MATCH Mothers – helping non resident mums
There are significant numbers of non resident mothers as well as fathers. In the first of a series of guest blogs by people involved in the Family Law is an article written by Rosalind Barton, Secretary of MATCH Mothers. This charity offers non-judgemental support and information to mothers apart from their children in a wide variety of circumstances, assisting those whose children who do not see them at all, to those who are in shared parenting arrangements.
Non resident mothers are fewer than their male counterparts but are becoming more common. They face the same issues that any other non resident parent experience, albeit with sometimes additional ones as a result of the different expectations of mothers and fathers in society…
MATCH Mothers – helping non resident mums
As a young lady I began a difficult stage of my life as I faced divorce from not only my husband but a divorce from my 3 beautiful young children. In the 2001 I began a 3 year court battle for the residency of my children. I turned to MATCH Mothers for support and the strength I had was enhanced by this national charity.
Fortunately I had obtained Legal Aid and found an amazing barrister to see me through the legal minefield. The largest obstacle for me seeing the children was my health. I have Multiple Sclerosis. The judge who oversaw the 3 year case admitted he knew nothing about the condition. My barrister asked if professionals who knew me could be brought in to court. My consultant from Poole and a psychiatrist from Brighton were accepted and the fight began.
An uncertain future
According to the professionals I had a limited future and would not be strong enough for my 3 children. The judge did not ask my views on this; he just accepted the professionals’ views. This was a disaster for my children – particularly when they were moved from Winchester to Halifax by their father.
I began a new diet and exercise programme to maintain my health; with MATCH Mothers’ mental support I was strengthened and able to maintain alternate weekend visits, 6.5 hours’ drive each way. Sadly my eldest son never spent time with me without explanation.
It was time to return to court.
Returning to court
A final court hearing in Bournemouth brought to head the hostility I had faced, culminating in me being told by our son’s other parent that nothing would change and our eldest son would still not spend time with me.
But around the age of 16 years he found the confidence to phone me and at last we began a (secret) mother/son relationship.
I moved on with my life and gained a psychology degree with the Open University and began and working with autistic children. Sadly this job ended this year. But with a lottery grant MATCH Mothers opened a free phone line to help and support mothers apart from their children. I also began a job as the Project Worker for matchmothers.org as well as acting as secretary.
MATCH Mothers knows that there are many more mums struggling to cope with separation from their children and from many situations besides divorce.
Our aim is to reach and help each of them throughout the UK. Our charity will be celebrating its 40 year anniversary in 2019. Beginning in London by an English mum separated by miles as her children were taken to the USA by her ex-husband.
As with my own situation and many others there is reconciliation. The positives and rewards that can happen are our motivation to have this necessary charity.
A MATCH mother now living in Australia moved away from her daughter at the age of 3, the ex-husband had residency but no communication with the mum existed as the child grew up. With our support and recommendations to always keep communication open, never affected by the distance, the mother sent a letter every month to her daughter and kept phone contact open though never used.
At the age of 18 her daughter phoned the Mum and 48 hours later the excited mother flew back to the UK. She spent 10 days with her daughter and now her daughter lives in Australia with her.
Myself I don’t have residency with my 3 children but I do have open contact and the ability to talk with my children at any point of time.
An issue which we deal with in 98% of cases is parental alienation. This occurs when the residential parent stops the non-residential parent seeing their child/children by alleged negativity and destruction.
In other words abuse.
We aim to keep up to date with this issue and attend the government’s debates on this and the legal profession’s acceptance or ignorance to this form of manipulation.
On the 27th June 2012 I attended a PA parliamentary meeting in the House of Commons for Mr Nick Child, A family therapist and expert in Parental Alienation, and three senior Family Court were present. Unfortunately little or no progress developed from this meeting.
I had a difficult case; I was concerned my eldest son’s father had been painting a bad picture of me as a mother. However on that first meeting with my son, aged 17 years old I found out the truth. We went to dinner in a fancy restaurant and while sitting across the table my son said ‘I’m sorry’.
‘For what?’ I asked.
I then was told how he had been treated. Every time he was naughty, ranging from forgotten homework to kicking a football through a window he was told the same thing:
‘That’s another year you won’t see your Mum.’
12 years in total. How I still had dry eyes I will never know. I immediately told him it was not his fault, all boys are naughty at some time.
I am a mum and very proud to be the secretary of MATCH Mothers. I can tell all these mothers apart how special they are too. I am very proud of their aims and their achievements.