Jolly-aka M Hodge-is one of our top activists and has been involved in some pretty daring stunts to highlight the crisis in family law.
The thing about Jolly is that he will never give up until this law is changed.
We've seen him with his daughter and the father daughter love and bond is obviously there. She needs him in her life, but the system is stopping that.
Damm the system.
My parents separated in 2000 when I was 2 years old and once the courts had got involved, I was only allowed to see my Dad for four days a month. I had to wait another 6 years before I was allowed to talk to my Dad on the phone- and that was only for 10minutes on a Wednesday evening between 5.30 and 6. My own Dad. Could he not just pop round and ask me how my day was? … No… It was not his time. When I was at my mums it was like I was not his daughter anymore because he wasn’t allowed to be my Dad. It was all on paper, in writing, in court orders – my life being controlled like some kind of computer game.
For years, every time I went to my Dads, my mum had to bring the police along too. He was dangerous apparently, even though I knew he wasn’t. One time when I was about 4 years old, police came round to my house at dads and tried to take me away. I was on the missing persons list whilst my mum was on holiday in America. They were treating him like he was some kind of criminal. After, my mum’s solicitor thought the police should have ‘forcibly’ removed me from my Dad’s house.
I remember talking about my Dad at my mums and her crying and crying. I did not want to upset her so I tried not to speak of him. I felt I had to be careful about everything I said in case it was used to hurt either of my parents in court. There were two sides and I wanted to be on both.
The courts were there, using me to destroy my parents and they did it oblivious of my feelings.
I was so confused, but I couldn’t talk to anyone. Who should I believe? Should I be afraid of my Dad because my mum seems to be? Everyone seemed to be against my Dad, everyone but me.
When I was younger I couldn’t sleep at my Dads without holding his thumb. I was scared people would come in the night and take me away. Even when I fell asleep, I still wouldn’t give him his thumb back- I held it tight!
At primary school we were awarded merit points for doing well. We celebrated these in assembly where your parents could come and see you. For me this had to be done over two assemblies and I found this really embarrassing.
I would try to make some sense of it all, and me being the only one who still loved my Dad really scared me. I knew he was not bad. Or was there something wrong with the way I felt? I would cry myself to sleep, trying desperately to fit the pieces together in my head.
In an interview with two Plymouth Cafcass officers, I told them I wanted to see more of my Dad. They questioned how this would make my mum feel. This shocked me but I told them honestly that it would probably upset her. It followed by them asking me how I felt upsetting my mum. After, I was in the waiting room outside, and I could hear my mum crying in her interview next door. I immediately thought they had told her what I had said and I felt really guilty. Even after this upsetting interview, they lied in court about what I had said. Why were they ignoring me? I missed my Dad so much.
When I was younger, my Dads driving licence was taken away by the CSA so my mum’s parents picked me up from Dads and drove me to school. One day, I did not want to go with them because I was sick of all the problems. Before long, the police were on the phone to my Dad wondering why I was not at school yet and this annoyed me. I had had enough and I told my Dad I was going to talk to the police. In the police station, I completely emptied my feelings out to a police officer where everything I said, she managed to twist around and always make my Dad look bad. I felt so small and humiliated and eventually, I burst into tears. “Why won’t anybody just listen to me” I cried at her. She reassured me she would get me a counsellor. She never did this.
These authorities who are meant to be professionals, taught me to trust nobody. The lies they made up made life that so much harder on top of having separate parents. That alone is difficult, that alone is a child’s worst nightmare. But no, they obviously felt I deserved more punishment. For what again? What DID I do wrong? Why did the family courts turn everything into such a war? They sent my parents into a courtroom, basically to rip each other to pieces, to choose the best parent. I was caught in the middle every time and I hated this. Quite often I wanted to die. As much as I loved my brothers, my mum, my Dad, I felt like I was the one hurting them and if I wasn’t there anymore they would have no reason to go to court. I couldn’t see any other way out. I wanted to be with my Dad. I needed to be. It wasn’t a feeling I could control. He was my Dad. What was so wrong with that? I realised I could not let the sick, twisted people keep my Dad from me anymore. It was so unjust. I wasn’t going to let them ignore me anymore and I couldn’t just watch my parent’s burn in the battle either.
In 2008, my Dad got sent to prison for campaigning with Fathers 4 Justice, for loving me, his own daughter. His involvement with Fathers 4 Justice caused him to do extreme things. But you have got to understand that they were in extreme circumstances and in the hell of the family courts, you are not heard unless you make it impossible to be ignored. Did they really think sending him to prison would make him give up fighting for me? This is clearly what they wanted. He was just a father desperate to see his daughter, not the criminal he was labelled as. But this is the sacrifice my Dad had to make, and I am so proud of him for doing this for me. If he hadn’t, I doubt we’d be together now. Whilst in prison, he missed my 10th birthday, my piano exam, and our weekends together. This broke me that little bit more, stole another bit of hope that this could all just be over. I couldn’t believe it was happening, still! But this also made me angry. How dare they deny me my father? How dare they not listen to me when they all say they work in “the child’s best interests”! Months later, another Cafcass officer came from London, to talk to me. In our interview I made sure I made my feelings extremely clear; if he didn’t listen this time, I would run away. I couldn’t take anymore of this hell I was being forced to live in. I was FINALLY granted equal residency with my Dad! I was living with him half of the time and I was so happy. It was such a relief and I was so glad it was all over.
When everything began to settle down, my Dad began to get involved in my school life, we helped out more on our friend’s farm and saw our family often. I started to sleep better at night and I became more confident. Life was how it should have been, from the very start. But 9 years?! It took 9 years for me to win back my Dad. They stole 9 years from my life.
After, my parents seemed to get on almost as if nothing had happened which confirmed how much of a set up the whole thing had been. The lies and other excuses had been only as a kind of ammunition to defeat my Dad and make him look bad – not fit to be my parent. Talking to my mum about this, she tells me this is what her solicitors told her to do.
What a waste of time. What unnecessary pain. At home my Dad has about 3 suitcases of paperwork. Was that in the interest of me?… or were people just making money out of me?
I still cry myself to sleep sometimes remembering how horrible I felt and still trying to understand everything that happened.
I have so many questions to ask. I have written to Cafcass, the Nspcc, and to judge David Tyzack but nobody cares. I have even been threatened with harassment for writing to the judge and even after all the trouble he caused my family.
But in a way, I’m lucky because my Dad fought the injustice of the family courts until he was allowed to parent me like he deserved- like every loving father. But so many families aren’t so lucky.
You can’t heal a broken heart. You can’t cover up the pain you go through when you’re not allowed to be with your mum or your Dad. That is why we can’t let this carry on. We have to stop it happening. They didn’t have a right to do what they did to me. I needed both of my parents. I missed my Dad so much. This is why I started Children’s For Justice and is why I’m not giving up. Shared care and shared residency works and is what every child deserves.
Thank you for listening to my story. I leave my trust in you that you can help me change this. Please don’t let me down. The millions of children in this country missing their mum or their Dad – don’t let them down.