Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Fathers for Justice

Not a title you might expect from me, but perhaps you'll forgive me for a deviation.

You see I'm furious, helpless and shocked by the rights (or rather lack of rights) a father has when a relationship breaks down. Effectively, if a woman decides that she no longer wants her ex partner to see his own children, there is absolutely nothing he can do about it. Nothing.

He can go to court, he can pay for the best barristers, he can show that he was - is - a good father. He can have been the child's stay at home carer, he can jump through any and every hoop a judge or ex cares to demand, but if the mother refuses to comply or co-operate, he can find he has totally lost the most precious thing in his life.

Life seems to have decided I need to know about this.

I've watched not one, not two not three, not four but FIVE good men slowly torn apart by vindictive women who decided to use their children as weapons. Yes, vindctive. Did these men beat their kids? Were they suspected of horrific abuse? Were they addicts or bullies? No. All 5 were good enough men but they were excellent fathers. That's the important thing - excellent fathers. They made birthday cakes, built slides and trampolines, took time off for parent's evenings and first nativities. They were equal parents, equal carers and vitally, equal sources of love.

One was a wealthy man. He spent 10s of thousands on countless hearings over many years. In the end the judge told him, (after his ex had simply refused to comply with ruling after ruling) that there was nothing more he could do. "I can't put her in prison, she's a mother" he concluded. A year or two later, my friend threw a purple flour bomb at Tony Blair in parliament to protest with Fathers for Justice. He ended up in a cell on a terrorism charge before you could say "injustice." He's only a father you see, no problem at all locking him up. He hasn't seen his daughter for years and won't now unless she decides to find him. If she does, he will have a scrap-book of every picture of them having fun, every news article about his fight to see her, every letter, and every plea he ever wrote.

The others weren't so financially free, but it made no difference anyway. They still had to find the money to fight in court, they still often won visiting rights or joint custody but they still ultimately  lost their babies. My brother hasn't seen his children for over ten years. Another friend moved to Australia to follow an ex who had gone to such lengths to deny him access, that she refused to even give him contact details for his own daughters. Her mother sent my friend anonymous and sinister postcards, intimidating him into giving up, all of which and much more was proven in court. His new partner got cancer and he was torn apart knowing that she was back in the UK, on the other side of the world, having chemo and radiotherapy, but he determinedly stayed on in a small flat, all alone, never allowed to see his daughters. He's been there for two years, fighting exactly the same pointless battles in the Australian courts as the others have fought in the UK. He has to come home soon, but before he leaves he wants to ensure that at the very least, if anything happens to his ex-wife, he will be the main carer for his own children by default. She won't even grant him this.

Now, yet another friend is facing the same nonsense. When he split with his wife, he moved just down the lane to live in a static home in a neighbouring field, just so that he could be nearby and help his family. Nonetheless, despite practically being able to see them if they play in their own garden, he only has access every second weekend and has to meet in a lay-by to collect his own children. She has moved out of the home they shared and refuses to give him any contact details apart from her mobile number. He now doesn't know where his own children live.

The thing that sickens me the most about this is that these women are hurting their own kids at least as much as they are hurting their ex-partners. If they think they've found the ultimate punishment, well they have. The trouble is, they are causing pain and damage to their own children that will never heal. Accompanied by an endless, poisonous drip-drip of distortion and contempt about the men they used to idolise, in the end the children start to doubt their own memories, they don't want to hurt their mummies or let them down, and slowly, slowly, they pull away from these men, often never to come back.

What a wicked, selfish, thing to do to your own babies.

Fatherhood has changed in the 21st century, and the law must start to recognise this. A mother has no more right to choose if a father sees his own children than a rejected lover has to demand that her partner comes back. Allowing one as revenge for the other is totally unforgivable.


  1. Sue,

    This is the last article in the world I ever thought I'd see you write. I had no idea that so many of your friends were in this predicament. Your article leaves me quite speechless that this appears to be common place...

  2. It's terrible Eoin - a real injustice.

    Despite taking every legal and activist route open to them these fathers have been denied the most basic right of all.

