Can Fathers Walk Away From Their Children?
A friend of mine has been embroiled in a custody battle with the mother of his child almost from the time of the child’s birth. The mother has made false accusations of physical and sexual abuse. She has had him arrested. She has interrupted their visits with all sorts of nonsensical claims. He has had to hire lawyers in multiple countries.
The battle has cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars and left him in near financial ruin. His family has advised him to give up. He refuses to give up. Stubbornly, he soldiers on.
The situation brings me to tears because this man is one of the most loving fathers I know. His relationship with his child is beautiful.
If things continue on this way, there is no good ending here.
As a single divorced mother whose ex-husband walked away from his children for years because he claimed I was “too difficult” to deal with, I am a bit torn. On the one hand, I understand why my friend’s family is telling him to cut his losses and move on. On the other hand, as a mother, and having witnessed the beauty of his relationship with his child, I am loath to see that come to an end. It feels wrong to me for a father to have to lose everything just to fight for the right to see his child. But it feels equally wrong to me for a father to abandon his relationship with his child, no matter the price.
I’ve talked to a number of men who have said they were tempted to walk away from their children because of the difficulties they were having dealing with the mother of those children. In most cases, I felt – and they agreed – that walking away from one’s children because you don’t get along with their mother is unjustified.
My friend’s custody battle is an extreme case, and is beyond mere not getting along. But there are other extreme examples. But even in extreme cases, is a father ever justified in walking away?
When a mother is vindictive and uses her children as pawns in her battle against her ex – when she makes false accusations that a court (or courts) must investigate, often requiring the involvement of social workers, psychologists and other professionals; when she constantly frustrates his efforts to have a relationship with his children; when she interrupts his visits, makes last-minute excuses for not going through with a visit that he has already planned for (including taking time off work), invents emergencies that don’t really exist – is there ever a point when a father has a rational basis for saying, “Enough is enough!” and walking away from the situation until the children are old enough for him to seek a relationship with them, independent of the mother?
And what are the pitfalls of that approach? Is there ever a point when it’s too late to try to be a dad?
I continue to pray that things work out for my friend and that he is somehow able to work out a deal with his ex before all their lives are further destroyed. I am also happy that my ex and I have managed to put our own court battles behind us, and are now attempting to co-parent. But I would love to hear your thoughts as to whether a father ever, even under the most difficult legal and financial circumstances, is justified in giving up on maintaining a relationship with his child?