Thursday, 20 March 2014

A mother's infidelity and the lie that left son without a father: One dad in 25 unwittingly raises a child that's not his... Andy's story reveals the terrible toll if the truth comes out

For 21 years, Andy Phillips (right) believed that Jordan was his son. When the baby was born, he held him in his arms and loved him. But two years ago, Jordan arrived on his doorstep and told him the result of a DNA test: 'You're not my dad.' That devastating moment marked the beginning of two hellish years for Andy, during which he has struggled to understand why he was so terribly deceived by Jordan's mother, 42-year-old Andrea Roberts. All three are pictured inset.
Andrew Phillips from Telford, Shropshire, who for years paid child maintenance, to an ex-partner, for a child that was not his.
Picture by Damien McFadden/Daily Mail

He remembers buying him his first drum kit and watching amazed as his little boy immediately beat in perfect time to Hey Jude! by The Beatles.
Overriding all of these happy memories, however, is the terrible day, two years ago, when a 21-year-old Jordan turned up on Andy's doorstep in Telford, Shropshire, with a piece of paper in his back pocket.
'It was a DNA test,' recalls 43-year-old Andy. 'Jordan said there was something he had to tell me. He paused, and then he said: "You're not my dad." '
That devastating moment marked the beginning of two hellish years for Andy, during which he has struggled to understand why he was so terribly deceived by Jordan's mother, 42-year-old Andrea Roberts.

Forced to pay child maintenance after they separated when Jordan was seven, Andy believes that Andrea suspected for years that the boy was not really his son.
And while Andrea this week agreed to pay Andy £19,000 in a last-minute out-of-court legal settlement after he brought a claim for the psychological damage her deceit has caused him, Andy says there are no victors in this sorry story - least of all Jordan, who has been bounced between his  warring 'parents'.
Indeed, the court case has caused such bitterness that Jordan, now 23 and a drummer in a band, is no longer speaking to the man he once called Dad, despite Andy's insistence he still loves him like a son. 
'He doesn't want to know me,' Andy says. 'It's as if I've lost him twice over.'
While Andy, an engineer, is still undergoing counselling to cope with the trauma of discovering that Jordan is not his son, Andrea says she too has suffered. She insists she didn't know for certain that Jordan was not Andy's son until a DNA test in October 2011 confirmed the truth. 'I was 18,' she told the Mail. 'I can't believe that what happened when I was so young is still haunting me all these years later.'
Andy Phillips with his son Jordan and ex wife Andrea Roberts in Menorca Spain, 1993
Andy Phillips with his son Jordan and ex wife Andrea Roberts in Menorca Spain, 1993

In a heartfelt letter she sent to Andy after he discovered the truth two years ago, she wrote: 'I truly didn't have a plan at 18 years old, but as a terrified, immature, confused girl whose own father turned his back on me, I took each day and tried to do what was best at the time. You and I were together and that's how I wanted it to be. I'm not a bad person and wouldn't want to hurt anyone.'
In yet another twist to the story, she is now in a relationship with Jordan's  biological father - her former childhood sweetheart.
So how did this confused and sad state of affairs come to pass? According to legal documents seen by the Mail, the seeds of deceit were sown almost right from the start of Andy and Andrea's relationship.
They met in a pub in Glossop in Derbyshire in the summer of 1989 when Andrea was 17 and Andy 19. They had gone to the same comprehensive in the town but barely remembered each other from their schooldays.

