As you work your way through your losses, you may also be engaging in the process of legal separation, and counselling will help you make that sometimes long and painful journey. But, despite the reservations already made about the legal process, you will require the assistance of a good family law solicitor. You have left the abusive relationship and now face the prospect of a long and difficult legal journey. The story of Linda and the legal process might help you to understand the emotional roller coaster that you may experience as you travel that road. She is lucky because she found a supportive solicitor, and did not incur much expense because she has free legal aid. She found it a relief that the solicitor would deal will all matters relating to the separation, including the financial mess left by Stephen. However, she is concerned about appearing in court where she will have to endure having their personal details aired. As it happened, Stephen did not return from Canada to attend Court, and Linda was granted a separation and full custody. This meant that he could only see Jack under Linda’s supervision. This was always her wish, and she adhered strictly to it.
You might, however, like to know how Linda felt prior to the court hearing, not knowing that Stephen would remain in Canada and not have any legal representation in court. Her thoughts and feelings might reflect some of yours
“It is a day I wait in anticipation for, and is a day I will be anxious and worried about until it is over. Each day I try to put it to the back of my mind. I find I get so tired spinning round and round in my head what is going to be said, or what might happen on the day. It is so stressful. It is also hard to contemplate that one day can make such life changing decisions. Everything is very hazy now. I also don’t know what his plan is for the day in court. I am unsure as to whether he will turn up in court on the day. This is one of my biggest fears. I haven’t seen him for so long, I don’t know how I will react. I know, however, that if he turns up, it will open up an emotional rollercoaster in me. I haven’t seen this man for so long, yet he has such an impact on my life in negative ways. I am afraid when I see him that the emotional feelings of the nice Stephen will arise. The good times always come into my head, but I have to say over time it is getting easier to deal with them. This is because I am getting more understanding of the way Stephen is, and why he turned from a lovely caring man to someone completely different. But on this day I have to stay strong. I can’t let the emotional part of all of this take me over. I need to keep my strength and wits about me, so that I can work at getting what is fair, and what my son and I deserve from this separation.”
We have seen in the last chapter that fear of not having sufficient access sometimes keeps victims in an abusive relationship. When one leaves this may become a reality, and may generate conflict and anger. Separated fathers are often distraught, because they have insufficient time to see their children, perhaps because a controlling ex-wife wishes to punish them by denying them enough access. However, some parents fear for the emotional well being of their children if the ex-partner has been abusive in the relationship. That was Linda’s great fear
“Access is going to be an issue on this day, and I am worried about this. My son doesn’t know his dad. This is such a sad statement, but it is fact. Jack doesn’t know what a dad is. I am not sure what memories, if any at all, he has of him. He hasn’t seen him in well over a year. And he has grown and advanced so much in that space of time that he is no longer a toddler, but a boy. I worry about the fact that his father doesn’t live in this country, and has mentioned that he wants access when he can get home. But how will that work for Jack. His dad will come into his life, introduce himself as his dad, and then leave and go back to his other life. No one will know when he will come home again, and in the meantime, I am left to pick up the pieces, as the little boy is left wondering where daddy is gone, and when he will see him again. I don’t want my son hurt or emotionally damaged over this, and am adamant that if access is wanted, it needs to be regular and supervised for the foreseeable future. I really worry about Stephen gaining access without supervision. The last time he took him, he dropped him back home in the car with no child seat. This is so dangerous. I don’t want my son subjected to this kind of danger. I am so mad at Stephen for all this; I hate him for been so selfish. When does he ever think of Jack? Never! It is always about what he wants or feels, never what his son might need, or want, or feel.”
Fortunately, as stated, she now has sole control, and Stephen’s irregular visits do not seem to have a negative impact on Jack. The child never bonded with his father, and is too young to miss him. Linda worries, however, that when Jack reaches teenage years he may blame her, believing, perhaps, that she had kept him from his father. In reality, and despite her reservations about Stephen, Linda feels that her child should meet his father. It may be painful for her at times, but she puts her child’s needs first. Her close supervision of their encounters eases her mind that her child may suffer some emotional damage from contact with his abusive father.
Adapted from Jim O’Shea’s book Abuse. Domestic Violence, Workplace and School Bullying published by Cork University Press
THERAPISTS IN TIPPERARY
PSYCHOTHERAPISTS IN TIPPERARY
COUNSELLORS IN TIPPERARY
DEATH OF A CHILD