This is how it happens: D’s story

D worked abroad on and off, he was paid well for his trips away and saw them as a way of making sure his family was well cared for.  D’s wife encouraged and supported him, whilst he was away, she spent her time with one of his best friends.  One day, D came home and his wife and his best friend were nowhere to be seen.  D’s children were gone too, along with much of the furniture that he had worked so hard to pay for.  D was devastated, lost and incredibly afraid.  It took him three weeks to find out that his wife had moved to another town, with his children and his best friend.

Seven weeks after D’s wife was discovered to be living with another man in another town, D went to court to ask for permission to see his two beloved children.  Before he arrived at the court however, he was notified that an injunction had been granted against him, on the grounds that he had been violent towards his wife.  D was mystified, he had never been violent and as he had not seen his wife for seven weeks, how could he be guilty of the harassment that his wife was alleging?  D found out, when he exited the court room, that the injunction prevented the court from hearing his plea for time with his children.  If D was a violent man, the court reasoned, then he should not be having contact with his children until that issue was investigated.

D was bewildered.  He went to every  agency he could find to ask for help but no-one listened.  As soon as he reached the part where an injunction had been granted, they shook their head and said they could not assist him.  D was completely destroyed by the time he went home to his nearly empty house.

When the injunction was lifted on the grounds that there was no case to answer, D resumed his efforts to see his children.  His wife consented, after some wrangling in court, to his children spending two nights each weekend with D and though D was disappointed that he had not been able to agree more time, he set about making those two nights cosy and comfortable with his children (who were overwhelmed with delight when they finally got to see him).

Two weekends went by without a hitch but on the third weekend, D received a phone call from his children’s mother, she was almost hysterical, she had had a miscarriage she told him, the children would have to go home to her, she needed them.  No amount of persuasion that the children did not need to be exposed to adult sorrow would move her, if he did not bring them home at once she would call the police.  D dutifully returned the children to comfort their mother.  His heart was incredibly heavy as he walked back down the path.

Each and every weekend following that,  D got used to the time he spent with his children being disrupted by their mother until one evening, tired of the battle he did not answer the phone.  Shortly after, a banging on the door woke up the children who were terrified to see their mother on the doorstep, angry and outraged that the phone had not been answered.  D tried to calm the children’s mother and placate her, to no avail.  Soon she was attacking him, in front of the children, accusing him of stealing her children away from her when she needed them most.  D fell silent as he watched the children’s faces, his heart felt like lead in his chest.

Twenty two weeks later and D does not know where the children live anymore.  In the time between that last event and now, his children have been moved by Women’s Aid, working with the Local Authority and the Police and the children’s GP.  His children were not under a care order, they were not subject to a child in need plan and they were not on the at risk register.  His children’s mother however was considered to be vulnerable by Women’s Aid workers who interpreted D’s desire to care for his children as being a deliberate attempt to control their mother.  Using an allegation of Domestic Abuse, these workers secured a Local Authority home for D’s children and their mother and her new partner (his ex best friend) and made sure that no-one told D where the children were.  Using the Police, these workers made sure that D’s children were considered to be at risk of harm from D (he hadn’t touched a hair on their heads), using Social Services, these workers made sure that the children’s mother was seen to be vulnerable.  These agencies formed a ring of impenetrable steel around D’s children and their mother which prevented him from seeing his children normally for almost three years.  A struggle through the family courts, with supervised contact centres, expert reports, stop/start contact and wave after wave of allegation almost killed D.

When he finally got to see his children in what could be called a normal setting, they were mute in his company and horribly withdrawn.  D was in despair, not at the sight of his children, so still and so silent but at the damage that had been done to their relationship with him.  He could not conceive of how such horror could be inflicted upon children, as an adult he felt he could at least understand on an intellectual level what was happening.  All his children could see was that their father, with whom they had built sandcastles and played rounders with, who had tucked them up and read stories to them, was gone from their lives.

It took less than ten minutes to bring the children round and begin the process of rebuilding their relationship with D, it will take those children a lifetime to recover from the scarring caused by those workers, who saw nothing but the desire of the mother to be free of the father to live a life of her own choosing.

They still hang on to D each time they leave him and ask him again and again, ‘will you still be here next week dad?’

Their mother recently made a new allegation.  Who knows whether he will be.

This post is from my case work although it is heavily disguised to ensure that the family’s identity is protected.  In the spirit of a discussion that we have been having recently about whether or not debate is welcome on this blog, I welcome comments on this post, particularly your views of whether or not it is right to approach cases like this from the perspective of the rights of the woman first (which in my experience is the usual approach to family separation support) and the children as secondary with their needs being indivisible from those of their mother.

