Parentectomy; the silent killer in court

In the midst of the exciting changes heralded by the possibility of policy change around family separation, this week has been one of those roller coaster rides that has ended, in tears.  This week I have been reminded why change in family law is so urgent as once again I have been witness to the silent death of a relationship between a father and his children.

It doesn’t matter how often I witness this terrible phenomenon, just like the consultant who fails to save his patient, I find myself staring, long after the apparatus has been put away, in disbelief.  How could this happen I ask myself over and over again.  How could this appalling outcome, reminiscent of the dark ages, be allowed to happen in a civilised country?

Parentectomy is the term given by many to the complete removal of a parent from a child’s life after separation.  Most often a parentectomy is performed by the mother of a child via her implacable hostility, but it is performed by fathers too. For all parents who are removed from their children’s lives in this way, the living bereavement that comes with it is a sentence of grief that cannot ever be resolved.

Parentectomy is an operation that is usually preceded by many years of litigation and the failure of the courts to enforce the orders that are made.  Worn down and worn out by this process,  many dads find themselves on the gallows awaiting the inevitable.  The argument that the court serves the best interests of children bears very little weight when one is witness to this ghastly scenario and the children who have lost a parent in this way have no route to compensation for the murder of a relationship with half of their own self.

In the court room this week, we watched as judicial power slipped away.  This dad loves his children more than their mother hates him.  Which means that regardless of the fact that she has deliberately and maliciously destroyed the relationship he once enjoyed with his children, he did not want the court to use robust intervention.  In the absence of that, this mother has free rein to refuse all contact and all future contact possibilities.  She can simply say, no more. And she did.

It feels sickening when the death of a relationship between children and a parent happens this way.  This was not a dad who had been abusive or violent or even difficult.  This dad didn’t want shared care or have equal care, he just wanted his children to know that he cares and for them to see him sometimes and share that.

In the silence of the afternoon the mother smiled her delight that she had won and the father’s shoulders shook with first of many years of tears.

Next week I will go to see him to make memory boxes for his children with him, something that is usually done when a parent dies.  I feel as if I am going to be burying him alive.

18 comments

  1. stephen callard · March 23, 2012

    Well put again Karen all you have said here about the living bereavement a parent feels by contact being blocked by any means available for use by the respondent through the legal Jargon that the court runs by, is such a terrible shame for our future generation to grow up into and also have to deal with if they themselves go through separation.

    I feel even after the many years I have been through the courts to allow my own children to see their father, so far its all fell on deaf ears and now I face a False DV allegation i can see this going one of two directions.
    Either I will have to have that allegation swore on oath and then set about proving my innocence via a finding of fact hearing or ask the judge to send me to the criminal court to have this dealt with, this way will undoubtedly per-long any action being taken in respect of contact early hence doing just what the respondent wanted.

    The other way would be for me just to ignore this allegation by which will be presumed i’m guilty of and then any order related to future contact will reflect this allegation and quite possibly order contact through a contact centre (where it all started back in 2005-6) or worse still no order at all, this is my dilemma and as of yet i’m still no better off to which way to chose.

    The terrible truth is i think this issue is never going to be resolved not in the near or distance future, the masses of research papers seam to have taken it nowhere for the good of society and our children, I profoundly believe the damage has been done and no amount of change will fix a broken generation of children growing up with emotional problems and bitterness lack of empathy and non existent moral values, lacking in a scene of right and wrong, and from what I understand all because one parent are so emotionally disturbed and bitter towards their ex, its a hatred issue first and an inequality second and until the courts see it and every high conflict cases are scrutinized on both sides to get to the heart of the issues this nightmare will just continue like the waves on the oceans.

    I also feel with the technical ability we have got to why don’t they use lie detectors in high conflict cases being that they are 99.8 % accurate this would be a method unchallengeable in the eyes of the law and until such methods are up-taken by judges how hard their jobs will continue to be on a human level to work out the truth from lies, i/we live in hope.