'She approached me,' says Andy. 'She was very pretty and chatty. We started going out together and I'd always walk her home afterwards. I was very loyal to her, right from the start.'
But he was not Andrea's only admirer. Several months after they became lovers, she cheated on him with her first boyfriend, Paul Rothery, another former pupil from Glossop Comprehensive who Andy knew from playing football at the local youth club.
At the time, Andy was unaware of his girlfriend's infidelity. Andrea claims her fling with Paul, then a sixth-form student, was a 'one-off'. In her letter to Andy two years ago, she says that while she 'suspected' Paul might be the father, 'there was always the chance (Jordan) could have been yours'.
For 21 years Andy believed that he was Jordan's father
For 21 years Andy believed that he was Jordan's father
Andrea was several months pregnant before she told Andy about the baby. He promised to stand by her, braving the wrath of her father, a detective sergeant with Greater Manchester police, as well as his own parents.
He says: 'I'd always used contraception so I was surprised, but I just assumed it must have failed. I was in love with her. I didn't question the possibility that the baby wasn't mine. I had a steady job and I was happy to become a dad. But her father was furious about it and so she came to live with me and my parents just before Jordan was born.'
Andy was present at Jordan's birth in November 1990, and remembers cradling Jordan for the first time. His parents also doted on the little baby.
'It was an amazing feeling, very emotional,' he says. 'But it's so hard to think about it now, knowing that I was cradling another man's baby and she never ever told me of her suspicions that Jordan wasn't mine.'
By the summer of 1991, Andy had saved enough money to rent a small house in Glossop for his little family. He paid for everything, he says, while Andrea cared for Jordan.
'I was only earning around £300 a week,' he says, 'but I was happy to support them. When I got home from work I'd take Jordan to the park. People said how much he looked like me and had my mannerisms. There was nothing ever to make me suspicious.'
But he always thought it odd that Andrea was never interested in getting married or having any more children. 
'Looking back, I wonder if it's because she never really loved me at all,' he says. 'Maybe we were only together because I was the only one who stood by her when she was pregnant.'
Even if it is possible to feel sympathy for the teenage Andrea's plight, it is less easy to understand her behaviour in the following years. Not surprisingly, given the secret she was hiding, her relationship with Andy slowly fell apart.
Andy is still undergoing counseling to cope with the trauma of finding out that Jordan isn't his son
Andy is still undergoing counseling to cope with the trauma of finding out that Jordan isn't his son
'I was often tired after work and I'd stay in and babysit Jordan. She started going out a lot with her friends,' says Andy.
Andrea put her own version of events in her legal statements, saying Andy's temper drove a wedge between them. Andy denies this and says that - threatened with court action - it was a desperate last attempt by his former partner to smear his reputation.
They separated temporarily in 1995 when Jordan was five, but the following year Andy persuaded Andrea to give their relationship another chance for Jordan's sake. In 1997, after she again asked him to leave, he moved out for good. 'It was obvious she didn't want me there,' he says.
The break-up might have presented Andrea with a chance to establish the truth about Jordan's paternity. Instead, she asked Andy to pay £120 a month in child support, even when, in 1999, she married a new boyfriend, garden centre owner Rob Pryce.
A few years later, she asked Andy to increase payments to £160 a month, threatening to involve the Child Support Agency if he didn't agree.
Andy, who refused because he felt he was contributing enough, says: 'It's cruel she put me through all of that knowing that Jordan might not be mine. 
All those years of deceit are hard to forgive. All through my 20s and 30s I had this hanging over me.' Explaining why she kept the lie going for so long, Andrea wrote in her letter to Andy: 'As time has gone on, I started to get serious feelings that we needed to find out for sure. I felt (Jordan) had the right to know but there never seemed to be a right time. More than anything, I was terrified of hurting Jordan.'
'People said how much he looked like me and had my mannerisms. There was nothing ever to make me suspicious'
But if Andrea had suspicions about her son's paternity, so too did Jordan's biological father, Paul Rothery, who, in yet another legal statement provided as part of this troubling case, said it crossed his mind right from the start that he might be Jordan's father.
Once, when Jordan was a toddler, Paul - who lived locally - saw him playing in the garden. He noticed physical similarities and admits: 'This made me start to think that maybe Jordan was my son.' 
He wrote to Andrea, without mentioning his suspicions, but says she never wrote back. It wasn't until February 2011, after her marriage to Jordan's stepfather Rob Pryce had broken down, that they finally met up and discussed the matter.
