I received a letter in the post this morning from the Child Support Agency. Nothing strange there you may think, but my children are now in their late twenties.
My ex-husband was an alcoholic bully, even tempered and ok when he was sober but nasty and aggressive when he had sunk a few pints. We eventually divorced after one too many bruises and discoveries of him urinating in our six year old daughter’s wardrobe (for example) as she slept.
He was given numerous chances to change. When he was sober I begged him to get help, to save our marriage for the sake of our three beautiful children. Of course, I never broached the subject if a beer had passed his lips. Oh no. I kept quiet and as far out of the way as possible at those times.
The divorce was a bit of a farce. He would not allow me a divorce unless I admitted to being the guilty one. I took another on the chin, and stated I wanted the divorce and he was not at fault. He was more concerned at what outsiders may think than trying to save what could have been a good marriage. He fought hard when it came down to it. Not for custody of his children, but for material items such as the new Dyson we had recently purchased. His priorities were all materialistic. His children didn’t matter.
He had always frightened me just a little as a violent drunk but, when I found rented accommodation for myself and my little ones, he took to sitting outside in his car and simply watching the house late at night. I was always on the alert for a knock at the door which often never came. He just watched, waiting for who knows what.
Eventually, he asked if he could see the children and, when he secured himself a flat around the corner, requested they stay the night with him. He promised he wouldn’t have a drink when they were with him and I was happy for them to see him. They needed their father and maybe the time had come for him to take responsibility.
After a few months of weekend visits, my daughter told me she wanted to stay at home with me. She was eight years old and clearly upset. She cried lots and I told her she didn’t have to visit that week. My sons both went happily on their way and my daughter stayed with me.
A few weeks passed and one of my sons also said he didn’t want to visit and my daughter was still adamant she wanted to stay home. So, he took one of our sons and the other two remained behind with me. Within two hours he was back at my door with a sobbing little boy who didn’t want to stay with him on his own. This went on for a few weeks until none of the children wanted to go with him and they didn’t even want to talk to him at the door.
I didn’t quiz them too hard as I didn’t want to upset them but eventually, one morning at breakfast my daughter asked me why Daddy slept so much. Probing further, she had woken up in the night to find him as good as comatose (she couldnt wake him up and she was scared) and there were lots of cans on the floor. He was drunk when she had woken up from a bad dream and he had not been lucid enough to comfort her. This prompted stories from my boys who told me their daddy wouldn’t play with them when they visited him. He sat in front of the TV while they were in their rooms with some toys. They all sounded so sad when they relayed this to me.
Time passed, and the CSA became involved. I was awarded a small sum of money each week to help with raising my three children. I had a part time job which fit around their school but it didn’t pay much.
The child support money never came. He never paid me one penny and eventually he lost his job for being drunk at the wheel the morning after. As a financial consultant he had no means of travelling for work when they took away his drivers license. The debt, his debt, built up and the years passed by. I supported my children with part time work and benefits until they were old enough for me to take a full time job.
I received a letter from the CSA every month and then every six months to say that, even though he owed me well over £6000, he was not working and they had awarded me £0.00 for each child. The £6000 would have been helpful, of course, but I managed as best I could.
My parents and sometimes his parents, helped with clothes and little food parcels and gave the children pocket money but it felt wrong that he didn’t want to help support his children at all. The children received a birthday card from him each year with a few pounds inside but the handwriting was his mother’s. By this stage the children had not seen him for a few years and, as they grew up, the situation never changed. I suggested supervised visits but he was not interested and, in the end, aware that he was still a drunk, I gave up trying.
At the age of fifty he died as a result of his excessive drinking and the children’s feelings were really put to the test. There had always been the chance that he would fight to see them and seek help for his alcoholism but now there was no chance and they had never even known him. It was sad for those reasons and I felt so badly for them as they didn’t really know what or how to feel.
In the meantime we later discovered that his brother had ‘helped’ him to rewrite his will leaving his life insurance and any monies to his own daughter, my niece, and nothing to my children. He had always promised me, even calling my parents drunkenly one Christmas day to reiterate the fact, that there were a few thousand pounds for them when he died to make up for not being there when he was alive. It was unbelievable that he had changed his will in this way and his own children, whom he had abandoned and not supported over the years, were left with nothing.
So, today, as I opened the letter from the child support agency, I held my breath as I read the words that they had reviewed my case. Certain that there would be a few thousand pounds to share between my children now they had recovered what was rightly theirs, I read on.
The CSA were informing me not that they had recovered the money owed but that they were, after all these years, writing off my unpaid child maintenance as my ex husband had passed away.
Letting go of my held breath, I sighed, resigned to the fact that, even after death, he had been able to deal one more kick in the teeth to his children and that hurts way more than any of his physical violence ever could.