My approach to supporting families like this is to acknowledge and support the vulnerability of the mother whilst helping her to accept that making a choice to leave her husband does not mean that she can automatically eradicate their relationship with their father.  Where there is evidence of violence, either situational, couple or separation instigated, I would ensure that the safety of both parties is paramount and that the children do not witness the struggle of the parents to get free of each other,  Where there is co-ercive directive violence in either direction (meaning that flight from the other parent is a flight for life and limb and where there has been sustained and violent oppression of one parent by the other), I would indeed support removal to a place of safety.  In this case however, as in so many others I work in, violence is alleged and behaviour is interpreted using the Duleth Model or the Freedom Programme.  One of the ways in which a man can be considered to be abusive in these models is by wanting to maintain a relationship with his children.  In many cases the allegation that a man only wants to be with his children to punish his wife is made, this is usually alongside statements such as ‘he only wants the kids to get a house for himself’ and other sweeping allegations which are part of the process of interpreting a man’s behaviour using feminist ideology.

I am therefore interested in hearing from people, their views of this case and whether it echoes their own or others and whether they feel that there is indeed a different way of doing things which is outside of the feminist paradigm of putting the needs of women first and children secondary.

And debate is welcome, it will inform my thinking and impress some of my commentators who will know that I am listening!

36 comments

  1. PapaMissingKids · October 24, 2013

    GULP!
    My story is somewhat different although some of the pattern is there too…the resut is similar though when you say;
    “When he finally got to see his children in what could be called a normal setting, they were mute in his company and horribly withdrawn. D was in despair, not at the sight of his children, so still and so silent but at the damage that had been done to their relationship with him. He could not conceive of how such horror could be inflicted upon children, as an adult he felt he could at least understand on an intellectual level what was happening. All his children could see was that their father, with whom they had built sandcastles and played rounders with, who had tucked them up and read stories to them, was gone from their lives.”

    Are you able to tell us these children’s age?

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    • karenwoodall · October 24, 2013

      They were 3 and 6 when they were taken from their father PMK – they are 7 and 10 now. K

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      • Chinasa Anya · October 27, 2013

        Could I be made in touch with the therapist with whom it took less than 10 minutes to get the children round to their dad for the process of rebuilding the relationship with their dad to kick in please?

        My child was 3 years and 10 months when his mother took him away (with her own son who was 10 years and 9 months). I put in my application in July 2012, and till date, despite court orders for contact to resume, the mother has scuttled every effort. We are due back in the court on 6th November 2013.

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      • karenwoodall · October 27, 2013

        I should be clear on the dynamic which needs to be in place in order for this kind of swift reunification to take place.

        when a child is in a severely alienated position, he/she will only be able to recover this swiftly when all of the dynamics have been dealt with that have caused the alienation.

        So, for example, in this case, the court had very powerful judicial control over the case by the time we came to do the work and social workers were working alongside us with an ICO in place so that we could remove the children if the mother continued her behaviour. It took us many many months of court hearings and careful forensic work to get to the place where the mother was held at bay along with the workers who had upheld her behaviour in order to provide the clear physical, emotional and psychological space for the children to re-establish their relationship with their father.

        When this space is made and is held in place by a Judge who truly understands the phenomenon (and increasingly my experience is that Judges do understand it), and social workers and Cafcass are on board, the children’s established relationship with their loved parent is enabled to come to the front of their consciousness and they are free to reconnect.

        The phenomenon is quite astounding to behold when it happens and I try to make sure that Social Workers and CAFCASS workers witness it when we get to this point so that they can see for themselves that a child who has been so profoundly rejecting of a parent is neither mentally ill nor damaged for life, remove the dynamic a child is captured in and the child will emerge from the rejection.

        Now, this is only when the case is pure alienation and it takes time and care to differentiate this. Other cases are hybrid and those are the ones where children are captured in dynamics that arise because of both parents.

        This is why getting the differential route right is so essential and why it is not possible to offer therapy to some cases (Pure) and why therapy in others (Hybrid) is more likely to work when it is well planned and carried out.

        All therapists working in this field must be psychologically strong and able to intellectually understand as well as emotionally cope with the work.

        There is a long road before we ever get to the point that I described in that piece of work, sometimes years, often spent painstakingly unpicking the concentric circles of dynamics caused not just by parents but by the approach of family workers around the family, the courts and others whose input impacts on the family.

        The key issue is a Judge who is willing to enforce and a team of people who are willing to carry out the work of differentiation, intervention and if necessary enforcement.

        K

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      • Harry · October 27, 2013

        Alienation remains very difficult, but it is still most helpful that this process has been articulated in this way.

        My 16 year old daughter has tried to approach me at various times…especially at times of stress (GCSE revision, 6th form subject choice) or when she has not seen me for some time…but after this brief moment of encouragement for me…she is gone again – simply because…exactly as you describe – the dynamics which CAUSED the alienation (which began, in my estimation, when she was about 9) have not been dealt with…and she is simply overwhelmed by them – as if she was still that age.

        The Social worker in this situation has dismissed Parental Alienation Syndrome as a possibility because (a) she has (very occasionally) seen me, and (b) she does not use PROFANITIES about me.

        Yet other observers have noted how the things she says outside of these moments of closeness with me does not sound at all her own, but instead sounds precisely as if it is her mother…talking through her.

        That ought to be rather a giveaway…but obviously, the Social Worker is determined to claim evidence to the contrary…even though the very report she gives DEMONSTRATES the alienation she denies.

