Divorce Overseas: The Carnapping

The worst day of my life at the time was when my ex called the police to wrest the car from me (here), so it was my first blog on my anonymous site.

For the last five months, I have been separated from my wife (a local) here in this foreign land, waiting for the divorce process to start.  The story of these five-plus months in itself is a long one, and perhaps I’ll highlight those experiences at another time to help those living abroad get through the process.  Such revelations may not help you legally (though some may), but to at least know that you are not alone in such struggles may be beneficial.

Being abroad, when an expatriate separates or divorces from a local, wherever one is, there are unknown difficulties that lay ahead, difficulties that would not exist back home.  Things are different in many aspects of living overseas, and that surely includes divorce and all it entails.

We’re definitely not in Kansas any more, Dorothy, when it comes to such issues abroad.

During these months, unsurpassed drama has occurred, and though I cannot take the high-and-mighty road with every minute detail of these events, I can say that most of the drama comes from one direction only, willing to label even 98% of it as one-sided.  Although a number of those experiences would provide some insight into the dramatic circumstances that have transpired, one stands out clearly as the most entertainingly thought-provoking (though not “entertaining” for me at that moment by any means).

The police would certainly concur.

All that unfolded on a particular day in early January of 2014 was tantamount to a Jerry Springer-like circus show, yet in unedited, unscripted form, making such happenings much more melodramatic than that silly US TV program ever was.

Although this blog is about said happenings from January 7th, 2014, I need to fill in some of the blanks with a mini prologue, but my aim is to make it as simplistic as possible to save time (which I failed to do, dear reader).  What’s important to understand is merely that during the three months of separation that led to that day’s drama, my spouse and I had been having problems, problems with understanding, problems with communicating, and problems seeing eye to eye.  Imagine that.

Those months were filled with all sorts of irrational threats and bitter demands on her part, vindictive uses of the children as pawns on her part, and wild accusations that blew me away (such as the claim that I was abandoning my children, which I clearly am not since I had been asking for joint custody from the start, I had wanted to continue to see them for the four days that I’ve been “given”, and I’ve stated clearly that I would pay for half of their education-, health-, and clothing-related costs).  I could detail more, but that’s another story altogether.

Otherwise, I explained to her that other issues like her rent and utilities would be decided by the courts (and before any naysayers question me, it must be included that she withheld all the money we’d put into joint accounts over 5-6 years, she paid for six months’ rent out of those funds, and then transferred all to her own new account; thus, I don’t think I was wrong to say the courts should decide all financial affairs).  With debates about finances and possessions, there has also been much to prompt chagrin, and one detail of that sordid chapter was our car, the car that we undoubtedly purchased together 1.5 years ago, at the time of writing.

Because my wife hadn’t driven a single time in the nearly nine years I’d known her, afraid of driving, too dependent on others to branch out and try to rely on herself, I felt, rightly so, that I would continue to drive the vehicle after I moved out–as I’ve done for those eight-plus years with other cars/vehicles (and specifically the last year and a half with this particular car).

I commute 30 minutes to my job, each way, and I take the children on outings the three nights per week I have them and every Sunday for seven hours.  Since she had never driven the car, not even at times when she really needed to or should have, I was basing all decisions about the car on our history so that I could and would continue using the car until all was worked out with our lawyers or until I could pay off the car completely from the lienholder and take sole ownership–which is what I had wanted to do all along and what I had expressed I wanted to do, for the three months leading up to the pure drama on the 7th of January.

With that said, I also gathered up the car payment slips when I hastily collected documents upon moving out from the house back in September.  I’d been given a deadline to get my things out, so I just threw stuff in a bag(s). There really was no time to ‘plan’ stuff out, like she claims I did.

I simply included the payment paperwork so I didn’t have to go back to her each month and ask for one more slip. I was arranging an apartment, which would necessitate my paying utilities, my cell phone, separate bills, etc., and I merely included the monthly car bill as my responsibility (and the kids relied on my driving, too, to get anywhere when together, so it wasn’t just about me using it for my own).

Because I was the sole driver, and because the entire time the kids and she labelled the car as–and frequently called it–“Baba’s car,” I used it as such.  Why on earth would I assume she would use or need the car?  She never had before.  Our history was based on me driving, from back in the days of dating, with our nascent-stages motorcycle outings, all the way through to our first beater, to our better-than-a-beater-but-still-used vehicle, and to our latest, a brand new car.

Moreover, for those keeping track, I also gathered up the extra key for the car.  If I were driving the car–just as I’d done for the 18 months prior, why would I not want to have access to a key in case the main one I used got misplaced?  That, to me, only made sense.  We were not communicating well at all by that stage, and there were already countless dramatic episodes, so it was easiest and most convenient to have the extra key.

Over the three months from having first moved out, I used the car to commute, and for the first nearly two months, that included driving my daughter to school, to and fro (until mom withdrew her from school).

The baby seats for both children were in the car, and every time I either picked up the kids or dropped them off at their mom’s, she’d met us outside, helping to either buckle them in or take them out.  There were never any confrontations and life continued as is for those few months (with regards to my driving regularly).

Since she, leading up to my moving out, had relied on bicycling to and from her business and for whatever activities she was involved with, this was the routine. I used the car daily, for school, for outings, for work, and for life.  And as she’d done over the years if I were out of town (for conferences, for travel, etc.), she’d get rides with her parents.  Even now in her mid-30s, she’d rely on her folks for car transport needs if I were not around–even though she could/should have driven, which I long encouraged her to do.

When I met her, when she was 24 or so, her parents drove her to and from work on their scooter or in their family car.  Even when she met friends for social events, her mom and dad drove her–back before we were dating.  Then, once we got together, I drove her everywhere.  I joked that I was her new taxi service.

Over the years we’d been together, I asked her numerous times to drive and to start learning how to; she always came up with excuses.  Years ago, she once drove my Wrangler about in a dirt lot, but that was it.  So I at least put energy into encouraging her to drive a scooter so she didn’t have to rely on her parents nor me for all transport needs (I probably pushed her buttons by saying it wasn’t natural to depend on one’s parents for rides in one’s mid-20s; as I still did in her early-to-mid 30s).

For a stretch, she did gather the courage to ride a scooter solo, perhaps for 9-12 months, which she did until she got pregnant over five years ago.  Since, she’d not ridden a scooter nor driven a car.

Incidentally, we live in a country whose roadways are chock full of scooters and motorbikes. It was something unnatural to expect or do.

Over the last two years or so since we returned from a year abroad in a European country, there were a handful of events that prompted me to remind her that it was really quite important for her to get a license, such as one 2-hour trip home when I could barely drive because of a terrible intestinal pain attack, or one night when I needed to go to the hospital–but she couldn’t/wouldn’t drive me, so I had to take an ambulance (she’d offered to call her daddy, but I refused). However, she still wouldn’t budge.  We drove once in a parking lot to practice in our vehicle, but after that session, she never followed up again.  Motivation for her was apparently low; fear, high.

Actually, I was starting to feel she wouldn’t practice nor renew her expired license just to spite me, a license she’d gotten a decade before yet never utilized.  She knew there were ample reasons to drive.  Adamant she remained, however, about not getting behind the wheel.

The month I moved out, she took a driving course.

Unreal.

Naturally, that prompted a suspicion in me.  What was she planning?  Why now?  After all these years, nearly nine together, why now?

Here lies the result and the pure drama.

The cops would agree.  Pure drama; but a drama that was not instigated by me.  At least I’d like to not think so!

For the three-to-four months after I moved out, first in a temporary, let’s-see-how-it-goes, state of mind, and then a month later with a this-is-a-real-deal-separation-which-will-surely-end-in-divorce mentality, I drove the car, especially because nobody else ever did.  I was the only one.  Periodically, over those months, email exchanges volleyed back and forth about what to do with the car, as you’ll see below.

From the start, I explained that I wanted to pay the rest of the loan off with the bank so that I could obtain the title, solely, and to register it in my name (something I couldn’t do beforehand, as I am an expat).

There were never any true demands for its return; there were never any real issues expressed about the car.  All continued as normal for the most part, other than my keeping the car at my new apartment.  Nothing was said about that decision itself.  Nothing.

Never did anyone say (who am I kidding, I am not referring to anyone; I’m referring to my ex), “Hey, it is really unfair of you to take the car,” or “I cannot believe you are keeping the car at yours!”  Nothing like that.  Never.

Even on the night I’d moved out, and the subsequent visits for the first month to take care of the kids three nights a week until her return from work at 10pm, the only reason why I went, she never said anything about my using the car.  Nothing ever came up.

Even my kids, nearly two years of age and nearly five, always referred to the car as “Baba’s car.”  Every time my littlest came out after my picking them up, he’d point and use his newly developing language skills to say, “Baba’s car!”

During this span, I, furthermore, explained that I was paying the monthly $500US payments (in local currency, of course), using the payment slips I’d kept for that reason, and I had no qualms doing that since I was using it for work, taking my daughter to school, bringing the kids around on the afternoons/eves I had them (and Sundays), and for… well, daily life for the kids and me.  All was just as I’d done for the last 1.5 years, sans the complete family of four.

Out and about with my kids, having loads of fun, taking them to all sorts of places, we were a family of three–with a car.

With regards to paying off the loan, my wife stated, quite clearly, in October, that I should wait until January, for if it was to be any sooner, the bank would charge an early-termination fee if I paid it in full.  She’d called the lien holder, and that’s the information that they’d given her, which she relayed to me via email.  I took the advice and continued to drive the car, with full intent, expressed again and again via emails, that my plan was to completely buy the car off to obtain the title in my name in January.  There was never any confusion about what my goal was.

Over those three months, no real tension was expressed about my driving and maintaining the car.  I filled her up, I took her in for maintenance, I washed her.  “Baba’s car,” indeed.

Once, my ex had said, in a huff, via email, that she was going to sell the car off in two or three days’ time, but I then asked her to reconsider, for I was commuting to work and because I’d had two coworkers with whom I carpooled, not to mention all the outings with kids and driving in my daughter to school (and back), daily.  But that was it, and nothing was brought up again for a while.

Though no direct conflict transpired, I did worry on occasion that she had something planned.

Knowing her, I was right to assume something would happen.  Other issues had transpired already that made me concerned.  Vindictiveness had been tasted, and I wasn’t fond of the taste.

Now, when we bought the car 1.5 years prior, this was the deal: Foreigners cannot get financing here in this country, and if there is no financing, one cannot register a car in one’s name while there is still an active loan out.  Banks don’t trust that such borrowers would stick around to pay off a loan.  Makes sense.  What could stop someone from simply abandoning a car, for example, and then just bolting abroad without paying one’s debts?  Thus, that forces one here–and in many nations, I am certain–to rely on a local friend, a business partner, or, in my case, a spouse, to take out the loan, i.e., all, naturally, was in her name.

Stop the press!

Yes, the car was in her name.

We were married.  Why would I have worried?  It made sense, for there were NO other options.  I never imagined it would have come down to her absolutely blatant lies 1.5 years later to take the car away.

Her mother’s name is also on the in-laws car, even though her mother has never driven a day in her life.  Hmmm… I wonder.

So at the dealership at the time, after negotiating the price, extras for the car, etc., we decided to pay nearly $10,000US up front in cash and then to finance the remainder.  That $10K came from our joint savings account, an account we’d set up a few years earlier.  There are no ifs-ands-or-buts about that.  We’d put away money each month into that joint account for around 5-6 years beforehand from our respective jobs.  It seemed right.

Stop the press!

Yes, she put the account in her name.

Why would I have known?  How could I have predicted years ago that that decision would be addressed in the presence of the police involvement in 2014?

So it was, that on December 7th, 2013, a Tuesday, I arrived at my ex’s house at 7am to drop off the two kids, which was the usual routine since I had them on Monday nights at my pad.

Admittedly, however, I was nervous pulling up this time.  Quite.  At one point, when I had turned on the blinker to take a left onto the sidewalk parking in front of her building’s gate, I believe I heard my teeth chatter.

There was certainly enough of a reason that they did.

Two days before, on January 5th, I’d received an email from the ex that hinted that something was in the works.  It stated, verbatim, “I need to know about the car.”

My response, not playing any games, just a few hours later, was, “I would like to pay the monthly installment for February, too, and in the meantime, if all goes through with divorce proceedings, the outcome of the car will be decided by the courts.  The car is paid (today) for the month of January.”

Honestly, I figured if I had made all the payments and the latest one for the first month of the year, she wasn’t affected in any way.  I simply needed time because…

“Why did I need another month?” you might be wondering.  Well, that’s easy.

Back in mid-to-late October, she’d written me to explain her ideas about the vehicle, stating,  “I would like you to seriously consider what you want done with the car. I personally would like to sell the car now since the price is high, i.e., better for the both of us when we split what is left. After this month, I was told that the price would drop dramatically more, apparently.”

Oh, how I wish she had remembered saying how she would “split what is left” when she told the police what she did 2.5 months later.  It seems her memory might not serve her very well.

And a few days later, she added, via email on October 24th, “Michael, I would [like] to re-address the need for us to reach an agreement on the car.  As for the car, I would like to propose that the title of the car be transferred so that it is under your name,” she wrote, verbatim, and that message also included a whole bunch of numbers she’d crunched about the value of the car, what I would owe her, etc.

Boy, oh, boy, do I wish she now remembered all that and how she was willing to just transfer the title to my name!  Ahem…

She further added, “There is a need for the above to happen sooner than later because the next pay date for the installment is November 6th. If you find the above arrangements inappropriate in any manner, please let me know. Furthermore, if you feel that you do not want the car at all and do not want to have anything financially to do with it, then I could take it back and I would probably sell it.”

Wow!  She used the term ‘please’!

She seemed very professional in all of these dealings, and there was nothing in her tone that would have allowed me any forewarning that on January 7th, the date of the police involvement, she would claim that I forced her to be without a car and that I was taking the car without her approval, against her will.

Moreover, she’d even stated that she’d probably sell it.  Well, given that she’d never driven in the 8.5 years together, that made sense.  However, months later, she actually said that she’d needed the car all along.  Why, then, on October 24th did she said she’d probably sell it.

Hmmm… the cogs are turning.

Continuing her message, one that seemed as if she was actually dealing with it all very well, she stated, “If you do decide to own the car, then I can get to the DMV or ask the [dealership] sales guy to handle this with your documents for a transfer.  Please let me know when you can,” she offered.

Even a please was provided again.  All seemed on the right course for dealing with the car respectfully.  No sense of urgency or offense can be seen here.  Nothing.  Right?

Because the numbers she had thrown at me were a bit questionable, and I wanted to know more about the value and what I really should have owed her, I responded, “No, I am not satisfied with the details of the car.  I’ve gotten some really good feedback that I need to sort through with regards to the finances of it.”

