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How spouses use children as ammunition after separation

 It is during divorce that gloves come off. Lovers turn on each other with every tool they can find – including children.

We live in a world in which two people can meet, date, fall out, and divorce in 72 days.

Love is now packaged in fast-food sachets: it’s over as soon as it starts.

And didn’t someone say that hate is only a step away from love?

It is during divorce that gloves come off. Lovers turn on each other with every tool they can find – including children.

Paul Nyanja* only got to know his wife’s abrasive side when he asked for a divorce.

“We had only been married for 18 months when I threw in the towel: I was tired fighting over mundane things like who I am talking to on the phone and where I had been when I come home,” Paul says.

Their union was already a poisoned Chalice. Telling his wife that he wanted out was going to anger her even more. “It set her off. She went ballistic: hurling every abuse from earth below and heaven above at me. Then she locked me out of my house.”

Paul met Sylvia* through a mutual friend. The two quickly hit it off; sneaking around for late-night rendezvous and early morning romps.

Before they knew it Sylvia was pregnant and nudging Paul towards marriage.

“She said she didn’t want to carry the pregnancy while still living under her parent’s roof. So she moved in,” Paul says. “It was not supposed to be a marriage. But just like that, even without my knowledge, I was married,” he says.

The two were in for a rough ride as they floundered along. The thrill was no longer there. And with Sylvia assuming wife roles with a distended stomach, the spark was quickly fizzling out.

Things did not become easier with the birth of the couple’s son. Sylvia increasingly became controlling. Paul increasingly got frustrated.

Then came the breaking point: Paul asking that they separate and focus on co-parenting. “She told me to cede ownership of my house and agree to a monthly stipend to her account as upkeep for our son,” he says.

Paul likes to think that Sylvia was merely being cocky but her execution-style was, to say the least military, “something that makes me think she had planned this all along,” he says.

In fact, Sylvia hired a lawyer to compel Paul to pay up and meet the financial costs of caring to their son.

The two are locked in a court battle with Paul ruing the intermittent moments of pleasure that led to the pregnancy; which then birthed the heartache he is going through now.

Paul is not alone. Nearly every few months we read in the press of a prominent person in a court battle with a baby mama.

“If you look like you have some money these women have their eyes focussed on getting pregnant. Then they will quote the new constitution to argue that living together for this number of months equals legal marriage. And that children belong to mothers until they become adults. And that as the father of the child you give up everything you own plus your salary,” Paul says.

Just last year a prominent legal mind cum politician faced demands from a lady who claimed to have had a child by him.

She was asking for Sh100, 000 a month for 20 years or a one-time payment totalling Sh20 million, all of it child support.

When the story broke out Benson* could not contain his disgust during a conversation with this writer.

“They had a one-night-stand. It probably lasted 20 minutes. How does that translate to Sh100,000 every month?” he asked.

“What kind of bedroom acrobatics did she perform on him to deserve even Sh1, 000?” he smirked.

The story is a little different for Hamis*, a 44-year-old lawyer who practices in Mombasa.

With the knowledge of the law at his fingertips, Hamis wanted to avoid long-drawn court battles during divorce with his wife.

After 12 years of marriage, most of it chaotic, it was no longer tenable living together.

 “I brought my wife (then) to the table and we agreed on how to share wealth. For the most part, she had been a housewife but nevertheless I wanted a clean split. She took half and I took half. And we agreed on how to raise our children, some who we’d had even before getting married,” Hamis says. It was supposed to end there. An amicable divorce, he told himself.

But no: his wife was not done yet. And he only got to know this when he found love again, with a different woman.

“My wife would not leave us alone. When she learnt that I was moving on she began visiting at my new house: imposing herself in the guise of bringing the children over,” Hamis says.

And on occasions when his girlfriend was over visiting, and the two would cross paths, his wife made a ruckus of it.

“She would yell – for neighbours to hear – how I had neglected my children to fool around with a harlot,” Hamis recalls.

His wife, for all intents and purposes, wanted to portray a façade that they were still married.

“It really bothered me because even after letting her keep the house we had built together and some other things she still wanted to define my space as her ‘territory’.”

Hamis’ budding new relationship did not survive the avalanche of ex-wife firepower. The lady took off, fearing what his ex could be up to.

Like Hamis, Leah, a 37-year-old, had to deal with an ex who would not let go and wanted to use their children as a ruse to frustrate her from moving on. “The break up was not very easy. There was pulling and shoving. But eventually, we did separate,” she says.

Not long after Leah started going out with a colleague at work.

“I was keen on moving on with my life,” she says.

But her ex-husband was having none of it.

“It was difficult avoiding him because we have two sons,” she says. “He would often come to my house unannounced. He always carried with himself this macho-style anger; commanding the boys around and saying nasty things about me.”

To prevent an altercation between her ex-husband and the man she was dating, she asked the latter to avoid going over to her place.

But then the father of her two children began goading her boyfriend.

“I don’t know where he got my boyfriend’s number because he would inundate him with messages of how he [my boyfriend] was breaking up our family and making me a bad mother to our children,” says Leah.

“If that didn’t work he would tell him how he used to enjoy having sex with me, an attempt to put him off and make him give up,” she says.

And if that didn’t work he would tell him about their sons: how the two boys would never accept a new ‘father’ in their lives.

In the end, the ex’s attempts to frustrate her new relationship failed. Leah and her boyfriend married and moved in together, at which point the ex let them be.


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