        It is extremely encouraging to hear of court situations where this situation is beginning to be acknowledged.

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      • karenwoodall · October 28, 2013

        The Social Worker is likely to be on the right lines Harry, a child who still sees a parent and who does not exhibit the signs of alienation, is highly unlikely to be alienated. What she may well be is frozen in the dynamic between parents, unable to properly relate freely to you because of her alignment to her mother, that is a different thing to alienation although on the alienation spectrum in my experience. Alienated children cannot see their parent and exhibit most if not all of the eight signs of alienation. Alienated children present in a particular way, especially if the alienation is categorised as Pure. Children whose parents separate often get caught in the interplay between parents especially when they reach a certain age – dads often find themselves confronted again with their ex wife in the form of their daughter and mothers with their ex husband in the form of their sons. That is why always tell alienating parents that they cannot rub out the reality of the child’s other parent, one day that other parent will walk through the door in the shape of your child and there will not be a single thing you can do about it.

        Where children are caught as you describe, patience, objective understanding, commitment and time are what is required from you as a parent, when your daughter passes the age of 21/22 she will find her own self and her own soul again and if you can remain there for her, she will emerge from this frozen state and you will get chance to begin building the adult relationship between the two of you. What she needs most is for you to be there, be patient, be determined and when she needs you – be there. She is struggling, she is ping ponging, which is what they do as they go through these years, she will emerge from it. She is not alienated though so don’t treat her as if she is or label her as such, she is simply trying to cope with the dynamics. K

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      • woodman1959 · November 5, 2013

        Hi Karen,

        Two issues.

        First, the Feminism Workshop was very interesting. I only just got started with my critique, but there was an instant response. From the slightly younger members (less senior, in effect) an instant recognition that it WAS time for change. From the more senior ones…a clear resentment, and desire to ignore/avoid the issue of shared male/female representation within feminism. Early days…but a flying start!

        Secondly, you are far more experienced in alienation as an issue, and I think the concept of ‘frozen’ could be very helpful…but to me these are all simply aspects of alienation.

        I would liken it to the autistic spectrum. I have one child (a boy) at quite the severe end, and another child (a girl) at the mild end. My girl does not like to consider herself to be autistic – because it is quite true, she is nothing LIKE her brother! Yet even though many other people do not see anything superficially to distinguish her as autistic…from the inside – we know that she is…and that she would massively struggle at school without special help, because of this.

        Even though it is not nearly so obvious, she is still profoundly affected by alienation. You say it yourself, in fact – you describe an alienation spectrum. Everyone on the spectrum is still profoundly alienated.

        The Social Worker concerned obviously just Googled some stuff about parental Alienation and came up with some descriptions of the most severe examples. My eldest daughter does not fall into this category…so the conclusion is that she is not alienated. ENTIRELY wrong.

        She may not show the fullest range of symptoms…but she definitely shows the hallmark ones…of losing her soul – being ‘taken over’ like a puppet and almost entirely speaking the agenda of the alienating parent, whilst claiming to be independent of them.

        She IS profoundly alienated. Alienation is EXACTLY what you describe – the way the children are trying to cope with the dynamics of the parental conflict. That is what ALL alienation (of whatever kind) EVER is.

        Just sitting there to wait for the children to come out of it…is what almost every person you talk to suggests. There is nothing sophisticated about that. This is a situation of considerable damage – that requires urgent intervention…IF AT ALL POSSIBLE…ASAP.

        Just because the alienating parent will obviously fight tooth and nail to prevent this…does not mean it is not necessary. Just because it is hard to arrange – likewise.

        Just for the record…we simply cannot assume that alienation will come right of its own accord. A while back I tried to reconcile a sophisticated 63 year old guy with his 97 year old father after a 30 year absence. (This was before I began to understand about alienation). First evening, when I was around, everything went very well – the next day, when they had some time on their own – it almost ended up in a fist fight. This may be an extreme example…but I also know of an other alienation situation between mother and daughter this time, which began slightly differently (with sibling rivalry) and has lasted effectively 40 years.

        Skilled intervention IS required, in my opinion…if at all possible. Just passively waiting, even with the best intentions – is not enough. Huge damage is being done during the alienation period which will almost certainly have life-long consequences, sometimes very serious ones. I think it is important to treat all alienation with the appropriate seriousness, however difficult an issue it is to deal with.

        However, I certainly wouldn’t be using the term ‘alienation’ with a child – but at the same time – it can hardly be right to pretend as if the whole thing is not happening, however painful it may be to acknowledge that reality.

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      • Chinasa · October 28, 2013

        Thanks for the detailed explanation. I will get to know how far the Judge would go in enforcing his orders on the 6th Nov 2013. And I may come back to you after then.
        Chinasa

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      • Kat · October 28, 2013

        Karen, is there such a thing as “post-alienation parenting for dummies” guide somewhere i.e. has anyone written about this. Your advice is great: be there, be patient etc. but to what extent do you engage with the children’s questions about what is/has happened and to what extent do you engage with them telling you their experiences of their other parent, easy to do if it is a positive experience, but what if it is not?

