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.