In this special feature, a recent Stowe Family Law client looks back on the highs and lows of the two years since her separation. A firm focus on her son’s welfare and best interests helped to steer our client through a turbulent time.
Today was my son’s two year review. We sat, we listened, we talked and we asked questions. Two parents, one child. Our son had surpassed all his milestones, every box was ticked: he’s happy, healthy, confident and clever.
Two years ago I separated from my husband, our first and only child was just 16 weeks. I was a new mother, he was a new father. What happened in the months that followed was heartbreaking. Arguments and accusations, fear and uncertainty. I was convinced that time apart from my baby would damage him, that I would have no bond with him. I was sure that he would be living away from me a week here, a week there, and that he would be ultimately messed up by our divorce. I only imagined bringing up a child stressed and unhappy.
Everything about my first few months as a mother was a nightmare – everything except, of course, my darling son. Divorce was not something I wanted nor something I was ever prepared for. Custody arrangements and court orders left me feeling physically sick. But a timetable was planned and agreed during one early court hearing. It involved short but frequent visits with his father, no overnights until he was one and gradually, as our son was able to understand who his parents were, to know and understand that we didn’t live together and had two different homes, he was clearly happy and comfortable with us both. That was the most important part of the process and his time with us both has been shared by agreement. We’ve made special efforts during holidays. It’s very hard not to have your child with you at a special time of the year but we have both made great efforts to see it from the other person’s point of view.
I know some parents don’t agree with the other parent contacting the children when it’s not “their time” It doesn’t work like that with us. When he’s away I regularly keep in touch and ‘FaceTime’ him (video chat with him) when he’s with his father. He understands our son’s need to keep in touch with me, knowing his mum is never far away. And vice versa when he’s with me. Keeping this constant contact and routine between parents has been key in keeping our son so stable.
This has been a tough hard road for us both. Both of us have worked very hard with his best interests always in mind. Our raw emotions and feelings when our marriage broke down ultimately haven’t impacted on how we care for our son. We have not let them. Our relationship has improved and we communicate together about him.
As we sat today during the review together talking about our son I realised how much things had improved. How much we had moved on and how together we are in our desire to do what is best for our child.
I had the assistance of Julian Hawkhead of Stowe Family Law in my case. Being a mediator and collaborative lawyer, he was intent on helping us settle our differences. His calming genuine concern was just what I needed. I am very happy to talk highly of everyone I met at Stowe Family Law.
Our solicitors had both recommended we attend counselling sessions and although at times it felt like we were adding salt to an open wound we were able to “let go” outside of the court environment. To describe what I had gone through and how I felt was a great release. Almost a year ago today we were both in a counsellor’s room, arguing, screaming, shouting, crying, disagreeing about everything related to him.
Today we were nodding and smiling, sharing stories, talking about how successful our shared contact arrangements are, how settled our son is in both homes, how happy he is with both his parents. The health visitor was almost open-mouthed commending us both on our togetherness and our child. If the counsellor could see us now!
I dread to think what might have happened had I not had access to strong lawyers. I had no understanding of the law as to how it applied to us, or what the process was and I felt powerless. It is very upsetting to think of other parents who simply can’t afford the resources I had. The outcomes for such parents and their children may well be very different.
I am very grateful for how things have turned out so far. I have regained my self-confidence and found inner strength I didn’t know I have. I have a wonderful child who is growing up adjusted to his situation because we have both been very patient with him, putting his needs before our own.
I know the path of separation isn’t always paved with golden moments such as this. We will still argue and disagree – we are still human. But for now I am going to enjoy how far we have come as parents – separated but together. And of course, more importantly, I continue to be extremely proud of our very special son.