        In our case reunification went along the lines of one week child couldn’t even tolerate being in a room adjacent to where dad was, next week they were talking on the phone as if there had never been a separation. It makes you wonder…..

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  2. PapaMissingKids · October 24, 2013

    Thanks Karen. I didn’t see what you had written in italics when I commented earlier.

    Sometimes, there comes a time when courts can’t, or won’t, do much and the father has to walk away (though he probably won’t and will do something else!). However, if an opportunity somehow presents itself to do something, then perhaps it could be that the needs of the mother still be addressed first and I’ll explain why.

    In some cases these women are very damaged. In some cases it may be because of the marriage, or in some cases (in my case) because of wrong choices made by the mother, father, families and the “system of friends (so called!)” which put’s the mother in an impossible situation and entraps her, something like that which she herself is succumbing her own children to. In such cases, perhaps by helping and supporting the mother and befriending her (the first sensible friend she may now have), it may be possible to turn things round so that a conduit is then presented to approach the children – who are possibly enthralled that their mother is less tense – and work with the children therapeutically.

    In these cases, the aligned parent is probably a narcissist and this may be the only way – by addressing her own needs and releasing her of her own notional web of deceit, the rest of the people in the show get a welcome breath of fresh air.

    I hope the above makes sense. But can it work? Have you tried it that way before?

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    • karenwoodall · October 24, 2013

      Yes I have. Its not easy but its possible.

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  3. exInjuria · October 24, 2013

    I think anyone who has worked or been involved in any way in these issues will find this story very familiar. The father returning home to find his children gone, the torrent of false allegations, the endless court proceedings with contact starting and stopping, the role played by Women’s Aid – all contribute to the ‘classic’ scenario which leads fathers to join organisations like FNF and F4J, and those organisations will have seen thousands of such cases. The best know is probably that of Mark Harris who wrote a book about it, Family Court Hell.

    Is there another way of doing things? Yes, there is, but it is probably up to the individual mother to reject her exploitation by Women’s Aid and others who facilitate the exclusion of fathers, to reject the Duluth model and to begin to act in her children’s interests. Very few women will do that, once they are promised a future free of compromise and negotiation, and it is immensely to their credit when they do – Kris Titus comes to mind, who rejected what her lawyer was telling her and established F4J in Canada.

    There is little that fathers in this situation can do other than plug away at the system, knowing that it is precisely the system which is keeping them from their children. A new system, free of feminist (or any other) ideology, seems to be a very long way away, and next year’s reforms will do nothing to improve things – indeed, they will add further confusion and delay, and more opportunities and justification to remove fathers. The best solution is for both parents to stay away from the system if they can and to work together as responsible parents should, not ceding that responsibility to officials who have no regard at all for their children.

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    • karenwoodall · October 24, 2013

      Our next community based Family Separation Centre is on its way EI and its on the mainland too! K

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  4. Kat · October 24, 2013

    Karen, I know nothing but for what my opinion is worth I think you are exactly on the right track. The differentiation of what is happening in each family appear to me to be so important. I think a lot of cases there is just conflict, sometime escalating into violence on both sides. Then if you get the women’s right involved it becomes impossible to solve. I remember a recent story of a man, who was increasingly finding that his every other weekend contact was getting disrupted by mum making other plans, child not wanting to come etc. In that case all it took was for a mediator to state that dad’s wish to see his child every other weekend was reasonable and mum started behaving. Often it will take more than that, but these cases can be prevented from escalating out of control as long as someone is prepared to intervene, listen to and help BOTH parents recover from their conflict. Once women’s right is involved then that cannot happen.

    The real problem is where there is coercive violence and at the moment it is just not recognised that this is a much more serious threat to the ex-partner or the children. I recently read somewhere that coercive controlling adults often also have issues with poor parenting skills. Women out of these relationships are often not given the help they need, and I can think of a few I have met, who have lost their children with the abusive father gaining sole residence and then setting about eradicating mum from the children’s lives. For men it is even worse as coercive controlling behaviour is seen as something only men do. Hence male victims are simply not believed and again end up with no help and little contact with their children. How you pick up these cases I don’t know. The abuser (male or female) is often an adept manipulator, who can project their own behaviour very well and hence you have to look behind the surface to see who is really the victim. As long as we do not believe the stories of men that again is not going to happen.

    So please keep doing what you do, keep saying what you say. I have always thought there was a difference between suppressing debate and saying that you no longer wish to continue this debate for xyz reason.

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    • karenwoodall · October 24, 2013

      I am glad Kat, that you see the difference between debate which is useful and stirs thinking and moves us all on and those which are just pointless in my eyes, like the am I am I not a feminist…but I don’t want people to have the impression of me that I don’t think and I don’t listen, I do, I listen very carefully and I form opinions based upon information given to me that challenges my position. I am even known to change my position sometimes!

      This question is right at the core of the problems we face. Does working in a feminist paradigm serve the needs of women first and children second. Does working in a feminist paradigm serve the needs of children at all?

      This is what I am interested in hearing about.

