Survivors of parental child abduction

Hello lovely readers, and happy new year! May 2018 be a year of love, laughter, creativity and compassion.

I have a mission this year, beyond my usual writing and editing practice. It came up for me unexpectedly, when my eldest daughter returned to me a bundle of letters which I had written to her father 35 years ago. When I began to read them, I felt heavy, sad, frustrated. I put them aside for a couple of days. I started to read them again just after Christmas, and realised I need to do something constructive with them. The first task is to type them up as a record for me and my children. But as I started to do so, I began to feel more positive, even empowered. I had forgotten all the details of that agonising time, one Spring morning in Sydney, when the phone rang and he told me he was on the way to Colorado with our three little daughters, aged 7, 5, and 2 and a quarter. “You are a deserting wife and an abandoning mother,” he said, “and you’ll never see your children again,” and put the phone down.

It took me 18 months to get access to them, and from then on, I saw them no more than twice a year, until the youngest one, at age 14, chose to come and live with me. They had been back in Australia for the past few years, and by then, the law had changed, so that a child of 14 or older could choose which parent they wanted to live with without going to court and testifying.

The circumstances around our separation and their abduction were fraught, and the reasons that he was able to do what he did complex and for the most part, ones I had no control over.

I realised as I began to type them that there may be many other women out there, in Australia, who have lost their children through parental abduction. So I have decided to start canvassing for their stories. I am also interested in finding a collaborator writer/editor, who could help me compile them into a collection, and if possible, a source of funding, a small publishing grant. I would like to find agencies or groups who support and work with women who’ve lost their children, so I can contact these women and see if they would like to tell their story. I am more interested in women whose voices have been silenced, than celebrities or women who’ve had high profile public cases. And I have to narrow the field to parental child abduction, not institutional or governmental forced adoption or separation. Also, I would have to exclude the children’s stories; that is a very big field, and would be another volume!

If you or someone you know has had a similar experience and would like to tell their story, you or they can message me on my contact page at https://www.perfectwordsediting.com

Or on my Facebook page, which has an email button: https://www.facebook.com/memoryandyou/

I will create a contact from for this page, but at present I can’t get it to work; will solve that.

To end, here is an excerpt from a letter I wrote, an unusually emotive one; usually I tried to be civil and rational, since he had all the power and I had none, and his mode of conflict was driven by fear and expressed as control and threat.

I never wanted to lose my children, and I protest strongly against the injustice of your attitude that they are your children, and that you will protect your home and possession of them from me at all costs. I have never behaved as a mother in a way that justifies this. My decision to leave the family was as much yours as mine, in fact it was proposed by you, as you will recall. I love my children, and they love me, and you have no right to put so many obstacles between us. Had I known you would behave in this way, I would never have allowed you (by default)[1] to leave the country with them. At every stage since I left Mackay, you have progressively tried to reduce my status as their mother and your ex-partner and to deny me the right to any say in their lives and their relationship with me. Please remember I gave you freedom from an incompatible relationship, as much as I have sought my own.

Up until the time you left Australia with the children without telling me, I felt affection and concern for you. I am afraid you have since destroyed that. The best that can be salvaged from the ruins of our relationship is co-operation, based on legal guarantees, over my access to the children. You are ‘adamant’ about protecting your ‘rights’. I, too, am adamant. I want from you the legal guarantees I have asked for over my access to the children, and I will not co-operate any further until I have them. You have far more to lose than I have.

[1] Although he had stated his intention of taking a job in the US, he had not told me of when this would happen, and had promised to send the children down to visit me in the September holidays. He had persuaded me in England, before we returned to Australia to visit his family,  to let him put them on separate passports, saying it was not fair they should be on mine. This suggests that he anticipated a move when he would take them out of Australia without my consent. When he abducted them, my lawyer was still trying to negotiate through his lawyer re joint custody and some sort of financial settlement to give me some support while studying so I could have a career and become self-supporting.

 

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4 responses to “Survivors of parental child abduction

  1. Julie

    Christina.. I can understand your pain and how you must have been feeling at that time. I can only now understand as I was in a similar situation with my granddaughters, after their mother passed away. My daughter’s Will stated that she wanted her daughters to be in my care daily, so that they could sustain some sense of normality after she had died. There were court orders (in place and had been for a few years), that the father have the girls every other weekend, also access to them on Birthdays,Christmas etc..
    The day my daughter went in to Palliative care he took them and never returned them to see her, or even attend her funeral. He changed their school, without telling anyone. I only found out when I rang the school to inform them of my daughter’s death…
    He had taken them out to the hinterland, where he lived on his Mother’s property, to live there.
    He refused to bring them to see me.. He then tried to cut off any any contact that I had with them, because they were always too upset after seeing me, he claimed.
    He believed that he was entitled to the money that was left in trust for his daughters (they had been divorced for 3 years), that myself and my other daughter were not capable of being trustees and contested the will on the last day of the nine month period laid down in law.
    Prior to her death, my daughter had purchased a house where her children could live, attend the same school and keep the people that they knew and loved around them. After all to lose a mother and then lose everything that is familiar in their lives was too traumatic..
    A year of legal action, family and estate ensued. At the end I was granted court orders to have the girls every other weekend, also to have them in holidays etc. My other daughter and myself are still trustees too.
    Julie

    • Dear Julie, such a sad story. The consequences of such actions are lifelong. I’m glad you do have access, but sad that it is not what your daughter wanted. Many levels in this story. If you wish to contact me, until I fix up a contact page on the blog, you can either message me at the Facebook address I’ve given, or contact me through the contact page on my editing website, http://www.perfectwordsediting.com

  2. Reblogged this on Writing Lives and commented:

    I now have a special Facebook page for the project of writing the stories of mothers who’ve survived parental child abduction. On it there is a button where you can email me: https://www.facebook.com/memoryandyou/

  3. I’m really sorry I didn’t see this post when you posted it Christina. Life has been busy with my elderly parents, impending first grandparenthood, etc, and I get so behind with my blog reading. Your story and Julie’s above just break my heart. I cannot – well, I can I suppose, given what we know about human nature, men’s in particular – understand how people can be so blind to the needs of their children (to have time with their mother, to have continuity with the familiar, when coping with loss such as divorce or death.)

    Good luck with your project.

    PS I’m so, so glad your 14 year old came to live with you, for her sake as much as yours.

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