My story demonstrates the immense legal, financial, and psychological struggles that fathers can go through, simply to look after their children. But it also shows that there can be light at the end of the tunnel.
From the outset, I was elated at the prospect of becoming a father. Despite being my son’s main carer during the relationship though, after his mum and I separated I faced an uphill battle to keep involved in his life that I couldn’t have imagined was possible. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was to last over 15 years.
I was regularly frozen out, on Christmases, birthdays, everything.
The benefits system does not support the needs of separated Dads, and I lived in extreme poverty whilst trying to support my son. I slept on the floor as I couldn’t afford a bed, before being evicted from my home. A couple of days before one Fathers’ Day, I was summoned to court to prohibit further contact. I was even threatened with arrest for kidnap when I took my son to visit his grandparents on a scheduled visit. At this time, I was diagnosed with depression.
In 2007, I received a phone call out of the blue from the police asking me to take care of my son. This began a new long round of court hearings as we tried to work out what arrangements would be best for him. The stress of this, for both me and my son, was unimaginable at times.
Ultimately, after 15 and a half years of turmoil, stress, depression, and despair, I was granted residency for my son. We moved into a new home, and my son is now thriving. When I look back, I have no idea how I was able to get through it all. Without the support of some of the people I met through Families Need Fathers, I’m not sure I could have done. I am one of the lucky ones, and am now in a position where I can look forward rather than back.
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