    Steve

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  2. Debbie Spencer · March 23, 2012

    This is so sad and so very wrong……..I dont know what else to say..

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  3. MrE · March 23, 2012

    I hear of stories like this one on a daily basis. I never really thought about it……….. before it happened to me !

    Something needs to be done to address this issue. Children’s lives are being torn apart. Father’s good names are being ruined. What pleasure can a “mother” get from keeping a child from seeing it’s Father?!

    Change is needed. Where to begin????

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  4. Yvie · March 23, 2012

    I am shocked that this can happen. How can a mother smile her delight at the death of the relationship between a father and his children. What sort of mother can she be? What a sickening experience it must have been for the distraught father.

    The law must be changed urgently so that both parents have the right of contact with their children. I am convinced that 50/50 shared care as the default is the best way forward. It may not be perfect but it can’t be worse that what is happening in the Family Courts now. If one parent continually breaks a Court Order, then the residency should be transferred to the other parent. It’s time for the Family Courts to take a hard line with such people if they are really committed for putting the welfare of children first.

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  5. Paul Manning · March 23, 2012

    I am a man and a father too, I am not able to truly express the pain and sadness I feel at this moment for the father you refer to Karen, but as usual my eyes fill with tears. How does one console a father that loses his child in this way as if in death? I have no desire to be sanctimonious or overly emotional, but I wish I had some kind of power to take away his hurt, his pain, how useless I feel. There are to many cases like this where some fathers are driven to suicide, two of which occured recently. Few know the real truth, it is hidden from society as a whole. The newspapers are to busy fueling the ego’s of celebs and informing us of the infidelities of footballers, rather than reporting about fathers killing themselves because they are so heartbroken over losing conatct with thier children, what kind of damn world are we living in! To alienate a child from a father to this degree is truly despicable, and yet it is occurring right under the noses of Judges who preside of family law cases. I ask, are they blind, are they stupid, can they not conceive of such a situation when anyone with one ounce of sense can see it? There MUST be something going on here, something so truly rotten that it stinks!

    I know this fathers pain, it’s a pain that you try to live with as best you can. You find yourself stricken with such grief that you have to gave way to tears, there is no other way to release the pressure but weeping, it happens to me every night and everyday. It happens when I see a father pushing his son on the swings, or watching then wrestle on the grass at the park, you watch and you cry… and you envy that father. Simple things, that mean so much, are taken away from you, like reading a bed time story or that hug before you tuck them in, or even the smell of your sons hair. There is so much that a father can miss about his child, things that judges do not give a moments thought to, such matters never enter thier unfeeling heads, and yet they are so important to us. I am not the only one that feels like this, I know there are many fathers that try and deal with it too, it’s hard, so very heartbreaking.

    As for the mother, gleefully happy at her vile deeds, she may feel she is victorious over the father, but what she has really shown is hatred of her own child, because in truth that is what it is, hatred! The child will suffer in the end, how sad that is, how terribly awful that is. It is summed up in this poem I composed:

    Lacrymosa.

    ‘Lacrymosa, floods of tears that will not heal me. Lacrymosa, pain that others rejoice in with no understanding of what they do, may I try to forgive quickly lest hate hurts me too. But I pray that you too will open your eyes to see your own soul. Deep in thought, a time to peer through my window to watch the falling rain on a gloomy day, and I see the rain drops running down the glass panes, a river of sad tears each one. How can I ever understand what you have done? Lacrymosa, a son weeps for his father and the father weeps for his child’s mother, Lacrymosa, lacrymosa.

