As a grandmother, I was shocked to discover that AVOs are being used as an effective tool by some mothers to push fathers and grandparents out children's lives.
Early last year I was thrust into an alternative world, a world I did not know existed, a world full of pain and heartbreak. So different from the world I once lived in, where happy families live, where fathers were valued, where the mental health and well-being of children are considered paramount. This world is lost to me now and I will never be able to return.
To the outside world my ex-daughter-in-law was the perfect mother and home maker. And yes, she was a fantastic mother and kept her home spotless, I cannot argue with that, but it went way beyond that. She never sat still, always cleaning, always demanding everything, every decision, every little detail was her way or the highway.
My son would arrive home from work, and would pitch in with everything, housework, cooking, getting the children bathed and ready for bed, etc. But he was not allowed any social life, he wasn't allowed to have friends over. If he came to see me, which was rarely, there were constant messages from her for him to come home; there were restrictions on when I could visit and then demands from her that I should not to visit at all.
My son was an absolutely amazing loving father; he was involved in every aspect of the boys’ daily lives. Then all of a sudden, his wife wanted the marriage over. At first, she would allow him to have the boys for 4 hours on the weekend but with restrictions on where he could take them; the time allotted to him was non-negotiable. If he asked for more time with the boys he was denied, and sadly if the boys asked to spend extra time with their dad they were also denied.
A few months into this arrangement suddenly his eldest son did not want to see or talk to his dad anymore. Sent a message to his dad telling him he hated him. He asked his ex-wife why his son would feel this way. She did not offer any explanation, saying she did not want to get involved. That was almost 2 years ago now, and my son still has no understanding of why his son would feel that way.
So, the 4 hourly weekend visits continued, but now with only 3 children; his 10-year-old kept asking to spend more time with his dad but was always told ‘no’ by his mum. Then my son met his new partner, a lovely lady, and suddenly things changed. He would turn up to pick his children up and no one would be home. He would send her messages and emails asking to see the children, she would not reply. Then a woman turned up on his doorstep, with an AVO. Apparently, his emails and messages asking to see children, though non-threatening and civil, were considered harassment.
He was devasted, depressed, confused. What had he done to warrant such an action? But what an effective tool an AVO is for a mother to alienate and push a father further away from his children's lives. He could only write an email in a one-hour time frame per week regarding arrangements to see his children. Most emails were ignored and the ones that were answered denied him access. He could not be within 50 metres of his ex-wife, so could not attend any of his children’s sporting or social events because she would be there.
My son initiated mediation, which went well. A parenting plan was created where he would get time with his children - he was so happy, but his happiness was short lived. Even though his ex-wife agreed in meditation to the parenting plan, she would not sign it - further calls and messages to her from the mediator were ignored and went unanswered.
Today my son has not seen or spoken to his eldest son for almost 2 years. He has not seen his other 3 sons for 13 months. His only contact with them is by phone, where 90% of his calls go unanswered. These calls have sadly deteriorated over time as they are placed on loudspeaker and monitored by their mother, sometimes with her laughing in the background. The pressure placed on the children during these calls must be so traumatic.
He is unable to talk to one son as he is special needs and is non-verbal. He has not been able to talk to his 5-year-old for almost 4 months as he is always busy having tea, getting ready for bed, etc. He now only gets to talk to his 10-year-old, but it is hard to have a conversation as my son might ask, "What have you been doing?" and his son will reply, “Oh, we have been busy dad.” My son will then ask whether he’s been busy with basketball, his hobbies etc, and his son will reply, “Oh nothing much really”. So, it’s obvious that he is not allowed to give his dad any information on his activities, school and interests.
This has taken such a toll not only on my son but our whole family. Family get-togethers are now not as joyous. I worry about how this affects my son. I spend sleepless nights wondering how my grandsons are coping with this terrible emotional trauma and abuse placed on the innocent minds. Will this trauma affect their future mental health and well-being?
Six months ago, my son suffered a massive heart attack, almost fatal; the doctors were amazed he survived. I believe the emotional upheaval he has been put through contributed to this health crisis.
My son writes his weekly emails to his ex-wife, asking to see the children, asking for recent photos, asking about what is going on in his children's lives; all requests denied or ignored. He is now reduced to scouring the online school newsletters of the schools his children attend in the hope of seeing a picture of their faces.
His only option now is to go to the family court but being left homeless and almost broke after the settlement he has not got the funds to do so. And why should a good loving, caring father go to these lengths just to see his own children, just because their mother needs to feed her hunger for power and control?
Family court proclaims that it holds the best interests of children at its core. But from what I have read, seen and researched in the last year, it seems its main objective is to keep mothers happy, to reward mothers for their abusive and bad behavior. It is a place where mothers’ lies are believed and fathers’ truths are ignored or silenced. It is a profit driven organization, where lawyers line their pockets by dragging out cases for years, destroying the lives of families along the way. Where are the best interests of the children represented in all of this?
So far, in the 18 months I have lived in this world, I have met many others just like me. There are thousands of mothers/grandmothers out there, supporting and comforting their sons and grandchildren when possible, fighting for their rights and the rights of their grandchildren. We have banded together, to bring about positive change. We write emails to politicians that go ignored. We utilise social media, a forum where we are constantly attacked by feminists who claim women do not lie, women are not violent. But despite those claims these feminists verbally abuse, belittle, accuse, degrade and make up their own narratives about us and our lives with such viciously harmful words. Oh, the irony.