However, I asked, “Can I have a title in my name if we’ve financed it?  I am an expat.  I may not have the right to own a car here in my name, if a bank owns part of it.  Can you check into this?!?”

I wasn’t playing hardball at all.  She’d throw some numbers into her equation that just didn’t seem ‘right’.  After her mail, I actually wrote a financial advisor I know in my country and another old friend who works in fiscal affairs.  I also wasn’t sure how to proceed with getting the car in my name (an expat who cannot finance a vehicle) if the lien holder still owned the title, which is why I asked for her assistance in getting details.

Ready to proceed with working out the details to buy the car, I asked again, “Were you able to find out if the car can be in my name? I’ve asked 3-4 times.  Yet you’ve avoided answering the question.  I have NO qualms taking the car.   However, I need to know if I can do it LEGALLY.”

At this point, however, she seemed to not want to deal with any work on her part.  The tone changed with her next message.

“I will sell the car to avoid complications,” she countered.

To me, it seemed petulant.

Having made some progress towards getting the car situation resolved, I was surprised she did an absolute about face here.

Thus, I wrote back, “What are the complications?  If the car can be transferred to me solely, I will pay for it.  You do know that selling the car at this stage will mean we lose money, don’t you?  And why are you acting this way?  I am logically asking you to find out if I can own it.  It is that simple.  Why does it have to be avoidance and direct refusal to even go with the same idea you supported once just recently, i.e., my taking the car?”

I just didn’t want her to play games.  Without a doubt, all could have been handled effectively and efficiently.  She simply didn’t want to do any legwork, I felt.

I received the next idea begrudgingly.  Emotions were coming out.  Logic was no longer on my side.

She claimed, “You are a foreigner, there will be complications that would involve me.  Selling it is the only way.  In any case, you have clearly stated that you are getting a new car in cash.  So, why are you asking me why I am acting this way??”

By this time, we were having other difficulties in dealing with the separation and pending divorce issues.  The backdrop of this car debate (though I didn’t feel it was a necessary debate) was that she had also threatened me with contacting my boss about something which was family related, which my ex did, and then she had actually pulled my daughter from school as a result of her dissatisfaction with my boss telling her that it was a family affair, not work-related.  She even claimed discrimination.  Moreover, she’d also gotten angry at me for asking some joint friends if they could help me arrange weekday child care because she was using our son as a pawn in getting more weekend hours.  That’s a long story, but my revelation that we were getting a divorce and that she’d been reacting unfairly to something, she claims, was public humiliation.  My telling people about our separation really caused her to become vindictive.

So, as you can see, the car became complicated as a result of other issues happening behind the scene.

I replied to her wanting to sell the car and her explaining that she thought I would buy a new car, cash, even if I’d said that was an option (which was a total waste of money if we/I already had a perfectly good car), with this:

“Not once did I say, “I am…,” as a definitive choice/decision.  I said I might look into it.  I said it is an option.  I asked, clearly, for you to give me time to make such decisions once you came back with the information about my financing the car myself (which is why I asked 3-4 times over the last 3-4 weeks).  In order to make decisions, well, it was dependent on YOUR response, which never came. You’re now demanding to get the car back IN TWO DAYS(????) is completely opposite of what I had asked for: time.  YOU’RE leaving me with two days to find a car? This is why I posed the question: Why are YOU acting this way?”

With the above dialogue all happening in an email thread on the same day (November 4th), this continued.

However, she reassured me with the next response that all could work out.

“Then you just have to pay the installment. I am not using the car at all! You are!!”

Huh?  She had just said, all in the same thread on the same day, that she was selling the car to avoid complications!  Wow.

Though she was emotional (in response to my emotions, I admit), it at least gave me a hope that I could just make the monthly payments.

Yet, as I just re-read this in January, at the time of writing this blog, maybe she didn’t mean ‘installment’ in the sense of paying the car loan monthly, little by little.  Maybe she intended to say “the balance of the loan.”  Maybe not.  I have no clue, actually, for the real meaning of the word is ‘monthly payments’.

That confusion she created is evident in my next message, still on the same day:

“I don’t understand this communication at all.  Your email this morning said you are selling the car this Wed.  If that is not the case, can you please consider… Can you please find out the exact amount of the payoff for me?  If I pay that off, and there is no financing involved, can I transfer the title to my name (if it is owned outright)?  I was told that banks don’t want to finance to foreigners, and that it requires a local Taiwanese guarantor/cosigner.  But if the car loan is paid in full, can I then get the title in my name?”

That solution, to me, was best.  I could have paid off the car from my savings account back in my home country.  It would have saved me money on buying a totally new car, for, as we all know, once you buy a new car, it depreciates dramatically from the get go.  Being that our car was only 1.5-years old, I figured it would be better to keep it.

Again, I needed her to do a little legwork.  In a foreign country, without the language proficiency to handle such affairs, I felt I needed to rely on her to contact the bank.

Then, it seemed, we were back on track.  Her next reply seemed less reactionary, more logical.

“I will ask tomorrow morning about paying off the installments.  For now, I will withdraw, as I stated, car installment as well as [___________] from the bank tomorrow,” she explained.

Satisfied I was that she would call, though I had no idea why she was taking out money from our joint account for the car installment and another sum of money.  I‘d already said I’d pay the monthly bills on the car—and she’d already said it was my responsibility!  She didn’t seem to be paying attention to her own demands.

On November 6th, came assuring news from her side.  And this is the email that I based all further decisions on regarding the car.

She explained, “I called the car lady (the lady who dealt with the bank loan) yesterday.   If we want to pay back everything now, there will be a ‘handling fee’ of over ____________ (or close to one installment’s worth) because we have only paid off 15 installments, not even half of the 36 installments yet.  She suggested paying the installments for November, December, and January (16,17, 18 installments) and then arrange with her to pay off the rest in January.”

“What do you think about this situation?” she further queried.

“Wow!” I thought.  “She’s now being rational again!”

There was no urgency in her voice.

And she was giving me an option, not a demand, the latter of which was the way she’d been approaching many other aspects of the separation, theretofore.  It was the deal I sought, too.  I could pay off the balance of the loan.  Whew!

Relief!  However, two days before, she had threatened to sell the car in… two days!  Was she still planning that, or was she really going for giving me an option?  Suspicion filled my thoughts.

I asked, “All I can say at this time is that I need time to think about this.  Rushing through this, as you suggested by ‘selling the car this Wednesday’ is not feasible.”

I wanted the car, and I wanted to pay it off in January, for sure.  However, I still had doubts.

If you recall from Part II of this blog, I’d been warned about getting everything worked out legally.  Hesitant I remained.  Her numbers were still unclear!

Furthermore, to clarify, I queried, “I thought we had paid [xxx] in cash, no?”

Overall, I was still feeling good about the choice.

At that moment, there was no foreshadowing of the police being called on me two months later; no idea that I’d be cleaning out the car, transferring all to a taxi, feeling as if I’d just been accosted by her, her father, and the police themselves.

Now that there was going to be some progress in getting the car under my name, I thought I would act on getting information about the banks, what we paid on the car, etc.  Because of the language barriers and knowledge of how the system works in this country, I felt I needed to ask her.

However, other issues we’d been dealing with (with pure drama, of course) prompted me to feel that we might have some difficulties in getting those needs arranged.

Hesitatingly, on November 6th, I e-mailed, “Are you willing to let me photocopy the documents that show the car sales originally, etc., and also the two bank accounts?  They are, legally, my accounts, too, so I have legal rights to a copy at least.”

The worst I could have imagined came back to my wary ears.  Why did such reactions not surprise me any longer?

Uggh.

She answered back, “You can simply look at them and take a picture with your iPad. I don’t want important documents to leave the house overnight. Hope you understand. Yes, please think about the car. It is best to let me know ASAP though.   No, we didn’t pay that much in cash for the car. But that shouldn’t affect your decision. It was paid with our joint money.”

Stop the press!

Hey, she admitted we paid the car “with our joint money”!

Why am I stating that with such unbridled exuberance in my voice?

On January 7th, exactly two months later, she told my lawyer who’d come to meet me at the police station, verbatim, that I never paid any money into any joint account.  Her father, dramatically animated in his support of her claim, vehemently agreed.  They, almost in tandem, exclaimed, in Chinese, “He didn’t pay anything for the car, either.”

What?  How dare they!  But that’s for later!

Though the above dialogue about the documents and price for the car are exact excerpts from our email exchanges, it is too late to do anything about it.

The car is long gone.  Thanks to the police and a questionable lawyer.

So five days after she’d said I could pay the car off in January and I’d asked if I could think about it, she wrote back, “So, have you thought about it? What do you want to do about it?”

Feeling like that five days wasn’t much time, that night I replied with some astonishment, feeling like she wasn’t really giving me time (for I still needed to get some insight into the value of the car and such).

Remember, being a foreigner here, I just cannot open up the yellow pages to get such information.  With all the vacillating that had been happening, it was all still utterly uncertain.  I knew I wanted the car, but how it would work out was daunting.

Moreover, her not allowing me to copy the bankbooks five days before really just left a bad taste in my mouth in dealing with her.  She wasn’t playing fair.  To refuse me access to our joint accounts, which she’d done, and to not even let me photocopy said documents, was really harsh.  Simply put, she was playing hardball by refusing me that last request.  My next response was ‘caps locks’ for a reason.

“YOU WROTE LAST WEEK THAT SOMEONE AT THE DEALERSHIP SAID WAIT UNTIL JANUARY.  THAT IS TIME TO THINK!  WHAT are you asking?”

Her answer was terse.  Things were tense again.

“You never made it clear what you want. Please tell me now what you want to do with regards to the car.”

With a guffaw, I am certain, I tapped out on my keyboard, “OMG, I totally want the time to decide.  When you said January, I said ‘good idea’.”

Her response, to this day, two months later at the time of writing, still makes me incredulous.  Wasn’t she paying attention to any of the last few weeks’ proceedings, I wondered.  I’d taken the car payment slips for that reason.  I’d paid the monthly bills on the car already.

On November 11th, she inquired, “Does this mean that you will make all future car payments?”

Of course I was planning on making the payments!  She’d given me those three months up until January!  Why would I have changed that?

A short time later, another message came into my account from her address.

“[The car dealership] called this morning about getting me a better deal on selling the car. I would like to respond to him soon. Please let me know ASAP what you want to do with the car.”

Egad.  What a drama.

With frustration about all that was transpiring, I retorted, “Why do you keep changing the car, [________].  You told me just last week, after having come up with the idea/demand on two-days’ notice, that you were selling it!  Then you wrote to say I could make payments until January—[and then I could pay it off!]…  Rushing into a decision about the car isn’t possible.  The idea of time was promising.  Why would I turn around and change that now?  Please don’t force my hand with this issue.  I am making payments.  It doesn’t affect you right now if I keep it.  In the long run, yes, something will have to be worked out, most likely, legally, between us.”

I’d inserted the term ‘legally’ at that point because my lawyer had stated quite clearly that we should work to get everything ironed out… legally.

Time passed at this point.

A few weeks later, on November 27th, I explained, “Based on your erstwhile requests and information about the car, I would like to propose this:  Since there would be an early-termination fee for paying off the car before January, I believe you said, I would like to simply make the next two months’ payments.  If the early charges won’t apply in February, I would then like to pay off the car completely (on my own, naturally) and have the title placed in my name, taking sole possession/responsibility of it.”

I was clear in what I expressed, and I surely wanted the car in my own name though the idea of what I would ‘owe’ her was still uncertain.  At least I wanted to get the ball rolling.

Yet, I also wanted to handle things on my own through the bank.  I didn’t want to rely on her again, nor did I want to continue the communications, which were surely draining.  Thus, I wrote, “Can you please check with the bank which financed the car for us if this is doable?  Can you also provide the telephone number of said contact person so that I can deal with things after that, arranging a cash transfer, etc.?”

Clearly, I was aiming at getting the ball rolling.

Unfortunately, there was another delay, which I took as avoidance on her part, something she seems to do a lot of.

On the 22nd of December, she finally wrote back about the car, but with that same old slant again, like she hadn’t read my last message or had avoided it.  Surely, from my message on the 27th of the month prior, it was clear that I “want[ed] to pay off the car completely.”  How was that not known?  Why did she even ask?  And I’d asked about obtaining the number so I could arrange a cash transfer.

Her query stated, “January is fast approaching. Please let me know what you plan to do with the car.”

Huh?  I wanted to say and surely I thought to say, “WTF!”  Yet I didn’t.  Wasn’t the plan a done deal?  Thus, I had to continue once again with the same message.

“I wrote you 2-3 weeks ago saying that I want to buy the car.  I figured you were avoiding the topic,” came my response.

“What are you planning to do with the payment?  Did you take the spare keys to the car? If you did, why?” she asked.

Naturally, I wondered why she’d asked about the spare key after more than two months of my being out of the house.  What was she planning?  Did she need it and then discovered it wasn’t in the cabinet where we had kept the other car documents?  In my brain the cogs were turning.

I actually wondered if she was going to get someone to repossess or even steal the car.

More volleys of ideas followed that added to the drama, but it really didn’t have to be that way.  The easiest solution I’d asked for, which would have been to have allowed me to make arrangements with the bank to send in the remaining balance amount.

Instead of supplying me with the information I’d sought, she made another effort to get involved.  To me, she was playing games.

This time, she explained, “I called the car installment lady today and found out that after the next installment on January 6th, you can pay off the rest of the installment (as she has previously suggested), which I found out today comes to approximately [xxx]. The lady cannot be sure of the exact amount because it depends on when they get the money and the interest rate that adds up.

Naturally, my paying the monthly installment on the 5th of the month, as I’d been doing for the last 2-3 months, wasn’t an issue.

However, she threw this wrench into my plan: “Please wire the amount (which I will confirm with you obviously closer to the time) into my bank account and I will deal with paying off the installment immediately.”

At least she used “please,” but that belied the hardball I felt she was playing.  But why would I feel that way?  She had been my partner for nearly eight years.  Shouldn’t I have been able to, without hesitation, trust her?

Immediately, my mind went back to an email she’d sent a month or so before that stated that she’d “transferred the money from our joint account into” her own account, that she’d “sold all the stocks” and also moved them into her new account (even if a good chunk of that money was from the grandparents to our children), and that she wouldn’t let me get any money from the joint savings originally when I’d asked.  There were other examples, too, over those 2-3 months, but her moving all funds out from our account had been enough of a warning.

What card was she hiding up her sleeve this time?  Should I have trusted her to actually receive my cash transfer and to deal with it, ethically and morally, by then sending it on to the lien holder?  If she were willing to do that, first, what would she then do with the actual title of the car?

I couldn’t help but wonder.

Images of her dangling the title of the car from her fingertips, tick-tocking back and forth with the intended motion of her hand, taunting me, using it as a bargaining chip for something else, came to mind.  I could even hear her say, “Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah.”

Precedence had already been set.  I wasn’t taking the bait.

That same day, which was now the 27th of December, I replied, admittedly in disbelief that she wanted me to send her all that cash.

Incredulous, I offered, “I will wire the money from my account to the bank which owns the car.  Please provide me with the account and international wiring number.  Or provide me with the telephone number of the bank, itself, and I can make arrangements. Thanks.”

Nervously, I waited. What was going to be the response?  This was all very annoying actually.

Her retort came, just as steadfast.  “The car is under my name. So I need to do the arrangements.  I am going to make another call to the car installment lady tomorrow to inform her of the exact date that the loan will be paid off completely in January. Please provide me with the date that you can wire the money to me (I will wire the money on the same day) so that they can calculate, based on the date, the exact amount that you will need to pay.”

On the surface, it all seems fine, but I just couldn’t get it out of my head all the demands she’d made leading up till that point.   With her not letting me photocopy the bankbooks and such, with her not letting me access any of our joint money, I was simply wary (and weary) of her schemes.

Since she asked the expected pay off date, I informed her “January 31st,” for I was going to pay the January 5th installment already.  What was the rush?  Why not at the end of the month.  But apparently, there was one.

To me she sent a quick reply, “Do you know that that is the Chinese New Year period? I propose January 7th. Please confirm this date.”

Still not willing to send her such an amount of cash to her bank, I detailed the following to her:

“Is there anyway which the car can be paid off by wiring the amount from my account in [_____________] directly to the bank that owns the loan on it?  I really do not want to send it to your new account.  You’re making it more complicated by demanding I send it to your account.  It could be remedied quite easily by giving me the contact information for the bank so I can pay them directly.”

And I continued:

“Based on our recent exchanges and all that this process has entailed (i.e., I asked you to not use the money in the joint account to pay your bills—but you have, and you transferred money, after selling the stocks, into your own account), I don’t trust you to make the payment in full nor to provide me with the car’s paperwork if it was paid off in full.  I have the [registration] card, but in [my country], when one pays off the loan on a car, the bank will then provide the owner with the actual title, since that person would then be full owner (not the bank).  Is that expected here?”

Finally, I explained, “As soon as you said you’d have me wire the money to your account and you’d pay it off, I felt something was amiss. That’s just based on all that has happened these past two months.  I really do just want to handle everything by myself. Please consider not having you act as a ‘middle man’.”

This wasn’t intended as hurtful, belligerent, or hardheaded.  She’d scared me enough with her antics already, so I wasn’t about to go down that road, obstinate as it seemed.

Because I didn’t hear back from her for three days, and she was expecting the pay off in less than two weeks, I sent a follow-up query that I felt was completely legitimate, hoping to get establish a legally binding agreement so that I wasn’t screwed in the end.

Thus, hoping we could do it with a legally binding agreement, I wrote, “Can you give me a letter, which is signed (not an email), that states,

1. I, __________, am arranging for my (ex) husband, [______] to pay off the remaining balance for our family car so that he can obtain complete ownership of the car under his name.  Once his bank in [his country] wires the remaining balance pay off to _______________, the lien holder, here in [our current country], and after said lien holder receives the payment and sends me the title of the car, I will guarantee that I will go with [him] to the Department of Motor Vehicles in [our city], together, to transfer the paperwork and all documents related to the car to his name.  I will, from that point forward, on the date of the title transfer, renounce all ownership and claims of ownership.  He will own the car outright. Moreover, I will not hold the title of the car or paperwork to use it as a bargaining chip against him during the divorce.

2. Can you provide a letter in writing, with signature, that promises,

[He] will wire transfer the money to my bank account from his ____________ account so that I can make the final, in full pay off of the current loan balance on our family car, which he is purchasing outright.  I will not keep those funds for myself or for any other family expenses, nor to said monies to use as leverage or as a bargaining chip in any other negotiations during this divorce period.  Once the wired money, in the amount of [xxx], is received in my bank account, I will immediately wire the exact same amount to the lien holder, ___________, to pay off the amount in full.  I will not use those funds for another other purposes other than a direct transfer to the bank for these purposes.”

Honestly, I saw nothing wrong with these requests.  Yes, it was formal, and, yes, it was unfortunate that it had all come to this.  The fact is that I didn’t trust her, as you can see.

Little did I know she would be utterly offended.  Then again, I probably should have known that.  Taking offense was often the name of the game.

A cynical response came back that afternoon, via email, of course.

“You have the guts to ask me to compose those two documents in writing? Shame on you! Who are you in my life to even suggest that I do that?”

Ouch. Umm.  Er.

She followed the above with some number crunching that still don’t make sense to this day when I read through her messages, as I am doing while I write this.

With those calculations, she stated, “I am selling off the car at [____]. You will pay the rest of the installments of [_______]…”

Huh?  What the hey?

Why would I pay off all the installments (again, I think she meant the remaining balance of the loan in full) if she were selling the car?  Wouldn’t her selling the car then require her to pay off the car in full?  If she sold it, she’d have the cash to do so.  She wasn’t clear on this, and I actually took it to mean what she wrote: she was somehow getting the money from the car sale, and I was paying off the debt, too, to the bank.  It made no sense what she was demanding.  I felt she was trying to screw me over.

Was it all playing hardball on her behalf or simple miscommunication… or miscalculation?  To this day, I wonder.

She then, in the same message, explained that she would split the left over money with me, but that I needed to send the money from my country to a local bank and then transfer the money to the lien holder because “a foreign bank would cause problems in the paperwork,” which I didn’t see happening. Banks nowadays deal with wiring all the time.  Why would it be an issue?

Huh?  What the hey?

Why would I send in money from America to pay off the balance in the bank (via a local bank) if she was going to sell the car?  It made no sense to me!  Zero.

Finally, in the next paragraph, she detailed, “You pay me the amount of [xxx] in order for the title of the car to be transferred. I will remind you again, the car is a family car.“

Once more, I thought, “Huh?”

If she were selling the car, which she clearly stated in the first part of her response, then why on earth would she be giving me the title of the car?  It was going to be sold she claimed.

Based on the above, I think she was more confused than me.  Was she going to allow me to work out paying off the car so I could own it outright in my name?  Was she going to sell it?  Who knew?

Simply put, I needed time.  We were down to five days.  Nothing was clear.  Nothing.

On January 5th, she wrote, “I need to know about the car.”

Thinking now that we really needed a mediator or the courts to handle all this, for her claims that she was selling the car and that I was somehow supposed to be sending in money to pay off the lien amount, obviously, didn’t make sense.  Merely the amount of confusion within and created by her email needed clarification.

So I wrote back, knowing that I’d paid the January monthly payment already, “I would like to pay the monthly installment for February, too, and in the meantime, if all goes through with divorce proceedings, the outcome of the car will be decided by the courts.  The car is paid (today) for the month of January.”

Hoping that we could work out those details, I sent that message to give us time to sift through all the confusion she’d created.

Instead, her aggressiveness got more… well, aggressive.

She retorted soon after, “I have given you plenty of time to deal with the car!! Last year you said this year and now you want to wait further? Please return the car by Tuesday morning when you drop off the kids. This is the last warning.”

Last warning?  What was she planning?  And why on earth was it a last warning?  Where and when was the first?

If it were a ‘real’ warning, I wondered what the consequences were going to be.

That the police were involved is all I can say.

In recap, it is clear to see that the first few months of our separation, especially related to the car, were a roller-coaster ride of miscommunications, emotions, and uncertainty.  I’d asked to pay off the car in full, yet she demanded that I send the money to her account first, an account she’d created by transferring monies from our joint savings accounts and a stocks-related bank.  She had denied me access, from the start, to any money we’d put away together.  My goal was to get the car title in my name without using her as a middleman (or ‘middlewoman’ if you prefer).  I’d paid the monthly installments, and I’d paid the January payment already.  So on January 5th, when she sent me her “last warning,” I was, undoubtedly, worried.

In her emails on January 5th, she’d also mentioned a few things that caused suspicious alarm, for such accusations were outright lies.

Her statements being lies isn’t even based on perspective; they contradicted all that had transpired.  Truly.

She explained, “The family car was purchased before you abandoned the family. I asked you to return the car so I could sell it, you denied. I asked you to share the usage of the car, you denied.”

[By the way, folks, I never abandoned my children.  I’ve stated numerous times, and I’ve shown through all my actions, that I want the children in my life and I am devoted to them, regardless of the monetary disagreements we’ve had, which I said should be worked out by the courts.]

First, she never asked me to actually really return the car.  From all of the excerpts of all her emails, it is clear that she vacillated.  She once stated in early November “I will sell the car to avoid complications,” yet in the same email thread she stated, “Then you just have to pay the installment.” That wasn’t me denying any return of the car.  She agreed that I could pay installments!  That’s what I opted to do.  The key word is opted here, for there was an option!

She had stated that on November 6th she would take the car back to sell, yet in the same paragraph, she included, “If you happen to return the car later than this Wednesday, you will be responsible to pay for your share for the next installment.”  How is that denying anything?  She gave options to keep it! Where was the wrongdoing in that?  Where was the denial of anything?

Needless to say, she was totally confusing herself; consequently, she was confusing me.

As I wrote in Part II of this saga, back in October she’d proposed, quite clearly, that the title of the car be transferred to my name.  Verbatim.  There was no confusion there.

So how could she claim on January 5th in her last warning mail that I denied returning the car?  It was the plan for me to pay off the car, yet there were problems in how that would be done and confusion about what all her numbers meant.  It wasn’t a denial of anything!

And her accusation on the 5th of January in which she claims she asked “to share the usage of the car” was inaccurate, too.

Without question, knowing that she’d not driven a day in nearly nine years of knowing her, what was to be “shared”?  She did mention something once about having the car on certain days in one of her tirades, but because she had never used the car before, it can easily be taken (and it was) as just emotions coming through—and not a legitimate, logical request to actually share it.

I’ve not found that email exchange yet, for there are hundreds of emails in a divorce folder I’ve thrown stuff into, but I do recall saying that juggling the car for her to take our daughter into school would be impossible, for I had the car at mine and that would mean trying to juggle schedules, to plan timing, and most difficult of all, to communicate clearly, etc.  All too challenging given our history.  Yet again, I took it as an emotional threat.   She didn’t drive!  Never.

How would she share if she has always been too afraid to drive?

I’d even mentioned at that time that I was carpooling with two coworkers, so it would have been a total inconvenience to them.  She responded that she didn’t care about their needs.

Not once in those months did she repeat such a request.  If she repeated something like, “Mike, I really do plan on driving the car a few times a week, for I have taken my course and am prepared to drive the children,” that may have been something to negotiate, but she clearly said on October 24th, early on the timeline of this whole fiasco, just a few weeks after I’d moved out, “As for the car, I would like to propose that the title of the car be transferred so that it is under your name.”  That, folks, makes it pretty damn apparent that I was, once again, the de facto owner of the car.

As my kids always said, “Baba’s car.”

In mid-October she talked of possibly selling the car.  That doesn’t show any desire to share the car.  Moreover, on October 24th, she’d written, “If you find the above arrangements inappropriate in any manner, please let me know,” so she seemed totally fine with working things out together for me to pay the car loan off in full if that’s what I wanted, and that was followed by, in the same paragraph, that if I didn’t want it, she would “probably sell it.”

Selling doesn’t constitute sharing.  Right?

With her November 6th announcement that I should make the monthly payments for November, December, and January, which she followed up with “What do you think of this arrangement?” one can see that she didn’t have a plan or need to share it.

“Baba’s car.”

Using such excuses on January 5th really was unfair.  She was aiming at something.  Clear it became that she was accusing me of wrongdoing.  Because of her tone, I truly started to worry.

At this point, I’d like to finally get to the police involvement on the 7th.  However, I cannot.  Not yet.

Believing entirely that I had tried my best through the last rounds of ongoing emails to explain my desires and plans for the car, I replied on the 5th, “I offered to pay the remainder of the car’s outstanding loan balance two-three weeks ago [as I’d done months before].  I said I was willing to pay off the rest of the car, and then the car would be mine, outright, with the title in my name; that’s why I asked for you to provide me with a written contract saying you weren’t going to screw me over by holding the money in your account or paying off the car and then holding the title from me as collateral.”

I continued, “You refused to provide such a written contract–which is binding. You refused, so now I need time to figure out what’s next. Your details and demands about how the car should be paid are not clear.  They’re not fair.  Thus, I want my lawyer to take a look at your numbers.  Hence, I asked for February. What is the big deal with your demanding THIS Tuesday to give you the car?  The car is being paid. There is nothing detrimental to you at ALL.”

Still on my mind were her number-crunching messages that prompted my contacts in my country to respond with comments such as the one about her “cracker jack box” degree, about how I should just be paying her half of the current value if I paid off the bank myself, and about how all should really be worked out with a lawyer.  I couldn’t just get help from the internet nor look up someone in the yellow pages.

When emotions get involved, problems exist.  I didn’t want her emotionally-laden demands about finances bite me in the ass.

On top of those messages, her own demands for me to pay her bank directly made me nervous.  Playing hardball was her intent, I felt fully, and there had been precedent for that.

I’d even received this message on December 30th from a family member back home.  It is clear there were reasons why I wasn’t fully committed to her numbers.  I was told, “I think it sounds OK in terms of what you’re asking her for – but I’m still a little worried on this one – and totally confused as to why you’re (she’s) rushing to pay off the car.  If you’re going to own it – then you simply take over the payments and any “equity” in the vehicle (which there generally is none since cars LOSE money over time, not gain like houses/land) – is worked out in the details of the divorce.   I think this should wait until the lawyers work out the financial stuff and should not be settled now.   What’s the hurry?   Sounds suspicious on her end – she should have no say in whether or not you pay off your car now or simply take over payments (which it sounds like you are already making payments) – something is off here, so I’d say do not proceed.    She can’t force this legally – all finances are to be decided by the courts and since your name is jointly on the title (right????), she can’t do anything about it.   This isn’t making any sense and is highly unusual.”

However, the key aspect of that message was “name is jointly on the title (right????)”.  Oh how I wished that were the case.  Remember, foreigners in this land cannot finance a car.  If it were paid off in full, yes, but not when there is a lien holder involved.

On the night of January 5th, her emotions became stronger.  She didn’t want me to have until the end of the month (though I’d made the January payment).  She didn’t want me to have until February.

It came in a flurry of email threads, like mortal shells from an artillery battery on the far side of the battlefield.

