Imagine never being able to tell your child “Happy Birthday” or “Merry Christmas”. A growing number of parents in Malta are beginning to know it too well after being forcibly kept away from their children due to what they say is a “gross misinterpretation” of the law.
James* has been locked in a legal battle with his former wife for close to seven years in messy separation proceedings. Custody over the children was the main sticking point with James facing unproven domestic violence allegations.
Speaking to Lovin Malta, James was quick to concede that he was far from the perfect spouse and that his own battles with mental health affected his parenting skills, playing its part in the dissolution of his marriage.
“I’ve made many mistakes. Believe me. I know that. But I never laid a finger on my wife or kids,” James told Lovin Malta.
James has been kept away from his children from close to seven years. He’s even been willing to break the law and risk prison time just to get a view of his children, even if that’s watching his son play football from afar.
Two years ago, James thought it was all going to change when court-appointed expert Carmen Sammut claimed that this was a classic case of parental alienation following a four-month assessment of the family.
However, a recent quick-fire sitting eroded any future chances of reconciliation. James explained how a children’s lawyer told a court that his children simply did not want to be part of his life anymore, and a magistrate agreed. News, which understandably is pushing James to breaking point.
“Do you know how depressed this is all making me? I can’t even tell my children Happy Birthday or Merry Christmas.”
“Of course, they don’t want to see me. I’ve been forced out of their life through no choice of my own. They’ve been turned against me after seven long years,” James said, holding tears back.
James’ children were first taken away when they were infants. He now fears they’ll go into their teen years and adulthood without him.
In recent years, Malta has employed a far stricter policy when dealing with such cases, particularly if there are claims of domestic violence. Unfortunately, robust laws are sometimes finding people guilty before they even have a chance to be proven innocent.
They can be charged with a crime, forcibly removed from their homes, held without the opportunity to post bail and in some cases even being separated from their children.
It has yielded positive results with the number of domestic violence reports growing. However, James asks whether it’s fair on the multitude of parents in the country currently facing alienation from their children.
The issue is not even limited to cases with claims of domestic violence with Anthony Cauchi from Happy Parenting Malta For Happier Children regularly raising concerns over fathers’ who have severely limited access to their children.
What do you think can be done to solve the issue?