Recently I’ve met two very different families – one where a father has decided he doesn’t want anything to do with his son. And another where a dad is having to scrape together £10,000 so he can go to court to fight to see his two children.
To a loving parent both situations are appalling. Each one involves selfish, self-absorbed people that put their own needs before those of their children. For a father to abandon his child is unbelievable, but for a mother to put barriers between her child and their own father is actually just as cruel.
Unless a father has been abusive, there is no good reason for him to be prevented from seeing his children. Figures from Fathers 4 Justice show that every day 200 children lose contact with their fathers due to a court decision. The Office for National Statistics say that one in three children live without their father, and 3.8 million children in the UK are fatherless.
The impact this has on a child is far-reaching. For example, I know of grown-up children that now hardly see their mothers because they have realised how manipulative and selfish she is. The anger at being denied something that their friends took for granted can last a lifetime.
I know that it isn’t just women that have this need for revenge – I have one friend who hasn’t seen her son for almost a year because his father has slowly poisoned the relationship. Her ex-husband has been manipulative for several years – such as booking a holiday to Florida in the same week that my friend had reserved a caravan in Wales. The caravan holiday had been planned for months, but when the child had to choose between Wales or Florida it was no surprise when he chose to go away with his dad.
Fathers 4 Justice look at the possible implications this manipulation of children has. It seems Britain has the highest rate of young offending in Western Europe. One in four teenagers has a criminal record, with more children locked up in British jails than any other European country. According to the figures 56 per cent of young offenders are convicted again within a year. The cost of this to the country is £11 billion every year. So, it looks like children that are prevented from having a relationship with their fathers could be at high risk of venting that anger through criminal actions.
It’s time for courts to wake up to the fact that both parents need to be in a child’s life to provide love and emotional support – being a father isn’t just about child maintenance payments.