me and harassment whilst intoxicated which was extended to included the 3 boys also.

I now have agreed to allow the boys visit him in Brisbane this weekend. He requested i buy them new clothes and shoes for their trip and I do not see the need for this as the clothes and shoe they do have are in perfect condition and i can not afford as a single mum working 3 days a week to buy three sets of new weekend ware for my children at once. This lead to him attacking me and name calling because i would not comply and reminding him he had no right to demand this of me since he does not contribute in any way financially for their clothing either. A message from him stating that his actions were going to prove that he and his sons were one and noting i could do or say would change that, left me very uneasy about their trip to visit him.

What i would like help in is any suggestions in how i can assure he is compelled or obligated to return them to me if possible.  Would a signed letter of agreement from him to return them to me and that he understands that i am not handing custody of them to him to live help?

There must be something that can help us women out here who aren't out to destroy a father and his childrens' relationship up but do not want to risk loosing them either.
Dear Noz,
I feel for you because you seem to be between a rock and a hard place when wanting to trust the father but his past performance makes you wary and apprehensive…and rightly so.
Making demands of you like for a new set of clothes and his reference to the children and he being a 'unit' and that you couldn't change that, would leave most parents a little uneasy I think.
Where does his anger come from…? is it the AVO that he resents….is it the lack of contact….does he blame you for the lack of contact….does he blame himself because he wants to be more available but perhaps can't handle greater parenting…perhaps the alcohol is getting in the way?….was his violence toward you precipitated by the break up or had he gone through life carrying anger from childhood or other legacy experiences?

How long has it been since the father spent any time with his sons? If this is the first trip after many months or even years of physical separartion then I think it would be best that you accompany your boys and arrange they meet their dad in a very public place with you in sight of them. I really think that the AVO should not be breached and from what you said it appears to be in place currently for your protection and the boys protection too. Do you know if the violence related to the AVO was related to the heat of the break up or does it run deeper than that? I think I would feel uneasy about allowing my children to set of on a trip if the substance of the AVO is still a major concern. You should either leave it in place because the protection is still warranted or go through the process to have it dismissed…only you are close enough to your personal situation to make that call !

I feel that if you sense you must ask the father to put in writing a promise to return your boys, then before the visit goes ahead, you need to have greater dialogue with him and come to a conclusion after more discussion. His comments to you that made you uneasy might just be him grasping to stay connected ( and he sees you as hostile to this). Never the less, his comments have a tone of desperation and defiance which I think made you apprehensive initially, so go with your gut feeling as to whether or not their father can be trusted before sending your boys interstate. If it were me then I would do more work to engage their father and have discussions and perhaps even a meeting before sending the boys. But the AVO would need to be dealt with and perhaps an undertaking in writing from him is needed before dropping the AVO and letting interstate visits occur.

So far, with the information given, I have talked about fears and apprehension that you must be feeling. On the positive side, the father does keep in contact by phone which is encouraging…less encouraging if you are constantly facilitating the calls because he has forgotten or hasn't bothered.

If this was the first interstate trip the boys do alone in the past five years and the father only ever had phone contact, then short of any other information about your history, I would not be allowing the trip before you had more evidence of the fathers positive intentions and itinerary with your children. Only you can engage with your Ex to work out a plan moving forward for greater contact one step at a time. If you feel the interstate visit is too big a leap, then take a step back and work with your Ex to rebuild trust sufficient for you to leave them alone with him.

As parents we have to know when to let go and learn to deal with our feelings towards letting our children take risks and asserting their greater personal autonomy.
However you still want to protect them and I think in your case the father might be difficult to deal with given past history of alcohol and violence … in which case you need to exercise extra caution and judgment.

I feel for you because to some extent all parents have to make these kinds of choices but in your case concern for safety is greater than most and you must act with that in mind.
Don't feel pressured to decide an all or nothing weekend trip away for the boys. Try to agree with the father a gentle return to some contact where he gives you more reasons to be assured of his intentions and your children's welfare. If this is too difficult to do then seek professional help and engage him in a process that restores physical contact incrementally, perhaps with supervision from a third person if really necessary. Hopefully contact would then be happening on a regular basis. His decision to relocate interstate hasn't helped in this regard but off course economics and job availability as well as life style reasons influence where people live. Still it would be better if he tried to live closer to make the contact more regular.

In short, you must confront your fears and also face facts…not easy I admit, so take your time and don't rush to agree anything until you have greater assurance of your children's safe return.

Regards
Federal Director

Federal Director  -  Shared Parenting Council of Australia
noz

You would have to lift the AVO for him to spend time with the children. If you do not do this, later down the track the AVO may not taken too seriously if there is a problem.

If you have court orders for the care of the children they can be enforced so the children will have to be returned. If you have no orders getting a recovery order can still be done fairly quickly.

Director SPCA said
…. If it were me then I would do more work to engage their father and have discussions and perhaps even a meeting before sending the boys. But the AVO would need to be dealt with and perhaps an undertaking in writing from him is needed before dropping the AVO and letting interstate visits occur.
I will comment a moment on the AVO. The AVO was 'extended' to cover the boys. Without knowing just what items are checked in the ADVO it is impossible for any readers to know the extent of the exclusion of these orders. Is it just that he is not to drink alcohol when he is with the boys and yourself?

In respect to 'Undertakings'.. the Police command I believe have recently issued instructions that these are not to be used. Most Police prosecutors, if not all now decline offers of undertakings in NSW anyway. They are only useful if parties will cooperate and are not enforceable. So today we are faced with just the following options:
'no orders', interim 'orders without admission' and ADVO and APVO orders 'with' and or 'without' admission.

This is one reason I believe we will see more 'cross applications' coming as it gives a significant bargaining tool.

In this case there is an ADVO in place and we don't know what its for. Before doing much else you need to deal with the implications and exact nature of the ADVO. You cannot just 'lift that' before he spends time with the children as you will need to have the Police agree and through the local court to amend the ADVO.

Are their any Federal Magistrate or Family Court orders in place. If not that is not so important, as Fairgo has rightly said it is relatively easy to get urgent recovery orders, but with some grief and consternation involved. A court would absolutely not hesitate to grant such order in the circumstances but it is a process to go through you would be better off without having to commence.

How long is the ADVO in place for? That would give readers further information that could assist in coming to some sort of suggestions and ideas for you.


Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
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