      BTW, you have neatly conceptualised the issue of coercive controlling violence, which is very often present in cases where children reject their mothers (and sometimes their fathers, but most often their mothers).

      K

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      • Kat · October 26, 2013

        “This question is right at the core of the problems we face. Does working in a feminist paradigm serve the needs of women first and children second. Does working in a feminist paradigm serve the needs of children at all?”

        I found one answer in an article written by a children’s social worker in my home country. It dealt with allegations of child abuse in divorce cases and stated from the outset that they found that most such allegations were false. This social worker said that it became evident when they talked to the accusing parent that the needs of the children were not the primary concern rather they wanted to gaining an advantage in the custody case. social services had to spend significant time explaining to this parent that they were a service that focuses solely on the needs of the children, that both parents have the right to tell their story, that they must talk to school and others who may have information on the welfare of this child. When social services eventually gain access to the child they generally find a child where there appear to be no major welfare concerns apart from being more or less upset by the parental divorce and the resulting conflict.
        It just struck me that because this social worker was so focussed on the child, they had an open mind to what was happening rather than just taking allegations at face value, yet still maintained an empathy with the both the accused and accusing parent and the frustrations they were feeling.

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  5. Anthony · October 24, 2013

    All too familiar to anyone in FNF or F4J Karen. Mother sounds a very ‘needy’ woman…which of course suits WA/SS very well…just what they are looking for!
    BTW i would imagine she is a nightmare to live with..so I’m amazed she and the exbestfriend are still together. I think you are doing a fantastic job shining a light on WA/SS but that light needs to become an ‘arc-light’ in the media…trouble is there are so few willing or able to turn that spotlight on WA and the other agencies either because they genuinely believe they are ‘doing a great job’ (eg most Politicians) or because they don’t have the moral courage through fear of vilification…which they will get…that i fear your small torch..though very welcome..is nowhere near enough. Although i hate ‘celebrity’ (most of them are untalented Z listers anyway!!) Celebs do have a lot of influence/power these days…and what we really need is one of them..by far preferably female with real ‘balls’ who just persistently goes on every chat show/media outlet they can get on and opens up these agencies to the daylight like opening a can of beans…once that happens…you would get plenty more joining in. Know anyone??!

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  6. karenwoodall · October 24, 2013

    well thankfully I am not a celebrity Anthony so you don’t mean me.

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  7. Anonymous · October 24, 2013

    Hi Karen
    I have much to say on this and this is just a small offering. When a couple have children they have entered into a contract to share in the care of their children as best they can. Perhaps the marriage contract could say something about this. If a mother or father leaves the marital home with the children they have broken this contract. It is quite a different matter if one parent wants to leave the family home and agrees a parenting plan (contract) with the other partner before leaving.

    Any violence alleged or otherwise between the adults is just that and should not effect the planned arrangement the couple have made for their children.

    In my expereience the child/parent relationship breaks down when there is too much time spent with one parent at the expense of the other. ideally this means that each parent should have at least three consecutive nights with their children. (fairly impractical I know but doable if the parents can agree to share the financial responsibility).
    In your scenario I can’t help feeling if the woman had come home to an empty house the man would soon be behind bars.

    In my case when I was rescuing my daughter from alleged abuse by her mother Social Services came after me as if I had kidnapped my own daughter. Over the next three months they worked very hard to detach me from my daughter and persuade my daughter to go back to the mother who was abusing her . Social services had been in to school and asked my daughter to give Mummy another chance! The situation is much better now, but far from ideal. The other disturbing message I got from Social Services was to be told that if mother can’t cope with the children the children would be taken into their care. It was almost as if the relationship between me and my children didn’t matter to them.

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  8. woodman1959 · October 24, 2013

    Karen, it is an extremely harrowing tale, which as you say, has almost killed D. I can well believe that, and in his latest chapter ExInjuria writes bravely and movingly of the kind of extreme stress that sometimes drives such separated parents towards tragic ends involving children as well.

    http://exinjuria.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/an-exercise-in-absolute-futility-chapter-eight/

    I am currently doing counselling training and this weeks’ focus has been on the developing of empathy to able to hear of such terrible incidents with understanding rather than condemnation – just as ExInjuria asks as to do.

    There is perhaps one overlooked element of the story? Whilst fully agreeing about all the horror that is being carried on by the (presumably) lead female actors in the drama – what strikes me is that D suffered a double betrayal – in that the whole thing would not have been possible without his former best friend.

    The difficult thing is that we have to assume that the two genuinely WERE very good friends…and that it was the very trust that existed between them, that contributed towards the situation that occurred.

    I am sure that exInjuria is right, and that there are thousands of such cases. We have moved into an era when partnerships, even those with children, have become generally more short-lived…considered as short-term contracts that can be broken off at a moments’ notice, as here. In this general scenario, our closest friends can clearly be drawn in…indeed are often the most LIKELY ones to be drawn in. One can just imagine all the justifications this treacherous man must have made – to betray his former friend, and then to continue so to do, by standing in the way of contact, in the way that he presumably has done.

