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Children as a pawn


Divorce is a killer. When a couple who have children part acrimoniously and one parent is wholly controlling and devisive it can be incredibly life changing. For me it has had a huge profound impact. For my children (who are the only ones who matter) it has been explosive and caused them to struggle in the same way that many children try to make sense of a new world order forced on them through no fault of my own.

As a dad I am incredibly proud of my offspring. I have three amazing children, my eldest, my stepson I raised for over a decade, is fast approaching 29 and a dad to a two year old, so technically I am a grandfather.

However, my two youngest children are my biological offspring, not that I would ever treat any of them any differently, blood or not.

I also have an eight year old in my life who I have put life and soul into. Whose own father sadly has nothing much to do with her life. This weekend, as with many others, she is with me and I have plans to take her to do things that will enthrall and excite her and tire her out. I’ve been up cleaning and tidying since dawn waiting for her to arrive. She fills the gap in my life when I am not allowed to be a parent because of my ex-wife’s controlling behaviour towards me being allowed in my kids lives. She has been an inspiration and she will always be in my life now. A commitment I have made to all of my children. All I’ve known since the age of 22 is parenting, at 46 now I’ve been a dad more than half my life and I live to be a father.

A common tactic that is becoming a regular positioning piece in divorces where one party behaves in a manner that is not in the interests of the children, to punish the party serving the divorce, or to assert control. It’s narcissistic, it’s not moral or ethical and in my case has been accompanied by behaviour to isolate me and to try to cause as much pain as possible. What is forgotten is the impact on two small children. Playing the system, making entirely false malicious accusations to further her claim.

Fortunately, in my case those accusations proven entirely callous and without a single shred of evidence. Custom designed to destroy an ex partner to reinforce a divorce settlement or parenting outcome in a court process that I am the applicant in. It’s beyond heartbreaking.

Co-parenting is impossible when one parent refuses entirely to engage, but portrays to agencies and a school that she is the one in the right. Our children have two parents who love and care for them. Our children have two homes. Our children have two parents who brought them into the world out of love and dedication. One of those parents had an affair and is focused on the new partner and puts the needs of the children a distant second. The other, sat in this cottage he built for the children is ostracised and prevented from meaningful access, other that that access given by a court that is mindful of the needs of the children.

Fathers for Justice, Families Need Fathers and the small growing number of Direct Access Barristers afford a way forward. The agencies, struggling under the weight of applications, see families in trauma on a regular basis and provide a worthy and capable system to provide balance. The agencies are not joined up, nor do they often communicate effectively, or act in a way that is in the best interests of the children. They try their best, however they are over worked and under funded. In the current climate with BREXIT and cuts to local and national Government those cuts do not assist in providing the support they need. If you need a good Direct Access Barrister and you’re in the South West I have the best one in the business.

Direct Access is a concept championed by a small growing number of barristers that allows anyone to contract a barrister without the need of a solicitor. I didn’t understand it, in fact I’d never heard of it. It seems to be the best kept secret, but it is also a hugely intelligent methodology of getting primary care in the court system from talented and caring barristers who devote themselves to Family Law.

Remember the breakup of a marriage or relationship where small children are involved is first and foremost one of severe emotional trauma and confusion. We have a primary care to ensure that a child centric view is retained and that you have to try, hard, to focus on that.

In my case that hasn’t been possible because of my ex using them as a pawn since the day we split. Two days after we split she prevented them having Fathers Day with me as she had gone off for the first of a huge amount of weekends without the kids, dumping the parents with her family rather than allow them contact with their father after the trauma of a breakdown when they needed him most. From day one. Her focus, since our divorce being her new girlfriend, not the children. That attitude to preventing all contact with their father started two days after we split and the controlling manner of her behaviour has not stopped since.

Children affected by divorce and separation go through trauma. When one parent behaves in a manner that is controlling and entirely without common sense or rationale to prevent the non resident parent from being able to be the parent they were before divorce, it becomes incredibly hard.

I worked from home for nearly two decades. I brought our children up 24/7 365 and was in their lives on a daily basis. Since I filed divorce my wife has withheld the children for 227 days. I have had my children in my care overnight in those 227 days for 12 nights. In anyones book thats alienation.

Gaslighting, preventing phone access, preventing emails, not reading or passing on letters from their father, this has become common practice in our new family order. Fishing for information from the children on a regular basis putting them in an incredibly difficult position. One they should never be placed in. Co-parenting in a high conflict environment is tough. Don’t ever give up, even when you feel it’s too much, the fight can’t go on forever and you just have to be prepared to find things to do in your spare time that prevent you reacting to your ex-partner. That purely feeds what they want, a reaction that they can then position to use against you. In nine months I have not once reacted.

When your ex is hugely manipulative and controlling, and determined to cut you out the lives of children whose world you were in seven days a week prior to her affair that is incredibly hard. Remember some people will always punish you for their behaviour. The amount of fathers I have spoken to in the same situation as myself is shocking. The system is slow, the system is very biased in weight of the mother, but do not give in to the temptation to bite. It’s a long game. Ten months in my case since my ex-wife and I split and in that time she’s made life hell.

It’s unacceptable, but as a seperated dad you have little to no voice and the onus of the agencies seems to always lie with the resident parent. A resident parent who has become that by force majeure, by malice, without a thought for the needs of the children impacted by her infidelity and her new relationship which the children struggle to understand.

One day I hope she will be a capable mother who understands the need for co-parenting. Who understands the children have a right to be in balanced care. Who have two parents who love them. Until then you have to believe in the court process and then hope that the needs and wishes of the children are understood and aligned to their daily needs.

As a journalist I sit here writing copy and have talked to The Guardian and The Telegraph about writing up my experiences and making them public, however for now it’s too soon and it’s still in flux and there is little to no guarantee that the process will work for fathers in my situation where the resident mother seems favoured by agencies who see much worse cases sadly every day of the week.

In my situation you have an ex-wife who has manipulated the system, lied to agencies and the school with creative gusto, and who has a proclivity to tell untruths to anyone who will listen to further her cause. In my case to remove me from my children’s lives after I filed divorce for her conduct and her deceit. In my case, which is not wholly different to many other dads I have talked to, she seems to have forgotten the children are not to blame for the divorce, her behaviour was the causal effect, and the children do not deserve to be punished by isolating them from their father.

Especially difficult when she acknowledges that I am a good dad and they love being in my care. In my case it’s purely a financial play to secure the best possible equity settlement, not about the needs of our children. That in itself makes me hugely angry inside, but an anger that you temper with a reality that the court system is not stupid. They see controlling and dictatorial mothers every day of the week. They don’t care about you or your ex and thankfully are positioned to champion the needs of the children.

Children should not be a pawn in a divorce. If you are affected by a similar situation and are not getting the support you need then reach out to me and I will try my best to help you and offer you constructive guidance.

There are resources out there like CAFCASS who are fantastic. Their High Conflict Parenting Guides and SPIP programmes are designed to give you a a foothold on the way. I also have read numerous books on separated parenting and listened to self help books, sought counselling and spoken to friends in an identical position. There is support, it’s thin on the ground, but don’t give up hope.

You are not alone. You might think you are, but we are thousands in number in a process thats broken, without the support we deserve. This can affect your career, your mental health and the resulting impact on your personal finances. I am fortunate to be able to keep fighting. Many fathers give up.

Don’t give up. You have me in your corner and I will always be there for you. Please contact me day or night if you feel the fight is too much. When I needed help there was nobody there for me. I will not let you be in that position.

Here are some useful links for you to read if you are struggling:






Technologist, Journalist, Single Dad, Bass Player, Drummer, Podcaster

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