Forgive and forget?

An "access dad" explains why it's impossible for him to have a good relationship with his children's stepfather.

By Alan Robson*

My marriage had died. We had continued "living together" for no reason. We attended counselling together, and although I held hope that we would work things out, she was adamant that it was over. In hindsight I know this was because she had been plotting with the man who is now my children's step-father for some months before.

My lawyer advised me to move out of the house and find a flat close to the kids while the situation was sorted out. That was bad advice and a fatal mistake on my part. By moving out I would automatically lose the kids!

I was first made aware of the step-father within 24 hours of my leaving the matrimonial home.

The day after I left he was there having a barbeque with my children. Fourteen days later I was informed that they would be living together and would be taking my children away to a new life. I first met the step-father at our custody/guardianship hearing when he testified against me in Court.

I suppose I should have been happy that my children were to be cared for so well in my absence as that would allow me to get on with my life as merely a wallet in the lives of my children.

I was very keen on joint custody although at that time I did not know much about it. I had always been involved in the kids' school activities, sports trips, cubs/scouts, etc. and wished that to continue. I wanted week-about parenting but the judge would not allow this without my wife's agreement. She did not agree and I was awarded visits from my kids every other weekend and one night a week.

In Court the step-father said how happy he was to be now part of their lives and what good children they were considering the bad relationship between their parents. His own children were now adults and he had walked out on a 25 year marriage to be part of this new life. Obviously to begin this new life they would have to move away from the district which we had lived in for 12 years and which was home to my children. This move, said the step-father, would "enhance the welfare of the children" and give them a "different perspective on life". I challenged this relocation proposal in Court and succeeded in limiting their move to 70 kms. They purchased a house some 100kms away. He is a builder and is able to obtain work locally. I am a specialist university technician and there is no such similar work available elsewhere. I am now forced to work part-time, with a reduction in salary, to enable me to visit my children at all.

Ongoing Court proceedings cost me $65000 and I continue to live on the poverty line.

I had no problem with his relationship with my wife; it was only adultery after all. I have not been able to forgive and forget that he was the central figure in my custody battles. Since that time the relationship between my ex-wife and myself deteriorated into angry bitter disputes over every aspect of our children. If he had remained in the background, supporting my wife in these very emotional issues, awaiting the Court's decision on what was to happen with my children, and then becoming part of their lives, then that I could have accepted. But he was making decisions about their future when these decisions were before the Court.

The responsibility for children is with both parents whether divorced or not. Unfortunately the law determines that following divorce biological father should retain financial responsibility only. The Court has to date not lifted one finger to assist me in my relationship with my children. The children's mother and step-father continue to obstruct me. Is it any wonder that abandoned fathers feel bitter when they see another "father" entertaining their children?

* Not his real name.

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