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  6. John Ayscough · March 23, 2012

    Alot of what I have read brings back the pain of my split. My child was taken from my arms screaming by the Police because my Ex made false allegations about me to them. I attempted to take my life because I could not face the loss of my precious child. I later found out she was having an affair and she was trying to get me out of my daughters life and she succeeded. I have a good job but cannot get legal aid and have no money to pay to goto court. My only solution seems to be to give up but it is not something I can face. I lost everything including my home because of my ex and I have slowly rebuilt things but still not in a good position or frame of mind. The legal aid people just dragged things out when I had a clear claim for assistance but as my work situation improved I failed.
    My ex and her boyfriend gave up there jobs and get all for nothing and she cares nothing about my daughter wish to see me just trying to destroy the memory. The pain will never leave me and the memory of my child screaming for me as she was pulled from my arms. And to think my ex falsely accused me of beating and sexually assaulting her at 2 years old. How sick could a mother be to do such a thing…….

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    • Paul Manning · March 24, 2012

      John, I am so sorry for the way you feel and how you must try to deal with this every day of your life, I know what I say here does not bring much consolation. You have my sympathies and I empathise with you entirely. All we grieving fathers can do, and some of us are still fighting in the courts, is to look to the future and pray and hope that our loved ones will come back to us one day as they get older. You have been told this before I know. However, try and find ways to contact your daughter, if you can, in some discrete way that she may find. I regularly leave message on my facebook page for my son, as if he was right there in front of me. I never refer to his mother at all, nor do I talk with any pressure or pleading. In this way it can help to make you feel better, and it is possibe that your child will seek you out and find you there. I know the courts look down on this, but they would wouldn’t they. I have been told by a Cafcass egotist that my actions are “inappropriate”. They say this to break the bonds of affection and to make sure that all conatct is severed

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      • Paul Manning · March 24, 2012

        (continued) Sorry John, my message went before i’d finished it.

        As I was saying… to make sure that all contact is severed and to heartlessly deny the child means to know thier own father. My remarks are based on my experience with many Cafcass officers, they seem to have been de-chipped of any emotion and the chip replaced with that of an unfeeling and robotic one, cold coded as it were. Four years now I have battled and faced humiliation and debasement by these monsters, you may have experienced it too. I shall not give up, they will never make me give up on my son, NEVER! I understand how you must be feeling, you share that pain with many of us, you are not alone. Keep your chin up, try to live each day as it comes. Never stop trying to contact your child, do it in peace with grace and mostly with all the love you can. She will come looking, just make sure you expect it happening one day. My respects to you John.

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  7. Yvie · March 24, 2012

    The law should step in to protect children who are at risk from parents such as this ‘mother’. It is clearly failing many vulnerable children and is not fit for purpose in its present form.

    Whilst courting the female vote remains a high priority for government I fear progress will inevitably be slow.

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    • karenwoodall · March 25, 2012

      The problem is Yvie that the law cannot step in in cases like this unless the father asks the court to do so.

      This case is so typical of many that I work with. Many parents expect that the law will protect them from this kind of outcome but it doesn’t. The law only works on an adversarial system and so in court, it is for mother to prove to the judge her case and the father to prove to the judge his case. In doing so, they must also ask the judge to do something.

      So for example in typical case like this, the father is asking for a contact order. The mother thwarts several contact orders to the point where the children are refusing to see their father because of her implacable hostility.

      Unless the father asks the judge for one of the following a) imprisonment b) a change of residence c) a move to a section 37 report which means involving social services d) a psychologists report to determine the root of the implacable hostility, the judge was powerless to do anything at all.

      And in a typical case like this the father will not want the judge to use any of the above because he won’t want to put the mother of his children in prison (what would that have done to his children as well as their feelings about him), he won’t want social services involved (too scared that the children would be lost to the care system forever) he didn’t want the children to live full time with him, he just wants to be able to see them (my view is that if they live full time with dad and he has the residence order then the implacable hostility can be managed better and the children would have a more balanced life, but not all dads agree with me), he won’t want his children’s mother subjected to a psychological report (I suspect in case something is found that would have triggered a move to one of the other remedies above).

      And so the judge ends up with no power to order anything other than indirect contact.

      And mum gets her outcome and the cultural and societal power that enables her to airbrush her children’s father out of their lives ensures that she can live with it and sleep at night.

