Written evidence submitted anonymously
I write this letter in sheer desperation of my situation. I am a working professional 53 years of age with two dependent children *************** and ************** who solely reside with me.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t know where to start, but I am reaching out to you as I feel that I have no where else to turn and my children are suffering the most in this constant perpetuous torment.
I have been on my own with my children since the 29th July 2019. The date when my husband was removed from the matrimonial home for threatening and abusive behaviour; since then, my husband has reigned abuse using any means possible. The first failings of the system were when three police vans responded to my 999 call and entered my home. My husband quickly had the majority of the first responders believing I had staged the whole incident and he was the victim. One police officer came into my room and said, ‘there are two sides to every story’. I felt a sheer lack of training! If I had not had a recording of the incident, I feel that they would have removed me from the house. In fact, another officer asked if I had anywhere else to go. Our matrimonial house was in the sole name of my husband – another control mechanism. He and his family who lived in proximity, and who were also present in the house at the time the police officers came, tried their damndest to have me removed. The Police officers then advised that the children would be better off at my husband’s nieces so that ‘they would not witness him being arrested’. Even though my mother and one of my other older daughters were present. However, once he was taken, they would not return my children to me. One of the most difficult times of my life and not only was I fighting against the abuse of my husband and his family, but also the first responders. I had to stay in our matrimonial home myself without my children that evening – made to feel like the abuser and not the abused.
The second failing of the system – My husband pleaded not guilty and was let out on bail. His bail conditions stipulated that he could not come into the same street as the matrimonial home. However, once released he took great pleasure in sitting in his sisters/niece’s garden – a different street but which faced onto the front of our family home. This allowed him to intimidate anyone including myself coming into proximity of the family home.
When the case called in court later that year, there was an independent witness, and my husband had no alternative but to plead guilty. Throughout our 31 years of marriage, he was controlling and abusive all of which were reported that evening. When the case was heard at court he was admonished and dismissed – another failing of the system. What is more alarming is that my husband did not have a ‘squeaky clean record’. He has since moved on and created a further reign of abuse on another vulnerable female and her family. What is the point of new legislation being introduced if there are no penalties in place when it is clear, that an individual has breached this point of law?
Our house had been up for sale for some time and the sale took place on 2nd September 2019. Luckily, I was able to buy another house albeit on a much smaller scale. I had to fight tooth and nail to get what I was due from the sale proceeds of the house. Three times on the Friday morning (the date of entry being the following Monday) my husband changed the minute of agreement adding in last minute costs in the hope that I would not be able to buy my home and provide the children a roof over their heads. This was despite numerous correspondence via solicitors to try and establish a clear divide of matrimonial assets – all of which my husband ignored.
Prior to the sale of our matrimonial home and my husband being removed, he took various assets from the house without my knowledge. Just before the incident on the 29th of July 2019 and his removal I had to hand my car back which was on finance as I could no longer afford the payments. The matrimonial assets also included a BMW X6 valued at £25,000 and my husband also had a works van. After removal from our home, he took the family car and his van, and our children and I were left without a means of transport in a village surrounded by his family. When the house sale eventually went through our children, and I moved to ******. ****** my 11-year-old requested that I move her schools to *****************. ****** was in *********, and I thought it better if he stayed there for his final few months. I had to borrow my eldest daughter’s family car to transport our son back and forth to school. Meanwhile, my husband sold our X6 and purchased a Mitsubishi L200 worth over £30,000.
