“I met Julie* at Christmas drinks with friends in 2009. We clicked straight away. She had three children from a previous relationship. I loved spending time with them all; I adored them and was more than happy to take them on as a devoted stepfather. I moved in and three years later we had a daughter, Chloe*.
We were happy for nine years and then started arguing – about everything. Her short temper was draining and we decided to split after 11 years together.
The breakup was really hard. I missed the kids terribly and my bond with Chloe was so strong it was a real wrench to be apart from her.
We tried to do what was best for the children and put our own emotions aside. After several tense conversations, we agreed we would share custody of Chloe. The other three children, I repeatedly said, were very welcome to come over whenever they liked.
I was relieved that it seemed to be working out OK. There were no big dramas, we got on with calm parenting and did what we needed to do for the sake of our daughter.
We did what we needed to do for the sake of our daughter. Source: IStock
All was going well – until I met a new partner
Just like that, Julie snapped. I was cut off. She already had a new partner so I wasn’t expecting such a rage of jealousy but she totally shut me out and wouldn’t let Chloe even speak to me.
She refused mediation so we ended up in Family Court. She was late; I actually thought she wasn’t going to show up. Finally she arrived and I could tell by the look in her eyes she was there to fight.
She hurled accusation after accusation at me. I stood there, absolutely stunned.
And so it began, a totally unjust and exhausting trial that lasted for two years and cost me nearly $30,000 to clear my name. She dragged it on as long as she could.
I didn’t see my daughter in all that time and she kept me away from the other three children that I’d raised for 11 years.
I was a mess.
I was heartbroken and it nearly broke me.
I struggled to work and barely left the house. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I totally stopped playing sports, which I’d always loved.
After two years it was finally court ordered that I was to be given access to my gorgeous daughter. But the damage had been done. Her mother had filled her head with such poison about me that our relationship was ruined.
Chloe felt guilty about spending any time with me.
I found it incredibly hard at changeovers to see the way Julie spoke about me in front of our child. I knew she hated me but I didn’t want my daughter to be dragged into it.
As far as I saw it, this was a little girl I loved very much and wanted to spend every moment I could with. All this anger and hatred wasn’t what I wanted for her – I didn’t even want her to hear it.
When we were together I never spoke about her mum. We just got on with spending time together and I always tried to make it fun, we did lots of activities. I wanted to make sure she was as happy as I could possibly make her. My daughter is my world.
Then, suddenly, Julie became hostile again and stopped me seeing Chloe altogether. I haven’t seen her now for two years.
It doesn’t matter what the courts say – how are you meant to enforce that when there’s a mother literally ignoring calls and refusing to speak to you?
I was a broken man.
My mental health was really suffering and in the meantime, I was paying weekly child support for my child, who I couldn’t see.
It was about revenge to my ex – and money. She demanded extra cash for me to see Chloe.
I paid her, then she refused to let me see her anyway.
I was a broken man. Source: IStock
I fell apart
I just wanted to put my arms around my beautiful daughter, hold her and tell her she was loved, because she has been since the moment she was born.
If it wasn’t for my dog and the support of my family I would have taken my own life at that point.
I’m a totally devoted, loving, calm father. I want to protect my daughter and give her the best, most emotionally warm start to life I possibly can. I hate that she’s been dragged into this mess. I know it will be doing her damage and that breaks my heart even more.
Chloe turned 14 last month. I broke down on her birthday.
I feel in my heart that she will come back to me one day, when she’s ready. It does more damage for me to push and fight for access – and it also costs a fortune.
I know I’ll get my daughter back one day. It just breaks my heart that we will never get the time back that’s been stolen by her mother.”