Caroline Overington is an award winning journalist and amazing author! She first came to my attention on Twitter, when her first book, Ghost Child was published – I must admit, I rarely find time to read the newspaper, so until then, her work was unfamiliar to me.
I delved into Ghost Child and went on to read I Came to Say Goodbye with the same gusto.
I’m really excited to have Caroline here today talking about her new book, Matilda is Missing. you can read more about this book here. Or visit Caroline’s website. She’s also on Twitter at @overingtonc
I’ve recently finished writing my third – and, so far, most successful – novel, Matilda is Missing.
It’s about a custody case, gone wrong.
The main characters are Garry and his wife, Softie.
They are fighting over their only child in the Family Court.
Matilda’s only two. She doesn’t really know what’s going on, but of course, she’s right in the middle of it.
I wrote the book because I wanted to give people an idea of what it’s like to end up in the Family Court, fighting over your children with the man – or the woman – you used to love.
Of course, plenty of people already know all about it. Divorce is common, and custody disputes are also common.
We tend not to hear too much about these disputes, unless they are in our own families (it which case, we can’t avoid them, since somebody we love is usually in agony, and we can’t do anything to help them), or until a really bad custody case suddenly explodes onto the front pages, because a child (or children) have been killed.
That’s actually one of the reasons that I wrote the book – to remind people that while divorce is common, the stakes are still high.
When divorce goes wrong, it is children that suffer.
Before I wrote Matilda, I spent a year, reporting on the Family Court, for The Australian newspaper.
It’s not easy to report the Family Court.
You can’t use anyone’s name, and you have to respect the privacy of everyone in there, especially the children.
I can understand that: nobody deserves to have the painful, private details of their divorce spread all over the newspapers.
At the same time, there are things going on in the Family Court that I think we need to know about.
One of the things that people have asked me, since the book came out, is whether the two people in the book – Garry, and Softie – are real.
They are real, in the sense that I have come across many people just like them – people who are at war with each other, and over the children.
I have seen children pushed and pulled in every direction; yanked around by parents who just want to win, or to punish the other side.
I’ve seen children who never see their fathers, because Mum won’t allow it.
I’ve seen children whose fathers never bother to come to see them, even though it breaks their hearts.
I’ve seen mothers who refuse to deliver the children to their Dad, because she just can’t stand him, and she wants the children to hate him, too.
I’ve seen children who refuse to go to Mum, because Dad has made them feel so guilty about it.
Most heartbreaking of all, I have seen grandparents, whose adult children are going through a nasty divorce, who are desperately worried about whether they will ever see their grandchildren again.
I’m often asked to give advice to people who are thinking of going to the Family Court.
My advice is this: don’t do it.
That is actually the same advice that a judge gives, in Matilda is Missing.
“You want my advice about the Family Court?’’ he says. “Avoid it like the plague.’’
He doesn’t mean, don’t get divorced.
People do get divorced. It’s a fact of life. Sometimes, it’s even for the best.
But, as the judge says, “going to the Family Court is like taking a hand grenade and rolling it into a room, filled with all the people you love.’’
That’s actually true, and so my advice is, if you can keep it out of court, do.
All over Australia, there are good men and women who have separated, and have worked things out for themselves, and try every day to keep it amicable.
I know it can’t be easy.
It must take a big heart.
But in spite of their pain and anger, they manage to behave like adults, for the sake of their kids.
If only that weren’t so rare.
I hope you enjoy Matilda is Missing.
And thank you for having me here.