[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 January 2005, 15:14 GMT
Family court 'is an ex's revenge'
Two parents who found themselves on different sides in court fighting over access to their children tell BBC News their stories.

Liz ended her relationship with her partner of 11 years in 1999. He fought for 50% access to their two sons, then aged two and five.

One of the reasons the relationship had ended was because he wasn't around so it seemed absurd and impractical that he would want to have the children 50% of the time.

So I got taken to court. One of the things that is often missed is that if one partner is being unreasonable there is nothing you can do.

We went to the family court, and at the first hearing the judge unusually let us both speak at length and suggested alternate weekends and that their dad should also see them on a Wednesday.

He picked them up from school on a Friday and had them until Sunday evening and that seemed to work quite well, but he was still saying it wasn't enough, so we ended up going back to court.

Some people 'are using children to get back at their exes'

When you go to court before you appear before the judge you are put under huge pressure to come up with a deal between you.

Only then and there, before we went into the judge, did my ex-partner agree to have alternative-weekend contact and half the holidays.

But I really resisted the idea, which he also wanted, of picking them up on a Monday afternoon. I felt it was too long for my younger daughter.

We had this judge who was unbelievable. He had already decided he didn't like the look of me, he told me I was an overanxious mother - really insulting, on a really personal level.

So he gave him contact on Mondays.

Now we talk, because as the children get older it's easier as they can express what they want.

But I'm being sued over the house (which was mine) so we have got another court case to deal with.

There are people who use the courts as a way of getting back at the exes.

A lot of this has been motivated by revenge, because he will not sit down and consider any kind of proposal.

I have a great deal of sympathy with men who have their children taken from them, but at the same time you have much to gain by working together because the system that's there to deal with these problems is woefully inadequate.

John, who is in his 50s, walked out of his marriage eight years ago. Since then he has been to court 35 times over access to his son and has changed his career, becoming an academic researching family law.

I was pushed and shoved around a lot, which I would now perceive as domestic violence. In the end my reaction was quite shameful, so I packed my bags and left home because I realised what I had been brought to.

Since then it has been claimed that I was the violent one, and clearly the courts have taken the mum's word over mine.

We first went to court when both of us made a residential application for my son. All the judge had in front of him was two single sheets of A4. All he could have possibly known about us was what was in the applications.

He told me 'You know your application is absurd and that a child's place is with its mother'.

They say they law isn't biased and in the way the law is worded it isn't, but the way it is operated it is. Bias really does exist.

In my own case I managed to secure a shared residence order because during the first 18 months of my son's life we had both been at home and shared the care. My ex-wife was ill so we had shared the 'emotional' care and I had carried out the 'practical' care.

But in court my contribution was summed up as 'hovering in the background and getting in the way', which was believed by the court.

And within 12 months of the order there were untrue complaints about me assaulting my ex during the course of handovers.

It took her another 12 months but she did manage to end the shared residence order and I also faced the threat of being removed from my child's life altogether.

I now have alternate weekends and just under half of holidays and there is supposed to be some time after school, but it is uncanny how these days and weekends often clash with clubs and things.

And it is unbelievably difficult arranging holidays anywhere out of the country.

My son has become very secretive about what happens in his other home and he leaps to his mum's defence should there be any hint of a criticism of her.

And I think as he gets older, my concern is that he will become very insecure.

It is a horrible mess.

  • All names used in this piece have been changed to protect the identities of all parties.

    Child access law shake-up planned
    18 Jan 05 |  UK Politics

    The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


    Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific