We’re going on holiday today. In fact we’re in the car on our way to our holiday, which I suppose means that our holiday has already started.

We have a ‘modern family’, 4 kids, 2 Women and 3 Men have brought us to where we are today.

My ex husband is as normally as ex husbands go. He’s just called me to say our two children are so excited about going to Tenerife tomorrow with him and his lovely partner (see, very modern, very amicable) that he’d like to return them please.

No thanks. We’re enroute to our own not in the UK adventure and he’s been abroad for a month so it’s absolutely his turn to do his bit. And he does, do his bit. If we didn’t even consider the fact he pays maintenance he still does his bit. He has a vested interested in the upbringing, he’s a great Dad. And he likes to take them on holiday a couple of times a year.

Which frees us up to go away with the remaining two young people.

I booked the holiday, made the plans and then told Fin because that’s how we work; I plan and arrange and he comes with me.

And then I read this;

You must get the permission of everyone with parental responsibility for a child or from a court before taking the child abroad.

And then I panic. You see, in the UK a mother automatically assumes parental rights and responsibilities over her child,as a sort of reward for housing a human successfully, and from May 2006 unmarried fathers who appear on birth certificates, well they get rights and responsibilities too.

Except the ‘man who helped make’ our youngest child (that’s what she knows him as) has not only got parental rights and responsibilities because I was naive enough to name him as father in a bid to escape the shame of having ‘Father, Unknown‘ on my child’s birth certificate forever but;

  • He’s not laid eyes on her for nearly 5 years
  • He doesn’t financially contribute as he is LEGALLY OBLIGATED* to do
  • He stood up in a court of law and stated he didn’t want to have anymore contact with the child he helped to make.

And yet there I was, in my kitchen in a blind panic that I’d just booked a holiday and now couldn’t take her because I don’t know where he is.

And that really does beg the questionshould we automatically assume parental rights and responsibilities over our children?

We have all heard terrible stories of what mothers and fathers can do to their children.

The law states that;

Section 1 of the Act states that a parent with parental rights and responsibilities in respect of a child has the responsibility:

(a)   to safeguard and promote the child’s health, development and welfare;

(b)   to provide the child with direction and guidance;

(c)   to maintain personal relations and direct contact with the child on a regular basis if the child is not living with the parent; and

(d)   to act as the child’s legal representative.

Section 2 of the Act states that a parent with parental rights and responsibilities in respect of a child, in order to enable him or her to fulfil his parental responsibilities, has the right:

(a)   to have the child live with him or her, or otherwise to regulate the child’s residence;

(b)   to control, direct or guide the child’s upbringing;

(c)   to maintain personal relations and direct contact with the child on a regular basis if the child is not living with him or her; and

(d)   to act as the child’s legal representative.

The man who helped create my youngest child does none of those things, and actively chose not to do any of those things. And yet I still had to seek his permission to take her away.

I know of children who are in care who have been unable to go away because their birth parents have refused permission. Somehow managing to exert horrifying control over children who aren’t even allowed to live with them anymore.

We are lucky, and our middle class life allowed us to legally gain permission. And we will legally pursue being allowed to do have that right permanently. Because we can, and because we believe it to be right.

But what of those who can’t do that? What of those people who have genuinely been left in such a shit position that they might never be allowed to take their children abroad.

And I get it. The law is there to protect. To prevent child kidnap, to offer a level of safety that we need. I was once advised to not hand my baby over to the man named on her birth certificate by a police officer. Because they weren’t sure he’d bring her back. The law exists for that type of protection.

I have a lot of legal documents with me. Passports, her birth certificates, legal papers to say she’s mine, because of this underlying sick feeling that we might get to departure and be told we can’t travel.

Do you know what else? In order to gain permission to take her we had to offer up ALL the details of our holiday. All of them. Down to the dates and address of where we’re going. So now he knows where we are. When we work so hard to protect details of our life.

I am a victim of domestic violence who now believes her abuser will be waiting for her when she gets to departure. I am so triggered I can’t sleep or concentrate.

That’s the reality of normal people trying to live normal lives with absent fathers.

We have been let down and exposed by a law that whilst I can see is designed to help, hasn’t helped us. It has left us exposed and raw, frightened and feeling unsafe. Why? Because an invisible man who exists on paper all because I wanted to reduce my shame has power?

I don’t agree.

And maybe it’s time the law changed.