A ten year custody battle has lasting effects on a child…

I was 4 when my parents’ split. I don’t remember them fighting when they were together, but then I was very young.  I don’t know much about why they broke up and they don’t talk about it either. They just say how much the other person is the worst person on the planet.  You could almost make a comedy out of it.  They fell out and they got divorced and it was a long time ago about 17 years –  but they still haven’t got over it.  And I was in the middle of a ten year custody battle as they fought their battles out through their kids.

Even now they hate each other: I graduated last year – my mum was on one side of the auditorium, dad was on the other.

God, they hated each other so much. There was a custody battle as soon as they got divorced. It was still when the mother instantly got custody of the children.  So mum got custody although she kind of said she wanted us to go half half.  Mon/ Tues/Fri with her,  Weds/ Thurs with dad and then we swopped weekends.  

New partners made everything worse

Then my parents found different partners and they decided to shake things up a bit.  I didn’t like my mum’s new husband and I said that to my dad.    And he thought it was a good time to start up a war.  So they went to court over it.  I spoke to a child psychologist who had a load of toy animals and she asked me to pick an animal to go with all the members of my family. I was 9 so I didn’t really put much thought into it.  The dolphin was my mum, the dad was a bear, and I had to choose other animals.  So because I chose a lion for the stepdad, they thought he must be a piece of work.  So after that I got more time with my dad.

I didn’t really like my step-dad but I couldn’t care less which house I stayed at.  Anyway I ended up spending 4 days a week with my dad and the alternate weekends and one day with my mum.

My parents battled for ten years

The war went on throughout my childhood.  I never knew (and still don’t) whose version of events was true.  My dad told me that during the divorce my Mum wanted our dog, so she went through the doggy door of his house and took it while he was sleeping!  Her version of the same story was that she asked for the dog and Dad gave it to her.  I don’t know who to believe.  I remember if one of us was sick it was the other parents fault.  Somehow the germs only happened at the other parent’s house!

They kept fighting over us but then I got to 13 and I could choose where I went.  I chose to do half half again.  And then getting to high school and I got into teenage mode and said to my mum I was at my dad’s and vice versa and never came home.

My parents fighting affected me more than I realised.

I didn’t think it affected me at the time, but I didn’t study much.  I couldn’t be bothered to drag my shit back and forth between the two houses.  In the last two years I lived with my dad because I wanted to be more stable and then suddenly my studies did really well.  The folks at college realised I had a brain for the first time!

The one way people point out it has affected me is this: I am 23 and have never wanted to be in a relationship ever.  I’ve never been in one.  My sis has gone from boyfriend to boyfriend so I guess it’s affected her too in a different way.  Me, I can’t be bothered with it.  It’s too much.  I don’t have to speak to any moron.  I’ve got my plans, what I want to do… I care about my family and stuff but I can’t be bothered to deal with the hassle of a relationship.

There is a silver lining to the custody battle

The good thing about it all is that when you go through a lot of crap you come out thinking that’s hilarious, because it’s so disjointed.  I can get chucked anything now, and I start laughing.  A lot of comedians who do stand up have been to hell and back. You’ve got to have a lot of shit happen to just laugh about it.  But I just never want to share my life, take on relationships…  I’ve got a male friend who I’m best friends with.  My dad is really excited and wants me to get married.  But I’m like, come on dad – he’s my best mate.  I’ll wait until I’m 30… or want more out of someone…  I can’t face it now.

I’ve also moved half-way across the world from my family.  I’m from Australia and now I live in London.  Makes life a lot calmer.

Any advice for my parents?  

Act normally, talk to each other normally and don’t throw all this hatred through your children.  I’ve heard so many versions of all the stories that don’t join up I don’t know what happened.  I can’t fathom a world where they actually loved each other. It doesn’t make sense to me.  And it’s put me off going there myself.