As part of a new series, we are inviting families, and professionals inside the family justice system, to share their experiences with us. The series is called Real Live Interviews, as the majority of people we talk to are either going through the court process as the interview takes place or work inside the system on a daily basis.
Our first interview is with a mother who is being threatened with the removal of her children because the system does not believe their father is abusive, despite professional reports which indicate to the contrary.
All names have been changed to protect the identity of the families involved, unless stated otherwise.
1. Hello Sue. Why are you going through the family courts?
My ex partner wants to keep control of my life by applying for contact and/or residence of my daughter to act out his abuse, revenge and vengeance for me leaving him like he has done throughout his life. He has no interest in the child just the effect it is having and will have on my life and future.
2. Have you had any legal representation?
Up to the cuts I had legal representation but no one was willing to fight for me, they just went through the motions and threatened me with what would happen if I didn’t agree; forcing my hand.
3. What has it been like representing yourself?
Difficult with trying to understand the law and the terminology but I have been unable to attend court due to medical commitments so I have not had the experience of facing the courtroom alone which I don’t think I could mentally deal with after what I have faced in the court room.
4. Did you feel like you were properly informed throughout the process?
I was tricked into various things a few times with Cafcass and solicitors to end up agreeing to things I would never agree to. There were a lot of back handed tactics used between services benefiting my ex partner and hindering myself.
5. What things did you feel people failed to tell you?
The truth and reality, I got threatened with so many extreme consequences that seemed so far from common sense that I was terrified to fight for my daughter’s rights to not be harmed. It has and is still making me very ill and my life is in turmoil.
6. Did you feel listened to by anyone inside the process at any time?
Child services made you think they listened and then went back on what they said once they made reports etc. The courts have not listened and dismissed the risks my ex poses because regardless of everything fathers have the right to see their children no matter the damage they cause. My child would be irreparably damaged if my ex was to have contact with her.
7. Have people treated you nicely?
Definitely not, I have been the victim to DV, harassment, threats and live in torment from my ex partner. I have been the one treated like the criminal or abuser because I am strongly trying to protect my child from harm, they don’t want me to have a say or mind of my own they want to bully me until I cave in which they are still doing to this day.
8. Do you feel the court’s decisions in your case make sense?
Not at all, any one looking from an outside perspective would find it so alarming that they would not be able to understand why it has gone this far and my ex partner is seen to be no risk. Any parent would fight like myself and not allow their child near him but I am expected to because a judge has decided that.
9. What do you feel is wrong about the decisions that have been made and why?
Handing out an address to a man who has threatened to shoot you and your partner and burn down your house, kill you all etc is wrong, I have been receiving distressing harassment again. Next he will be at the door. Allowing contact with a father that has never shown any interest in the child only to abuse me on visits. Knowing that one day he will be able to have direct dealings with me again to continue the abuse and will do so through my child to hurt the closest thing to me.
My ex’s mental health should have been addressed throughout the process not brushed under the carpet and threatened me as their tactic to make contact happen. I always said who would it be to pick up the pieces when he does the damage or hurts my child – the only person who will be doing that is me as everyone will wash their hands of it.
10. Overall, do you trust the system?
No definitely not. You can not have an opinion being a mother who is fighting to protect their child or children. You have to agree against all your motherly instincts to put your child in imminent danger to satisfy out of touch judges who treat you like scum who persecute you in front of the person who has abused you for years in private and then through the system.