Vikas’ single parent story

Posted 17 August 2021

I’m originally from India and have been now living in London for 17 years. Once I settled in London, I had an arranged marriage and my wife came over from India (arranged marriages in India are customary). It was important to me that my wife had a career and was not a housewife: I wanted her to have independence.

In 2011, our daughter was born and I was ecstatic – I’d always wanted a daughter!

After securing British citizenship in 2012, our relationship broke down. Our marriage became acrimonious and after three difficult years, I told my wife that our relationship wasn’t working and that we should consider a divorce.

Eventually, my wife accepted this (I went with the two-year separation clause) but she wanted full custody of our daughter. I found this very upsetting as I had been a deeply involved father in my daughter’s life – who was by then five years old.

Unfortunately, this was the start of a messy court battle. It was an upsetting situation and I felt that my ex-wife had been hostile towards me and my family. No one in my family had ever been divorced – it is very much frowned upon in India. I felt a great deal of shame and guilt. This had an effect on my mental health and I sought counselling for eight months.

Throughout the whole ordeal, I ensured I stayed calm; my parents and siblings, even though they were in India, were fully supportive of me and tried to find a solution in India with my wife’s parents. Sadly, they didn’t want to get involved. It was a great shame as I felt we could easily have handled the custody battle through mediation but, in the end, we had to go to court.

I remained in the family home sleeping on the couch for three years. I ensured I maintained 50-50 contact at home, doing half of all school pick-ups and drop-offs. I was deeply involved in taking my daughter to extra-curricular activities, supporting her to do violin classes, swimming, tennis classes and theatre classes. I continued to work full time and I represented myself at the court hearings.

I spent a lot of sleepless nights reading and researching an ambiguous family court system. I spoke to many single dads who had gone through the court system only to end up having barely any contact with their children. I was not prepared to only see my daughter only every other weekend.

Having never stepped into a courtroom in my life, I found the whole experience extremely intimidating and scary – but it was the love for my daughter that made me sail through.

After six court hearings and two applications, I received court-approved 50/50 custody of our daughter. My daughter is happy – she gets the best of both worlds.

To every parent going through something similar: please don’t give up! Do everything to ensure your child’s best interests come first. If you’re in a similar position: please, do try to work things out as amicably as you can, even though it can be so difficult. Do try mediation if possible before turning to the courts.