She posted, “The car belongs to the family. You left the family in October and used it solely for your own work and convenience. You insulted me by asking me to sign two documents. My refusal to sign them has nothing to do with your previous agreement to pay off the car. My financial details regarding the car are clear and fair.”

Clear and fair?  Really?  I begged to differ.

And how could signing two documents be insulting?  It was based on her transferring our joint account money and denying me access to any of our savings.  I needed to protect myself against her potentially unethical actions.

She continued, “What is the big deal [I’d asked!]??????? The big deal is the fact that I need the car too! I repeat. The car belongs to the family. Your money belongs to the family, so your paying the installments since November is totally fair and should be done anyway… STILL, it gives you no right to take the car for YOUR use and YOUR use only.”

What’s most amazing about this above paragraph is that she stated she needed the car, too.  Really?

The day after she called the police on me, which was two days later, she sold it.  I only have a Masters degree, but to me, selling the car somewhat contradicts any need for the car.  Hmmm.

Outright lies? Check.

False accusations? Check.

Emotional threats? Check.

Now, over these months, she’d repeatedly said I was no longer the kids’ family.  Many times she threw such insults at me.  Again, as I wrote above, to so steadfastly say that I had no right to take the car now, after three months (Oct.-Jan.) didn’t have much support.  In fact, she’d contradicted herself repeatedly, vacillated wildly, and confused the whole process the entire time, not to mention her downright stubborn denial to get me the international wiring number, etc., and requiring me to pay her directly.

Finishing up, she topped it off that night with this: “Tuesday morning. Drop off the car at the guardhouse. AND Return the spare key to the car which you so conveniently ‘took’ and all the relevant documents regarding the car.”

Again, I had the spare key all along so there would be no need to go to her if I lost it, a total inconvenience since we weren’t together any long, since all was full of such drama.  Nothing wrong with that, I had thought and still think.  Nobody else had every driven the car.  No one.  Why would I not have the spare key?

Her emotions, it is plain to see, were growing stronger and stronger.

Was that because of some financial concern?  No.

Was it that she really needed the car?  No.

It seems that jealousy was at work here. Payback, even if unfounded, was the key ingredient in this bitter cake she was baking, a cake she was preparing to throw in my face, with the help of the police, of course.

You see, a mere two weeks prior, I had invited a Couchsurfing.com visitor out with my children on a Sunday outing for sightseeing and dinner, a three-hour visit which the kids enjoyed.  In fact, because our family of four had visited with many Couchsurfers in another country a year before, I totally thought it was appropriate to have my kids engage in a social outing with a visiting traveler.  I’d even explained that to my ex in advance, yet she demanded that I don’t have the children meet CSers.  With the knowledge that there was NOTHING wrong in doing that, based on proven experience, I decided to still take them all on an outing together.  As a loving father, I truly judged that there was no harm in meeting an independent female traveler, whom I’d met for a few hours the day before for sightseeing in my adopted home city, i.e., she was polite, friendly, and harmless.

That very night, I received a warning message from her that I could never take the kids out with a CSer again.  My ex threatened to write that very woman to tell her of my “indecent behavior” (Huh?  Where did that accusation come from?) if she didn’t receive a mail in her inbox that night promising I’d never meet such visitors again with the children.

Threats and demands?  Check.

Two weeks later, a friend of mine from abroad, whom I’ve known for 18 years, a woman who’s married with two children, came to travel in the country.  She’d traveled to other cities, but when she came into town, I really wanted her to meet my children.  I am proud of them.  I wanted her to get to know them, if just for a few hours, before she went back home.  I’d met her son years ago, so I truly felt that I was doing no wrong in having them meet her in return.  Why would a dad not want a long-time friend to meet his own kids?

That day, Dear Reader, was the 5th of January.  That same night, my ex’s warning (her first and final) to return the car in two days came saturated with other behind-the-scenes emotions.

The very next morning, I received the following, in bold, from her:

“The car is a family car. You are not allowed to take other women in the car. You certainly CANNOT take another woman when the kids are in the car. Don’t you have any sense of how to bring up the kids? They are still experiencing the recent abandonment of their father and you bring another woman in the picture? Don’t you have any sense whatsoever?”

Another woman?  Huh?  There were/was no “other woman” the way she intended that to mean.  Just a Couchsurfer and a friend of 18 years.  One outing lasted three hours; the second, respectively, about 4-5 hours.  The kids enjoyed them.  The kids interacted.  They had a learning experience talking, playing, and interacting with other adults.  If a male friend from home had come and I introduced him to my kids, there would have been no such demands.  Yet, even though I explained that very fact, it all fell on deaf ears.

By the way, I do have sense in how to bring up my kids.  Having them on outings, having them socialize with other people, having them learn… that’s it.  Why is it wrong?

This wasn’t about needing the car.  It wasn’t about money really.  It was about emotions.  It was payback for some perceived wrongdoing—that wasn’t wrongdoing.  It was jealousy, pure and simple.  For no reason whatsoever.  Guaranteed.

On Monday, the 6th of January, I became worried enough to take a half day off after lunch.  I went immediately to see my lawyer.  That night, I wrote an email to my family, and I even included my boss, because I was concerned enough that I wanted to defend my decisions/actions before she acted on her threats and demands.

My gut told me something was in store for Tuesday morning.

I wrote to them:

“… Her demand, last night at 10pm when I read it, prompted me to go see my lawyer this afternoon, taking off from work, since I had NO clue what to do here in [__________]…

My lawyer said, verbatim, that it is a court decision, not hers.  And she said, “Why listen to her?”  I said I was afraid [my ex] would call the police, to which my lawyer said, “Well, the police will figure out that she cannot make such demands.”  When I said I’d be in trouble, especially because I don’t speak the local language well enough, and that I was worried about even getting the police involved (for fear of work reprisals, personal, public, etc., issues), she said not to worry.  The police would send an interpreter.  She seemed so nonchalant about it all.”

I really knew that the fiasco would be, just that!

I continued by saying, “So tomorrow morning, though [____] has made the threat that I better drop the car, I will not.  I need the car.  I asked/told her I’d buy it so that I don’t have to worry about buying a used car here later (and I cannot buy a new car as a foreigner with financing, since banks won’t lend to an expat)….  I use the car for a 30-minute commute to and fro, and on M/W/F to transport the kids around in eves/night–and every Sunday.  I have NO clue if she will get the police involved, but I am writing this to say CLEARLY that I am acting on my lawyer’s advice.  If the police come to [my job] or to my home or wherever, I don’t know what will happen, but [my lawyer] assures me I don’t have to worry.  The last note is that she has gone on a roller coaster of emotions about everything, and with the car, she once demanded in Oct/Nov that she wanted the car back on a Wed (and had told me on that Monday night).  Nothing happened then.  This time, I have no clue.  She has recently been very threatening.  I hope my lawyer is right.”

The next morning, said fiasco transpired.

My lawyer was wrong in saying, “Don’t worry.”

Because I’d really become overly worried about my ex’s potential for irrational decisions and dramatic outbursts (e.g., she’d chased me down the stairs of a café after our only face-to-face discussion two months before, demanding I give her a copy of something from my laptop, which was too large for an email attachment; another time, she’d held the elevator door open with our son in her arm and our daughter at my side inside the elevator, demanding emotionally to know if we were done), I’d decided to send out that email (Part IV), explaining to friends and even my boss that the next day I expected issues to arise, if you will.  I wanted them to know that I was, indeed, following my lawyer’s advice.

I wasn’t going to be in trouble for any legal wrongdoing.  It was all just a family issue, the attorney had assured me.  I had nothing to worry about.

Wrong she was.

However, one of my family members had sent an email response that evening which had a different perspective.  She took my worry as an overreaction. The night before all came unglued with my wife calling the police, after my relative had gotten my mail, she attempted to encourage me.

“I know you’re stressed, [________], but you have got to stop letting her get under your skin like this – why get so incredibly stressed over something that hasn’t happened?  And likely won’t – she didn’t do anything last time either – she’s TRYING to get you wound up, and she’s succeeding – blow her (and this) off!   So what – she calls the cops – then you call your lawyer.  It IS a legal matter.”

There was even a later email that further implored, “Don’t panic until something actually happens!”

At 7a.m. the next morning, it happened.

When I, teeth chattering, pulled up onto the wide sidewalk in front of the guard gate to her apartment complex’s courtyard, a standard layout here in this country, I unbuckled the kids’ car seats by reaching back from my seat (thus, I was still in the front seat).  My two children, both below the age of five, gave me hugs and cuddles, and then kisses on the cheeks when I turned around to wish them a good day, telling them that I’d see them the next after, as our every-other-day schedule permitted.

Their mom hadn’t come down yet, so we had a few moments of joking-a-bit conversation.   Those moments make my day.

Usually.

This day was to be different.

Whatever sentimental fatherly pride I took from that moment with my kids was shattered in one moment more.

I then saw their mom, walking hastily, a hard-nosed look on her face, like she had serious business to handle.  The image that flashed in my mind was something akin to a crime scene in a blockbuster movie, in which a band of masterminds storm into a bank.  Serious.  Stern.  Not taking any shit.

Moments before that, the security guard of their complex had stepped out to take his smoke break, watching all this unfold.  He stood there nonchalantly as the rest of the episode unfolded.

Three steps behind my ex were her parents, walking just as hastily, with a purpose that made me immediately think, “WTF?”

I think my fingers tightened around the steering wheel.

In a mere nanosecond, the image of my in-laws giving me a hug when my future wife and I announced we were getting married over six years before popped into my head.

Times had changed apparently.

Each of the grandparents went to one side of the car and opened up the back doors to, well, extract one kid apiece.  EMTs cannot do it any faster even when the gas tank is going to explode on an overturned car at an accident scene.  They were so efficient, they must have rehearsed.

Simultaneously, you know who opened up the front seat passenger door and hovered at the frame until her parents took the kids away in their arms–of course with no chance for me to say goodbye.  Thankfully, I already had.

In a flash, they’d removed the treasures from the vault and made haste to escape.

Pure drama.

My former ‘better half’ then jumped into the front passenger seat, demanding, quite sternly of course, “Give me the keys. Give me the car documents.  Give me the car! Now!”

I didn’t say a word; didn’t give her the time of day.  Calmly, I turned off the ignition with a push of the button.

“Now!  The keys!  Give me everything!”

As she demanded that, she opened up the glove box and started looking for paperwork, etc.  Then into the center console she went, frantically looking for whatever she could get her hands on.

Naturally, I’d left everything at my house.

Unsatisfied, she immediately jumped on her cell and dialed the police.  In the language of my adopted home, she proceeded to tell them that they needed to get there quickly, for someone was taking her car (I assumed she stated that I was stealing the car, but I haven’t yet learned the word ‘steal’ yet).  At least I knew that she kept repeating “my car.”

Oh how I wanted to interject with a zealous “our car!”  I didn’t.  Still, I bit my lip.

Pure drama.

For the ten or so minutes it took for a cop to show up (it seemed like a lifetime), I walked up and down the sidewalk, calling my lawyer, texting my boss and supervisor to follow up on the previous night’s email that had explained I was worried about what would happen.  I figured, quite accurately, that I’d be late for work.

I then called the police myself on my cell and asked for an English-speaking officer (all in my slaughtered local language, and I didn’t even know the word for police officer) because I was worried that I would not be able to get my point across—especially with her potentially yip yapping away simultaneously.

Instead of the term for police officer, I had to use “person”.  I think they knew what I meant.

All I could utter correctly was that I was a foreigner and that my wife was angry.

Again, I requested “I need a person who can speak English?”

The cop on the other end of the line claimed they had nobody who could, yet he added that he knew that she had called just before me.  Small world!

My lawyer, whom I’d seen the day before to explain much about the finances and the car—since my wife had written on Sunday night to return it by Tuesday (Part IV), as a “last warning”, didn’t really say much on the phone other than that the police would arrange for someone to speak English for me.

Apparently, she didn’t see my immediate need in having someone there, stat!

By the way, on Monday, the day before, she told me in person, “Well, if the police come, so what?  They’ll know that it is a family issue and not a criminal one.”

Easy for her to say.

When the policeman arrived on his scooter (typical mode of transport here for cops), he spoke with my ex first, of course.

She went off (in her mother tongue) about how I was taking her car (and for the next five hours, she only used the term “my car” not “our car”).  She was emotionally charged.  I simply stood 10-15 feet away and observed this all, with jaw agape.

For the first time in over four decades of life, I was experiencing a true Jerry Springer moment.

As the officer came over to me next, she huffed, “He wants your license,” after I didn’t respond quickly to his first request directly to me.

Thankfully, said license is legit and up to date (many foreigners here don’t even have licenses).

Then, she energetically demanded I give him the registration card, etc., for which I simply had photocopies. There was no way I was bringing the original documents. I wanted to pay off the car outright.  I knew that clearly.  She knew that.

During this time, he didn’t really speak to me at all after I stated that my (local) language skills were quite shabby.  I briefly explained that we’d bought the car together and paid equally.  Naturally, my message was broken and battered.  Very basic, but better than nothing.

He asked for the key.

As I turned it over to him, he implored, “Don’t give it to her, please.”  He didn’t.  Into his pocket he dropped it.

As he got on his radio to phone home, I got on my cell again and told the lawyer that there was no English officer present.

Generously, for it was not even 7:20am, and she must have been at home still, she talked to him for a while, and afterwards, he called for a car to come and take me to the local precinct station.

[At this point, I felt much appreciation for my lawyer.  Six hours later, my mind had changed just a wee bit.]

Parked where I’d pulled up, the car sat there for the next five hours, probably wondering when I was going to return–at least I’d like to think.

“Baba’s car.”

Like we were teenagers who’d just had a tiff in the back of Mom’s car, my ex and I rode in silence to the station.

Oh how I wanted to state, “Thank you very much!” including perhaps a few other select words.

Reticent I remained, burning inside with bitterness and resentment, thinking about how her parents had whisked my kids away, wondering how I was going to survive the ordeal.

When we arrived at the station, she went to one corner of the front lobby; I, the other.

Naturally, being she had the advantage of shared language, the police chatted with her first.  Throughout their conversation was peppered the phrase “my car, my car!”

I picked out perhaps 20% of the dialogue.

At one point, I could have sworn they agreed to skin me alive and shove a large barbecue rotisserie spit rod up my ass.

I even think I smelled coals burning somewhere in the station.

Next, it was my turn.  An officer sauntered over and stood alongside me.

After the first minute of his questioning, I stated, “Uh, I really don’t understand very well.”

“It’s all Greek to me,” is what I wanted to chime in.  However, I haven’t learned that idiom yet in his tongue.

From across the room, my ex guffawed, “He speaks enough!  He understands no problem.”

