SparkySparks
background…
Split up with ex-wife 11 years ago, my son has just turned 12.
I’ve always wanted contact with him and have had good contact with him for the last (roughly) 8 years doing Wed PM - Fri AM first week then Wed PM to Sun evening second week.

I’ve been with my current partner since he was 2 and we moved in together about 5 years ago when he was 7, still maintaining the same levels of contact.

Unfortunately, my boy and my partner have a strained relationship, he won’t talk to her easily and he generally makes things a little difficult. He’s not nasty, he just won’t interact unless he absolutely has to.

I like to think that me and my son have had a good relationship, we’ve done plenty together like playing RC cars, going out on bikes, playing in the park, doing school work together, just chilling. You know, all normal stuff, plus holidays that were just us 2 and ‘family’ holidays too. We’ve had plenty of time as just the 2 of us and also time with my partner as a ‘family’.

My boy did well and got into a selective school, he had tutoring for a while in Yr5/6 to help, all paid for by me. This is what he wanted, he wanted to be in the good school and understood about getting good grades and doing well to have better job prospects.

When Covid-19 lockdown happened, we decided that it would be best for him to stay at his mum’s as my partner works for the NHS and is meeting lots of people in their homes as well as in clinics so our risk was higher.
When restrictions were relaxed, he came over originally for Wed through to a week on Sunday (12 days). My partner was away for 5 days of this so we could also have some time just us together.
On the Friday (day 10), his mum said she wanted to pick him up that day, so I agreed as long as it was late, 8pm, so we had time for tea etc.

However, when he was due to come over last Wed 17th, his mum messaged me and said ‘he doesn’t want to come over and I’m not going to make him’.
I made the point that she should be encouraging contact and not just agreeing with him.

My own feeling is that over here, we have rules and he doesn’t like it.
He goes to bed at 9:30 - 10pm and leaves his phone away from his bed.
He has to come out and walk the dogs with me or us (30 mins max per walk, not miles!)
He has to clear his own breakfast/dinner stuff and put them in the dishwasher.
He is restricted on the amount of Xbox time per day.
He is asked to vacuum his room as/when needed.
I monitor his school homework, make sure it’s done and enough effort is put in (quality work), helping as needed (which sometimes isn’t easy without a refresh of knowledge via Google!)

Over there, I can see from his phone logs that he’s often on his phone (TikTok, Youtube, Instagram) after midnight most nights (This week, I blocked his phone on an app so no access after 11pm now though).
No restrictions on Xbox time
No chores
No monitoring of his school work, his mum said that she isn’t coping well working from home and doesn’t want to argue with him about his school work.

I’m concerned that without being here anymore or seeing me, he’ll just do what he wants when he wants and end up with a rubbish lifestyle like her other (now 30 year old) son. No job prospects etc.
I think her parenting skills are not great, from what I’ve heard him say it sounds like she talks to him more like a friend (offloading to him about work/money etc) rather than as a parent and making him feel safe and secure.

I’ve asked him tonight 25th and said, shall I come and pick you up for breakfast tomorrow. He said no. I asked if he wants to come over in a couple of weeks time, he said, maybe, not sure.
I pushed him a bit more to expand on why he doesn’t want to come over or see me, and he said, I dunno, it’s hard to explain, I can’t explain really.
I’ve asked him to have a think about what he wants and talk to me over the weekend.

So that’s where we’re at. I’m really sad and upset that he doesn’t want to spend time with me or see me.

My dilemma is…
Do I go down the legal route and get a court order to force him to come over, because I think he needs more parental guidance and support. If so, do I up contact to proper 50/50, I was only 1 night off 50/50 anyway. 1 week here, one week there.
Do I leave him to stay with his mum and accept the consequences of this on his growing up in that environment?
Do I try and keep talking to him, sending cards & presents to his mums?
Do I keep paying for all the extras over and above the regular payment, like his SIM (monthly, not a contract), extra for school trips etc?
He’s said before that he wants it only as me and him, so should I look at a regular place to stay, just me and him?
There is so much going on in my head and I don’t know what to do for the best, for me or for him. Obviously it causes problems with my partner too, but we’re good and we’ve worked through it mostly.
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Jason Shaw jay3779
Hi, I've been through the child arrangements programme (CAP) which is the court process for determining who the child lives with or spends time with. A court judgement, if not reached by consent between the natural parents, will be based on a checklist ('the welfare checklist') which includes the wishes and feelings of the child as reported to the court by a social worker for this purpose. They will take the parents' statements into consideration but what you think or say won't be the paramount consideration. They will come to their own conclusion, and this process can be manipulated by either of the parents or their solicitors. The CAP is not something I would rush into, and in the meantime I would continue to do all that you have been doing. Your 12 year old is going through his own 'transition'. He'll come through it with your help. 
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SparkySparks
Thanks for your relpy on your experience and thoughts Jason.  The court process is not something I want to go through if possible.  I've looked up the welfare checklist that you mentioned and its an interesting read, not as straight forward as Ithought.
It's given me more to consider before taking any action, I fear that if I speak to a legal person, they'll just say 'sort it leagally' to get their money and have a 'result' regardless of the outcome.
Maybe I'd be better leaving it a little while and seeing if he changes his mind and wants to come back to our house again.
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familylives
Hi, I understand that this is a difficult situation. It's early days, and kids tend not to be massive fans of their parents partners, it's fairly typical. It's interesting that you've come to all these conclusions without talking to anyone, if you truly believe that she's not doing her part or that your son needs to visit, why don't you talk to them about it? Try a little harder to get to the reason why your son doesn't want to visit, be even handed about so as though he doesn't feel pushed. If you want to go through the courts, the Child Law Advice website has an extensive archive of information on the law surrounding children. You may find it helpful to read our articles on divorce and separation. If you feel you need further support please e-mail us at askus@familylives.org.uk or contact us through our live chat service which is open, Monday to Friday between 1.30pm and 5.30pm or call our freephone helpline on 0808 800 2222.
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