A heart wrenching story of divorce, false allegations and Family Court; with a positive outcome. This father pours out his heart and soul about his emotions, feelings and experiences during the divorce process and how this impacted the relationship with his children. Will his daughter and son ever know what he went through? What he sacrificed? Will his children ever realize what they lost out on? That they missed being raised by a caring, loving and responsible father?
As told by the father:
It’s difficult to summarize 13 years of hell in a short story, especially when you’re past it, you’ve survived, and your heart is at peace knowing you gave it your all.
I married my high school sweetheart. We fought quite a bit I suppose, but it was what seemed typical amongst our friends at the time. It wasn’t anything that made me question our commitment to each other especially once we had a child.
At this stage in my life, I honestly don’t remember too much from our relationship. I actually don’t know the woman, who is the mother of my children. But, there are 3 memories that will never fade from my memory during that time: the birth of my baby girl, A, the birth of my boy, J, and that frightful day when they were both taken from me.
With no warning signs that I could identify, no reason, and with no explanation, I returned home from work one day, and my family was gone. I was devastated. At that time, A was three and J wasn’t even yet one. I drove to her rent’s that night, but what was once a family who embraced me as their son, suddenly held hate and spite. To this day, I can’t explain why.
This turned into a nightmare I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. It’s a pain that I don’t think anyone could grasp unless they have experienced it. People can empathize and try to imagine what it’s like to have their children taken away, but they don’t live the daily agony, the unknowns, the fear, the helplessness, and the heartache. It’s enough to drive a person crazy, literally.
In addition to having my kids ripped away from me, I ended up losing my home, I faced false allegations of assault, I was called a deadbeat, and I was threatened with jail time if I couldn’t keep up with child support. I couldn’t take time to grieve. Even my own family told me to “man up” and deal with it. I didn’t have any savings. I wasn’t educated. I didn’t have family support in the way I felt I needed. I wanted to be a father. But, “manning up”, or rather – becoming a paycheck, was the only realistic option I saw. That is what I considered my personal rock bottom.
This was the late 80s, and at that time, it was already engrained in our culture that physical custody goes to the mom, dad provides financially, and dad is lucky to see the children every other weekend if the mother and a judge so deems appropriate. Any venting – such as sharing my story like this – would be considered wimpy, whiney or otherwise questioning my masculinity in some way.
The reason I want this story anonymous is because I’m embarrassed, and I don’t want my children to know this, but after they were taken from me, I wasn’t able to feel like a father, or at least as how I envisioned a father to be. The little time I had with them initially was awkward, uncomfortable, and faced with fear of more false allegations. Hugs were distant, and “rough housing” and wrestling ended. I even dreaded disciplining them out of worry it would be used against me.
Our time was precious to me, and I cherished our time, but, sometimes, just spending time with them brought me anxiety. I prayed that we’d get through the “visit” without any bruises or injuries that could be used against me. I was always walking on egg shells, in everything I did.
I also, admittedly, feared that my children wouldn’t want to spend time with me, and they did at times call their mom to say they wanted to go “home” because they were bored. I felt the need to spoil them with gifts, so they’d want to come see me. After all, I was taking them away from their full time home, bed, toys, and friends, to come to a small apartment I shared with a buddy. I felt the need to have to do ‘something’ with them, and ‘something’ always translated into something way above my humble means. And, though, anxious while they were with me, I was then torn to pieces each time they left. The emptiness and silence in the apartment when they left, brought lonesomeness that I can’t describe. And then I waited another 2-4 weeks before I could see them again. It’s an emotional rollercoaster unlike any other.
They grew, and I felt so detached from their lives. I knew inconsequential things about them, such as their favorite color, meal and their favorite sport, but I didn’t know them – their friends, their feelings, their dreams and goals.
I put the rest of my life on hold for all those years, trying to ignore the depression, in order to support my kids financially and to have some involvement in their lives. But, nevertheless, I always felt like a failure, not having the ability to be closely involved in their lives, and to be the father I had always wanted to be. To some extent I thought my life was over and that the pain would never end. Everyone I knew going through a similar experience, seemed to have accepted their fate. So, I tried to act that way too.
To my surprise, when A turned 16, she started coming by more often, by her own choice and on her own terms. She was craving structure, rules and love. It caught me off guard at first that she wanted to hang out with her dad. But, that.. THAT was my saving grace. That helped me to build my confidence as a person, as a man, and most importantly, as a parent. To this day, I tell her that she saved my life. And, I truly believe she did.
In my late 40s, fourteen years after my divorce, I finally felt like a father, I started a new career, I started to build my savings, and I purchased my first home. My own dad said to me at one point ‘it’s about time you grew up and played adult’. If my own father, who knows all of the details of what I went through, can’t understand the devastation and empathize, then no one else certainly would. And, so, I’ve remained silent… until now.
I’m a survivor. A survivor of the family court system that ripped my children away from me, stripped me of my rights, degraded me, insulted me, labeled me a paycheck – and, what is most unforgiveable, taken a caring, loving father from my beautiful children. I’ve healed. My children have healed. And, our bitterness has all faded, replaced by the close bond we now have. I couldn’t be prouder of my kids. One works in education, and my youngest works in the auto industry. Life is very good.
I share my story now so people know that those of us who have lived through this are not “OK” with it. We are not OK with having our children taken away from us, with having our right to parent taken away. We are not OK with our children suffering. We are not OK with our children “turning out OK” in spite of their broken childhood. We want their successful outcome to be the result of a happy and healthy childhood, shared with both sides of their families so they can fully benefit from the great relationship with parents, grandparents, siblings and cousins and to grow painlessly into the adults they were naturally intended to become! We need to band together to fix this now before our society completely crumbles.
#848, Rebuilding After Family Court: A Father’s Story