Grrr…

Again, I repeated I didn’t understand all that much, adding, to help clarify why, that if I go to a coffee shop, I can order a latte, hot or cold, or that if I want a bowl of noodles or a salad, I can get by.  Then I slaughtered, and not intentionally, that if someone were to ask me about the president of their country, I wouldn’t be able to explain my point of view nor understand any complex conversation.

I think he got my gist.

Of course, someone I know just had to chime in that I could understand enough.

The producers of Jerry Springer would have been proud of how it was all unfolding.

After the cop walked away, I turned on my phone’s Internet sharing, got a 3G wireless signal, opened up my laptop and immediately searched for the telephone number of the consulate of my country in town.

I needed some help.  Thank god for technology.

A staff person of the consulate chatted with the desk cop in the lobby to explain that I needed an English-speaking officer present.  Surely I did.

The phone conversation with a bilingual cop from another precinct that followed the consular staffer’s help didn’t make me feel any better.

First dibs went to my ex, and for what seemed like an hour, she gave him what sounded like a sob story.

“My car… my car…”

Next up, moi.

“So your wife tells me that the car is hers,” I heard him say.

Stop the press!

If I could use the excuse that all was lost in translation, I would, but I can’t.  His English was pretty damn decent.  I understood clearly.  I didn’t agree, of course, but I saw what she was doing.

“Well, whose name is it in?” he queried.

Wanting to say, “You tell me, dip shit,” I instead offered a semi-defeated, “Hers, of course.  But, why?” I continued.  “We bought it together from our savings account and from our monthly earnings every month after the initial payment.”

“Of course it is hers, Sir.  Foreigners here cannot finance a vehicle in their name.”

“Well, then, it is hers, right?”

“But we bought the car together, using money from our joint account.  She knows that.  Officer, I showed my lawyer in person yesterday that my wife had stated in emails that it was our car.  I showed my lawyer that she had also explained, ‘Pay the installments in November, December and January, and then pay off the loan.’ So it is our car.  And she knows I planned to pay it off so that it is in my name.  She knows I want to buy it outright.”

“Oh, well, then this is going to be difficult.  I suggest you take a few days to think about this before you two decide.”

WTF?

“Sir, you know that nobody is leaving the station today without a decision being made.  I can see the car key sitting on the ledge behind the desk cop’s work station.  They won’t let her have it; I cannot access it either.  What’s going to happen?”

“Well, this is not easy,” he offered.

Really?  You don’t say!?

However that conversation ended isn’t clear, but I sat down on a bench in the corner again and jumped back on my phone to call the consulate, feeling as if a policeman who could communicate with me in person needed to be present.

Again, the staffer spoke with the on duty officer.

Again, we waited.

Then, I figured I’d try my lawyer once more.

No answer.

Again, I called.

Continual ringing.  Nothing more.

“Crap, she’s avoiding me now,” I concluded.

Because there really hadn’t been enough drama over the last however many minutes, it was time for some tears to be thrown into the mix.

While I was seated off to the side, my wife had been chatting with two middle-aged policemen.  I could understand that they were asking her about family, and they then ventured on to the topic of children.  At one point, she’d even asked one of them if he had kids.  However, something triggered her tears.

Great.  Just what I needed.  Whatever she was explaining surely wouldn’t bode well for me.

They comforted and consoled her, almost like they’d bonded.

I sat still, incredulous that all was actually happening.  Why couldn’t she have just given me the bank’s international wiring code the month before when I’d asked for it?  Why did she have to demand I send the money to her account?  Why couldn’t she, just as easily, have provided me with a legally binding letter to say the pay off could be arranged with no sneaky intent on her part.”

If she hadn’t already denied me access to our joint account nor sold off stocks, etc., I would have trusted her to handle it herself, for me.  No way, no how.

How I wish she’d recalled that just two months before, she’d stated, “I can help you go to the DMV to get the paperwork handled.”

Times had changed.

As I started to lose hope (actually, I really didn’t have any to begin), my phone rang.  It was my lawyer’s husband, which was how he introduced himself.  Since she was apparently getting ready, he offered to call me back, stating, too, that he was an attorney himself.

However, whatever sliver of hope that existed quickly faded.

“Well, we don’t think we can do anything for you.  This is a family issue, not a legal one.”  The conversation ended on that note.

Uggh.

Time passed.

Twiddling my thumbs, I sat, checking out the shackles at the base of the bench I was on.

At least I wasn’t wearing them, right?

At one point, I looked up to check the clock on the wall, and as I did, in came walking my lawyer!

The cavalry had arrived!  Bugles sounded!

She made a beeline for me, yet from the corner of my eye I saw my ex come forth to listen in to our conversation.

When I suggested we talk alone, the ex interjected with “anything said between you needs to be in front of me!”

Deftly, my attorney stated that she was my counsel and she had a right to talk to me privately. I actually felt good about her presence.

When we asked the police officer nearest to us if we could step outside, he actually rejected our request!  Even you-know-who showed her resistance to the idea.

What the hell did he think I was going to do?  Run?

Within five minutes, up came strolling a police officer that explained that he had been sent by the precinct that deals with foreigners.

Bugles sounded!  The cavalry had come!

Quickly it was decided that we would go back into the rear of the station where a table could accommodate the four of us.  All seemed fine.

However, it was still on my mind that only one person was going to leave with the key that day.

The outcome obviously wasn’t clear.

In retrospect, if I had known I would, merely 2-3 hours later, feel like someone had shoved a police baton up my ass and bent me over the table, I would have maybe run when my lawyer and I initially talked by the front doorway.  I should have.

Having had a bad morning so far, with my in-laws having extracted my children from ‘my car’ like the kids were needing rescue somehow, followed by the ex’s having jumped in the car demanding numerous items, like the keys, and including a policeman’s having hauled us into the station, I didn’t have much hope when we walked into the back of the precinct to gather around a desk. However, because my lawyer and the foreign affairs police officer had both arrived five minutes before, I at least wasn’t totally daunted by my prospects.

However, to begin, the foreign affairs cop, the one sent because my consulate had explained to the station (on the phone) that I needed an English-speaking officer, admitted, “I don’t speak much English,” in his native tongue.

What? Seriously? I’d waited an hour for this chump to arrive. And that’s whom they’d sent?

Naturally, once the starter’s pistol sounded for these so-called negotiations, my wife jumped in with her sob story.

“It is my car,” I understood her saying, repeatedly.

“But I’ve said for some time that that I’d wanted to buy the car, haven’t I?” I added. “You didn’t give me the international wiring code nor the banker’s name and contact information.”

Incredulous I was that she followed that with “Oh, yes, I can give that to you now!”

What? You’ve said for the last month or so that you wouldn’t. You wanted me to send you the money directly to your account! That’s been the problem.”

When my lawyer added, “Well, why don’t you give it to him now?” my ex explained, “Well, I don’t have it with me, but I can call my dad.”

Great. Him?

After she called daddy on her cell, merely after about ten minutes had passed, he arrived with the banking information in hand. He then sat down next to her, smirking, joining the conversation immediately.

WTF?

Admittedly, this exact type of situation had been a sour point in our relationship before.

In erstwhile conversations, her daddy had gotten upset with me, simply because I’d spoken my mind about a few issues that had arisen, usually connected to family matters (i.e., my children and our difference in how to raise them).

Though I’d used a tone and approach that would have been COMPLETELY acceptable with someone like my parents or grandparents in my country, he always got frustrated that I’d dared to ask him to do something differently or because I was apparently disrespectful to my elders.

Cross-cultural communication complexities, indeed, had reared their ugly heads before.

To have him join us was… well, not ideal.

Because he responded to other issues in the past like a petulant child, I simply expected the worst from him. He can be one stern, stoic $&#@, so I wasn’t ready to have him join the fray.

Moreover, even though my wife was nearing her mid-30’s, I couldn’t help but think about her daddy being there. Dependent on others, for they’re always doing everything for her, she, undoubtedly, was happy he’d arrived.

The cavalry to the rescue! Bugles sounded! This time… not for me.

Instantly, the two of them proceeded to explain their side of the story in the language of their land, and they even relied on the local dialect, too, for the father-in-law surely knew that I didn’t speak a lick of it.

Of course it was completely unfair that nearly all was discussed in a language I understand very little of.

If in a conversation I know the topic of here, I comprehend around 15-20%; however, maybe only 3-5% I understand if I’m just eavesdropping in public. I need modified input, indeed. They certainly weren’t will to provide any. Comprehensible input my ass.

Given that my wife’s English is quite good and her father’s is enough to get by, discussions ideally should have been done in English. How naïve I am to assume or wish that.

It was brought up that I’d even asked for one more month to make decisions about the car after she’d demanded a return of the vehicle in two days’ time, so I, of course, explained that I didn’t understand the numbers she’d suggested (i.e., what I was supposed to pay her, etc.) and that it wasn’t easy for me to dig into such things here in this country, not knowing the language well enough.

If you’ve read the previous entries of this blog (it started off in six parts until I combined them into one here), you’d have seen that she had written me an email at one point explaining that I would pay the installments, but she was going to sell the car. Confusion abounded.

Furthermore, as I’ve written, someone in my family had quipped via email, “What, did she get her degree from a Cracker Jack box?” I was also reluctant to accept her numbers since others had told me to let the courts decide on what was owed, etc.

Regardless, it was the here and now. And the here and now was harsh.

At one point in this lopsided conversation, after I’d explained why I needed more time because I couldn’t simply open a Yellow Pages to get help, she even leaned over to the cop and totally mocked me with an all-foreigners-use-that-excuse comment. At least I swear that’s what she’d said even though I could only understand part of the dialogue. For sure she’d said “all foreigners… say…”

He just nodded his head.

My patience challenged, I detailed how she’d also refused to sign a document which would have assured me that she wasn’t going to keep my money nor the title if I’d agree to send the cash directly to her account—which was what she’d been demanding.

Curious, my lawyer asked her why not.

To add a bit more drama, my former better half retorted, “Ms., how would you feel if you husband did this and that? How would you react if he’d abandoned his family?” That part came in English. She was trying to establish a personal connection as a mother with children to another mother with children. She was pleading to gain sympathy.

My revelation went nowhere.

Then came more complications. I again repeated that I still wanted to pay off the car. I asked for two weeks to do it.

They scoffed.

I countered with three days.

In tandem, they snickered.

Today!” they demanded in unison.

To my lawyer I turned and said, “Does he really have to be here?”

Oops. I let that one slip.

Instantaneously, my ex, with claws extended, snapped back with, “Of course. He’s my father.”

Mockingly, she turned to the cop again and with pure, belittling sarcasm explained, “Foreigners don’t understand [something about] families in Taiwan.”

Needless to say, I was growing tired already of the foreigner-directed ridicule.

Each time they turned to include him, he grinned rather uncomfortably and simply shook his head with uncertainty and pseudo indifference.

After they suggested that I pay them that very same day, I stated, incredulously, that the banks in my home country couldn’t send cash that quickly, for it was probably midnight back home at that moment.

“Well, what do you have in your bank here?” my lawyer queried.

“Not enough.”

“How much?” she wanted to know.

Not enough.”

After I admitted the amount, an amount which was not as much as it should have been because my wife had already denied me any access to our joint savings account two to three months before, I came up with an idea.

“I’ll buy the car in three days, sending money from my home country to do so, AND I will sign a document, which is legally binding, to guarantee that I will do that.”

I knew I was worth my word. In the back of my mind dwelled her reaction to my request to similarly sign something binding, herself (to which she’d emailed, in response, something to the effect of “Who are you in my life to ask me to do that?”).

Feeling confident that they’d accept that offer, I instead was catapulted into disappointed frustration when they next spoke.

“You pay the money in three days, but you cannot take the car today. The car stays in our building, with us, until we get the money in the bank account.”

Uggh. Pure ridiculousness.

My offer was legally binding. To do that and then break my word could easily mean I’d have screwed myself over.

Even my lawyer semi-gasped, “Why not?”

“That’s our offer. That’s it.” They didn’t budge a millimeter.

It dawned on me that I could readily be taken for a ride if I concurred. Thus, I asked my lawyer to step out into the lobby area of the station, away from my newly christened, arch nemesis (times two).

Immediately, my head awash with all their BS, I told her that they could simply turn around and sell the car the next day if they wanted. They weren’t willing to sign anything, so what was to hold them back from playing more games, from taking me to the cleaners.

They could just as readily sell the car and then turn around and demand my cash payment to them still, especially since I would have signed an agreement to pay them the cash directly. They didn’t budge on signing a document themselves to give me any assurance.

She’d already sold off our stocks and transferred money without my consent, refused me access to any monies, and even rebuffed my earnest request to take my professional documents from the house. She was prone to playing hardball.

@*%&#!

What was next? The potential of something severe was surely strong.

[In fact, less than two weeks after this police station fiasco, she stopped me from seeing my children altogether, which, even at the time of writing five weeks after that cruel decision, has left me totally out in the cold, without even a word about them to follow.]

“Who’s to stop them from selling the car or damaging it somehow? And if I’d already signed a binding agreement to send the money, I’d have to, right?”

My lawyer, as we stood together in the lobby of the station, with me licking my wounds, offered something that still rings in my ears over a month later.

“You’re going to really have a tough case in court.”

“Oh, thanks for the vote of confidence!” I wanted to shout.

Instead, I just cast my eyes to the floor, starting to feel like I was inevitably screwed.

Upon returning to the back room, I observed the father and his dear daughter engaging in light banter with the cops. There seemed to be some hearty camaraderie developing.

Just what I needed.

I detected a slight smokiness in the air. The scent of coals recently kindled teased my nostrils. Certain orifices tightened as I consider the barbecue spit they must have been preparing for me.

As we sat back down, my lawyer stated that I didn’t accept their offer of them keeping the car until the payment came.

They didn’t move an inch. They made it utterly impossible for me to simply pay off the rest of the loan. It wasn’t going to be my car any longer I could sense.

I, my heart heavy, my hope gone, shifted uncomfortably in my chair when they proposed the next idea.

At one point, they asked to see the numbers that she’d shared with me via email, so I opened up a Word document on my computer, to which I’d copied said calculations.

Her father, as if his little baby girl couldn’t think for herself—even in her mid-30’s, did most of the talking and all the walking.

Having just hastily scribbled down his math on a small piece of scratch paper, he dramatically tossed the note down in front of my lawyer and me, like a poker player does in one of those Wild West movies when he’s just accused someone of double dealing. I was waiting for him to stand up, both hands on the handles of his six shooters.

Smugly, he dramatically leaned back in his chair. I envisioned a piece of straw or a toothpick extruding from the corner of his mouth.

Daddy had taken over.

