Mary’s story


Finally. It took seven years for our son to convince the Family Court that his children were at risk from their mentally-ill mother who’d threatened to kill them.

My 14-year-old granddaughter recently said to me, “I thought that after seven years in court we would now be safe.”

I thought so until her mother went to a Magistrates Court with a false violence accusation and ended up with the children back in her care. 

The Magistrate made that decision without even bothering to check on the long Family Court history that ultimately removed the children from her care because she had threatened to kill them. I looked at her and attempted to say something, but I had no words. Her disillusionment was palpable. So, I just hugged her, and we stood there, with no words.

My son had spent ten years in the Family Court fighting for his children, even though their mentally ill mother had threatened to kill them early in their marriage. And now, his ex-wife has succeeded in having the Family Court Order suspended with a violence order against my son and thus my granddaughter can’t see her father.

But to go back to the beginning, my son married young and had three children in a short space of time. My son’s wife’s behaviour became erratic as time went by and it was soon evident she had mental health issues. She started to self-harm and to threaten to kill herself and the children.  She had detailed plans on how she would achieve this and made attempts on her own life, and began engaging in risk taking behaviour. This was a terrifying time for us all.  Her unpredictable behaviour caused me many sleepless nights, wondering how awful it would be for her, the children and us should she succeed. But my most terrifying thought was I would be walking behind three small white coffins because of her carrying out her threat to kill the children.

Child Protection became involved because of mandatory reporting. My son and his ex-wife separated and their children remained with my son. We embarked on a journey that would provide space for treatment and recovery for his wife, whilst the children were safe. Despite our best intentions and my son’s belief that his wife would commit to treatment that would lead to a path of recovery it was not to be. His ex-wife became hostile in all her interactions with him and there commenced a long legal battle.

My son’s wife created a pattern of taking the matter back to court numerous times, making outrageous statements every time the matter was close to being finalised, resulting in many adjournments. She presented herself at court as the victim of a violent ex-husband, fabricating numerous stories about his ‘manipulative and controlling’ behaviour.  Her legal team worked pro bono and presented reports that were so biased they were dismissed by the court. During that time, the family home was lost as he could no longer keep up the payments. My husband and I paid out their car loan to prevent repossession. I have no idea how much worse this is going to get for my son and my grandsons. 

Financially it will break him again and will have an impact on him career wise and emotionally.

My son re-partnered a number of years after he and his wife separated, and her vitriol then extended to his new partner. Her punishment to my son was to refuse to sign divorce papers, thus causing a long delay to his wish to marry again.

My son’s ex-wife has continued to denigrate my son to the children and to anyone who will listen, despite court orders prohibiting either parent from engaging in such behaviour.  She has spread false rumours about my son to his children’s friends’ parents, and schoolteachers, telling them the children want to live with her and are distressed about ‘having’ to live with him. She has also isolated him from his previously wide group of friends as unfortunately, they and many other people believe what she says. 

Her vitriol has extended to my husband and myself, which is distressing, disempowering and without basis. This has taken an enormous toll on my husband’s emotional wellbeing and my own. We have been pedantic in ensuring my husband is never in a position where allegations could be made against him.

For the first time in my life I had to go on anti-depressant medication. I am on the other side of that now but must be stringent with my self-care. Our other children have seen and experienced her viciousness and the ensuing chaos she has rained on our family, and all feel emotionally scarred. We all live with the constant fear my son’s ex-wife will make false allegations against any one of us and will be believed without proof to the contrary.

The emotional effects on us all have been great. I have watched my son go from a happy and confident man to a shadow of his former self. His self-esteem has declined, and he has aged considerably beyond his years. His once promising career in his previous job is a distant memory and although he has retrained, these latest allegations have compromised him significantly. 

I am concerned for the children’s emotional health and how this will affect them in future relationships. I worry my son will continue to be attacked by his ex-wife until he can no longer cope. He is not and has never been a violent person and I know that will not change, no matter what, and for that I am grateful.

The financial effects on our family have also been great. My son’s ex-wife is eligible for legal aid. My son is just above the threshold and therefore ineligible. My son’s efforts to source legal representation have been significantly difficult, and time and time again he has been told “It would be easier if you were the mother”.  He has had to retell what had occurred many times, and each time he was listened to with doubt. One legal representative said to him, “To be honest, the difficulty is that you are the father, if you were the mother, it would be an open and shut case”.

The most startling aspect is the current system has not supported my son in his care of his children. My son is once again the victim of more lies and deceit. He cannot have contact with two of his children except via phone calls supervised by his ex-wife, until the matter is resolved. I am aghast at the Magistrate’s decision to suspend the Family Court Order. The hearing is months away.

I find it abhorrent that a Family Court Order, in which both parents are scrutinised, and the children’s safety and wellbeing is considered paramount, can be so easily undone by spurious allegations without any proof whatsoever. Magistrates and Judges make decisions on what is available to them. They make decisions based on reports and assessments by the very systems that can be used against the principles and ethos of our laws. It is easy to see men only as the perpetrators, after all the statistics show that men account for most of the crime against women and children. It is much harder to entertain that women can also be perpetrators of family violence – emotional, psychological, spiritual, and physical against men and children.

Make no mistake, this is causing my grandchildren unimaginable harm. Their family unit has been split apart by a vindictive and spiteful mother.  Her only motivation is to ‘win the fight’ against my son. My son has never seen it as a ‘fight’ for his children but rather to provide his children with a safe and stable environment which included promoting a positive relationship with their mother. If only their mother would channel her energies into addressing her own unresolved issues and force herself to develop into well-balanced and responsible human being for their children’s sake.

I have questioned my own parenting as not enough to protect my son from the viciousness and vindictiveness of another individual – a woman. My feminist values lie in tatters. I struggle to reconcile my feminist views with the treatment my son and other men like him have had and continue to endure. It is completely unacceptable that an innocent man like my son can be pursued relentlessly through the courts by an ex-wife totally focused on destroying him.

Read more stories from mothers of sons who have faced injustice here