Paul – Father whose child is in Northern Ireland

When my former partner and I separated she was keen to relocate from England to Northern Ireland, where her family were, with our son. The pressure on me to agree was immense, whereby the other party because hostile and threatening if I didn’t agree. Thankfully, I had convinced my ex-partner to attend mediation, where we agreed on contact arrangements for when my son moved. I had agreed to do all the travel while they settled in, then we had agreed to alternate travel arrangements. I felt I had no other choice, and the only way to keep myself safe was to let our son go, though I didn’t want him to. I had a foreboding feeling inside. Deep inside I knew I was being naïve to think things would work out.

Once my son moved, I would make regular visits and spend days with him. I would often use my annual leave. This plan was manageable, as long as my ex-partner was content she was getting money from me. Thanks to reunite, I had located a great family law firm in Northern Ireland, and after discussions, we planned to cement contact, and renegotiate the money. I simply couldn’t afford it with all the travel I was making.

Nonetheless, the day I informed my ex-partner that I was engaging with a solicitor, things started to change. From this point forward there were subtle signs. For example I had arranged a surprise visit to our child, and she immediately called me to say that she had made plans. I knew contact was going to stop.

One day the contact stopped, and the allegations started coming like an avalanche. It was so technical to explain; yes I agreed for them to move, but I was under so much pressure, and I didn’t agree for them to move and never see our son again. Is that abduction? I feel it is.

Separation, divorce, especially when involving children, is always difficult. There are a myriad of issues to consider, a complex legal system to navigate; all of which becomes all the more treacherous, when having to unfortunately deal with a malevolent ex-partner, who is hell-bent on causing pain and destruction to you. Multiply this experience by 10,000, and perhaps you may get slightly close to the nightmare that is child abduction. In these circumstances, complexities are on an international scale, involving laws of overseas jurisdictions, and cross-country relations. This becomes a legal and logistical nightmare, adding to your existing trauma;  emotional impact like no other – a sort loss of one’s soul, and void of emptiness. I hit rock bottom.

It was 7 months until I saw our son again. It was hard. I was taken aback, and not ready for when he referred to me by my given name. Dad was the first word he learned, and now I was a stranger. People often say, that no matter what I’ll always be a dad, but its hard to imagine, when you simply just don’t see your child. 2.5 years on things are getting better. reunite played a huge role in that. Yes, seeing your child again goes a long way to restoring things, but there is so much work to be done in terms of healing your broken self, and I believe reunite understand that.

reunite helped me in so many ways, and I am forever grateful. They directed me to a fantastic legal team, equipped with the specialised knowledge and experience to manage my case. Routinely, the staff of reunite would call me to see how I am doing. On the surface, it just seems like 10 minutes every other month. Looking back however, those 10 minutes, probably saved my life. There is only so much hurt one person l can suffer. In these dark times, you begin disbelieving in the humanity, so it comes as a shock when someone offers kindness.  Being lonely is one of worst feelings ever, but even more so when you are struggling alone. You can never underestimate the power of somewhere reaching out to you at such as time when you feel hopeless, in despair, and you don’t even realise how much you need it.  A gentle voice of reassurance, a listening ear, positivity; all these things mean everything when you have nothing left. reunite, is the perfect example of a charity that gives advice and support, but what I feel they did was heal me.

I can’t wait to see more and more of my son. reunite have helped me so much towards fulfilling that goal, and I have gotten my confidence back. Thanks to Reunite however, with my happiness rekindled,  I dream of falling in love, having a family, with more children. I can even laugh, and say I want 10 more!  I do believe that, if all you can ever do in your life, is try to be a good person, then that is a life well-lived. reunite are good people, who are good to others. Everyday, they are out there striving, to restore faith and love, by bring families back together.