On this paper, a paper I’ll most likely keep forever, he’d jotted down the supposed current value of the car, which they’d apparently gotten from the dealership. Starting from that number, there was then notation of what we owed the bank. Once the bank was paid that figure, i.e., the car loan was to be paid in full, there was then the remaining balance.

Here’s a math question for you, dear reader: How many people would the remainder be divvied up for equally if two people had paid equally for the car?

Well, one’s math doesn’t have to be at a collegiate level to understand this: two.

Easy. Right?

Easy if one is fair and ethical, that is.

However, ethics is something those two are short on.

They weren’t playing a fair game.

Looking at the computations, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Yet, what was on the paper wasn’t enough drama. There had to be more.

Jerry Springer would have snapped up the opportunity to have us on stage simply because of this.

Once again explaining all in their native tongue, the two of them, synchronized in all that oozed from their mouths, told my lawyer something else, of which I understood very little.

Seemingly doubting me, the attorney turned to me and revealed, “They say you haven’t ever paid anything for the car at all and that you’ve never paid into a joint savings account.”

Huh?

Because this lawyer had once warned me (via email communication) that I should maintain a level-headedness in all dealings with my ex, lest she use my reactions against me in our future custody/divorce case, knowing that there were cops around us, whom they’d already become chummy with, I bit my tongue. Hard.

Biting my tongue resulted in a bit of blood being spilled.

You know what they say about sharks getting a whiff of blood in the ocean waters.

Inside, however, my soul yawped.

“Uh, can we go out to the lobby please?” I instantly requested to this woman.

There my jaw dropped further… to the point it nearly shattered on the floor at my toes.

“That was an absolute lie!” I wanted to squawk, limiting my volume because they were all in earshot. “How dare they lie so blatantly?”

Less than 24 hours before, I’d taken half a day off of work to go see this woman. I’d opened my computer to show her email excerpts that revealed that I’d asked to pay off the car in full, that I’d requested to have the title in my name solely. I’d even explained that the car was owned by both of us.

Yet she had the audacity to ask, “Did you pay for the car?”

“Of course I did! We paid a large initial down payment out of our joint account, and then every month for 1.5 years we’d pooled money into an envelope in our house to pay the monthly installments, and for the last three months, I’ve paid all on my own.”

“Do you have proof?”

“The bank account was in her name!”

“Can you prove you’d put money into the account?” she continued.

“Well, no. We put cash into said accounts regularly.”

She drove home the point further. “If you’re name isn’t on the account…”

“$@#!%^&_)(*!!!!,” crossed my mind.

“Do you have evidence like bank transfer records that show you sent money into a joint account?”

“No. All was done with cash. We always deposited cash.”

“Well, you’re going to have a hard time with this.”

“Tell me something I don’t know,” I desired to retort.

Sulking on the outside and livid, inside, I returned with her to the negotiation table. Who am I bullshitting? There were no negotiations. They were playing hardball. In fact, they were playing bean ball.

And guess who got beaned?

With the knowledge that they’d blatantly fabricated all sorts of bullshit, I sat down at the desk and pseudo listened to the conversations that my erstwhile “family” was having with the police officers in the room (I knew I wasn’t family any longer, for my wife had repeatedly stated that in various emails for the three months before, since my moving out—even going so far, countless times, to say I wasn’t even family with my own children any more).

They’d lied. The lawyer and foreign affairs cop merely sat and listened. Other officers and even a cleaning lady eavesdropped. They mocked foreigners, i.e., me. Their continual usage of a language I wasn’t well versed in further left me hopeless. Even my attorney took the wind out of my sails (what was left of any wind, which had really only started as a slight intermittent breeze).

It wasn’t my day. January 7th, 2014 was pure hell.

Reaching out timidly, I thought I’d try to make sense of the estimations my father-in-law had jotted down on the notepaper.

Value of the car. Comprendo.

Loan balance. Comprendo.

Left over amount after loan payoff. Comprendo.

But what was that?

If they’d simply divided the remaining amount by two, I’d have understood. Whatever was left over should have gone equally to the both of us. Naturally.

Minus $1500US??? No comprendo. Nil. Nada. Nothing.

Glancing too at the numbers, my attorney ally (yeah, right!) noticed what I’d just noticed.

“Why is the remaining figure not equal?” she inquired? “It should be equal.”

“Beats me!” I offered.

Noticing we were confused, the duo across the desk responded, “We’re deducting $1500US [in local currency, of course] because that was the total of the three monthly installments total that he’d paid… and

Well, the rest was lost in translation. My lawyer told me their offer was lowered because there was some depreciation in the value of the car over those three months that I’d been driving the car. Because my keeping the car had meant them losing money somehow (in some nonsensical way), they were recovering their loss back by giving me less cash in return, less than an equal amount.”

The attorney scoffed at their notion.

Why the hell would I get less money, especially when I’d actually paid three months’ worth of the installment on my own! Shouldn’t I be the one to get a little more back? I’d paid more the three months I had the car totally in my possession!

I sat there, alone, surrounded by others.

“That’s our final offer!” came their in-unison voices.

Her father smirked, I believe.

Now, at this point, I felt my hands were tied behind my back. Admittedly, the whole fiasco left me reeling. They’d lied. Outright.

Not to extend this explanation of all by too much, but there was some irony here.

Two months before, I’d thought my wife had lied about something, so I’d sent her a text message saying, “It sounds like an outright lie.”

That one text led her to enthusiastic demands that I apologize to her and even threats that I’d better say I was sorry before a certain set time or she was going to call my boss! A long story, but her insulted notion was one of “Nobody calls me a liar,” as she’d stated via text message and in a FB chat.

Hmmmm…

“What can I call her now?” I wondered.

Maybe my labeling her as a liar then actually created the monster, for the label undoubtedly fit now. Was it my fault she’d turned into a liar? She’d probably blame me for her actions.

By this time, we’d spent nearly three hours in the station (in addition to the 30 minutes on the sidewalk after her parents had taken the kids out of my car). They weren’t going to budge on my offer to buy the car outright, unless they kept it at theirs until they received the money transfer. I couldn’t trust them to not turn around and sell the car, requiring me to still pay them cash because I’d agreed to sign a document. I’d have no written promise from them to give me the car.

Yet, the other option was ridiculously unfair. Lose $1,500US because I’d made three monthly installments on my own. It was all bullshit.

Undoubtedly, this experience could educate someone on the meaning of a lose-lose situation.

I reflected on an email she’d written back in October when she’d first mentioned possibly selling the car (yet giving me the option to keep it), in which she’d stated, “We can split what’s left over.”

I wish I’d had that printed at that moment to be able to remind her of her formerly fair self.

“What do you want to do?” the attorney prompted.

“Man, you’re a real help!” I wanted to respond. “What on earth have you done to help?”

I didn’t say anything. I just motioned her to the lobby one last time.

I was done. My lawyer seemingly didn’t have any answers, either. They weren’t giving up. The fact that they’d lied between their teeth passed without impact on any of this final outcome.

Losing the car wasn’t actually as bad as what I was focused on, however.

In time, I could buy a new car (a waste of money up front especially in comparison to just paying off the remaining balance on my car already and keeping it for the next ten years or so). It was merely a material possession. They come and go.

An inconvenience I was facing: commuting to my job via subway or taxi to a bus station and then busing it to my job thirty minutes away, not to mention taking my kids around the nights I had them and on the weekends, etc. We’d be walking a lot more.

“C’est la vie!” Right?

However, I couldn’t get my mind off the fact that if they were willing to lie so much for a material possession, what were they willing to do in the future in court for custody of the kids?

“Sad” cannot describe how I felt about the prospect of their pending behavior.

My lawyer and I didn’t even speak much in the lobby that last final retreat to a corner of the boxing ring, supposedly getting ready for the last round.

My corner men at this point would have been debating throwing in the towel. Contusions might have just been ignored. There was no way to stop the bleeding.

She asked me again what I wanted to do. I didn’t have any choice.  I suppose we could have sat there for the rest of the day and not agreed to anything they offered.

When my lawyer asked me during a “break” from the action if that was true or not, I clearly explained how we’d put money into a joint account (which was in her name because she arranged it all as the local, herself, and because we couldn’t get a two-person name on the account, she’d once said) all starting around 5.5-6 years before. I explained how every month we’d put in something, and that the car was paid from our joint account every month or from a monthly pool of cash in our house.

Back in the meeting room (at the police station, where we were for almost 4.5-5 hours), the wife and her daddy continued making demands.  I felt they walked ALL OVER the lawyer. They walked all over me.

Either way that the outcome could have come, I would have been screwed.  The police had taken the car keys in the morning and they wouldn’t give them to anyone until a decision was made.  My hand was forced.  They blatantly lied to my lawyer and to the cop(s). I felt trapped.  I felt betrayed.  I was fucked.  97% of all transactions were in the local language.  They “negotiated” with my lawyer and when they were totally unfair, the lawyer did nothing to remedy the situation, instead turning me to say, “That’s what they want?  What do you think?”

I thought I was screwed.

That was it. They were forcing my hand to sign off on their demands. I still wanted to buy the car. They wouldn’t allow me three days to get all the banking arranged. They didn’t budge on providing a written statement to promise they’d turn the car and title over to me if I let them keep the car in their possession.

Instead of the proper way this should have been handled (in a court of law), it was done their way.

As an expat, I didn’t have a chance.

This lawyer, whom I’d only met twice (once in Oct and once the day before because I was already worried about my wife’s actions the next day on Tuesday, the day she had demanded I give the car to her), really did NOTHING. I appreciated that she’d come at first, but in the end, I lost, big time.

The worst, however, was when I had to take a taxi to my home, for I needed to return to my apartment to get the spare key and registration paperwork, since neither was kept in the car.

As I was leaving the station, needing to wait for a taxi to pass outside, I wondered what she was going to do. I almost asked her to come with me, thinking she shouldn’t be communicating with them without me present. I should have.

The lawyer stayed with them in the police station. In the meantime, I took a taxi home, gathered the necessary documents, and taxied back. All in all, I was gone about 40 minutes. It was one lonely cab ride.

When I returned, they were all joking and laughing, and my wife was explaining something about other matters with my children. They were also talking about “joint custody” (which my wife said once or twice in English) and the lawyer was advising her and her daddy, like they were her clients.  It was all pure drama.

I was drained.

I provided them with the paperwork. They provided me an envelope with some money in it, an amount not half and half, as it should have been legally, but minus the three months of payments I’d paid on my own! Really? WTF was I doing?

A police officer came over with a large binder which served as their station log, apparently, and I had to sign next to the information they entered, all in the local language. The lawyer said that it simply stated that’d I’d received money for the car and that I had ‘returned’ the car to her.

We then had to head back to the car still parked at my wife’s building, so that I could clean it out of all my possessions, which I loaded into a waiting taxi, one they conveniently and ever-so-politely called for me.  The whole time I was clearing out my trunk, the backseat kid’s stuff, the glove box, consoles, etc., the three of them chatted on the sidewalk two meters or so away.

That took the cake.

They then said thanks to her when we departed, being polite and pleasant (just an hour after they had lied through their teeth to the woman).  What a false façade.

The lawyer went in the taxi with me to the nearest subway stop, and I then continued to my house, solo, feeling alone like never before. For those 2-3 minutes, she didn’t say a single word to me on the ride.

She got out and said, “Take care.”

That’s it.  I honestly felt she took their side in the end.

In all my years, I’ve never experienced such unethical, blatantly wrong behavior. I’ve dealt with assholes before. I’ve come across many a wrongdoing, but this topped them all. However much a non-believer I am in a heaven or hell, I hope that such blatant lack of principles somehow comes back to haunt them. I hope karma comes back to bite them each in the ass.

All in all, the car is a possession. Possession are fleeting. They’re irrelevant to the overall happiness we should maintain in our lives. However, for many reasons, it made life for me more difficult.

The next day, I taxied back from my job, a 25-30 minute commute, and picked up my kids from their mom’s house. No car, so walk we did. As we turned the corner to walk the lengthy road home, I asked my nearly five-year-old daughter if she saw “Baba’s car” the day before.

She stated, in her ever so sweet voice, “Baba, a big truck came to take the car away yesterday!”

Wow! That was fast, wasn’t it? And it immediately prompted me to wonder if they’d had any forethought of actually letting me work things out. With them selling the car the very next day, apparently, the answer is pretty darn clear.

 

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A Letter to My Children, Whom I’ve Not Been Allowed to See in 150 Days

My ex-wife committed a 189-day parental abduction of the kids, so I wrote here in June of 2014 to express myself (here).

June 17, 2014

Dearest Children:

You, my children, are on my mind tonight more than ever.  Admittedly, that isn’t much different than the average evening these past 5-plus months, but tonight, my emotional state is decidedly, profoundly worse: Simply put, I am angry.  Angry with all that has been done to you, angry with all that has been done to me.  As a matter of fact, I’m irate.  For that reason, I turned to my keyboard to express myself, for I desperately needed to get so much off my chest.  My emotions are suffocating me as if a Volkswagon camper van backed over me and came to a rest on my sternum.

An outlet, writing this will help alleviate that pure, deeply frustrating bitterness and resentment.  Being pissed isn’t going to help anything; thus, I need to get this all out in the open.

150 days, today.

Unbearable.

Indeed, there are multitudes of “un-words” that help describe all that has transpired.  Unfair.  Unethical.  Unfounded.  Unfathomable.  Undoubtedly… there are more.  Suffice it to say, this is all un-fucking-believable.

To focus on you, it must first be said that you have a right to see your daddy.  You have a right, yet that right has been crumpled up hastily like a scrap piece of paper that’s being used to toss into the wastebasket repeatedly by some bored-to-death office peon.  Without apparently much thought to what you would choose, it has been dictated and scripted so much so that your rights mean nothing in this process.  Someone else has decided that for you.  With all of my heart, I know that you two didn’t decide what’s now being said, what’s being input into your thoughts, into your heads (and hopefully not into your hearts).

However, you may not even be aware that you have a right to decide for yourselves to see your father, for you are so young, for the people in your life right now have ignored and neglected your rights, shaping you to think otherwise.  At this point, that isn’t even a possibility as I’d, hitherto, thought.  It has to be a fact that they are guiding you, coaching you, brainwashing you. What was revealed in the first family-court negotiations (March 17th) surely implies that you have been or are being led to believe something different about your daddy than you’d have ever thought on your own.  I know you wouldn’t think such things or feel that way.  Guaranteed.

You are only five and two years of age, respectively.  With that said, I know you are old enough to know one thing for certain: You love your daddy.  Nobody should say otherwise to make you feel any different about me.  In my heart, I know that one truism.  You love your daddy.

