Story & photos Eve Jeffery
Christmas can be a very emotional and lonely time for many people. Especially for fathers who the court has ruled unfit or in circumstances too impractical for them to spend even a few moments with the people they love the most – their kids.
It is estimated that up to 21 men every week take their own lives because the distress and loss of becoming alienated from their children becomes unbearable.
Last week The Echo met with a group of men who say that, even though they have been exonerated by the legal system, the false accusations from their ex-partners in relation to their children have done irreparable damage to their kids and their ability to have fair access. Though there are also women who are kept from their children, the vast majority of parents who are separated from their families are men who suffer terribly in a largely gender-biased system.
These four men, who between them have been kept apart from ten children between the ages of three and 15 for a total of almost 20 years, say they have been falsely accused of everything from sexual violence toward their offspring to domestic abuse of their ex-spouses, their families and their ex’s new partners.
One of the dad’s ‘access’ is a solicitor’s post box, to which he can send a Christmas, Easter and birthday card – tokens that he says end up in the bin before his child sees them. This helps create, according to Richard A Gardner, who coined the term, Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), a disorder in which a child, on an ongoing basis, belittles and insults one parent without justification owing to a combination of factors, including indoctrination by the other parent.
Spokesman for the group Alex (not his real name) says that the system is all too willing to listen to the word of a mother over that of a father and when lies – up to and including the manipulation of expert witnesses – prove false, the women are not being punished by the court.
When added to constant and often inexhaustible requests for financial support for children they never get to see, this is, in hundreds of cases a year, the last straw.
The system is not always easy, circumstances are not always cut and dry and the ones who are missing out the most are the kids.
If you need help with getting access to your children, please visit these websites: Children in Crisis –the Family Law Reform Coalition or the Eeny Meeny Miney Mo Foundation.