And I’ll damn well fight anyone who disagrees with me
My ex and I separated when the kids were 7, 11 and 12. Words like “Daddy, I love you so much”, “Daddy, you’re the best”, “Daddy, Ben called me a bum-face,” were suddenly — within a matter of weeks — replaced with messages of rejection, contempt and hatred. I’ll tell you what I hate, people who use unconventional words just to make themselves look perspicacious.
Within a month I would be told to move on. Forever.
Anyway, while I was busy googling ‘toxic masculinity’, unbeknownst to me the threat that had long hung over my head was fast becoming a reality, “Lee, if you ever leave me, I’ll make sure the kids never speak to you again!”
Like a dumbass, I naively assumed that the ridiculously named ‘family justice system’ listened to all victims of abuse, regardless of gender, sexuality and the like. Talking of dumbasses, I recently read that 97% of the world’s population has always believed that only stupid people never change their minds. Thank god I’m part of the other 5%. You may have noticed I like my jokes like I like my life, unnecessarily complicated.
So, the more I pursued the matter through court the more extreme my ex’s tactics became, and the more cash I threw at the system, the more it turned a blind eye to the lunacy. I now know going to court was a complete and utter waste of time and money. Talking of time-wasting, the other day my friend who lives in the States told me that having a vasectomy was a waste of time, all it does is change the colour of the baby. And to make matters worse, apparently, the little boy’s now in police custody for allegedly using a counterfeit crayon.
The UK family justice system is a veritable ship of fools sailing across a sea of shattered childhood dreams. With the moral compass firmly in the hands of Captain Judge — a must role for anyone that takes great pride in ensuring an education never gets in the way of ignorance — the ship’s heading south faster than you can say ‘domestic violence is a gendered crime’. Also on board with the lunacy are the children’s social workers; I’ve tried to see things from their point of view, but never in a million safeguarding referrals would they ever let me get my head that far up their arses. And of course, where would this ship of fools be without the lawyers? Well, for a start I wouldn’t be £30,000 lighter. During my time in family court, I’ve come to learn that an average lawyer might let a case drag on for several years, but a successful lawyer knows how to make it last until the kids are all grown up.
After each court hearing I would be left with more questions than answers, like “when will I get to see my kids?” “Why am I being treated like a criminal when I haven’t committed a crime?“, and “if two women marry and then divorce who gets 75% of everything?”
Due to being painted as a mentally unstable, drug-addicted, alcoholic monster my local community, many of my friends and even some of my family turned their back on me. I mean come on, as if I’d abuse drugs and alcohol, the two things I love almost as much as my kids.
Despite the fact I was surrounded by people that were being paid to listen, no one was listening. Evidence, Schmevidence! I got so desperate I called a Husband Abuse Hotline. A very hostile middle-aged man insulted me, told me all men and boys are potential abusers and then told me to man-up.
A judge once said to me “Mr Azevado, do you accept that it’s too late for your two older children?”
“No, I do not accept that, your honour.” Seriously?! What the fuck is wrong with some people? What kind of world are we living in when those in positions of authority ask us to accept the unacceptable?
Just as I began to get lost in the darkness, an old friend offered me some advice that would go on to completely transform my life.
“Start a blog,” she said, “write how you feel”, she said, “let your stories be your legacy”, she said.
At the time I remember thinking to myself, “how the hell is writing down a load of old nonsense going to help me to see my kids?”
Truth be told, that was the best-damned advice I’ve ever had.
I soon discovered I could use creative writing as a means to speak up, a tool to create connections, opportunities and solutions, and most importantly a way to help others going through the same as me. My writing became a spring-board to opportunities that I would never have considered possible. I was invited to speak publicly at events about my experience, I co-founded a non-profit organisation and I established a support line for parents and grandparents just like me. A year ago I wrote the following story.
It was the last story I wrote on the subject, until now.
The above story came to the attention of several key figures, one of which was social campaigner Jan James, Chief Exec of award-winning UK-based Good Egg Safety.
With the kind of passion, kindness and determination you wish you could bottle and hand out to the masses, Jan told me how she had recently become aware of this lunacy. Jan also told me she was determined to do something about it and asked me if I was interested in being involved in her campaign.
LONDON, June 25, 2020 — Good Egg releases the findings of its year-long study. The report reveals a rare insight into the secrecy of UK Family Court procedure. The report lays bare the devastation, financial ruin, and mental health issues faced by all affected by this injustice.
Creativity may not have fixed my broken heart, but when all’s said and done, it did save my life.
Originally published in Medium publication The Swipe, 8th July 2020.