At the tender age of 37 years old and having just ended my second marriage, I was asked to write an article for The Divorce Magazine and to talk about the struggles I have overcome. Of course I was overjoyed!
My first marriage ended when I was 27 and I had two children to my first husband. To say this was an acrimonious divorce is an understatement. Although when we first separated we were still on very good terms, and this lasted for the first 12 months. Then once my ex husband met his now wife, things started to change. He became less interested in the children, would make excuses as to why he had to drop them off early, pick them up later or not able to have them at all. Instead of letting his excuses rise above me and float away, I would become angry and insist on him having them, which in turn would put his back up and make him more determined to follow on with his plans. This became so much that contact altogether broke down. He moved further away to be with his new partner and claimed he could not afford the travel to see his children.
My second marriage ending has been very different. My second husband sees our child (my third) as much as he physically can AND he also sees my older children at the same time. You see he has been more of a father to them than their biological one, so much so that they in fact call him Dad and refer to their biological father by his name.
You’re probably wondering where am I going with this; I want to share my experiences of 2 very different separations which both included children.
My first being very difficult which led to many court appearances over access and my second being very ‘grown up’ and although difficult at times, on the whole very amicable. Why was this? Simple… I learnt a lot in my first divorce, I also made a lot of mistakes and like many people, I let emotions take over the pragmatics of the situation. When emotions get involved in any situation, a dispute of any kind becomes like an erupting volcano. Every time I wanted him to see the kids he took it as I was demanding he saw the children, to which he would fight back and say no. This went on for what seemed a lifetime. He would take me court for access, to which I never denied him, but when we would sit with the mediators CAFCASS and talk about access, he always ended up proving to be the most difficult one.
I remember on the first court appearance, I had in fact stopped access at this point and when asked why I calmly answered it was because my ex would not give me an address or phone number to where he was taking my 5 & 2 year old, and seeing as he was taking them over 100 miles away, this was something I was not happy about. When asked why he wouldn’t give me the information, he claimed it was because I would send him abusive letters to where he had lived previously, to which I stated the ‘abusive’ letters were me telling him to ‘grow some balls and come and see his children’.
We also couldn’t agree on access, he wanted alternate weekends; I wanted him to have alternate weekends, alternate bank holidays and half the school holidays, he replied that was too much and he only got 4 weeks holiday a year, this was after he got the children’s birthdates wrong on the court documentation. As you can imagine CAFCASS just sat there in disbelief and even asked him “why exactly are you here?”. Even after this farcical court appearance, I was taken back to court on other occassions and each one was to reduce his access from alternate weekends, to the last time he asked to reduce his access to 1 hour every 4 weeks and contact to be held at a contact centre. This was when my oldest (10 at the time) asked if he could go and see the judge and tell the judge he was not happy.
Although my son and daughter didn’t get their dramatic day in court (watches too many Hollywood movies) they did get chance to voice their feelings about it, and boy where they heard! My ex husband, their biological dad did not come off very well at all even to the point my daughter (then 7) said that she thought of him as her step dad and not her real dad. Her ‘real’ dad to her was my second husband (and to this day this is how they both feel).
So what am I trying to say, I know it’s hard, but keep all emotions out. If you can’t agree, stop and think about the problem. On a scale of 1-10 (10 being death) where is this problem. Every child has a right to see both of their parents, no matter who has custody and who is the ‘absent parent’. As long as your child is going to be in a safe environment, be happy and well loved, does it really matter. The disputes are just that, disputes. If you can’t rectify them, then go to a independent third party, like a mediator. At all times think about the children and what they want. They never asked to be put in this situation and they certainly don’t need to hear of your disagreements with each other. Let them stay children.