I'm new on here but have read lots of boards, and I'm looking for some advice. It's going to be a long thread as so much has happened, but I hope someone can help us.
I married my ex-partner in 2011, we met me I quickly got pregnant, so we decided to marry when I was six months pregnant. I already had a son from previous,, and everything was fine until the day after the wedding when my ex threatened to smash up the caravan we were staying in as my mother couldn't have my eldest son, so he came with us on our 'honeymoon' which was a week in my aunt's caravan! After that, it got worse, and my ex would often lock us out, threaten me, threaten suicide and he was always out drinking and was also a bit gambler. It didn't get any better when our son was born.
There were over 15 logged incidents to the police. Each time nothing happened. I had moved out of the house I owned with my eldest child's dad, into my ex-partners house and this became the Marital home. I gave up work and became a stay at home mother. One night in May 2012 he came home drunk, tried to strangle me ( while I was holding our son) and then threatened to stab himself with a knife. The police arrived, and from that night I moved back into my property and never went back to his house. He was put on bail for months, but unfortunately, the CPS didn't think there was sufficient evidence for it to go to court. The police issued a PIN on him. He took me to court in that time, and CAFCASS decided with the magistrates that he could have supervised access only. Overseen by his parents- my son was still very young, and I was reluctant to promote any access due to his mental health and continued abuse but felt pressured massively. No court order was made just an agreement. I also filed for divorce, and in September 2013 my pleading was filed on unreasonable behavior. For months he refused to sign, then he tried to counter petition, but his solicitor didn't pay the court costs, so his request was returned. I'd already spent over 3 thousand of my own money (borrowed from friends and family and my savings), so I had to drop the solicitor for the divorce and tried to do it myself from this point.
In time his parents began supervising less and less, and I found myself in a giant loop of abusive messages and emotional abuse and control. He would continuously text and ring me; if I went out, he would follow me, threaten my friends and family and in 2014 he reported me as a missing person when I went out for a night out with work colleagues. All this was logged to the police who always told me to keep a diary which I did. In 2015 I had him served with the divorce papers. This time he acknowledged them, but he also defended the petition. So the courts called a hearing where the judge suggested a new action be issued on the grounds of 2 years separation. It was agreed we would split the 550 fees between us. I asked and asked for the monies, but he always refused, threatening never to sign, take my house and my kids and using every tactic he could.
In August last year, he turned up at my aunt's caravan where I was holidaying with the children. He had been drinking and began accusing me of having 'an affair.' It ended up in him kicking me in the face, punching me and trying to stab me. Throughout, both children were there. My 12-year-old had to give a police report, it was hugely distressing, and he's had almost a years worth of counseling. He taped the attack on his mobile as he was scared and you can hear my ex say he is going to 'cut my c**t into little f****g pieces.' My youngest was 4, and he saw it all, and my ex also took him outside then left him alone in the dark. ( this happened at 1 am) My son was crying outside, and a neighbor brought him back to me- by this time I was on the phone to the police, and in the chaos, I didn't even realize he had taken my son. He'd hit me for over an hour, and when the police came, I was covered in blood. They caught him and arrested him. He was bailed for three months, but in December 2016 he pleaded guilty to assault by beating and criminal damage ( he smashed my phone to bits). His version was he threw the phone at me, and it happened to give me black eyes and multiple body bruising. He got a 12-month community order, attend a 15-day drinking rehabilitation and was ordered to pay court costs and compensation to me and most importantly an ongoing restraining order was put into place protecting myself and my eldest son. The order didn't cover my youngest, as my ex has parental responsibility. Social services were involved, and we had a great student who bonded with the kids and me. She tried to promote contact, but I said no. My youngest told her he did not want to see his father as he was scared. He's also told teachers at school and his counseller. I heard nothing from my ex and went about putting mine, and the kid's matters in order.
In March 2017 I received a court summons as he was requesting 50:50 access. He hasn't seen his son in almost 11 months, so this came as a huge shock. I don't qualify for legal aid as I earn 100 a month over the cap- even though there are a historic domestic abuse and a criminal conviction in place. The hearing was for April 24, and I was made to sit in a room with him. He sat behind me and referred to me as 'his wife' I felt sick. I was shaking, and couldn't speak. Luckily the CAFCASS officer noticed and I was able to speak to her. They had not completed a report as 'they did not have my correct number' even though it appeared on the court papers. Alongside the previous CAFCASS involvement, she was not satisfied and agreed conciliation was not an option. They had us down for, and the magistrate had not read the file. He told me to act like a grown up. The whole thing was a farce and cost me over 400 in representation. It was adjourned till May 15th for CAFCASS to do a report and also speak to my son to take into consideration his wishes.
I wrote to the courts and explained how it made me feel to sit in a room with my attacker. Thankfully they replied and arranged a video link and security measures for the 15th. I also spoke to the courts about the divorce, and they sent out his acknowledgment and an application for the Decree Nisi. I felt very positive. Surely he couldn't defend the petition with a restraining order in place?? Wrong. He was still defending himself, and a hearing was called for today, 18th of May.
On the 15th it was decided it would need to go to a district judge on July 24th and a full section 7 report would be done not by CAFCASS but. By social services. I was relieved as I believed they were best placed to do it as they had spent a lot of time with my son.
Today I went to court and saw a district judge. I was relieved it was a female as I felt at ease. Unfortunately, he was still defending and refused to sign as the financial page in the petition had been completed. The judge explained this is procedure but didn't push it anymore. I was asked why I hadn't petitioned again as per the last hearing and revealed he hadn't paid his half and refused to. The other option was for his cross-petition to stand so both our petitions are heard and the Ivor effect proceeds on those grounds. I agreed to this as I want this over for my sanity. However his solicitor had not paid the court courts when they submitted his cross-petition, so one is not in place and never had been! I explained I couldn't afford to pay 50% of the court costs and why should I?! There was a restraining order which proves his unreasonable behavior. I was told by the judge the restraining order was not 'relevant.' I felt sick to the stomach. This process has gone on for four years. How can they make me stay married to a violent criminal? A man who has a restraining order preventing his contact with my child and me????? It was decided I would have to petition on the grounds of 2 years separation, and he would pay 400, and I would pay 150, but I still feel it's a massive slap in the face. That's still a lot of money to me as a single parent with massive legal costs due to the child hearing.
I don't understand why just because he didn't like the petition he is allowed to defend? Defended divorces are very rare, and due to the abuse, I'm amazed the judge couldn't see that this is another form of domestic violence. I feel like my insides have been ripped out and I'm worried that a judge will grant him access to our son who is now 5 and has said over and over he is afraid of his father. The last thing my ex ever said to him the night of the attack before he drove off was 'daddy is going to go and kill himself now.' My son has told people this, but I feel lost and let down by the system. How can they force him to have contact with a man like that? I hope someone can offer me some advice.
I feel like I'm sinking at the moment and there is no way out for my boys and me :(