    Governments and the law aren't interested in changing this.

    If you can think of anyone to send this too, do let me know. My network doesn't extend to many father's groups online.

  3. Sue,

    I have another campaigning friend who found himself in that exact situtation. He did so much research that he wrote a book (The Custody Minefield) and now runs a website/campaigning group with loads of guides and stuff. This is becoming particularly important now that legal aid is being squeezed.

    It humbles me to see what my friends acheive in their spare time! Is this what DC means by the Big Society - 'cause I think some of these organisations should be funded...

  4. If only all men were like that with their children, my ex told people he worked with that I had died in a car crash and my parents wouldn't let him see his children to excuse the fact he had not seen them for quite a few years. My dad died 2 and a half weeks after our first child was born. I didn't keep my children away from him, we weren't told where he lived. I once didn't agree to him taking them away the last week of Christmas term to stay with a woman he had just moved in with after being out of the country for quite a while. He came down here to visit them instead. To me he blamed the fact we live so far away.

    He came back into their lives just over a year after I became ill. Now they have more to do with him than me...I didn't do what these women have done yet for a while I lost my children anyway...these women may find that happens for them.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. The law stinks on this, however, I am not sure it's always about being vindictive. People get so caught up in defensive behaviour when they separate from a partner. I often think it's a case of hit them before they hit me attitude fueled by a huge heap of guilt. I'm not sure there are many ways of bringing down these sort of defences other than, perhaps, very good support and counselling. Also isn't the divorce law changing, making it harder to divorce? Maybe I misread - if it is going to be harder to divorce, then I imagine couples becoming more embittered.

  7. They should change the law so that the mother can be put in prison. If you are sufficiently hate-filled and vindictive so as to deliberately deny your children access to their father for no reason other than your own spite then you are prima facie unsuited to care for or be responsible for children and you should be locked away and they should be temporarily removed from your care. It should be as simple as that.

    No-one should be above the law.

  8. I was surprised to see you write about this! You have to be very careful with what is a very emotional and inflammatory subject. My brother went through hoops so I hear what you're saying but believe me, there are women that go through them too.

  9. @ Stephen: the law in England and Wales, I cannot speak for Scotland or Northern Ireland does actually provide the judge with the power to put the mother in prison. This power has existed for many years.

    Sometimes it has genuinely been used for the benefit of father and child. I know one such father and son. Occasionally, it has been used by nasty men to punish mothers who want to ensure violent exes do not come near their children. I know one such mother.

  10. Stigmum - And the women have the law on their side, empathy on their side.

    Men who find themselves in that situation have nothing. My Mum had her children taken away (not me) by a vindictive ex - as if I would argue that doesn't happen! Still no reason to discriminate against fathers.

    I would like to repeat again. I believe there is NO reason to refuse a father access to his children other than abuse (physical or sexual) severe bullying or addiction - even then most could be catered for in a contact centre.

    Being let down, not phoned on birthdays, being late or forgetting weekends, being a bit lazy and not brushing the kids hair very well (yep, you know who you are!!) are NOT good enough reasons.

    As a mother, even if in YOUR eyes your ex is irresponsible, feckless, lazy, useless - whatever - it is NOT your job to "protect" your children from him. They need to learn about life just as we all do. They can take it. They MUST take it - it's simply not our job as women to stop this process.

    Sure it'll hurt you to watch, but at least a % of that might be our own feelings about the father. For that very reason, we're definitely not the best placed to decide access.

    Our job is to be as neutral as we can, swallow our jealousy when they go off to have fun with none of the boring stuff, protect them as much as we can from the pain of a split, protect them from upheaval and make sure if AT ALL possible that they have access to two parents.

    For instance, I remember a woman who said she never spoke badly about her children's father in front of them - she never did anything else!! All the time drip drip drip. I think that's unforgivable.

  11. When I divorced my wife she had custody of my two kids, the house, the furniture. She even had the pillows on our bed. What did I get? The dog and the debts!

    Is there fairness for fathers in this country? No way!

