Richard Castle is 45 and lives in Croydon. He is train driver/instructor and has campaigned with F4J since 2003. This is his story, in his own words.
I have a daughter, Jennifer, whom I have not seen for 12 years now.
Jennifer turned 18 on the 4th of July this year, 2012. Like I have done for every one of those 12 missing years, I sent her a card and a present. On at least one previous occasion the present and card have been ‘refused at the door’. This is not the only issue I’ve had in trying to maintain a loving relationship with my daughter, in a case where her mother has decided I’m ‘surplus to requirements’ in my daughters life.
I split from her mother in May 1998, and for the first year there were no real issues regarding contact. But then I had to obtain a court order to see her. This meant asking a Judge permission to see the little girl I’d just spent the past 4 years being a father too; being the one knee deep in nappies, being woken all hours of the night to feed and comfort her and bath her. We had amazing playtimes and went out to see lots of places and had fun. Our relationship was a loving, fun father-daughter relationship and then suddenly I found myself having to ask some old overpaid lawyer permission to be her dad. How wrong is that!!!!
Shortly after I got the Contact Order, I was informed my daughter was going to be taken by her mother to Nairn in Scotland to live with her mother’s new boyfriend.
Of course I objected, but I was told that her mother would get a Court Order to remove her to Scotland. I did not have the money to fight the case and all case law is against the dad (the mothers well-being is considered paramount in leave to remove cases) plus I was ‘advised’ by lawyers, Families Need Fathers and even someone from the Citizens Advice Bureau that any attempts to block such a move were at best futile.
Jennifer’s last known address was in the small Scottish town of Forres, near Elgin, Morayshire. Over the past 12 years Jennifer’s mother has gone from being enthusiastic about my relationship with Jennifer to being obstructive, downright awkward and un co-operative.
I have tried everything from negotiation, mediation to the threats of court action.
In 2008 I was diagnosed with Leukaemia. One mimute I was at the doctors asking him about a bruise on my leg, the next I was being rushed to hospital, my chances of survival were slim. Through Fathers 4 Justice a letter was sent to Jennifer’s mother and I requested a picture of Jennifer to put by my hospital bed in the Royal Marsden whilst I was fighting for my life. The request was declined.
After my daughter was taken to Scotland, she went from loving me to showing an unnatural hatred towards me in the space of just over a year. Any requests to her mother for co-operation were simply met by the statement that “she doesn’t want to see you”.
Then her mother started ignored my attempts at communicating with them. I don’t know if Jennifer gets any of the cards and presents I’ve sent over the last 12 years, but I have proof of them being received at the address and being signed for by her mother and step-dad.
When Jennifer comes and finds me, and I have to believe that she will, then I am going to show her all the documents I have kept, the proof of all the items I posted her and I will tell her “that’s what I did to stay in touch with you”.
I will also be able to show her all the things I have done over the years as part of the Fathers 4 Justice campaign to try and change the law so that both parents have a presumed right in law to see their children following divorce or separation. I hope one day to show Jennifer all the photos, videos of my TV appearances, articles in the press and Blogs on the web. I hope I do not have to wait for too long for this to happen. If not for me but for her Grandmother who fears that she will not live long enough to see her grand-daughter again.
To date I have paid in excess of £70,000 in child support to my daughters mother and not seen my daughter. I was removed from her life and replaced with a cash point.
Every year on Fathers Day I watch the post box in wait for a Fathers Day card that of course never materialises. Fathers Day is spent either at work, on a Fathers 4 Justice March or locked in my room crying over her. It’s heartbreaking, knowing that your child is out there somewhere and you can’t see them is like a living bereavement and I thank my lucky stars that I have the most amazing support from my family, and in particular from my loving partner Lynda to help me through these hard times.
All I want to do is to be a Dad to my daughter Jennifer. To laugh and enjoy life as father and daughter. After all, does she not deserve that?
We have lost out on 12 years simply because her mother wanted “to move on” and considered me an inconvenience to that. Because her mother did not have the ability to put Jennifer’s best interests over her own needs.
We will never get back those 12 years, 12 years of heartbreak and hurt. I just hope and pray that we will be reunited soon and Jennifer will realise for herself that I’m not the big bad wolf that she has been lead to believe I am. I’m just a loving Dad who has tried his hardest to be there for her. I long for that day to come. When it will come is anyone’s guess.