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A father fights for his daughter [Letter]

First, thank you for posting the commentary regarding child custody ("Joint custody should be the norm," Oct. 9). I am a father who has struggled against the family law court system pitted against a mother who planned to use the court system before she even got pregnant. She deceived me, destroyed my heart, is destroying me financially and clearly uses my child out of hate. I'm living a nightmare. Blinded by love then, I now see how clear her plans were.

I had known her since high school but we had gone separate ways in our mid-20s searching for careers. I was a successful business owner, a Howard County homeowner and pursued a dream of racing dirt bikes professionally. Most described me as a nice guy, a hard-to-find man. We got back together, dated for a few years and then she moved in and got pregnant. I wanted to be a father but just not right then. I was a little insecure without her hand in marriage. Now, I realize that would never have protected me from what she planned.

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Our daughter was born. I had been there every step of the way. I had read every parenting book, shopped for baby clothes, supported her and begged her to go to parenting classes with me. Our relationship was rough. I realize now I was in an abusive relationship. My heart was torn and my pride suffered every day but the center of my world was my daughter Julia and I had the strongest father-daughter bond possible. I loved coming home and just sitting with her, watching her, talking with her and performing all the basics from changing to feeding — although even then I needed permission from her mother to do any of those things or she would scold me. She would often yell at me and tell me I had to do chores and I'm a deadbeat father. The abuse was clear but no one said a thing. I begged for help and feared the worst and it came. While I was at dinner with my parents, she took my daughter and tried to empty my house out, her actions obviously planned.

Police said it was a civil matter now. I have never cried so hard and it is still difficult to talk about this three years later. But I do in hope that someone will see and free my daughter and I from the constant harm. The mother became homeless, kept me from my daughter for almost a year, acting out of hate and control.

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Today, all I want is the freedom to be a father and the relief to know my daughter is living the life she should and not the life that someone limits. Most describe us as having the best father-daughter bond they have ever seen. With me, my daughter is the sweetest, happiest little girl you will ever see, but away, she is not happy. We are known at all the local stores and praised as best friends. I have a beautiful daughter who looks up to me and listens to my every word. I could not ask for a sweeter child.

I currently face more time in court to waste money on something I simply shouldn't have to defend. The mother has decided to instruct my daughter's preschool to never let me know if she's there or not, to not have me as an emergency contact, to not let me visit or ever pick up my daughter from school — a daughter I see almost every other day.

I pray every night someone will help me in my case and help me tell my story as to help these other fathers out there. The pain fathers like me face at night is unbearable. The injustices are unfathomable

Aaron Bates, Highland

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