    I do think we need to consider further what has eroded the self-control which has led to such betrayal, but also, what may be being indirectly indicated – about the legitimate human needs which there may be – behind the change in attitude towards relationships. We are talking about intense human passions, as we all know. However I think we need to take collective responsibility that our current prevailing model of relationship is in fact – ‘all or nothing’. I.e. generally speaking, “It’s either you, mate…or it’s me – and I’m sorry, but it’s got to be me…so you’ll have to go”. That would have to sum up the entire dilemma, wouldn’t it?

    I may be wrong, but it seems to me that society in general seems to have ACCEPTED this ‘winner and loser’ scenario. In which case…it is difficult to see the woman being the loser…so the woman has to be propped up by the system as the winner and the original man has (however unfortunately) to be left behind as the loser?

    I am personally obviously NOT accepting this at all – but talking to many people, men and women…those that have not been affected directly themselves, and maybe some who have…this is most often how they seem to think.

    As long as we accept this “winner/killer” type of mentality, we should hardly be surprised when people handle breakups so badly…instead of being nice and considerate and civilised about it all – as we might like them to be.

    I think that the situation Karen describes so graphically will not change substantially until there is a fundamental rethink about the nature of relationships at large…until enough people begin to realize that the possessive model of relationship is no longer working, at all, really – and that we need to find I win/You win scenarios to replace the I win/ You lose ones…which still seem to dominate relationship thinking.

    You will notice that I am not going into a long diatribe against the people immediately responsible for all the misery that has been caused to D and his children – or by precisely what name we should call them. That may be important – but I want to suggest that their power is drawn from the wider societal attitudes which exist…and that we can undermine it best in the long term by challenging the fundamental competitive basis – on which family currently exists.

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  9. nrjnigel · October 24, 2013

    This exactly mirrors my experience of how my colleagues in social service approach such issues. There is a slavish adherence to anti oppressive practice which does indeed effectively ignore real human issues in favour of a simplistic support for any position adopted by even the most obviously unsuitable mother.

    Like

  10. Vincent McGovern · October 24, 2013

    I hear it every week with minor variations. In my dreams there will be a child and society focused system which does it’s job properly. In reality we have an extraordinary sick charade of a system. And it probably reflects much of the ruling class who exercise the three monkeys approach. Which is in response to the brutally father hostile opinion formers and journalists. Change will only come about from us campaigners making it happen. And we are few and they are many. Still, a battle has to be enjoyed in the meantime. About the only fun left in life sometimes.

    Like

  11. kineli · October 25, 2013

    Just been talking to a Dad here in NZ in very similar circumstances. Fortunately for him the system here (although much the same) can be worked thruogh much faster than seems the norm in the UK.

    Like

  12. Anonymous · October 25, 2013

    The scenario you have presented is all too typical of service men returning home from work abroad. I have read of similar cases in the USA of men returning home after a long period away only to find the house empty and family gone.
    Lets examine this from the woman’s point of view. There is no easy way for her to leave. She realises that whatever she does it will break his heart. She may fear his anger or resent having to face his pleadings for her to stay. She can’t face him so she decides it’s best to run and if her ex follows she will seek the protection of others. (This could be family/friends/new partner and eventually society at large…police, family law, solicitors,social services,cafcass,sympathetic media,educational establishments….etc).
    Having done the deed, a cowardly severance perhaps, she will begin to find ways in which to justify her behaviour. It becomes a matter of “saving face”. This is when she may have to use her imagination and knowledge of how society can “protect ” her and justify her new position. (in this case the notion of domestic violence, alleged or not, is used to justify her chosen stance).
    I deliberately havn’t mentioned the children so far because I don’t think she has any respect for the children’s feelings (if she did she would surely be talking to her ex and making parenting arrangements that suited them all).
    It will soon become apparent to her that the children are potentially a very good human shield between her and the ex. Her allies will be Social Services, Cafcass and all the other Institutions who support her desire to remain the “Primary Carer” and him to be the whingeing upstart (Otherwise known as Contact or “Severance man”. His desire to find out about his children’s health and education will be met with extreme resistance, as if he were some kind of imposter.
    As time passes her new partner may well be fulfilling the fatherly role that was previously taken by the children’s real father. Again this will only help to justify in her own mind that what she did, by leaving her former partner so suddenly, was the right thing to do. A fait accompli.
    As Karen so eloquently points out, the systems we have in place to support children primarily serve the woman. I can’t see anything in law that robustly supports the children, nor the family. Even the new look Cafcass website is full of the children’s point of view in the context of mothercare.

    Like

  13. Blake · October 25, 2013

    “One of the ways in which a man can be considered to be abusive in these models is by wanting to maintain a relationship with his children.”

    You are not kidding, are you? This rings so true. I know because I was arrested just for this. These stories, which remind me of my own experiences (and no doubt countless others’ experiences), just give me the worst stomach pains.

    I can understand your anger at Woman’s Aid and all the other toxic institutions that cause irreparable damage to children. I suppose we just have to be wary that it does not get the better of us, and keep a cool head. Very hard to do.

