After 6 and half months of no contact with my three children due to severe parental alienation, after overcoming unfounded safeguarding concerns against me and after spending in excess of £5,000 in legal fees, a couple of weeks ago I had a planned visit to a Contact Centre, with the plan to see my youngest child, my daughter for one hour. As stated above, at that point I had not seen any of my children for 6 and a half months. I am continuously led to believe via their mother’s solicitor that none of my children want to see me ever again.
During the week or so building up to the visit, it was with a huge amount of guilt that I tried to put the visit at the back of mind and attempted to distract myself with work and spending time with loved ones.
This coping strategy worked to some degree until the day before the visit, when a volunteer member of staff from the Contact Centre telephoned me and informed me that the planned visit the next day could not go ahead due to certain points ‘not being clear enough‘ in the Court Order. Despite my polite protest to his claim, he would not allow the visit to go ahead. I was then at a point where I had seek input from my solicitor. My solicitor intervened at my request and informed the member of staff at the Contact Centre that there were no concerns with the arrangements in the Court Order and that we should proceed with the planned visit the following day.
In addition to this there were also attempts by my children’s mother to sabotage the planned visit. Details of which I cannot go into. Suffice to say this also required input and ‘advice‘ from my solicitor.
Now, lets put these ‘obstacles‘ into context without going into too much detail. My solicitor charges me more that £180 per hour. I am a mental health nurse working for the NHS earning approximately £12 per hour. Just consider that for a moment…
…So the day arrived and I drove into the car park of my local community centre. I observed numerous cars with men sitting alone in each car. I sat there reflecting on the past days obstacles and the attempt by my children’s mother to sabotage this planned visit. With this in mind I drove out of the car park and ‘hid’ the car around the corner and then walked back.
I entered the community centre and was greeted by some incredibly friendly staff members. I signed in and was shown into the main area where I observed five other fathers. Each man had a table and several chairs and there were a selection of toys and games available. Three of the fathers already had their children with them, and the warmth with which each of these fathers engaged with their respective children was both beautiful and saddening at the same time. Some more children turned up, leaving one father sitting alone with no children arriving. I overheard a staff member inform him that staff had contacted the mother of his children, but that she had “forgotten the visit was today and she would be a bit late”. He was advised by staff to wait. His children never turned up.
A short while later my daughter arrived. Within ten minutes into the visit my daughter and I were emotionally attached to one another, hugging, kissing and giggling to each other. Being unable to go into any further detail, the visit was a complete success. On reflection, and particularly after 6 and a half months of no contact it was one of the most surreal, amazing times of my life. Words cannot describe what it means to be a parent and to cherish every moment you have with your children. That one hour appeared to be the quickest one hour of my life.
At the end of the visit my daughter and I kissed and hugged each other. I helped her put her coat on and she told me she wanted to see me again. She was then escorted out of the room by a member of staff.
After each child is taken away, fathers are required to stay in the room for fifteen minutes before being permitted to leave.
During this time a father who had just waved goodbye to his son approached me. “Is this your first time mate?” He asked me. From his overall demeanour, he appeared to be carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. “Yes it is, how about you?” I replied. “It’s my third, and before you ask, it doesn’t get any easier.” He did not say this with any malice, but simply in a sad and resigned tone. “Why is it only dads here?” I asked him. “Dunno mate, you tell me” he said as he shrugged his shoulders and looked to the floor. “You take care mate” he said as he walked off to sit at his table for the required fifteen minutes.
While I sat at my table for the required fifteen minutes, a member of staff approached me and asked how I felt the visit had gone. I informed him that I had had an amazing time with my daughter and couldn’t wait to see her again and that it had made me incredibly happy that she wanted to see me again ‘next time’. He informed me that all the staff had noted how much she had enjoyed spending time with me. Interestingly enough he then informed me that my daughter’s mother had clearly not been happy with me being present when she arrived (despite this being normal procedure that fathers arrive first). He then went on to tell me that she had requested from staff that the visit be stopped immediately and that our daughter be removed from me and returned to her immediately. I expressed to the staff member my sincerest gratitude and thanks in declining her request.
The staff member and I engaged in small talk until the end of my fifteen minutes, and with my mind filled with worry and trepidation around not only the overall welfare of my three children but the next planned visit, I thanked the staff and left the building.