At the start of my legal career, when I had a modicum of “women’s work” [I called it this to annoy the Sisters-without-Humour], I was struck by the courts’ seeming unwillingness to enforce father’s rights of access to their children.This slowly changed, Brian Hutton being one of the progressive family judges.
Now, I understand that judges will be firm with women who seek to obstruct orders with excuses such as “Johnny has a cold today”.
There are, of course, more subtle weapons, for which the court has no answer.
The woman who consistently criticises her ex-husband in front of the children. Who refuses to co-operate beyond the black letter of the court order. She refuses all communication in respect of the child’s schooling. She won’t discuss the child’s progress, moods, friends, habits or problems. She is happy , of course, for the husband to pay for prep school and private medical care, as long as he does not try to discuss this with her.
She rejects all overtures from the father , even a five minute chat on the phone.
If he contacts her, say by text, a good maternal ploy is to tell the child that “your father is talking about you behind your back”.
And so it goes on, year after year, the slow drip of poison, through parents’ evenings, GCSEs, AS levels, UCAS selection, A levels, prize day, the start of university and even graduation.
Of course , to the outside world, the mother presents her beatific smile and talks sweetly about her child.
All the while the husband has to endure, count to ten and try again. Stilted conversations with his child where the mother is the elephant in the room.
At the end of her life, no doubt Mother will reflect how she ‘taught the bastard a lesson’.
What she has actually done is subject her child to a never-ending sense of being disadvantaged.
When the child stands at graduation and sees mates with two parents , the undoubted question will be, “why me, what did I do to deserve this?”
The answer is of course “nothing”.
I know that there are many fathers who abandon their children and care nothing for their progress. I’m sure that there are many caring mothers who involve their ex-husbands in all aspects of their child’s life and welfare.
I asked a friend about this. He had behaved badly towards his wife. He told me that they agreed as a first step , that they would never disadvantage their children on account of their divorce. They have two delightful well adjusted children.
Divorce is painful. But it does not have to blight a child’s life.
No matter who is right and who is wrong [and there is rarely an innocent partner] children should come first. My experience is that it is invariably mothers who practise this exquisitely painful form of child abuse.