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How a 4 year old is losing her dad for no good reason

2 December 2008 1,198 views 4 Comments

My name is John. A year ago, after relationship problems, my wife left without warning, taking our four year old daughter Sarah with her. I was out getting the weekly shopping at the time, I had no idea where she’d gone and I was worried sick. A few days later, she told me she had left and said she would contact me shortly.

She never contacted me, never answered her phone and I didn’t see Sarah again for four months. Overnight, I had gone from being a full-time dad to not even knowing where my daughter lived, and having no idea when I would see her again.

I tried talking to our GP, social services, the Police, our health visitor; but no-one would help. They all said “It’s a civil matter. See a solicitor”.

After about a month of writing letters to my wife (at her parent’s address) asking her to try mediation, I finally gave up and went to see a solicitor. At the solicitor’s I found I had no right to see my daughter, even though I was her dad and she’d lived with me for years. My wife now said she was not going to let me see Sarah at all as she apparently thought ‘this was best’.

In order to see her again, I would have to go to court and apply for a ‘contact order’ – requiring my wife to let me see my daughter – even though I had done nothing wrong.

A few months later we had the first court hearing and I was granted one hour a week to see Sarah at a ‘supervised contact centre’. Contact centres are degrading and humiliating for the parent and child, they’re little better than a prison visit. I couldn’t take my daughter out of the room and I was watched like a criminal the whole time. Sarah hadn’t seen me at all for four months and was now only able to see me in this unnatural environment.

I could not understand how a mother could treat her daughter this way, but it appeared she wasn’t concerned about the damage and distress she was causing Sarah. It seems the end result of ending Sarah’s relationship with me was just so much more important to her.

Finally, eight months after Sarah had been taken, and after social services had investigated, the court made a contact order where I was granted unsupervised contact with Sarah all day every Sunday. This was meant to increase to two days a week after three months.

I started seeing Sarah on my own again and we began to rebuild our relationship. However, this lasted just three weeks. My wife then broke the court order, saying I couldn’t see Sarah again unless I agreed to go back to the contact centre. She gave no reason for this except she was ‘not happy’ with where I was taking Sarah – even though we were doing perfectly normal things like going to visit her grandparents and the park.

I went back to my solicitor but I was told that the court would not enforce the contact order they had made just weeks before!

It was up to me to apply to the court again to enforce the order and persuade the court yet again that I should be allowed to see my daughter! This would mean more delay, more expense (I had already spent over £5000 on legal bills) and still more distress to Sarah. I was beginning to realise, at last, what a farce the family courts really are.

So now I have no choice but to go back to court. I try to believe that the system will eventually protect my daughter’s right to have a dad, despite her mother’s wish to remove me from Sarah’s life.

In the meantime, Sarah and me have to make do with one hour a week in a contact centre.
Sarah needs her dad back – not just someone she visits like a prisoner once a week.

(Identifying features have been changed to protect the individuals involved).


  • Phoebe said:

    I’ve witnessed this pattern over and over and over again.

    How, I wonder, would mothers know to take this course of action? Who, I wonder, is advising them to commit these crimes?

    One thing is for sure: the advice is malicious and hurtful.

    How many children must suffer before we wake up and treat both parents with the respect that the children want to see paid them?

  • specialgirlsdad said:

    I really feel for you John and I hope things have improved for you and your daughter since you posted your story.

    My own story is different but has similarities – over a period of time I had become my daughter’s main carer as her mother simply left most of the care to me. After several incidents of domestic violence against me I called time and started divorce proceedings and applied to the courts for an interim residence order. The mother didn’t wait around but moved out with my daughter before the court hearing and refused me contact.

    I managed to get limited contact quite soon after, and following a CAFCASS report a year later this has been increased further so my situation is much better than yours, but the level of contact I have bears no relationship to the level of involvement I had in my daughter’s life before she was taken by her mother. I fear that both of or daughters will have been emotionally scarred by the sudden removal or curtailment of one of most important relationships in their life. It is known that the nature of our early relationships in life have a profound impact on our adult relationships – it isn’t just mother/child relationships that are important but also other key ‘attachment’ figures in the child’s life.

    I’m really glad to see Phoebe’s comment. I’ve come to the conclusion that women hold the key to changing the present sad state of affairs. Men’s protests are too often taken as sour grapes or the rantings of a bunch of sad loonies and losers. Sadly, the biggest losers are children. Every woman that I speak to knows of cases where mothers abuse the family courts and treat their children as tools to take vengance on their former partners – sometimes for financial gain and sometimes simply for revenge. It needs women to speak out and say ‘this dreadful family law is harming our nation’s children and it must be changed’ and men need to campaign responsibly and articulately – such as the campaigning on this web site.

    Phoebe, there is a simple answer to who is advising these women – there is advice on websites, by word of mouth, and from unprincipled solicitors.

    John, reading your story brought tears to my eyes as it brought back to me some of my own worst moments – suddenly finding the house empty and my daughters bedroom stripped; the empty nights when just a days before I would have heard my daughter calling ‘Daddy’ in the night; getting up to an empty house instead of hearing my daughter calling ‘Daddy, where are you?’

    Before my own experience I would have condemned any father who gave up on their children in these cicumstances but I now understand the almost limitless strength needed to carry on in the face of rotten law, rotten courts and a vengeful mother. I hope that you can find that strength.

  • missmolly said:

    you don’t know the full reasons people do this. id prefer my childrens father in a contact centre and until then I wont b allowing him to see them or contact them because of how he acts and emotionally hurts my kids. some women are just nasty but not all of us. im quite annoyed reading this article as you clearly do not know what happens and why the courts are like this.

  • missmolly said:

    what exactly was I ment to do do then…stay there and let my children watch him beat me everyday? my children are better off since we disappeared.

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