Tuesday, 15 July 2008

My 1st Forum post - Please, I need someone to talk to about my situation and what to do next.

Please, I need someone to talk to about my situation and what to do next.

On 8th August it will be a year since I last saw 2 of my 3 daughters
and I have only very briefly seen my other one on her birthday on the
doorstep of my former home.

I was forced out of my family home by the courts way back in June 2006.
I was initially allowed to see my girls every other weekend and 1/2
the holidays. I felt this was unfair and wanted to see them for 1
evening a week mid week, but this was denied me. The EOW worked OK,
but the holidays were another matter.

There was no communication between my wife and I directly because
there was simply no reasoning with her. I attempted to sort out
arrangements via my solicitor, but this proved to be impossible,
because we rarely ever got a reply. I don't want to go into too much
detail here, but despite me only wanting to see my girls for a fair
share of the holidays and even offering my wife the choice of dates as
long as I had a bit of notice, every holiday was ruined.

The 1st Xmas all my attempts were futile and out of desperation, I
telephoned her and tried to reason with her. She suddenly started
shouting down the phone (so the girls could hear) "You're threatening
not to bring them back are you??" I was of course saying "No, of
course not etc etc". She continued to shout sentences of similar
meaning and I ended up ending the call. I contacted my solicitor who
tried every way possible to speak to hers, to no avail. They sent a
letter, phoned the practice numerous times and were promised a call
back, left messages on his answerphone etc but nothing. Then 4
minutes before he left his office for his Xmas holiday with his family
he sent a fax which basically said that due to my threats to keep the
children, his client was only prepared to let them see me for 3 days,
the 27-29th Dec.

Although that was the worst case - every holiday after that, something
would be agreed and she would break it.

Then last summer in an attempt to keep the escalating costs down I
asked my eldest (14) to ask her mum when I could have them for the
summer holidays. The next time I saw them, they didn't have an answer
so I asked her to ask again. Despite asking many times for a bit of
notice (I am self employed) 3 days before the holiday started I got a
letter from her solicitor saying that I could have them for 2 weeks
starting the 1st day of the holidays.

This was simply impossible because I was committed work wise by then,
so I replied saying this and suggesting that I had them for 17 days
starting a week later. We got no reply. The girls came to me on the
day I had suggested but I still had no idea if the 17 days had been
agreed. When I asked the girls when they though they were going back,
they just said "Mum said her solicitor has written to you" and were
obviously under instructions to say nothing else. My solicitor tried
chasing up the matter, but as usual met with the usual lack of
communication. Eventually several days later my solicitor came back
to me with the answer that my wife would not agree to 17 days and that
I could only have them for 14. I left it at that and made a number of
plans to take them out on various trips. On the evening of 8th Aug, I
told them what we were going to do the following day (trip to London)
and my eldest said "we're not getting back too late are we?". I said
"It will probably be quite late. Why?"

She then told me that they were going back to their mum the next evening.

I had had them for 6 days.

My girls had never ever to my knowledge ever told lies to either me or
their mother, but it was obvious that they had all known exactly what
day they were going back, but had been told not to tell me. I then
found out she was taking them to Denmark for 4 weeks 3 days later.
I was distraught, it got very tearful and I ended up saying that they
might as well go back to her that night. They rang their mum and
within a few minutes she had picked them up.

I did not know when they got back and attempts to contact them failed.
Eventually I phoned their school to see if they were back at school
and found that they were. I kept trying to phone my daughters and
eventually got hold of one of them. The previous weekend they should
have been with me, so I asked my daughter if they wanted to see me and
she said yes. So I made arrangement to pick them up as usual the
coming weekend.

A few minutes later, my wife phoned me and simply said - You're not
seeing the girls. Simple as that. I asked her why and she just kept
repeating that I wasn't seeing them. Eventually she said she wasn't
having me upset them like last time.

I then contacted my solicitor and she started an application for an
order for contact.

