Posted 6 August 2021
Our expert helpline adviser and single parent, Jenny, on why your donation matters this summer My name is Jenny and I’ve been working on the helpline for almost two years. As well as being a helpline...
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.