Well here it is, Saturday morning, and Warwick rang me for my article and I had nothing prepared. I was wandering around a shopping centre not particularly looking for anything, just in a bit of a daze. You see, sometimes things just get the better of me, and sometimes I just switch off.
An interview I had recorded with Southern Cross Ten State Focus was just aired today, which was just about DIDs and what we do. I watched the program and wondered if anyone was listening to what I had to say. Often I wonder.
You see, yesterday I was walking up the street to get some lunch and I came across a dad I knew sitting on a bench crying. There were people walking everywhere and no-one really taking any notice. I pulled up next to him and asked what was wrong. He said,
“I can’t take it anymore. They still won’t allow me to see my little girl away from the contact centre. I can’t even take her for an hour supervised outside the centre. I can’t keep going on, Tony. I feel like just giving up.”
I have known this dad for a long time. He is a Christian, and I have to say has had his faith tested more than most. All he ever wants is to be with his little girl. He loves her. He would die for her. And looking at this dad, shoulders lowered in defeat, face cupped in hands trying to disguise the tears, I felt totally disgusted at a system that continually shows no remorse for stripping fathers of their children.
His story is one of thousands. Because of entrenched conflict with his ex-spouse, the only way he can see his daughter is in a supervised contact centre. He has been there for nearly three years. I will repeat that: he has been there for nearly three years. So this dad has been doing the right thing, visiting his little girl every fortnight for approximately two hours’ supervised contact. That’s two hours a fortnight.
Recently I went to bat with the contact centre to try to get him out of there. Their only concern was that he is so intense. He obviously loves his daughter and is very intense when he is with her. I explained that wouldn’t they be, if they only saw their child for two lousy hours a fortnight? I mean, this dad is bottling up all that love and emotion every fortnight, and of course it spills out when he is finally united with his little girl.
Wouldn’t you be the same? Think about it. Have your children taken away from you and then be allowed to only see them for two hours a fortnight — and that’s only when she turns up — and then have someone watching over your shoulder, your every move. Knowing that you cannot even take your little girl for a walk down the street to buy an ice-cream. How’s that feel?
The contact centre in question promised that if he attended three more times without incident, he would be out of there. Those three times are now up and the mother is refusing to allow him contact other than in the centre. That’s nearly three years. They agree that the problem is not with the father, but the mother.
You see, it still comes down to a financial benefit for one party and the old story of a woman scorned. Now for him to fight it, he has to take it back to the courts. Legal Aid is not interested in helping; he cannot afford a lawyer — he has mortgaged his house in the fight to get to this point. He feels he should just walk away, but he loves his little girl. He tells me, maybe she will realise one day that her dad really loved her and fought all he could to see her.
What sort of system do we have here when a contact centre can see there is an injustice and their hands are tied to do anything about it? This is just one simple case of thousands we hear about. When Legal Aid solicitors are of the opinion that most dads don’t want to see their children after divorce, what hope of any justice do we have?
Thankfully, one of our own guys will help this dad fight his case through the courts. We will try and find justice not just for dad, but for his little girl. What does she think about all this? Well, she just wants both mum and dad to be happy. She doesn’t want to rock the boat. She doesn’t want to upset mum, but she wants to maintain contact with dad. Dad has pleaded repeatedly with mum for mediation. Mum refuses. The only option is the Family Circus, and to be honest we are the b**** clowns.
It’s gotta stop.
[Photo by Drew Hays