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Separated father: 'I will spend Christmas on my own, not seeing my children'

As my legal team told me at the time of the separation, this is what I signed up for when I got married. Unfortunately nobody told me that before I signed the marriage register.


IT’S THAT TIME of year again – the season of goodwill to all men (and women). While most people are looking forward to spending more time with their families, and parents, especially, spending more time with their children, I am not.

I am a parent – a father. I have three children, two still in primary school and one in secondary school. For the next few weeks my life will oscillate between hope and dread.

My hope is that this year I will get the greatest Christmas present ever – I will get to spend some time with my children. My great dread is that, once again, I will spend Christmas on my own, not seeing my children. It is the hope that keeps me going even though, deep down, I know that it is a forlorn hope.

A repeat of the last three years

The likelihood is that this December will be a repeat of the last three years. My solicitor will apply to the court for what he sees as reasonable access for a separated father, which will include overnight access.

This application will be strenuously opposed by the other side, arguing that my accommodation is inadequate for overnight access for children. It is a small apartment that I share with another man. My solicitor will point out that this man will be gone home from Christmas Eve until 2 January, but that will not sway the judge.

As far as the court is concerned, the fact that the family law courts put me in the position where I must live in ‘inadequate accommodation’ to facilitate my wife’s desire for a separation is irrelevant – a separation that resulted from my wife having an affair with a man who used to be my best friend.

At the time of the separation I was horrified to discover that my wife had the power in law to evict me from our family home in this way for no reason other than the fact that I am a man and the main wage-earner. I still pay the mortgage on the family home, as well as maintenance for my wife and children, hence my inability to provide ‘adequate’ accommodation for myself.

As my legal team told me at the time of the separation, this is what I signed up for when I got married. Unfortunately nobody told me that before I signed the marriage register.

It won’t happen

After about ten minutes the Judge will ‘allow’ me something like four hours on Christmas Eve and two more four hour visits between Christmas and the New Year. That is what I was awarded last year and was told that it was generous.

But it doesn’t really matter what the Court orders. It won’t happen. My solicitor will remind the court that my wife did not comply with the access arrangements ordered by the courts for the past three years. The judge will adopt an air of feigned anger and indignation.

He will remind all concerned that contempt of court orders is a serious offence, punishable by imprisonment, and say that he will not tolerate it in his court. But it doesn’t matter what he says.

When we leave the courtroom I will ask my solicitor what will happen if she breaches the court order again. His answer will be honest and predictable – NOTHING. She is now a lone mother with three small children so no judge is going to imprison her. She is effectively above the law and she knows it.

Back in court again

In January or February we will be back in court again where the breach of the Christmas access order will be raised. She will come up with some lame excuse. Last year it was that her parents rang her on 23 December and begged her to bring the children to them, as they were getting old and it could be their last Christmas. They are still around so that excuse can get another outing.

As on the last occasion the judge will sympathise with her story about her elderly parents but make the startling comment that the children’s father should also be considered. He will point out that the Christmas holiday period extends over a week these days and could have been shared between the father and her parents.

Again there will be feigned anger and she will be warned that any breach of court ordered access next Christmas will not be tolerated, but everybody in the courtroom will know that the same thing will be repeated again.

Still I must go through with this charade every year. The forlorn hope is what keeps me going. Maybe (and it is a big maybe) she will have to resort to using me as a free babysitter while she parties over the New Year. It is that ‘maybe’ that is my forlorn hope.

This is one man’s story as told to a Men’s Voices support worker and is published in this form with his consent. With some minor variations it could be the story of many men this Christmas.

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