    I don’t think the concept of fatherhood has much a future – maybe 50 years time and children will just be born of test tubes and raised in female-dominated homes funded by maintenance and taxpayer. Men are already commuting slave-laborers, and that will pretty much just continue or get exacerbated. Sounds like a conspiracy theory, but we’ve seen how social engineering operates. Historians have written books about it, about periods when it was happening but completely unknown to those it was happening to. So it’s not far-fetched to imagine the complete purging Stalinist style of fatherhood (aided by the Fatherhood Institute ironically).

    Another question that D’s story raises is whether D will ever be able to forgive his ex-wife for doing what she did to their children? On the one hand, it was completely unforgiveable; but on the other hand, he might recognize that she only did what all those despicable minions around her expected and prodded her to do. Evil is only really as evil as it is allowed to be within the legislative, police, divorce system.

    Like

  14. Yvie · October 26, 2013

    Blake – I can empathise with your comment about women being prodded into a course of despicable action by outside agencies.

    My son and his ex. were in communication through their respective solicitors regarding more time for the children to be spent with my son. Mediation was suggested and arrangements were put in place for this to begin.

    However, out of the blue came an ex parte application to remove the children from my son (shared residence in place). He was totally flabbergasted. His solicitor informed him that the solicitor from the other side had sent his ex. to a women’s and children’s refuge, citing my son as an unfit father. This after my son had been caring for his children for over two and a half years. He had them for over 50% for the first year of separation, without his ex. expressing any concerns whatsoever. Fortunately prompt action from my son’s solicitor prevented the ex. parte being heard. A Hearing for both parties to attend was arranged and the outcome was no extra time for the children with their father, but the addition of half the school holidays added to the original order.

    However, my son found later through one of the children that they had been interviewed at school by these people. No action was considered necessary apparently, and his ex. later withdraw her accusations, in writing, to the Court.

    I can only express my disgust at the behaviour of this solicitor, who is apparently on some sort of panel to help separating parents come to agreement amicably. I am puzzled as to how much use she would be as a mediator, but I can vouch for her skills as an agitator. In addition she had approached the children’s school asking for their support. The school refused her request as my son is well known to the school.

    Like

  15. Pip · October 28, 2013

    Hello

    I am a Mum and live in Africa. My husband locked me out of our home three and a half years ago, with just my bag from a recent 10 day trip. I am not going to go into the details of what has happened in the various aspects of our life and how much trouble he is in with the law. We have three sons and at the time, two (twins) were minors. One of the twins is mentally handicapped and considered to be a “perpetual minor” e tried but he is now 19 years old. He loves and misses me very much but all attempts at contact and communication are blocked. I saw him almost two months ago and he was more than ecstatic to see me. The bond between us cannot be broken. I know that he is torn and told lies so I have monitored him “from a distance”. At the beginning of September, I found him in a state of neglect, very bad skin, clothes that do , not fit and very thin. The “learning centre” he is in have been advised that I am not permitted to see him, which is utterly not true, and that his father has full custody and guardianship, again, not true. I insisted I visit him at lunch time daily to spend time with him and feed him. The retort has been that he has been removed to another country. He was left in the care of his 19 year old, girl friend dazed twin and a chef for more than six months.

    I have done plenty of my own legal research but do you know of a case under the Hague Convention that demonstrates that perpetual minors are also protected from being relocated?

    My heart goes out to all other parents who are seperated from their children. I feel so fortunate that my precious son is so loving and will hopefully not take long to bond properly with me when we are re-united. This will hopefully happen soon!

    Like

  16. Anonymous · October 30, 2013

    Yvie, you can file a complaint with the Sra, copying it to your mp, because the will not respond otherwise. The despicable solicitor is a member of resolution, but that is just a cover that allows them to engage in more severe misconduct. Unfortunately, the Sra – like all complaints services – only exists to give the public the appearance of fairness. Still, worth letting your mp know how the majority of solicitors behave, and what they get away with.

    Like

  17. Yvie · October 31, 2013

    There is a small PS to the story Anonymous – it transpires that my son’s ex. did not pay her solicitor’s bill and so she has had to take steps to try to recouperate her costs. Apparently she has put a charge on the house. No doubt she will wait quite some time before she gets paid.

    Like

  18. jennyheath · November 8, 2013

    Hello Karen,
    I am currently supporting a client going through a very similar experience to D. Multiple allegations have resulted in many agencies becoming involved: Social services, police, CAFCASS, private nursery provider, contact centres etc. Thankfully my client has been supported by a strong team. Things have turned around with the involvement of a strong and knowledgeable Judge + the appointment of an independent social worker assigned to ensure the child’s needs are being met. My client has experienced that 10 minute change from his daughter being withdrawn and tearful to happy and engaged. It’s heartening to see the work you are doing to draw attention to the gender bias in professional services.

    The point I have to add to the discussion is how much the mother has been aided in her allegations by the plethora of material on the internet, giving her ‘trigger’ phrases / approaches that add to her credibility in the eyes of the professional.

