In the midst of the exciting changes heralded by the possibility of policy change around family separation, this week has been one of those roller coaster rides that has ended, in tears. This week I have been reminded why change in family law is so urgent as once again I have been witness to the silent death of a relationship between a father and his children.
It doesn’t matter how often I witness this terrible phenomenon, just like the consultant who fails to save his patient, I find myself staring, long after the apparatus has been put away, in disbelief. How could this happen I ask myself over and over again. How could this appalling outcome, reminiscent of the dark ages, be allowed to happen in a civilised country?
Parentectomy is the term given by many to the complete removal of a parent from a child’s life after separation. Most often a parentectomy is performed by the mother of a child via her implacable hostility, but it is performed by fathers too. For all parents who are removed from their children’s lives in this way, the living bereavement that comes with it is a sentence of grief that cannot ever be resolved.
Parentectomy is an operation that is usually preceded by many years of litigation and the failure of the courts to enforce the orders that are made. Worn down and worn out by this process, many dads find themselves on the gallows awaiting the inevitable. The argument that the court serves the best interests of children bears very little weight when one is witness to this ghastly scenario and the children who have lost a parent in this way have no route to compensation for the murder of a relationship with half of their own self.
In the court room this week, we watched as judicial power slipped away. This dad loves his children more than their mother hates him. Which means that regardless of the fact that she has deliberately and maliciously destroyed the relationship he once enjoyed with his children, he did not want the court to use robust intervention. In the absence of that, this mother has free rein to refuse all contact and all future contact possibilities. She can simply say, no more. And she did.
It feels sickening when the death of a relationship between children and a parent happens this way. This was not a dad who had been abusive or violent or even difficult. This dad didn’t want shared care or have equal care, he just wanted his children to know that he cares and for them to see him sometimes and share that.
In the silence of the afternoon the mother smiled her delight that she had won and the father’s shoulders shook with first of many years of tears.
Next week I will go to see him to make memory boxes for his children with him, something that is usually done when a parent dies. I feel as if I am going to be burying him alive.