A Story of Forced Parental Alienation | The Glass House Girls
Fighting for my Children
Counting The Days… 989, the number of days as of 29th March 2016 since I spent the day with my children. I say ‘day’ because I was graciously allowed by my ex to see them for one hour in 2014, which was the last time I saw them. Prior to that it was an afternoon in July 2013.
The thirteenth of February 2005 at 01:04am and the thirtieth of July 2010 at 09:58am, are two of the proudest moments of my life thus far and the birth dates of my two children, Benjamin and Abigail (or Abigirl as she will always be known to me after her then five year old brother mispronounced her name at birth!).
I don’t really remember the presents I bought them, the expensive holidays, the theme parks or material things. I remember bedtime stories and bath times. I recall the feeling of comforting my children when they were poorly. That immense and over-exaggerated sense of pride when they took their first single steps and spoke their first words. Those moments mean more than any amount of money we spent on holidays or plastic toys. They are moments you can’t take back or replicate.
I was there for all those memories; they are imprinted on my mind like videos. I have to cling on to those memories, those videos in my mind – because four and half years ago my marriage broke down (not completely out of the blue, we had been having issues for quite some time) and I am now a part of society that is overlooked by an antiquated family law system; one that is based on prehistoric thinking and no real legal support for those who need it most.
I am, what some choose to call, an ‘absent father’.
A Grossly Inadequate System
Before we get into the nitty gritty details, I have to say one thing. The Child Support Agency (CSA) was created to enforce separated parents obligation to financially provide for their children and I 100% agree with that concept and advocate it.
However, it seems to me that the Government missed a step whilst putting in place such an important system. They did not see fit to enforce action for ‘separated parents’’ right to be involved in their children’s lives.
While I do not agree with how things were prior to the existence of the CSA (parents, predominantly fathers, who once used the ‘If you don’t let me see my children I am not paying for them’ argument), I do completely understand why they did it, and historically, it prevented a lot of parents from being alienated but at the same time allowed others to shun their financial responsibility.
The Government saw the short term gain of making sure estranged parents fulfill their financial obligations but casually ignored the more damaging aspect of children only having one parent present, or being led to believe one parent doesn’t care.
I pay regularly and fairly for my children through the CSA. I do this because it’s fair to my children and because I have always recognised that my children are at least 50% my responsibility.
Over the years, I have spent thousands of pounds fighting the legal system to try and gain legal and responsible access to my own children. In fact I have probably spent the equivalent amount of University Fees to a lawyer simply to restore what I believe are not only my basic rights, but the basic human rights my children also deserve.
The details of the full story are private and for the sake of my children and my family I don’t feel the need to hang all our laundry on the line – but suffice to say that I have been to family court on more than one occasion and been granted legal access to my children with alleged open contact.
Unfortunately, my ex will not allow contact. Despite returning to the family court, they will not enforce the legal document she has been presented with and repeatedly take no custodial, financial or punitive action against her for disobeying a direct court order.
It drives me crazy to think that in this day and age, the UK Family Courts System cannot seem to get theirs hit together. Without harping on too much on the legal side, setting all emotion aside for a moment, surely the legal system itself should recognize that their inability to correct this system is making it seem that the long term emotional and psychological damage being inflicted on my children is morally and legally acceptable. It is not.
“For one parent to deny another parent access is a gross abuse of the privileged position of a biological parent and anyone lucky enough to be afforded the title of Mum or Dad“ (A UK Family Court Judge, Anonymous)
It Should Be A Criminal Offence In 2016
Parents being absent from children’s lives in their formative years, for what seems no comprehensible reason, has been well documented as a contributing factor in adults with mental health issues for several decades. Children who grow up without a parent for explainable reasons are still prone to associated problems.
In Psychology Today, Edward Kruk said that 11-15% of the children of divorcing parents suffering the effects of implacable hostility. In the UK, where roughly 250,000 divorces are granted every year, that estimate would equate to some 50,000-75,000 children every year.
Failures in the system mean that I am now a forcibly absent parent constantly questioning why would my ex do what she is doing?
I cannot even begin to understand how my children feel about being separated from me. I cannot and will not ever hold against them any bad thoughts they have of me, they are children after all and can be easily influenced by those around them. It is no surprise that a separation and divorce can cause animosity between adults which can often spill over in front of children. No matter how much we try to keep them sheltered from the pain.
I live in a strange dynamic as I know my ex provides for them well, they are warm, safe, clothed, fed and educated which is a comfort some in my situation do not have, and for that I am grateful to her. However, at the same time I am filled with dread over what effect this alienation will have on them in the future and I fear what our relationship will look like as they develop into adults.
Grieving For Children That Are Still Alive
Being kept from my children is hard and some days it feels utterly life destroying.
I am sure had it not been for my now wife, Tanya, I would not be around to write this. The pain, anxiety and stress this caused both our families can be bloody awful. Especially when you consider it is all avoidable.
Tanya’s support has been unconditional and endless. I bottled up my emotions, my pains and my hurt and convinced myself I was dealing with it all. It wasn’t until eighteen months after the separation from my ex when I damaged my back at work and was laid up recovering, that the pain of not seeing my children really caught up with me.
I had far too much time on my hands to overthink things and I became my own worst enemy. The end result was me totally breaking down emotionally. I disappeared for a few days. To this day I don’t remember much of those few days.
One of the hardest things is people I love saying “one day they will realize you were alienated from them and it will be OK” but as a father I see the damage will be done by then. Ben and Abigirl will have missed out on a father their entire lives and subsequently be filled with anger and hatred.
It is at times impossible to stay positive, and my faith in the UK Family Court system disappeared a long time ago.
Nobody Can Take Away My Hope Or My Voice
I do not hate my ex, I feel sorry for her. One day she will have to carry the guilt of what she has done and the realization that she could have prevented it. As an alienated father, all I wish for is that people become more aware of the damage incurred by parental alienation. Our obligations to our children and their welfare is higher and more important than our own goals, personal feelings and needs. If you are an alienated parent, seek support and get help as it’s the toughest thing I’ve ever had to deal with.
A pregnant lady once asked me “What’s it like being a parent?” My reply somewhat shocked her as I said, ‘If I was told the only way to save my child’s life was to surrender my own then I would in a heartbeat without a thought’. I love my children unconditionally. I still feel the same today despite the alienation and I would be there if they needed me, I am after all still their father and that is the only thing my ex cannot take away from Benjamin, Abigirl and I.
(Note from The Editor: Many Thanks to Peter for talking about a subject that is all too often kept in the shadows. If you are struggling with a similar situation, there is support available. You can join a Community Support FB Page where you can talk to others who are dealing with similar situations or visit the Fathers for Justice website or Official Facebook Page for more information.)
The Glass House | Guest Writer Peter Hallett opens up about his struggles to stay in contact with his children in