This hearing was in Trowbridge and it wasn't until we were in front of
the judge, that the judge said he couldn't hear the case because he
either knew or his children knew my children. We had already been
waiting several hours and I could just see this as another frustrating
and costly exercise, so taking advice, I allowed the hearing to continue.

The judge said that he had been trying to streamline the usual system
and said that the hearing would take place in Bath and that the girls
would come to court the same day, so that CAFCASS could interview them
and it could all get sorted out on the same day.

This seemed like a good idea as things were already dragging on and I
hadn't seen the girls for 4 months or had any contact with them

The judge explained that there were a number of procedures that had to
be followed and one of them was that the girls were to be taken to
court separately, by a mutual friend and that they would have no
contact with either of us until after the hearing.

However - what was not made clear was that the hearing in Bath was
just a hearing to set a date for all this to happen. I only found
this out the day before when my solicitor told me. I was baffled and
couldn't understand why. It seemed crazy. She tried to contact my
wife's solicitor to see what his understanding was of what was
happening, but as usual we got no reply.

We turned up in court to find that my wife and her solicitor had come
to the same conclusion as me, and that they thought the process was
going to happen that day too.

We went in to see the judge and incredibly it was the same judge as we
had had in Trowbridge. He apologised for the confusion, but said that
as the girls were there anyway, he would see if CAFCASS were able to
speak to them. It then came to light that my wife had ignored what
the judge had said and had travelled to court in the same car as them
with the mutual friend. The excuse was that 'She didn't want to drive
in Bath on her own'.

Despite this being one of the rules the same judge had told us, he
just accepted the excuse and continued.

The children were interviewed by the CAFCASS officer both individually
and together, but neither me or my wife were given the opportunity to
speak her before this happened. Quite how someone is supposed to be
able to make judgments purely based on what the children say without
getting the background I don't know.

The next thing that happened was the CAFCASS officer got my wife and
me and our solicitors in the same room and told us her findings.

This was extremely distressing. She reported that my 14 yr old didn't
want to see me at all, that my 13 yr old would just do what the 14yr
old did and my youngest (11yr old) didn't have much to say. She then
told me why. All the reasons they had given had obviously come from
their mother. I tried to argue with the CAFCASS woman but every time
she answered in her sweetest voice "Well that's their perception Mr
Line". She seemed to take no consideration of the fact that they had
been solely in their mothers care for 4 months and that I had not even
been able to speak to them in that time.

We then went back in front of the judge and based on the CAFCASS
testimony, he said the girls were old enough to make up their own
minds and said he would not be making an order for contact, but that I
was 'allowed to write to them and send them small gifts at appropriate
times'. I was also advised to keep the letters short as children had
short attention spans!!!!! My girls are all very intelligent and
devour huge novels at an incredible rate.

The judge then addressed my wife and said "I assume that you want the
children to have future contact with their father?", She replied, Yes
of course. He further instructed her to encourage the children to
reply to my letters, to which she replied "Oh yes of course I will".

Since November last year, I have delivered Xmas presents, Birthday
presents and written almost every month. With the exception of my
middle daughter agreeing (by text) to let me deliver her presents face
to face and her thanking me by text for them, I and absolutely no
communication from the other 2 at all with the exception of a very
hateful text message from my eldest on the same day that my wifes
application for costs was denied.

Is there anyone out there that has been in the same situation and can
offer some good advice?

Everyone I speak to who know me and the girls just say "Don't worry,
they will realise what is going on one day and they'll always love you"

But these years are special and you can't get time back - once its
gone its gone. I am desperate to see them again - I just don't see how.

Judge back in November said that the fee I paid for the order is still
there so I can try again in the future, once "I have had time to
reflect" - but how? and what good will it do?

All I feel is grief and anger towards my wife and the system that
allows this to happen.

Sorry if this all seems a bit disjointed, but so much has happened, I
cannot possibly write it all here.

I have spent a small fortune on solicitors and have got the message
loud and clear that I should have done this on my own. I feel I am
losing the fight and I just need some help to take the next step.

Tim Line