I have to get this off my chest. In fact, this is a decade of frustration over my family law case. While I am out of Family Law as are my children, I have had shall we say, a few years to reflect on the mistakes I made back in 2003 in expecting a court would resolve the difficulties within my home environment.
A decade on – Action for Children are working on an alternative offence for the neglect of children. Details of which can be found in the link.
I am passionate about justice and child welfare. Having failed as a mother to protect my children from the damage two warring parents subject any child to, I have found peace within myself to be able to look at situations with a degree of balance.
I opened proceedings in Family Court back in 2004 in order to secure the residency of my own children. The father of my children took great exception to this matter and between us, we started a war. For twelve years, we were married and yes, we had the same difficulties as any other young family. The struggles of the early 90s recession, job losses and the strains of raising two young children. Yet neither of us had our problems with each other as parents of the same children. Our children were paramount in our relationship. When the marriage faltered, we managed for a time to exercise contact between ourselves. My ex-husband was in a new relationship and yes, I was hurting and fragile. But friends supported me and it was clear my marriage was over.
The moment I started court proceedings, was the moment my ex-husband turned against me. Mud was flung, I made scurrilous attempts to undermine him, he counter-acted with further attempts to throw in family history and we viewed each other across a courtroom like two small countries about to launch missile attacks on each other.
Cafcass were brought in to “assess” and one day, his contact order stated he should return them at 18.00 hours and he did not. Without going into a long detailed misery piece of how I fell apart, the long and short of it is, my children were so frightened the result was they no longer wanted to see me. I was awarded (oh the terms used in law) indirect contact. Pretty useless when he refused to disclose where the children were living.
I began to search for a name for what was happening. I found it. This name was Parental Alienation Syndrome. I latched onto this and a decade ago, it was not too well-known in the UK. I spent time with Americans who were far more advanced in this topic. I searched for Mother’s Groups who were suffering the same and very few were around. I came across MATCH (Mothers apart from their children) joined but soon became frustrated with the whole process and carried on racking up huge legal bills that I simply could not pay for. The journey took me to Europe, the Middle East, the United States and I chased my tail until it all ended back in England in a criminal dock with my liberty in a Judge’s hands.
In 2014,it has been ten years since my ex-husband made me see my children in a car park. He refused to allow me to see them only under his command. I had no choice but to respect his decision. Please do not misunderstand, I have no problem with my ex-husband’s abilities as a father, he was and is a good father. He hated me for beginning those proceedings and “taking him to court”
Jumping forward to the present day, I have seen Father’s Rights groups, contact groups and a whole new PAS-aware world. But rarely, do I see, a decade on, Mothers Groups. Fathers Groups’ tell me and I do engage with them, as I do support the family unit, Family Law favours Mothers rights over Fathers. I disagree, Family Law does not favour mothers over fathers, nor does it favour Fathers over Fathers. I do not see this at all. What I do see and what I have experienced, is the worst words any parents could fear. “You will never see your child/children again”
This is a traumatic statement for any parent. Having discussed this with Natasha Phillips who is passionate over the welfare of children, she experienced this and that statement in itself proved to be true for me, ten years is a long time for any child to not see a parent. I know, I never saw my own mother for three decades and when I found her, it was not a pretty sight.
I see Fathers battling for their “rights” to see their child/children and years of estrangements at the hands of the mother. Wars in secret courtrooms where emotions run high and broken parents fight to the very last for their children, believing this is the way forward. I see Fathers Rights’ groups tell of wicked, evil liars of mothers who have stopped them from seeing their children and recently, I have seen support for the imprisonment of mothers who prevent children from seeing their fathers.
This is where I stop. Halt! When we begin to wish criminalizing the mother or father of our children, then I see even bigger problems occurring. I am against an alternative offence for neglect of children. The Criminal Justice System is a monster and children of imprisoned parents suffer more than any adult will ever at the hands of the CJS.
My message to Father’s Groups:
I understand your pain – I have been where you are. I have no wish to send the father of my children to prison or put him through the hands of the CJS, my children who are now adults love him and he is their father. Why on earth would I want to do this to my children? I am a mother and the loss of my children, I played a part in when I fought for my rights and forgot about their needs. The love they already had from their Mum and Dad.
In a child’s eyes, there is no ranking of who is the better parent. A mother’s love and bond is ferocious and sometimes we fuck it up. But as I enter my 11th year without my children, I do know they are safe and well under the care of their father. I took a step back to allow them to breathe when our war was suffocating them. That was out of love when I saw the terror on their faces of what we were doing to them. A father’s love is strong and in no way lesser than a mothers. Your children love you no matter what and is it not time to look inside and stop the war? Whether a mother or a father, is it really necessary to demand the opposing parent is placed into the hands of the criminal justice system? I have been there and let me tell you, it is not a pretty place and the ramifications are huge. Another law is not going to help understand why one parent uses a child as a pawn. In any game of chess, what happens at the end of the game? All the pieces are placed back inside the box…
As I wait, patiently for my children to make contact, this has to be their decision, they are adults now, my heart, my home and everything awaits them as a parent who is repaired. I retain no anger towards the man who made me see them in a car park all those years ago. I was not in his shoes at that time and who is to say I would not have done the same in my rage against him?
And the provocative question of the title of this piece – Why are you the common purpose? Because mothers in many cases, as I was, are demonised by society for not having our children with us. We are in many ways afraid to speak out for the fear of being named and shamed as bad or worse even mad mothers. There is something overtly strong about a father’s love for his child and you are commended for your fight. I support many in this, a father’s love cannot be diminished by a mother’s love for her child as there is room for both in a child’s heart. Love it or loathe it, Mother Nature cannot be destroyed. Even in a prison cell.
Parental Alienation begins with one parent beginning the process. Many mothers get on with their lives and silently suffer afraid to ask for help. I am not against any campaign for the rights of children but I do believe it is time to look into those little faces we love so dearly and find it in us, to stop the war and leave court to those who do really need it. I know my children will have questions and they have every right to ask me those questions. Just as I had questions for my mother.
I was a child of two warring parents, and I became a parent who wanted a war. History does repeat itself. The scars of that war are hard for me to bear, so what must it be like for a child to understand why the two people they love most in the world hate each other so?