We had a great marriage, with two young, happy children. We had a mortgage due to be paid off in about ten years, good savings, no money worries, and great friendships in a very good network of people around us.
However, as with many relationships, problems crept in. The problems started off small, beginning with me getting annoyed because things weren’t being done, which meant I had to do them. There are three sides to every story: her side; his side; and the truth. One day, we were arguing and it came out: the ‘D’ word.
I suggested marriage counselling because I still loved her, and I wanted the marriage to continue, for us, and for our children. But, for whatever reason, she decided against it. Proceedings were then issued. That was a dark summer, but as much as I tried, it deteriorated further.
She recruited the services of what I can only call a hostile solicitor, almost immediately followed by an intense provocation, and involvement by the police. I later found out this was to create an audit trail in divorce proceedings. I was continually threatened that unless I gave into her financial demands that she would go to court, ruin us financially, and get a non-molestation order if I dared even say anything out of turn. I felt threatened in my own home.
Weeks before the financial hearing, formal allegations of domestic abuse and child abuse were made. Some of the allegations were horrific. I collected the evidence to deny and refute them. I was so hurt that anyone could believe I could do that to my wife and child.
I represented myself at the financial remedy hearing, the hearing to finalise finances between us decided by a judge, because we had already spent nearly £70,000 by that stage. I was ripped apart in the hearing with phrases such as: “you can’t share with your children because you work full-time,” and “you treated your wife terribly; look at these domestic abuse charges; even the police have had to be involved.” As much as I tried to defend myself with evidence, the judge gave a maintenance period of eleven years, which means she didn’t have to work again.
The threats became real.
Days later, I received an ex-parte non-molestation order against me; this is essentially a restraining order that means I can’t harass her and meant me moving out of my house. This was gained with several pages of written statements from her and two pieces of evidence from a police visit, which transpired to be falsified and contradicted the information I subsequently obtained.
I spent the next six months shuttling to and from friends and my parents. I saw my children every other Saturday, and sometimes on a Sunday, and had dinner with them once a week. It was the best I could do when I had no home to go to during the deepest winter. I still had to pay for the home that my wife was in with my children, supported by allegations of abuse without evidence. I was even arrested and detained overnight following allegations I had breached the non-molestation order, which were later proven to be false. I battled on with work,but it was hard.
I managed to get back into my family home, and she moved out. My children were interviewed by Cafcass and the report was heart-breaking to read. They were made to draw pictures where it was clear they wanted to be with me. Despite this, the report stated “live with mum spend time with dad.” That was a hard few days.
The child arrangement hearing was the next stage, and despite all the evidence I provided – photographs, text messages, written character statements, and police records– both Cafcass and the judge ignored everything in favour of hearsay, and her verbal evidence.
That day could have been the end of my life.
I now see my children on alternate weekends and dinner in the week. It felt like a death sentence. The very people I live and work my life for are a mile away, but might as well be in a different country.
How could this possibly happen in divorce?
And then there was the allegation of attempted murder against her family. The police investigated it and found that there was no charge to answer. The allegations are written in a court document submitted to the family courts, which makes for interesting reading,and contradicted the police records.
How do I feel?
At times I am Lost. I feel Alone. I feel Scared. The old friendship group has walked away, but I have been very fortunate that the friends I’ve carried through life have stayed. I’ve benefited from meeting new friends who have witnessed the devastation of her actions, and are appalled.
What the future holds for my children and me is an unknown, and I don’t like that. I have never been in debt and have always worked hard. I now have tremendous debt, and although I work hard, I resent it due to the crazy order I’ve been given on the back of allegations. I always thought you left a marriage as equals.
We are not equal.
Then there was the alienation. I could not get in touch with my children on Christmas Day, despite many telephone calls and texts. My son said to me on one occasion that “mummy said you didn’t want to see us this weekend.”It wasn’t my weekend. I cried that night. My parents were accused of abuse against my son, and they have become very cautious about being with my children, refusing to and won’t be left alone with them.
School playground rumours that get back to me are part of the lengths she will go. It’s unbelievable, and yet no one says anything. The evidence of parental alienation was ignored by Cafcass and is being endorsed and encouraged by our legal system. It is believed to be acceptable that every other weekend and dinner in the week is fit for children, despite the lack of evidence whatsoever to support these recommendations.
The impact on me has been immense. I hear stories of parents who sadly, as a result of this system, have walked away from their children. Even worse, some have taken their own lives because they have nothing left emotionally, let alone financially. But me, Rob Irwin: I know that I have done nothing wrong. I’ve simply stood up for my children. My children won’t be funded through university; my children won’t have the luxury of their first car being bought for them; my children can’t have the holidays that I wanted to share with them. Besides these material things, they are being deprived of time spent with me.
We are financially broken. When you spend six figures on a divorce and the well being of your children is being ignored by Cafcass in favour of their own opinion, there’s a problem. So, we move in and out of court for the next few years until my children deteriorate in front of me and wait to get what is right for them, which is shared care – proven by research to be right for my children.