Man's daughter taken after DNA nightmare
MIKE* is a 28-year-old from NSW. He became a father - and now faces a devastating future without the child he adores. Here is his story, as told to news.com.au.
I'D known Alice* for some time through mutual friends. We started dating and after just six weeks she arrived at my office to tell me she was pregnant.
I didn't know what to think at first; it was so fast. I hadn't even told my family we were dating.
She didn't show much emotion and kept asking me what to do.
I said, "I can't make that decision for you. It's your body. I'll support you whatever you decide. I can't be the person you resent if you keep it and aren't ready, or the person you resent because you don't keep the child."
We went to the doctor and a test confirmed she was pregnant. She decided to keep the baby and I got increasingly excited about becoming a father.
I bought a three-bedroom family house by the beach. I wanted to give my child the best I possibly could.
During the pregnancy I'd lay and talk to Alice's bump. I was having a daughter. I'd tell her how much I was looking forward to seeing her and holding her.
When she arrived, it was amazing. I still have no words that can explain what it was like watching her come into the world. I cried my eyes out. My whole perspective on life changed in those moments. Everyone said how much she looked like me. She took my surname and my name's on her birth certificate.
I loved being a father. I changed nappies, cuddled her, stayed up when she was restless, read her stories and did night feeds. When she wouldn't settle I'd lay her on my chest and she'd play with my nose. I loved every second with her.
Alice didn't bond with her. She said she didn't want her and started going out every weekend. She'd leave me on my own with the baby for the whole weekend.
I was worried she thought she'd made the wrong choice and didn't want to be a parent. I told her if so, I wouldn't think badly of her. If she wanted to go off and have her own life she could always come back. I'd never stop her seeing our daughter.
She didn't like how much attention I paid the baby. It was all a competition to her. Then it escalated into a nightmare. When the baby was six months old, Alice left and took the baby with her.
A few weeks later I was called to the police station. They had the baby in their care. They'd found her in a known drug house. Drugs were found in her pram. She had no warm clothes and stale milk in her bottle.
I was devastated. Alice said she didn't want the baby. The court awarded me custody.
Then she dropped the bombshell. She said the child wasn't mine. I didn't believe her for a second; she'd come out with so many lies at that point I thought she was just trying to hurt me.
I made a plan with my family who were going to support me with childcare.
In the meantime, I had to go and get swabs done with my child.
Then I got the phone call that will haunt me forever.
"You're not the father," the voice at the other end said. "You're on speaker. My manager's here. We've sent paperwork to your lawyer. This child isn't yours."
And with that, my world fell apart.
I told the authorities that I'd still like to be part of her life, even if they won't let her live with me. I asked if I could at least send her a gift on her birthday and Christmas each year. They said no.
I asked if they could make sure she knew I loved her, that there was an adult who cherished her and adored her.
I was told, "You have no rights. You're not the father, you never were."
I wasn't offered any counselling. I've been beaten by a system that's out of date. How can this be right?
I became a father. You can't just take that away from someone. I don't just snap back into being a bachelor.
I sold the house. How could I stay there? It was too hard.
This child will now be fostered. It breaks my heart. They've agreed to give her a letter that she can read when she turns 18. I'm going to tell her how much I love her; how I've loved her since I found out she was coming to this earth.
She's my pride and joy. This is not my choice.
She can come and look for me whenever she's ready. If I have to wait 20 years until I can hold my princess in my arms again, I'll wait for that day.
*Names have been changed to protect identities. News.com.au has sighted court documents that verify this story.