    Read my blog at

  12. But Vanilla Rose, on the whole it isn't used and the mothers who choose to play the system know it all too well.

  13. I deleted my post as I think that alot of the time this is a subject that unless you are 'in' it - You just don't know everything - sorry,

  14. JustAnotherNobody - Can't remember what it said, but you mustn't ever feel you need to delete a post!! Debate is good!

    As you can see,. this is something I feel very strongly about, but it doesn't necessarily mean I'm right, lol

  15. Comment sent via email :

    EH517 - V Good Blog and a subject that needs discussion at all levels.
    It comes down to choices to be a good parent or not .
    It is HARD to be a good parent by keeping civil and dignified with an ex who has hurt you and is ambivalent towards their children.
    It is EASY to disrespect them, disregard them and destroy them but by doing so it is your children you destroy and disregard.
    Anyone who has any influence on the current system should be looking at supporting both parents and enabling both to be good parents.
    What is it with this once a fortnight'contact'???
    Intelligent people put aside your differences , put your children first and value the contribution you have both made and can make to those you most love

  16. From one of the men I write about (Facebook)

    "Quite where you find the energy and compassion to write such an article outside of your own burden leaves me in awe of you.

    One day my two darling Girls might be able to read all this for themselves and maybe their mother too will read, realise and learn just how to be a parent and decent human being.
    I love ya Sue, thank you. And to all parents reading this, never ever, ever give up on your born children for one day they will inherit everything you ever do and leave for them..."

  17. I keep trying to post to this but just, I'll leave it.

    But I'm more than a little disgusted. Could slip "scroungers" in for "vindictive mothers" and it would read the same as everything people are protesting about right now.

    Nuff said from I need to go have a long scrub.

  18. "Tacitus" I didn't even get the dog!!
    Its also really sad how many loving Grandparents
    are also denied contact

  19. Not at all Oya's daughter! The mothers have the law on their side (see previous comment)
    Of COURSE not all are vindictive. My point was that if they choose to be, the law will not step in.
    Why not see the fathers as us? The victimised group with absolutely nowhere to go - nowhere at all - when things go wrong?

  20. Injustice is injustice wherever it lies - if a group find they have no voice, no rights, then they deserve our support.

  21. It's even worse for fathers with a mental health problem like severe depression. Mothers who play the mental health card not only discriminate in the worst possible way, but also tip dads to a double despair. Mums with post natal depression don't have their children taken away from them, so a dad with depression is not, in itself, a reason to deny or unduly restrict contact with children.

    Mothers do use every trick in the book, and believe me, some can also deny theat they're doing anything other than acting in the best interests of the children. And, as many have said in this discussion, it's the children who ultimately suffer. That's the worst irony of all.

  22. Some years ago I worked for the Community Services Department of a city council. I wanted to set up a group for single fathers where they could meet children when things were (for whatever reason) difficult for them. I got backing from a few sources, some quite surprising - but before I could get it off the ground, my then manager, a female with a huge grudge agains men and me in particular - found a spurious reason to instigate my dismissal. As a single "absent" father myself I have been incredibly lucky to be able to share my children's lives and maintain an excellent relationship with them. Whatever happens between husband/wife/partner - It's a travesty that the children should suffer for the mistakes or whatever of either or both parents.

  23. me: 6 years going through court and always given contact which was always prevented.

    A grand or so in legal fees but represented myself after that.

    Disgusting lies about me in court which were disproved but no action taken.

    Ex moved away without telling me and took kids.

    This won't change while the system is a gravy train for the legal profession who simply see the children involved as £ signs.

  24. aaaaargh - you just summed up EXACTLY the situations of my friends.
    Of course not every woman behaves like this, but the fact that if they choose to, there is nothing that can change it has caused real heartbreak for my friends. Heartbreak.
    I've never seen anyone suffer as much as someone with a chronic illness except these fathers.
    They totally get my helplessness in the face of bureaucracy, my problem being one that can't be "solved"or "changed" and despite money or determination or passion or all three, they've all hit brick walls and mourn their babies every day.
    If that's not an injustice, I don't know what is.