      The current system really is failing vulnerable children and it really is stripping children of perfectly good enough fathers. The courts are dealing with men who do not want to hurt women, who could provide a great deal of positive input into children’s lives and who have never raised their voices never mind their fists. And for Gingerbread et al to continue to tell us that only the most conflicted and thereby the most dangerous cases go into court and that the Children Act serves the best interests of children in these cases is plainly wrong. I see it every week of my working life. Good enough dads being eradicated from their children’s lives.

      And people wonder why dads climb up things or take their pants off outside M&S.

      It is madness on a scale beyond imagining.

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      • Yvie · March 26, 2012

        Karen – I am glad you have posted further details in this heartbreaking case. I couldn’t understand how or why the father did not receive justice in Court. My own feeling is that dad should have gone for a change of residence with 50/50 contact for the mother.

        In my son’s case he was a good husband and a loving father but his ex. didn’t want him and ousted him out of the house (by way of a call to the police). He never went back to the house after that because malicious calls can be made time and time again and it wasn’t worth the risk. At first all was ok regarding the children as she had a new boyfriend and she was more than happy for dad to have the children. However the boyfriend has now become her partner and her preference is for no contact with dad at all. If she could airbrush my son out of the children’s lives she would be delighted. To achieve this lies and false accusations have been made and then withdrawn. There is a Hearing next month. To be honest I fear my ex. dil as I don’t know what she will come up with next to damage my son. All this in spite of our looking after our grandchildren for nearly 12 years so that she could go through uni and teacher training. I find it difficult to deal with people who use and then discard without a backward glance, those who have always helped and encouraged them. I worry that the boys will eventually become aware of the animosity directed towards their dad and it will impact on their well-being.

        Long may Matt continue to take his pants off!

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  8. KD · March 24, 2012

    Heartbreaking…and as ever when I know that a child will suffer as a result of selfish adult actions…brings me to tears.

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  9. dermot · March 25, 2012

    the whole thing reminds me of the book by Franz Kafka “the trial”. i suspect i may well face this in the future but we shall see.

    certain behaviour in society is deemed unacceptable at certain points.
    drink driving was for example acceptable thirty years ago particularly in rural areas. socially its now frowned upon.it was ok to smoke in a car full of kids not so long ago but now it would raise eyebrows
    .
    parental alienation is tolerated by society. firstly you have the cultural ethos that demeans fatherhood driven by the 70s feminist revolucion (which in itself was much needed in many respects) but has transmorphed itself into an ideological cul-de-sac. we therefore get gingerbread, pinktape and “feckless fathers”..
    how do you change it?
    well the point you want to get to is where “smiling mum” has to hang her head on the school playground when she waits for her kids. the reality is we are a long way off that perhaps but that in itself does not mean that we all turn off the lights and walk away. children are at stake here.

    i would be grandeoise to suggest anything but as a parent who is experiencing this here goes some humble observations.

    someone mentioned to me “cathy come home” and the impact that that had on social policy and the concept of homelessness in the 1960s. a good documentry drama on parental alienation from a childs eye view would be helpful? something to get people talking in work the next day? media is powerful.

    the law of course needs to be changed and we all know where that should go. like everyone here we hope for chamge.

    there are two things with regard to this sad story.

    firstly i would think that most alienating parents have been abused or exposed to childhood trauma themselves. often it is generational as most abuse is.lets face it even to the most neutral of observers it is dysfunctional parenting.

    secondly the poor father..the wisdom of solomon?

    i remember hearing a father talk about stopping phone contact because it put so much pressure on the children. i have the same dilema myself too.
    as i have posted here i experienced parental alienation albeit in a temporarily separated family. children though often return. i returned to my father emotionally as i got older and i remembered small things. i remember him hugging me in the kitchen . he smelt of tobacco and his neck was pock marked by shrapnel wounds from d day (they facinated me as a child)
    it was such a beautiful feeling of love. the funny thing is my brother remembers the same unconditional love. the same warm embrace.the same smell of him.

    an alienating parents love is quite different. it is based on insecurity and control. it is conditional

    the memory box will be a painful task i am sure. but memory boxes can be and often are opened. when they are it is not just a parent and child who share the joy. we are all part of this and every setback and every forward step is communal. its a strange community in some ways. but who would you rather call brother or sister? the father who faces the hardest of journeys or the mother whose glee is her children harmed?