In October 2019 I contacted the Child Maintenance Service (CMS). Their failings have been the most shambolic of all throughout this awful ordeal. From the outset when I requested their assistance my husband told them point blank that I was not getting a penny – he was ‘not paying my bills’. He tried to produce a revoked minute of agreement (from a previous separation in 2005 when I agreed to all of his demands) which stated that I was not entitled to child maintenance. He sent threatening emails to myself and family members telling me to tell the CMS to ‘back off’. He has appealed their decision on several occasions. One of the appeals was because ‘they were taking an obscene amount of money from his weekly wage’ (£200 from his £1,700 a week wage) and ‘he had little or no money to live off’. Once an arrestment was eventually put in place my husband stopped working and commenced claiming benefits. Last year whilst claiming benefits he re-fitted his girlfriend’s bathroom, lavished her and her family with gifts and entertainment whilst he had child maintenance arrears at that time of approximately £3,000. These are now over £6,500. I uploaded evidence to child maintenance and stated that he had in fact been working whilst claiming benefits. In July 2020 whilst still in receipt of benefits he changed his Mitsubishi L200 Truck for a Gold BMW M4 worth approximately £35,000, this was also reported to them. He has been working offshore since the beginning of June 2021, of which I also informed them about. I have lodged message after message, complaint after complaint via my online account. At the beginning of June, they advised that there was nothing they could do until they had notification from HMRC that he was no longer in receipt of benefits!! It took them until the beginning of October to deal with my case and they advised that there was nothing that they could do at that point as my case was up for Annual Review on around the 25th October. After which, they assessed the amount that he was due to pay to be £17. I advised again that he was working offshore earning vast amounts. I then instructed a mandatory reconsideration. On 18/12/21 I received notification that they had re-assessed this amount based on RTI and his WEEKLY earnings of £1,743. I have since put in another message/complaint requesting how this would be collected. Meanwhile I have had to struggle on finding it very difficult to make ends meet and provide the bare essentials for our children. My oven no longer works, and I am unable to replace this. Since our separation over two and a half years ago my husband has made a contribution of approximately £1,500 via wages arrestment. It is not that he has not had the means to provide for our children - he just points blank refuses. Our children no longer have the same standard of living and are having to do without after school/weekend activities. Prior to our separation they were receiving private tuition which after lockdown and covid restrictions they could immensely do with, but I am unable to provide this any longer. They have had to go without new winter coats and boots this year, which I was able to provide them every year until the date of separation.
I have evidence to show that my husband was working throughout the time he was claiming benefits and also breeding puppies which he sold for £8,000 – all of which were reported to the benefits office and nothing was done – another failing of the system. Whilst in receipt of benefits (nearly a year) he was able to claim legal aid, live rent and council tax free in emergency council accommodation. Even though he had over £54,000 in the bank which he had transferred to a family member (of which I have evidence of). All this time I was receiving £29 a month for my two children. Furthermore, because he was in receipt of legal aid he flouted the legal system and dragged me back to court. He appointed a court reporter to come and visit the children at our family home. They had endured enough and now they had to talk to a stranger and advise him on their views about contact etc. My son now 13 years had refused point blank to see his father and he advised the court reporter that ‘he was scared his dad would hurt him’. Our 11-year-old daughter told the court reporter that she did not feel comfortable staying at his house overnight.
Contact with our daughter was initially over the weekend but without physically picking her up and putting her in the car she would not go. She was utterly distressed by the whole situation. I forwarded my solicitor email after email (weekly since the date of separation) voicing my concerns and the impact that my husband’s controlling, and emotional abuse was having on our daughter. Eventually the court order was reduced to daytime contact only. The reign of abuse is still ongoing. Every phone call my husband makes to our daughter is manipulative and emotionally abusive. Trying desperately to regain control. To ensure that our lives are disrupted. He works offshore and never advises when he is home/away until the day before contact. ******* and myself have been involved in various counselling sessions through the CEDAR programme/woman’s aid etc I am now seeking her counselling through CAHMS as she has started to get very anxious and has not been eating/sleeping properly. It astonishes me how the courts are of the opinion that contact with both parents is in the best interest of the children. I do understand that the children’s views should be taken into consideration. However, the realities of such are not always the case. If there is an abusive parent, the children are often used as ‘pawns’. What is usually prevalent is that they will do anything to appease the abuser – if asked for views, they dare not say anything ‘bad’ against the abuser.