    Like

  19. Anonymous · July 18, 2014

    Hi Karen,
    I am a woman and an alienated parent so I feel able to comment on this because my ex could not use the feminist movement to support him. He does however, have undiagnosed mental illness and so over the 6 years before my children retreated, his behaviour severely effected the children. During this time, because of his issues, our eldest daughter became highly parentified and became a pawn to further the alienation with her siblings. So, in my opinion it is squarely the mental health issues of the parent acting out in the beginning that sets the tone for going forward. There was no intervention (in fact I was assured it would settle down as time went on) and nothing changed and so his efforts, even though we had shared parenting for 6 years…ended in alienation.
    A very protracted exposure to abuse for the children. Nothing seen before here in Brisbane Australia. So I say the parent issues need to be sorted ASAP.
    Karen N

    Like

  20. oldimp · July 23, 2014

    Hello Karen,

    I found your website today, after wandering around on the web during my lunch break, trying to make some sense of my family life. Your site is a rare island of sanity in what seems to me to be a sea of absolute madness.

    My family is not as far through the process as described in your article (yet), but we are definitely heading in this direction, and every day I return home from work, I silently give thanks that my three children are all still at home, and not, like D’s children, missing, along with their mother.

    The question I want to ask is this:

    How long has the situation been like this, and why hasn’t it been brought more to the attention of the general public?

    My wife needs support with her mental health. She had problems before we met, but they got much worse after our children were born. It was then that I first encountered the biased and one-sided support system for women that you describe so well on your website.

    I encouraged my wife to consult with medical staff to help with her fragile state of mind, and never realised how partisan that support would be. The GPs and psychiatrists that attended to her apparently saw no need to question any of her accounts of life in our family, and happily put her fragile state down to depression caused by our ‘bad relationship’. Not once was I called upon to give my account of life in our family, which differs significantly from my wife’s.

    It is 8 years later now, and both my wife and my children are now experiencing mental health problems. My wife is the main carer for our kids, but she has tremendous struggles to look after them properly, and our house is regularly full of screaming and emotional overload. Our middle daughter (9) has taken to regularly threatening herself with a knife, whilst our eldest son (12) has threatened to jump out of the first floor window of our house, and had to be talked down by the police.

    These incidents usually occur when I am at work, whilst my wife is in charge of looking after the children. The kids are usually settled when I am looking after them. And yet, somehow, it all seems to be my fault….

    We agreed to work with our Locality team to try and get support for the emotional difficulties of our kids, but right from the beginning, they zeroed on in my wife’s unhappiness and ‘vulnerability’. When asked, the kids all said they were much closer to me than their mother, even though she is the main carer, but somehow that has been spun by the Locality team to be a bad thing – that somehow I am ‘controlling’ them. They also suggest I am doing the same thing (being controlling) to my wife, and that this is why she is unhappy – they have been recommending that she go to Women’s Aid right from the start of their engagement. Their argument seems to be that my wife finds it so difficult to care properly for the children, because she is emotional abused by me, and hence anything the kids do is my fault, by proxy. Any facts that I point out that don’t fit this alleged controlling and abusive pattern are ignored. Even the kids ask me why the Locality team look at things this way, but they are largely ignored – they are not even talked to much – conversation is all with the mother.

    How can it possibly be that in a democracy, governed by rule of law, where one of the enshrined principles is that everyone should have a voice when they are accused, that people are treated like this?

    How can it be possibly be reasonable that D’s children are just taken away, for _three years_ , because of the flimsiest of allegations?

    I live in hope that if this happens to me, my children will speak up for me. But that can only happen if they are actually given a voice by the system, and that voice is not discounted by virtue of some sort of fictitious demonic influence I am supposed to have over them – the only influence I genuinely have over them is called love.

    How can anyone protect themselves from situations like this? It seems, as a man, you are entirely at the mercy of whatever your wife chooses to say about you, or your relationship with the kids. One false move, and it’s all over. How can anyone be trusted with that amount of power in an highly emotive situation? How did we get into this state?

    Like

    • woodman1959 · July 24, 2014

      Because we are being moved towards a matriarchal society – but no-one wishes to talk about that.

      Instead – in some places…there is outrage and a blanket condemnation of “feminism”.

      When hi-visibility of women in positions of power throughout society is going to be widely considered the norm from now on – and it will be seen to be feminism which has achieved this – railing against family in general is hardly going to cut any ice.

      WWe struggle to talk about matriarchy because of the power of the word “mother”. It seems almost criminal to talk about mothers (is there always a feeling that we could be talking about our mothers?) doing things wrong.

      But no such shyness about fathers doing things wrong.

      Until we are able to get over these taboos – and have public discussions on these lines…raising the subjects you raise SO well – the relentless march forward of Matriarchy will continue.

      Like

      • karenwoodall · July 24, 2014

        Woodman, matriarchy and feminism = the same thing. I have let this comment through but I would like you to go and start up your own blog on your own theories now and stop using this place as somewhere to promulgate your ideas. The conversation you want to have is not relevant to this place. Please go and have it somewhere else with people who are interested in it.

        Like

  21. woodman1959 · July 24, 2014

    I meant “feminism” – not “family” in general.

    Like

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