Some years ago, I went through a very unpleasant divorce and my ex-wife has always been difficult about me having contact with our daughter.
My financial position has changed and I can no longer afford a car. My ex-wife has said that she will stop contact with my now-14-year-old daughter if she goes on my bike. As I need to pick her up, and my ex-wife refuses to drive her to me in what is an 80-mile round trip (which I understand), this is turning into a real problem.
I do not want to give my ex-wife any leverage over contact but my daughter now fits into ladies size 8 motorcycle gear; she has the full safety kit and she loves being on the bike.
Can my ex stop contact? Ironically, my wife takes our daughter show jumping (which I largely pay for) so I am not sure safety is absolutely her first concern, I have held a full and clean motorcycle licence for over 20 years and have never even had an off, despite a daily commute into London.
In short, as a matter of law your ex-wife cannot stop contact; with a 14-year-old daughter who is old enough to know her own mind and vote with her own feet and meet her dad, as a matter of practicality, your ex-wife is not going to be able to stop contact.
I am not going to pretend to be an expert in family law, which I have not practiced for many years but I have checked and the basic takeaways are these; The Courts will not allow children to be used as litigation weapons in family disputes but they are also very slow to use their powers when the parent with residence/custody blocks contact. If your daughter was ten years old, and simply could not walk out of the door, my answer would be different – not as a matter of law but as a matter of practicality.
In order for your ex-wife to lawfully stop contact, she would have to show that you are putting your daughter at an unacceptable level of risk. Your daughter has good-quality safety gear and you are an experienced and high-mileage rider carrying the most precious load imaginable on your bike.
I really cannot see any judge altering the contact arrangements agreed years ago on the basis of a relatively short journey on the back of your motorcycle, which your daughter loves.
The established law is simple enough. As long as you can safely carry your teenage daughter on your motorcycle, so that her feet hit the footpegs and she is carried normally, and has a type-approved helmet, then you are within the law. You, entirely sensibly, have gone the whole hog with all the kit.
If this goes to a Family Court, your basic propositions are that your daughter will go with you anyway; It is the child’s right to contact, not the mother’s privilege, and your method of transport is lawful and you have reduced the risks inherent in riding a motorcycle by giving your daughter all the appropriate safety kit. The pictures of your daughter jumping her horse are without a back protector, so your ex’s safety concerns are unusually selective.
Judges are not daft. If asked why the risk of jumping a horse over some big and technical jumps is okay but lawfully being carried on a motorcycle with full safety gear by her dad is unacceptable, your ex is going to struggle for an answer. Even if you take the horse riding out of the equation, my answer would not change. Your wife will not be able to stop contact because you pick your daughter up by bike. If you were riding her around in joggers and trainers, then you would be in difficulty because the Judge could well be persuaded that you have not reasonably managed the risk of the consequences of a collision and draw the inference that you are putting your desire for contact over your daughter’s safety.
RiDE Magazine – August 2019