MY father left when I was three. He never paid a jot of maintenance to the young family he walked out on.
Did he do the wrong thing?
I've never heard his side of the story, but I do know that as I get older I see how complicated separation and custody can become.
The older I get, I see this whole issue not just from my own experience, but the lives of friends around me who are touched - and broken by it.
I spoke to a father who is doing the right thing by their children but is still being stung by his ex who is making his life hell.
"I live back at home with my parents now, since the breakup with my ex of seven years. She kept the house," says Nick*, 44, from NSW.
"By the time I pay my parents a token gesture for rent, what I owe in child support and run my car, I don't have much left to live on.
"Some people get lucky with their exes; I'm not one of them unfortunately. She takes as much as she possibly can and even then I'm not guaranteed to see my two kids. I always pay on time, and I buy the kids clothes or stuff for school when they need them, but I don't always get access.
Nick is supposed to see his kids every other weekend.
"Sometimes I'm lucky to get a quick chat with them over Skype," he says.
"People ask me why I put up with it. What choice do I have? I don't have any spare money to fight this out in court.
"I'm grateful for every second I get to spend with my children so this is how I live now. I adore my children. I've accepted it. I'll never be able to afford another house, but I'm not the only person to say that, whether they've had a nasty split or not."
I can't say I blame him. His ex of 12 years left him for another man. She has custody of the two children from their marriage.
She's remarried the new guy, he's very wealthy, but out of spite she cleans up every dollar. Why? Because she can.
"The system's screwed," he says, adding a few words beginning with the letter F.
"They have two more children of their own. He earns a mint. She has a whole new life. She has two cars. Everything. My money ends up being pocket money on their next trip overseas. It's not spent on what it's intended for.
"The kids have everything they want, none of this is about them, it's about her taking what she can. Greed and spite."
A few more f-words - and we're done. He's made his point. Through the boiling anger it's not difficult to see a broken heart and oceans of pain.
Matters get stuck in Family Court for years, cost a fortune, ruin lives and men can end up still not seeing their kids, even if they're paying what they should.
Not every breakup is messy - but there are plenty that are.
I feel for the men who are financially ruined for life after a breakup. So much for a new chapter.
Surely an individual's circumstances should be taken into account?
We may not feel that it's the new partner's responsibility to fork out for another man's kids but some reassessment is surely required? And long overdue.
Why are we stuck with a system that's flawed?
This article originally appeared on Kidspot and has been republished here with permission.
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