Even though the court order stipulates the dates and times for contact, due to my husband’s work commitments etc contact does not always take place. We are now over two and a half years down the line and contact happens when it is in my husband’s best interest and not our daughter *******. After returning from working offshore – although he told her he was living in ******* (purely a deterrent for the CMS I believe) although he had not seen her for weeks, he advised her that he could not see her on the set contact date as he had to do his ‘Christmas shopping’. The time before that he ‘was going to his friend’s birthday party in ********. So, after dragging me back and forward to Child Welfare Hearings etc, he will only initiate contact when it suits him. Furthermore, I devised a calendar with contact dates on it for my daughter for some sort of stability. He told her that ‘he did not give a **** about any calendar’. He also told our 11 year old daughter to tell ******* – our son that ‘he was coming up to the school to get him’. She was distraught. ****** did not want to go to school. I had to contact the police. The police officers that came out explained that he has equal rights and responsibilities which of course I knew, I explained that I had spoken to ******** from the Domestic Abuse Division on several occasions regarding threatening and abusive behaviour towards my family members, and she advised me to report. It would seem however, as I explained to the police officers that something must happen before they will do anything about it! They advised that they could have a word with him and reiterate that ******** did not want to see him. One of the officers was not very sympathetic stipulating point of law, whilst the younger one who had been through similar situation when he was younger did understand. Even after all this time, my husband is still exercising bullying tactics through my children.
My divorce proceedings have been ongoing for a few years now. It would seem the whole process is beyond beggars’ belief. I have had to pay for my solicitor throughout this whole process – due to my husband’s lack of co-operation/concealment of assets etc my solicitors’ fees have been astronomical. I have had no option, however. My husband has transferred pensions, deliberately concealed bank accounts and other assets during the proceedings. I thought it was illegal to do this! I have had to obtain a specification of documents to try and establish pensions in his name and other assets. Meanwhile, he has had his fees paid via the legal aid system. I believe there has been a report made to ****************** of the Legal Aid Board and that just recently the legal aid has been suspended. My divorce was due to be finalised on the ************. According to my solicitor ********** from ******** I would have been due a capital sum and the majority of my husband’s UK pensions. However, my husband has just received a capital sum by way of inheritance of which he has told his solicitor that he had renounced rights. My solicitor advised that this would influence the amount of capital sum that I would receive (as if he had the inheritance, he would have the resources to pay what I was entitled to in relation to the divorce settlement). Therefore, we must obtain yet another specification of documents and unravel what has happened to the inheritance as my husband is again being un-cooperative. The case has now been continued again until the ************ for proof of evidence hearing and then *********** for the final case. However, as I stipulated to my solicitor, I believe my husband has not renounced rights but now transferred his inheritance to a family member, who has put in an offer for a plot of land at ************** through ****** and ********* and is going to build a house (he is a builder to trade). Thus, declaring that he has no money to pay the divorce settlement or Child Maintenance for that matter.
In addition, he has advised my daughter during another phone call which I have evidence of (she has asked me to listen in on telephone calls so she does not feel awkward or scared) that he has ‘been in touch with both the schools and knows exactly what is going on’ and that once the house is built both the children will be going to live there. Can you imagine the impact of telling an 11-year-old that she is going to be taken away from her mother and older sister and her children! As stipulated previously we have been separated for over two and a half years and not once in that time has, he approached the schools to find out about the children, asked how they are doing etc. His ploy is to obviously drag me back to yet another child welfare hearing in a bid to deter the divorce proceedings longer so that he can draw down on his pensions before the divorce finalisation and settlement.
I would like to point out that this is only touching the surface of what our children and I have had to endure over the last few years and my solicitor can only do so much, she has been a godsend and is letting me pay my fees via a small monthly direct debit, never pushing for settlement. The main reason I am reaching out to you is for any help with the CMS in the first instance and to help ensure that the divorce proceedings go ahead so that we can all just move on with our lives, so that I receive what I am entitled to and provide for our children, which is all I have ever wanted. Unfortunately, my husband is a narcissist of the worst kind and in his eyes everything and everyone belong to him. Out of all of this, I feel that they system has let me down every step of the way. I am so thankful for the help of the Woman’s Aid; the Freedom Programme and the Tool Kit courses that they offer. I am also thankful for the CEDAR programme which has helped immensely with *******. I am somewhat distraught for all those women out there however, as I am at the end of my tether, both emotionally and financially and I am a very strong minded and determined woman. There are women out there who do not have the stamina and fight that I do, and it is them that I feel for more than anything in this whole rigmarole.