A few months later, they told Jordan, then 20, of their fears and he requested a DNA test to resolve the issue once and for all.
Andy was the last to know. By then, he was married to Mariya, now 33, who he met ten years ago and married in 2007. Their son Joshua was born in April 2011 and had been presented to Jordan as his half-brother. 
Although Andy had moved to Telford, two hours' drive away, Jordan came for visits and overnight stays, once bringing his girlfriend to meet them. 
'I can't forgive Andrea for not coming herself to tell me,' he says. 'I can't think what Jordan went through having to break that news to me because his mother didn't have the guts to do it.'
While Andy broke down in tears, Jordan, he says, remained calm.
'He'd already known for a few months, so I wonder if he'd done his grieving. He said that it wouldn't affect our relationship and that he still saw me as his father and that wouldn't change. I was in absolute shock but I said the same: that I loved him and he'd always be my son.'
But Jordan then withdrew from Andy and, after a couple of further visits, stopped replying to his calls and texts. 'In the end, I phoned Jordan's stepfather Rob to ask him if he was all right. He told me that he was just trying to deal with it all.' Andrea tried to explain her behaviour in a letter to Andy, before he launched his legal action. 
She wrote: 'I do only have myself to blame, but wish at that young age I didn't have to deal with such a huge problem - alone. I couldn't talk to anyone, I had no support and nowhere to live. I needed my mum and dad but they weren't there for me. Therefore I had to sort it out myself.
'You and I were together and that's how I wanted it to be. At the time I didn't think long term and naively thought we could be a family.'
Jordan no longer speaks to the Andy who he once knew as dad
Jordan no longer speaks to the Andy who he once knew as dad
In the two years since he learned the truth, and estranged from Jordan, Andy's hurt turned to anger and, not surprisingly, bitterness towards Andrea.  'It started to eat me up,' he says. 'I felt as if I couldn't breathe at night. I couldn't sleep. It's been a horrible time.'
Andy's sense of injustice became so profound he wrote to the CSA asking if he could reclaim his payments. He calculates that the maintenance payments total around £4,894 and that he has paid an additional £2,760 into Jordan's account over the years.
When he was told that he couldn't take back the money, he decided on legal action. With hindsight, was this wise? Did he not envisage how hurtful this would be for his son?
'I wanted justice,' says Andy, who admits he didn't foresee how this would affect his relationship with Jordan.  'I wasn't interested in revenge, but I couldn't live with what she did to me.'
Because UK courts deem that raising a child is a privilege, it is not possible to reclaim maintenance payments from a deceitful mother, only to make a claim for psychological damage as the result of deception.
Andy's solicitor Roger Terrell, who specialises in 'paternity fraud', says the number of such claims is rapidly increasing. 
In January 2013, in what was believed to be the first case of its kind, another of his clients, Richard Rodwell, received £25,000 in damages after discovering the son and daughter he had raised were not his. 
Since then Mr Terrell has been contacted by dozens of other men who have been similarly deceived - it is estimated that one in 25 fathers are unwittingly raising children who are not theirs.
But in cases like these, there are rarely happy endings. Andy discovered via documents sent to his solicitor that just six months after the DNA test, Jordan changed his surname from Phillips to Pryce, after Andrea's ex-husband, his former stepfather.
'That was incredibly hurtful,' says Andy. 'I still thought of him as my son and I'd still have a relationship with him if I could, but Jordan has turned against me. He thinks that by taking legal action against his mother, I'm punishing him, but he's as much of a victim in all this as I am.'
Andrea's relationship with Jordan's true father is a final twist. But as she says in her legal statement: 'It would not be right to think that we are playing happy families with Jordan as that is far from reality.' 
In his statement, Paul admits: 'It has been difficult to form a relationship with Jordan and is something which is taking time.'
And after so many years of secrets and deceit, it's hard to see how the wounds can easily heal. 
Andy, who is expecting another son with his wife, says: 'It's as if a whole chunk of my life wasn't what I thought it was.'
As for Andrea, there is little doubt that she regrets what she did, even if her apology has come too late.
At the end of her letter to Andy two years ago, she wrote: 'I am honestly, truly sorry. A decision I made at 18 has undoubtedly ruined my life.'
'Given the time over, I would do it differently. That's easy to say aged 41, but as a young girl I didn't have a clue. The main thing I would change is the hurt I have caused everyone.'

Credit: Daily Mail

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