From the rooftops of the world, you would shout, if given the chance and ability, to scream just that.

My children, I love you, more than anything in this world.  Far and away, you surpass anything that has ever mattered to me, hitherto.  My erstwhile dreams and aspirations, experiences and successes, all rolled into one, don’t compare to the importance of you two, my babies.

How can that be known?  How can that be shown?  At this point, there is no outlet for it, no chance of spreading this knowledge more than I have so far.

All of that emotion, however, turned sour from time to time–and more readily day by day.  Normally, as I’ve done for the 150 days since you were taken out of my life, since your mother decided to aim for my jugular, which, undoubtedly, hurts you two, I get through my days in a numb state.  I am surviving, but that entails getting through the steps of every day… just barely.

My pain and sorrow result in a profound loneliness, a debilitating emptiness.  There have been countless days when I have wanted to give up; not give up on you, for that WILL NOT HAPPEN, but give up because the pain is intolerable.

I cannot count the number of times I’ve cried.  I cried in front of the administration at work.  I cried twice during the thirty minutes we chatted about you, one of those days the day after I’d learned what I’d learned in court.

That cry was a heavy, I-need-to-unload-my-angst type of cry. Yet on a daily basis I tear up, too.  Small triggers set me off, the sight of a child on the street, a glimpse of something of yours in my house, a photo on my computer.  Recently, I passed a man on the sidewalk who was strolling while holding hands with his two-ish-year-old son, triggering a flood of tears down my cheeks.  And  yesterday while cleaning my apartment, I again got misty eyed when Arrested Development’s Mr. Wendel came on my iTunes.  Imagine that!  A 90’s hip-hop song?  Impossible!

To be honest, anything can cause my grief to manifest itself at the oddest of moments.

Because you, my son, loved dancing to that track last year in your crib, images of you bopping back and forth sprung into my mind simultaneously as it started to play on my MacBook.  I cannot escape those sentimental moments of what we shared, those yearnings to be with you two again.

Today, it just became so bottled up that I got angry.  Pissed off, really.  Enough so that I wanted to go off on your mother and her family via text, email, or even a phone call.  However, I refrained from doing so, and I later turned to this journal entry to vent a bit.  I needed to.

On a Sunday in April, having worked a full day, I asked my carpooling co-worker to drop me off as close to a main city thoroughfare as she could, and she pulled over near the playground in one of the largest parks in that part of town, a place where we three (or even as a family of four) used to visit on occasion.  It was packed.  Families galore were there.  When I stepped out of the car and witnessed all of the love, all of the familial camaraderie, hearing children and parents giggling, my heart sunk instantly.

My day at work that day had been busy enough to get my mind off of such emotional hardships—for the most part, though forgetting the nightmare that I’ve been living is never completely possible.  Honestly, you two enter my thoughts consistently, no matter what I’m doing, no matter where I go.  It is an incessant undertaking, but more akin to the natural blinking of one’s eyes than deliberate thought.  It just happens that you’re perpetually there at the forefront of thought.

Embarking on a stroll through the park to go get my rental scooter, which I’d left on the side of the road the night before because of the heavy downpour that inundated the streets on my way home around 10pm, I couldn’t escape the notion that it is simply not fair that I cannot be with you; that you cannot be with me.  It is unjust.  It is unreal.

For the first three months of this separation period from your mother, during this pending-divorce phase, my Sundays were spent with you from 12-7pm. So to witness such beauty at the park on a Sunday, the simple beauty of quality family time being enjoyed by all in my view at that moment, prompted pitfalls of emotional darkness to arrest my mood, wresting any sense of emotional stability that having kept busy at work provided.  Immediately, I was thrown into a state of despair.

Instead of succumb to a sense of gloomy downtrodden doldrums, as is normally, consistently the case, this time I couldn’t help but mutter from my lips, when I saw the families there, “&$%@ you, you vindictive *(#+%!!!!  &%$@ you.”

How dare your family here take you away from your daddy!  How dare they deny you access to someone that loves you!  Through the mouth of their lawyer on March 17th, for they didn’t have the respect to show up in court for the first of the negotiations for child visitation (that I submitted a petition to), how dare they state, “Your children don’t want to see you because they are afraid of you!”

How could they?

It was clear then that they weren’t willing to negotiate what is in the best interest of the children.

When your mommy’s lawyer revealed this latest false claim, my heart sank.  No, actually, it didn’t.  That’s a misstatement.  In fact, my heart shattered as if it was pulled from my chest and hurled vigorously at the wall.  Of course, if it were a real heart that landed against the wall, it would probably splatter, maybe even bounce.  But in my mind’s eye, mine shattered into innumerable shards.

How the hell could they make such an absurd accusation?  How could they go to such depths of deceit?  Without any doubt whatsoever, this surpassed all that she’d done to date, and she’d done plenty that had previously topped the cake.

To the world I promise this:  There is no reason that you would feel that way, absolutely… no reason.  I know in my heart and in the deepest recesses of my soul what the truth is.  And the truth this is NOT.

Cold, hurtful fabrication.  Vengeful hate.  Unparalleled untruth is all that it is.

If you were given the chance, children… if you were capable of voicing your own truths about life, you would never make such a statement.  I know that.

That is all that I am holding onto right now, for neither of you would ever say that, ever feel that.

Yet, if her lawyer is now making such statements, and as you have been forced from me for so damn long, it, naturally, makes me wonder what you have been told to think or to feel.

By the way, in January, your mother explained in an email that one of you sometimes talked about things I bought him or for you two.  She claimed that I had brainwashed you two!  How absurd!  If he mentioned something to her, like a toy I’d gotten him or the blankets I bought you both from IKEA, he did so on his own.  In response, I responded that I NEVER thought anything of the sort when you came to my house, explaining that their grandma and grandpa had bought something for them, that mommy had picked something out for them.  Why would I have considered that!?  One can easily, and should, chalk it up to casual fact or conversation from a two-year old.

Now, five months-plus later, I wonder how brainwashing is manifesting itself on that end, but instead of it being an utterly ridiculous accusation (like my son saying, “Baba bought car,” to his mother) this time it seems inevitable that she and her parents are, themselves, partaking in such ghastly mind games with an innocent five- and a two-year old.  Games of YOUR minds, my children.

How could this be?

Perhaps a little background is necessary here to even attempt to grasp at some level of understanding.  Honestly, it just doesn’t make sense.  There seems to be no reason to resort to such tactics, for the reality is that keeping you from your baba is, without question, one of the worst things they could perpetuate.  Trying to understand it myself–and to answer the great number of queries that have come my way about why she’s doing this, I’ll reveal the background events that led up to this most-horrific chapter in the book of my life.

First and foremost, as has been revealed in quite a number of emails, your mother falsely accuses me of threatening to take you two out of the country.  On the contrary, I have stated just the opposite.  This fear of hers that I am going flee abroad if given the chance, to me, seems to be the underlying motive for her actions, actions that are undoubtedly over the top—and increasingly so.

Once, in a face-to-face meeting in late October (the only one we’ve had since my moving out on October 5th), I stated again that I’d wanted joint custody to be able to be an ongoing part of your lives (and I’ve written her quite a few times that I’d wanted joint custody from the start).  Without joint custody, I will not have legal rights to make decisions about your lives here.  And I even stated that I was worried that if she got sole custody, which she has demanded all along, that I may not have power to do anything if something happened to your mom.  Moreover, I mentioned that having joint custody could allow me to have a parental visa, which means I could stay here longer in this country and not be dependent on a work visa only, which would give me more flexibility.  Moreover, I stated that because one never knows what will happen, I would like joint custody, and at the café we were at that day, I pointed to a man nearby to help explain.

“What happens if that man has a mid-life crisis and he decides he cannot be a dad any more? If he had sole custody, the wife would have no legal rights to intervene,” I offered.

I then pointed out a woman nearby and explained, “What would happen if that woman had a mental breakdown?  What would happen to the kids if she had sole custody?  Could the father do something to get involved?” (Though I have a recording of this entire conversation, which she knows of and agreed to, I am not writing verbatim dialogue here–yet I am NOT embellishing at all!)

My examples were logical and rational.  My having joint custody could assure me that if something happened to your mom, I’d have some say—and not just the grandparents having control, if that’s what the law allows as one lawyer detailed.

Remember, I am in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language, where the courts operate with some innate bias, where my lawyer doesn’t have the same approach as a lawyer from my country would.  I am afraid of her by-default power, so joint custody at least assures me of me not losing totally out on raising my kids.

I even added, “What happens if you got hit by a bus crossing the street?  What would happen if you had sole custody?  What power would I have here?”

Instead of understanding my point, your mother got overly reactionary.  Her voice quivered, and she demanded, “What are you saying?  Are you saying I won’t be a fit mother? Are you saying you’re going to take my children from me?”

She actually started to cry.

Incredulous I was that she didn’t see my point.  I’d not threatened to take you kids.  (A few people with whom I’ve talked about that scenario totally see my point–and they expressed incredulity that she got that way.)

In fact, I have a lengthy text message from October/November that states the opposite, that I’d have no right to take you kids from your mother, for that wouldn’t be fair to you!

I explained that one day, if there was ever a need to, I could have the flexibility to make decisions if need be that could require leaving the country.  No way was that a threat, and there is NO plan and no intent to do so if given joint custody.  What I wrote via text in a lengthy message was the truth.

The kids had a right to be with their mommy.

Now look what she’s doing in reverse!  She’s taken you from me; me, from you!  I suppose fairness doesn’t enter the equation for her and your grandparents.  No way; no how have they considered fairness.  Nor have they kept your best interests in mind.  Not at all.

I have no qualms to prevent me from saying this, but they’ve trodden all over your best interests as frenetically-paced businessmen and women trample a bubble gum wrapper on a Wall Street sidewalk.

That fear of hers is just one of many things that has prompted some routinely inaccurate accusations and irrational decisions.

Throughout this separation, she’s also stated repeatedly that I stole your one set of passports from the family (the passports from my country), yet I am your father and I legally have the right to maintain your documents just as much as she does.  You are minors.  I have that right.  It isn’t stealing.  I am your family, too.  A number of lawyers have assured me of that.  Additionally, I didn’t decide to keep all of your passports.  That wouldn’t have been right.  However, near-countless emails of hers demand I return the passports because they belong to the family, and “you aren’t family any more,” she callously has claimed.

Also, as stated in earlier emails from October until January, your mother accused me of leaving the family for another woman.  Untrue.  Utterly untrue.  A fabrication that is, one that perhaps (and I am not a psychologist) gives her a sense that I must have had other reasons than her yelling, “Get out, move out, get a lawyer, get a visa!” back in September to actually leave.  Perhaps it allows her some sense of having done no wrong since it was, indeed, her, that finally prompted me to decide our relationship was not going to work out.    That’s another story for another time.  We simply couldn’t work things out, both with our own faults, but nothing like she is claiming now.

She is the one who shouted, aggressively, “Get out.  Move out.  Get a lawyer!  And get a visa!”

Moreover, your mother accused me of having a personal relationship at my new job in October.  Unfounded and absurd.  Yet years ago, she pointed her finger at me, for she felt I was having an affair at my old job; three years later, she further accused me of more romantic wrongdoings with another former co-worker.  So for her to allege something was going on with a new coworker at this new place of employment, though absurdly, preposterously inaccurate, shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise as it did.  She had a history of doing the same thing, making similar claims.  For no reason.

Additionally, she claimed that I’d not paid the family anything for the first few months after moving out (and that of course will only get worse now that she hasn’t responded to a single email or text message since two days after she took you, some of which mentioned how I can get some clothes to the kids or how to set up an account for them, which would require both parent signatures).  However, such claims of me “not helping” are inaccurate and unfounded.  She held our joint bank accounts, dictating I couldn’t access my money, sending in six months of rent up front from our joint savings to the landlord, i.e., I did pay for the rent for half a year.  She still has access to my money; I don’t.  She also stated she was using that money to pay bills once.  She continues to claim I don’t pay anything.

Another wrongdoing of mine (according to her) is supposedly abandoning you children.  Simply not true.  From day one of moving out, I wanted to spend time with you two.  I took care of you three nights a week and on Sundays, and after the first month of separation, when I got a new apartment with two bedrooms, you slept at mine three nights a week (whereas the first month of being out of the house at a rinky-dink efficiency still saw me going home to yours three nights a week to put you to bed, staying there until 10pm until your mommy came home).  How was that abandoning you!?

Those three night/eves were also spent going on outings, going for dinner, walking about, exploring the city by subway, etc.  Sundays for seven hours were spent doing all sorts of fun things, too.  How was that abandonment?  My renting a two-bedroom flat was for you, also.  I could have had a one-bedroom for myself if I just wanted to be a single guy–as she stated.  Having you for those evenings/nights meant I was also paying for you, that I had my own expenses, and lawyers have also reassured me that my having you at my house, by default, through extrapolation, meant I was paying for you anyway!  I never abandoned you.  Never.  I wanted and, naturally, still want you consistently, forever, in my life.

After she had called the police in January and wrested my car from my possession (that’s another blog), and after she lied blatantly to the police at the station, in front of my lawyer, too, I eventually asked to have my bicycle back from the basement.  She wrote back, “No, I am selling it.  You didn’t pay the family anything, so I have to sell it.” (See the above about how she took the bank funds and used our joint money.)

Once, she threatened that she’d call my boss last fall over something absurd.  She did.

Another time, she used you, my son, as a pawn for childcare issues and scheduling time with you separately.

She withdrew you, my daughter, from school, completely against my will and against my request.  Even though you’d succeeded in transitioning to a new school (my school) over the previous two months, she yanked you out, just to have you spend more time with her and your grandparents, an incredibly selfish decision!  That, too, is another story.

And the list goes on…

I–more than once–asked for my professional documents at the house so that I can apply for my teaching license renewal, yet she said, “Sue me.”  When I requested them again, explaining that she was hurting me by holding them, she responded, “You should have thought about that when you hurt your family by abandoning them!”  Then when I sent her a copy of the legal code that explains my professional documents cannot be held by the other party during a separation/divorce, she wrote, “Like I said, sue me!”

However, all the events and absurdities that had transpired before January 18th, the last day I saw you, were tantamount to a kid kicking sand on me at the beach to get my attention.  On the 18th of January, things changed.

Her email then detailed how she felt I put my social life in front of you two children.

Preposterous!

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, when I picked you up after school from your grandmother’s house, with you both running into my arms, giving cuddles as soon as you saw me, well… those were the days I looked forward to the most of every week!  My commute those days back into the city provided a energetic lift to my spirits each day, for I knew I was going to see you guys.  I’d pick you up, and then we’d go places together, totally enjoying our outings, wherever they were.

