Father and Child, the support group where fathers turn when they’ve got no hope left

It's Wednesday evening at Auckland's Onehunga Community Centre and fathers are filing through the door for their weekly meeting.

Father and Child, set up by Aucklander Brendon Smith as a safe space for dads to support each other through the difficulties of parenting, has become a window into the sometimes-acrimonious world of divorce.

The group was founded in 1997 in Christchurch by a group of solo and stay-at-home dads whose kids all played together in Hagley Park.

In 2008 Father and Child opened a support office in Onehunga, beginning weekly "mauri ora circle" meetings in 2009.

Since then Mr Smith has been inundated with clients, the majority of whom come to him for support during and after bitter custody battles.  

For those men, the support of other fathers in similar situations helps give them perspective and a strategy for coping in the Family Court.

"A huge part of what some of the guys will benefit from is to know that they're not alone, that their situation isn't the worst in the room," Mr Smith says.

He tries to end every meeting on a positive note, although that’s not always achievable.

However, when his support helps reconnect a father with their child he feels a huge sense of satisfaction.

"Sometimes that's the fact that dad's got his kids back into shared care or he's getting the weekends. Or in some cases the dad's actually get day to day care of their children and that's great."