Parental alienation: one father’s experience

Joe* went from being ‘at everything’ to his son wanting to build a wall between them

Dublin man Joe* has been separated from his wife for more than five years. Since the fraught break-up, his relationship with his two children has changed drastically.

“I’d be at the opening of everything. Many, many times, I was the only dad at the tin whistle recital, the swimming, whatever was going on.”

“I went from that daddy to my kids telling me they don’t want anything to do with me. My son told the social worker that he wanted to build a wall the size of a castle between me and him.

Joe believes his wife turned his children against him. He plays a phone call he taped that he made to his young daughter (7) six months after the break-up.

“I do not want to speak to you or see you and nobody has made me say this,” his daughter says. His son (12) comes on the line and repeats the message in a similar way before saying goodbye and hanging up.

“My children don’t talk like robots, no children talk like robots – that’s what I was up against,” Joe says.

He says his wife refused to sign a form to allow the children have counselling and when family therapy was finally ordered by the court, she pulled them out after a few sessions, claiming it was bad for them.

He’s been excluded and made to feel “like a leper” at family events, and his children have not attended the funerals of paternal relatives.

He believes lots of children are being told their fathers, though not exclusively fathers, do not want to see them, when in fact “their daddies are crying themselves to sleep” because they can’t speak to their children.

“I won’t say I was the best daddy in the world because I would be telling you lies, but I was the best daddy I could be. To go from that to have your children saying they don’t want to know you . . . my life was destroyed.”

He says the courts did not want to know about it and he thought he was going “stone mad”. He considered suicide and got some counselling and has come to terms with his position to a degree. He now has a new partner and lives with her and her son. But he wishes he knew about his own son, who has turned 18.

“I want my children to know I’m here for them and I’ll always be here for them. I’m not perfect, I’m just daddy.”

*Name has been changed for legal reasons

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland is a crime writer and former Irish Times journalist