I thought she’d come home after a few days, just like before. I thought she’d let me continue being a father to my son. By the time I realised I was mistaken and I’d got a solicitor and a court hearing, 6 months had passed.

Now, he was living with his mother – that was the ‘status quo’, I was told. Except that it wasn’t – he was living with her parents, temporarily, as was she. The previous 3 years in our family home – his home – were, apparently, irrelevant. I was ‘awarded’ minimum contact, so as not to cause too much distress.

When 2 days a fortnight became the ‘status quo’, I returned to court. It was not too much of a jump to be with my son 3 days a fortnight. When 3 days became the ‘status quo’, I returned once again to get 5 days. more

She did not like it. As his time with me increased, I had to work twice as hard to balance out her vile attempts at alienation. But the results were undeniable – my son was very happy when he was with me. He was bright, talented, and at the top of his class at school.

I remarried and was able to provide the stable home I’d always dreamed of with two responsible and loving parents.

The only male in my Ex’s life was my boy.

After 6 exhausting years of litigation, my barrister finally asked if I wanted sole residence. She knew she could get it. She said she would tear my ex-wife apart, and enjoy doing it. It would be easy … Easy … but not right. Children should have both parents. That’s what I’d been fighting for for so many years. What would my son think of me if did to his mother what she had done to me? If I did that to him? I achieved, and accepted, 50:50 contact – my son had one week with her, one week with me. I had sacrificed the opportunity for complete control but one day my son would appreciate that I’d done what was right.

It bought us four more years.

But she wanted him. Even after a decade, she couldn’t share. She couldn’t put his happiness first. She wanted him all to herself. I had foiled every one of her abusive schemes and there was only one thing left to do – go back to basics. She waited until Christmas – until all the solicitors were on holiday, and – just as she had done at the very beginning – she simply took him. Forget the string of contact orders. Forget the ‘status quo’. Forget the best interests of the child. I want that. I’m taking that. The only concern was getting an articulate and intelligent 12-year-old to reject his happy life with his father. But, it transpires, after a lifetime of emotional manipulation, you can get a kid to say anything. more

Now I regret teaching my son to love his mother. I regret not telling him what she was. Not telling him that he was being abused. Not interrogating him about her actions in forensic detail. All the little secrets. I regret trying to protect him from the adult battle that was going on around him and not arming him. But we were just trying to make the most of the limited time we had together. We were just trying to live a ‘normal’, happy, family life. I balanced out everything else, but I had failed to balance out the abuse.

10 months without contact. I didn’t have a chance …

Following a conversation with Cafcass, my solicitor ‘bowed out’ and I had no money for another. And so for the next two days I was forced to represent myself against a highly experienced solicitor, and judge (who was making little attempt to hide her contempt of me), desperately trying to follow the bewildering proceedings and stand my ground, whilst my trusted Litigant In Person – who the judge had refused to allow to speak on my behalf – was trying to whisper advice in my ear.

Eventually, and against my protestations to keep children out of adult proceedings, the judge ordered my son into the court house. She had my Ex’s family bring him into her private room, through the judge’s door to prevent any possibility of contact with me. This apparently meant that he would be able to voice ‘his own’ views. He fulfilled their expectations.

The judge began her verdict by showering praise on my Ex, and from that moment, everything became a bit of a blur. I know I started walking out. I know I turned to look at my Ex and she looked at me. I know I just wanted her to stop …

To be continued …