Splitting up with your partner can be heartbreaking enough – but having your child weaponised against you in the court proceedings can tear your life apart. Lovin Malta spoke to a father of two who had his children alienated against him – and how parents and experts are banding together to fight it.
“When my wife became pregnant, she ran away from me with our child – and then the false accusations began,” said Anthony Cauchi, a father of four.
Wondering where his pregnant wife had disappeared to with their unborn child while living in Australia, she eventually returned, holding his six-month old son, Jake.
It wasn’t long before the police came knocking.
“She systemically used the police to turn small things into big things, and they threw as much mud at me as they could in the hopes that something would stick.”
Even though police officers interrogated and investigated him, he never gave up on seeing his son.
“When my son turned four-years-old, I wanted to go for shared parenting, which means we each share the child, each getting him 50% of the time… but she filed a report saying that I had tried to have sex with my son. She called up child services – and until my name was cleared, it was hell,” he continued.
Jake is now 21, and it’s been a few years since he’s last seen his father. Though he has four children, he’s never actually met his youngest, a little girl.
With a pained look on his face, Anthony describes what his young son Jake was put through because of his mother’s claims.
“The authorities had to test him… they took my son in to question him about sex, they swabbed him… ” he trails off.
Having been accused of sexually abusing his children, Anthony is very sensitive towards those who might pass judgement on him.
“As if I’m not going to bathe him during a 48 hour stay with me!” he exclaims suddenly.
Anthony wants to challenge the unfair advantage some “masters of manipulation” are being given in courts
“You’ll have a parent who hasn’t seen his child in three years, is upset, showing frustration with the system, and is probably suffering from PTSD and is a little bit angry – they look bad, while the other parent is cool, calm and collected, and ready to play the victim role, even crying in front of the judge,” he said. “But the reality is the total opposite, and they try to persuade everyone of it.”
Anthony suddenly stands up and walks to the corner of the room.
“Imagine I’m standing here, and you’re standing there, and you have a gun, and you are shooting me – and the bullet is our son.”
“And you’re shooting me not to kill me, but only to use the child to hurt me. And at the same time, I see my son coming out of that cannon, spitting out blood: how long am I going to stay watching my son come out of the cannon in silence?” he asks.
“Similarly, imagine there’s a car with a bomb attached to it, and your ex-wife and child in the car. Whenever you get close to it, it starts heating up and catching fire, and when you touch it, it explodes. As a targeted parent, would you touch the car? Or walk away?” he said.
Now, Anthony and other parents like him have teamed up with local experts to form Tibqax Vittma, a Voluntary Organisation aimed at battling parental alienation
“Tibqax Vittma is an umbrella foundation comprising of victim support groups of different kinds,” said Mary Gauci, a Court Expert in Social Care and an MEP candidate for the PL.
As someone who has spent decades involved with cases in the family court in Malta, Gauci is well-placed to see where people are taking advantage of Maltese laws – to the detriment of their family.
“We started looking at parental alienation studies, and we soon realised that few people knew what it was locally, and that we needed support groups not just for the parents, but for children as well as for the grandparents,” the group said. “Parental alienation doesn’t just affect the parent – it leads to grandparent alienation, family alienation, the whole family gets cut off.”
And it’s not only Gauci that has noticed.
Other administrators of the group include Police Union Chief Sandro Camilleri and Emanuel Camilleri, a father who was famously falsely accused of raping his own children by his estranged partner and jailed for over a year, as well as men and women who are currently stuck in a vicious experience of parental alienation in 2019.
Pictured above: Mary Gauci, Tibqax Vittma founder, and Anthony Cauchi, a victim of parental alienation
“They implant hatred into the child to hate their own parent – that’s what parental alienation is all about”
While many countries recognise parental alienation abuse legally, Malta does not.
As such, the group is collaborating with the Dr Michael Falzon, the Family Minister, who is set to present a new Children’s Law within weeks.
“We also have a team of professionals voluntary – lawyers, psychologists, people versed in alienation – who are ready to push things and make things happen so the child has access to both parents,” they said.
Parental alienation comes in a number of forms, but always focuses of causing division between a child and parent
“Parental alienation is when one parent incites a child or children against the other parent with the aim of distancing themselves from the victim parent. This can come from both the mother’s and the father’s side,” said Gauci.
She explains that there are different levels of parental alienation, ranging from one parent turning a child against the other, to a more severe level, where one parent, who would generally be emotionally maladjusted, does everything they can to make the child hate the other parent.
This can include making up lies, convincing the child they are always right and the other is always wrong, false accusations, using anybody and everybody to bolster their story, and doing all they can to cut off contact with the other parent and their family.
Pictured above: Statistics from the USA showing the difference in male and female custody rates
“In over 85% of the cases in Malta, the woman will get custody – and that’s how we end up with one day a week visits.”
According to Tibqax Vittma, women are given an advantage when it comes to the family court in Malta, and Cauchi understands the historical context that led us to the contemporary situation.
“Unfortunately, some fathers did do wrong in the past – historically, there’s been misogyny in the home, as well as in cases of domestic violence. So now as a result, authorities often say ‘Well, it’s a man and a woman, obviously he is guilty’,” he says.
However, he says Malta needs a “paradigm shift” in the way it sees parenting and the roles of the mother and father.
“You can’t be a parent through a pay-check,” he said. “This is why in countries like Australia they’ve removed the term ‘custody’ – custody means you own something, when in reality we don’t own the child.”
After all is said and done, being a mother or father whose child hates them because of someone they used to love is a heart-wrenching situation to be in, and Maltese law needs to be updated to make sure no parent is sidelined and ostracised over false accusations.
You can get in touch with Tibqax Vittma and the other support groups be contacting the numbers below:
Tibqax Vittma – 79798189
Children’s Support Group ‘Happy Childhood’ – 79801008
Parental Alienation Support – 99565730
Cancer Support – 99282974
Depression Anxiety and Mental Illness Support ‘Heal your Life’ – 79798189
Disability Support – 99407670
Nanniet Malta – 99207043