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    • karenwoodall · March 26, 2012

      Hi Dermot,

      Yes I would rather share my world with the dad than the mum and I am only glad that I have the opportunity to make memory boxes for these children because if CAFCASS had had their way the case would be closed and no-one would have done a thing to help the relationship stay alive.

      Your description of your father moves me and I know that in my own life it is those small things that matter the most and when they are absent, or ruined by other people’s desire to make a child their own property, those small things provide a lifeline back to the past.

      If you look at parental alienation cases as I do, in most cases there is intergenerational parental alienation and estrangement. I have yet to work on a single case where there was n’t some kind of estrangement in one or both family systems. It is however, also state sanctioned through the court system and our insane approach to supporting separated families. I so hope that the changes that the government are bringing in will herald the right kind of moves towards preservation of key relationships in children’s lives.

      In the meantime its up to those of us working and living it to find new ways and to push for those to be made more widely available so that every family has access to support that can prevent these terrrible outcomes.

      K

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  10. rich sedillo · March 25, 2012

    We all know that these laws are so one sided. Geared towards women. How is it, we men are muted by this so-called justice system? Have any male judges ever been divorced? If so, why are they not the ones leading the charge to change this basis system? How many men most kill themselves for others won’t?

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  11. mark dewison · March 27, 2012

    On the subject of judge gender, I have to say my experience was that I tended to get a fairer hearing from women judges than from their male colleagues. I can only summise that the male judges had some over-romanticised notions of motherhood!
    As regards “parentectomy”, my own case is – mercifully – a lot more nuanced than the tragic cases described above. My ex will do things to elevate the status of her current live in partner over that of mine in many ways – including him rather than me in family school occasions such as concerts where my son is playing, awards ceremonies and the like, and letting him make arrangements for my sons when they’re supposed to be with me. Against this, I am deployed by her when my support is necessary, for instance when dealing with the school or officialdom. (She recognizes my skills in this arena!) Also, she asked me to have the boys for a whole school week when she was ill in hospital. This was some 6 months after testifying in court that I was unfit to look after them during school weekdays!

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  12. Tracey · March 28, 2012

    I cannot say how much this saddens me to hear this story, as it’s it so relevant to what has been happening in our lives with my step-daughter. Your comment about the mother “smiling” over her so called “victory” simply sickens me. There is nothing to celebrate as a parent if you have successfully removed another parent from your children’s life. This is simply an abuse of the power given to women, unfairly and unjustly. I have no doubt there will be repercussions later in life for the children, but how do you overcome the hostility of a parent, that holds all the power and is that is hell bent on destruction? I cannot believe how archaic the courts are in the UK (writing from S. Africa) and how biased they are against fathers, how on earth does a father remain involved in his children’s life if there is an acrimonious separation, and the mother wants vengence? Having experienced a vindictive ex-wife for the past 6 years, and going through the courts again with false abuse allegations ( 2nd time around, 1st time she withdrew her false allegations, and she has now started back-peddling again as she has NO case has ) which has resulted in denied access for my husband and I with his daughter for over 7 months while the courts go through their lengthy process. What exactly is accomplished? Does one feel satisfied after inflicting pain, hatred, and hurt? Does that really work for some people? Very very sad, and I truly hope there is a change for fathers rights in the UK. Thank you for your moving and insightful post.

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  13. Sinbad King · April 2, 2012

    and further when the mother is first empowered by childrens services to alienate the father and later when they judge her to have abused the child and removed the child they still relate to the father according to the pattern the mother established although it is unsupported by evidence. Who then is the abuser of the child.

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