Those evenings were dedicated to you both, of course.  After going home (after whatever outing we’d gone on), and I comfortably used the term home, for you DID have a home with me, too, we’d play a bit, get you guys ready for bed, and then read together, often resulting in my falling asleep with you two around 830pm!  Three nights a week, you WERE my life.  How I put my social life in front of you is beyond my logical understanding.  Moreover, each Sunday from 12-7pm was dedicated for our three-person family time.  How someone could claim otherwise is astonishingly mind blowing.

Not only was this accusation of my social life taking precedence over you kids flatly wrong but it was also her claim that I hurt you by taking you out TWICE with females in four months that went way beyond logical thinking.  That I was wrong and a bad father as she claimed by bringing you out on a three-hour tour with a woman from Couchsurfing.com back in December still leaves me incredulous.  And in January when I brought you out with a friend of 18 years (who’d come to visit Kaohsiung for a few days) on a tour to a sightseeing area for 4-5 hours, she responded with her “return the car by Tuesday” demand.

“You cannot take women out in the family car!”

In the same email, she said I hurt you two kids by involving you in my “affairs”.  She said I had no sense.  That actually hurt me.

They were ALL ridiculous accusations once again, for there were NO affairs, but this time she apparently meant business, for two days later is when she called the police on me, claiming I never paid for the car during a 3-4 hour stint in the police station.

Around 10 days later is when the email came to explain I couldn’t take you two out anymore.

January 18th is the last I saw you two.  I dropped you that morning at your mom’s complex, with a taxi since I was no longer mobile (after she’d wrested the car from me), hugging you as I always did, kissing both of you, stating, “See you guys tomorrow.”

I never did.

Saying that kills me.  Experiencing that was much worse.

It is clear from all of the above that she has been playing hardball, which is something I never wanted.  I wanted a fair split of our assets.  I wanted joint custody.   I wanted something peaceful.

Before things went so over the top, before all went out-of-control wild (with the car fiasco, first, and then with her essentially abducting you kids), I’d wanted to have one of those divorced-couple relationships where we’d bump into each other at birthday parties, where we could even attend the same parties for you two kids.  That was honestly my hope.

However, that she took you from me, that she and her parents have done this to you, well, that leaves me with another mindset altogether.

Her lawyer claims I’ve not gone to see the kids since January 18th.  I have emails and text messages on a near-daily basis that contradict that claim.

I delivered small gifts to you two three separate times.  On my fourth attempt, the security guard at your complex told me, “Your wife has said you cannot deliver things any more.”  The fifth attempt resulted in the same rejection.

Now, her lawyer is saying you are afraid of me.  That they are so unethical and so immoral in doing this still leaves my jaw agog, for it does affect you.  You deserve to have your father in your life and vice-versa.  There is NO reason for her/their accusations.

You’d never felt that about me before.  Nothing would have prompted that.

My jugular is their aim, and, sadly, you two children are standing in the way of their goal.  Being that you’re both so small, perhaps they feel they can just step over you and strive to stop me from being a part of your lives.  Maybe they didn’t realize they’re stepping on you instead.

Your needs, in their eyes, don’t matter.  Your rights are nothing.

How dare they.

As I muttered upon seeing the kids playing in the park on Sunday afternoon, I’d like to say the same thing now, yet I refrain.

Instead, I say this, my children…

I love you.  And my heart won’t shatter completely because I know you love me.

What is next in this sordid process is beyond me.  If they’ve started these negotiations by not showing up, first of all, and then by creating such fabrications and falsities, then what will they do next?

(I have updated this periodically since first writing it back in February.  Since then, the court documentation and her tirades in court have stated I am a party guy and that I had parties at my house the nights I had my kids over–which meant the kids were uncomfortable and couldn’t sleep, so they would complain to mommy the next morning.  That is an outright lie.  She said I was irresponsible.  Wrong.  She told my family in a PDF file that she supported me financially the years we were together–but how could that be with my full-time positions and paying for her when we lived in Europe? She states so many false accusations.  It is a ridiculous game on her part. The list reads on and on and on.  All is BS.  I’ve even cut up my son’s USA passport and my daughter’s–even though hers expired after her 5th birthday, yet they now claim I’ll take the kids to a different city if I see them.)

I am not daunted by what they could claim if based on legitimate reasons and fair, ethical decisions; however, I am admittedly concerned about their unethical nature, which they’ve already revealed and established.

How dare they.

With all my love,

Daddy

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Court Negotiations in a Foreign Land: Part I

Blogging was therapeutic, so I blogged about the court processes here (here).

April 17th, 2014: The Second Negotiations

[Disclaimer: It must be clear that the tone of this whole experience has to be read through the lenses of an expatriate living abroad. It is a foreign system. I don’t fluently speak the language, though I know a little bit for daily living at times. The cards are automatically stacked against me. I am facing a system that is unknown and confusing and far unlike my homeland’s. Aspects of culture are at play here that interfere with things I don’t even grasp most likely, for culture includes intangibles like values, thought processes, non-verbal communication, perceptions, assumptions, expectations, and, of course, beliefs. It ain’t just food, festivals and holidays, they say. I am also up against a family, not just one woman. Here, family rules the roost. Recently, I realized that in this culture, the family name comes first when written or even introduced. I take that as exhibiting the importance of family over oneself. And I am facing a woman who claims I threatened to take the kids from the country if I get custody at all—and that is based on a bending of the truth of what was said, a woman who took my kids away from me on January 18th, which is now 91 days, saying she would protect them from my women friends and social life, all unfounded fabrications and erroneous perceptions.]

[Disclaimer II: I use the language Swahili here to avoid having to say “local language” and “official tongue”, etc., which I started to say to keep this as anonymous as possible—for fear of her stating that I embarrass her and her family by talking about personal issues publicly. I don’t speak Swahili and that’s not the language used here in this foreign-to-me-still land.]

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On April 17, 2014, the second court-ordered negotiations occurred in the family courthouse, in my adopted city abroad.

Unlike the first negotiations on March 17th, when my soon-to-be-ex didn’t show, with her lawyer simply present, she showed up this time, but with her father in tow, too.

She didn’t stay long.

We were all seated at 9am.

My interpreter didn’t show up on time, so I was sweating bullets the first 6-7 minutes, for I understood little of what was already being stated between all involved.

I’d arranged for my interpreter to appear, since my lawyer stated after the last negotiations that he would not request for one the next time—because he felt that his paying the fees wasn’t worth it, since I’d stated after the first session that she didn’t help as much as she could have (quiet at times, sitting there listening; no simultaneous interpreting). However, I’d been told by legal aid lawyers months ago that the court would provide one for me, and I’d submitted a form for it on my own, which is why I’d even had an interpreter the first session in March. This made me wonder why he didn’t want me to have one present (I have natural skepticism about this guy).

This past Monday, with negotiations for Thursday set, I had enough second doubts about him, and I became worried that he wasn’t going to be able to talk to the negotiator, my wife’s lawyer, and to me at the same time, especially if something became dramatic or heated. I wanted to know all that was happening, so I wrote an email to an interpreting agency I’d met in person a month ago. The woman responded she’d get back to me, but by Wednesday, I still hadn’t heard from her by the end of the day! That night, I text messaged one of the gals who works in that office (she was going to attend the March negotiations, but I got a free court one instead) to see if her boss had asked her to attend my hearing. She stated that she had told her boss on Monday that she couldn’t. Grrr… not good for me.

I’d also emailed three members of the HR staff at my job to call the courthouse on Monday to ask if I had the right to a FREE interpreter (and if so, if they could request one for me), sending the email to three people (two local and one from my country). The western guy wrote and said he’d asked his bilingual counterpart to call (who’d I’d included in the email), but by Wednesday morning, nobody had gotten back to me. I saw the expat in person and asked about it, and he claimed the other guy “was going to call.” By the end of the day, I still didn’t hear anything. When I was leaving my job, knowing that the negotiation was the next day at 9am, I was disappointed—and worried. Again I saw him at the parking lot, and he apologized, saying he couldn’t believe they didn’t call for me. Grrr… not good for me.

So Wednesday night, I texted a gal who interprets professionally. She agreed to be there at 9am.

She was late.

Now, when she did show up 6-7 minutes late, much had already been said, none of which my lawyer explained.

When she sat down, apologizing, the negotiator, the same woman from March’s session asked who she was. My lawyer stated she was a court-appointed interpreter, but rather one whom I’d hired. The negotiator seemingly stated I didn’t need to hire one since the court should provide one! Again, I wondered why my lawyer had told me he wasn’t going to request one (and the fees he mentioned turned out to be false). Does he know anything about family court, I wondered. Or was there something behind his reasons?

The soon-to-be-ex’s father was present (to be honest, I don’t even feel comfortable writing her name any more). I didn’t want him to be. For the eight-plus years I’d been with her, her daddy did so much of the talking and decision making for her, even in my presence. There were times when we went to do something together and he was in total control.   Once when we went to do some legal paperwork, her father did all the talking at the ticket window, even though she was right there—even though she was 29-30 years of age at the time! I even asked her later why she let’s her dad handle so much in those circumstances.  He filled that role a few times. He even went to run errands for her to handle the kids’ passports once or even helped me with something—when I’d asked her to help, which she should have been doing.

I’ve long had the impression that she is a daddy’s girl, and daddy’s “little girl”, i.e., she never grew up and her parents are in control. She let’s them be. Honestly, I’ve long felt she let’s them because she feels herself to be an inept communicator (I have countless emails from her stating how she always fumbles her words, how she gets emotional when pressured, how she upsets her parents because she states things that just don’t make sense) and partly because she is somewhat culturally expected to let them handle things. Even in the midst of her fourth decade of life.

So here, just shy of 34 years of age, she was sitting with her dad by her side.

Daddy’s little girl.

Knowing that in January she asked him to come to the police station when she had called the police on me to wrest the car from me (I’d had it for the three month’s after I’d moved out—and I’d paid each of those months completely on my own—and we’d both paid for it equally for the months until then—and the down payment, too, was equal), and there he lied to my lawyer and to the police, saying that I didn’t pay anything into an account nor pay for the car. Lying is what he proved himself capable of doing.

I didn’t trust him. I didn’t want him present.

Over the last few months, I’d visited quite a few legal aid lawyers, both in the family court and in downtown legal aid offices. Each one I asked, “What if her father shows to the negotiations?” They each said, “You have the right to ask him to leave. The negotiator will arrange that.”

So, I’d told my lawyer weeks and weeks ago that I didn’t want her father present. He’d be there guiding her thoughts, he’d be there explaining things, chiming in in his dramatic way, like he did in the police station (often converting to a local dialect, not the mainstream language in this country, to talk to the police nearby—for I don’t speak a lick of the dialect), and he’d be there to lie—and huff.

I knew her dramatic huffs would be enough; why would I want to hear his, too.

So from the start, even before my interpreter came, I stated through my lawyer that I had a right to have him not be present. I didn’t speak directly to the woman to at least try to placate the situation that was surely going to turn sour. It did.

The ex spoke out dramatically, saying that her father should be there (this was all in the official language, so I understood only a little, but surely not all), and her daddy spoke out to. The negotiator, my lawyer, hers and the two of them had a volley of dramatic exchanges about his presence. I understood that my ex questioned why he couldn’t be there if I could have an interpreter by my side (my lawyer had started off first saying my interpreter was on the way). My lawyer supposedly countered saying I had a right, because of the language barrier, to get help.

The negotiator was shuffling papers around, and she nonchalantly said something akin to “Let’s proceed,” for the ex’s lawyer and ex started explaining things anyway.

I respectfully said, “Excuse me, miss (I don’t know how to say “ma’am” yet)” and my lawyer got her attention, stating again that I didn’t want him present. More volleys ensued.

My interpreter arrived and broke up the conversation by sitting down next to me.

This time the negotiator went over to the corner to adjust some papers on the filing cabinet (why was she housecleaning then?), and again shrugged it off, stating that we can begin. My lawyer whispered, “She thinks we can just proceed and not worry about this all.”

Culture at play? Was she really unbiased?

I clearly, firmly stated back to him (in a whisper), “I will leave if he is present. I have a right to have him leave. This is negotiation between me and her, not her family.”

I spoke up in Swahili to the woman this time. “For three months, I’ve asked lawyers in legal aid (I didn’t know that word in Swahili), and they told me I can have the right…” My interpreter finished the rest because I didn’t have it all in my language skills to do so.

With that, he was asked to go outside and wait.

With that, my wife stood up, and left with him! She said if her father couldn’t be present, she wouldn’t be.

Just her lawyer remained.

Later, after the session was finished, and my lawyer and I were standing outside on the sidewalk, he told me, “She stated that her dad knows what we need to say…”

I guess she didn’t have it in her to speak for herself without help.

During the first few minutes, to backtrack a second, I don’t know if the negotiator mentioned this or not, but I feel it should have been. Did she tell my wife that she should have been present at the first negotiations? Was it noted? Does it even factor in here? That should have been a strike against her, undoubtedly. And that’s not based on cultural perceptions. Human nature would judge her actions to not show as detrimental to this process. Was it viewed as a tactic to further keep the kids from me, to delay by another 4-5 weeks my possibly negotiating to see them, extending the total time they’ve been held against their right to be with their daddy until the 88th day by the time this negotiation took place?

For some reason, though I didn’t understand what was being explained completely, I don’t believe it was mentioned.

My lawyer should have mentioned it himself.

My handwritten notes at this point are sporadic and messy, for I was trying to maintain some eye contact with the negotiator, to see what my lawyer was doing, and to listen to the interpreter at this point.

The negotiator rattled off some stuff about custody rights requiring responsibility, until the children are adults.

My lawyer explained that I’ve asked repeatedly to see them, which I have, ever since she made the decision without my consent to stop them from staying at my apartment for three nights a week and with me every Sunday for seven hours. He stated that I didn’t know anything about how the kids spend their time. Clearly, he mentioned that I request the same schedule as before, a return to normalcy in my role as a father (as much as can be under the new framework of a soon-t0-be-divorced couple with kids).

Because one of her claims continues to be that I don’t help them financially (though I’ve not received a single snippet of communication from her since January 20th, two days after she said I cannot take my children out any more), he further explained that because the schedule would mean the kids would be with me those evenings and overnights and on Sundays, that that would mean I would be financially responsible for them again.

Another (western) lawyer three months ago told me that “by extrapolation” I was in fact paying for them, for they lived with me, too, for I took them out on outings that cost money every Sunday, for we went for dinner, etc., and that my bills, rent, car, etc., also went to being for them partially. Accommodation three nights a week and related expenses was supporting them.

On that note, I told my lawyer ten days ago in a face-to-face meeting that I didn’t think it was fair of her to demand I now give her money because she actually abducted my kids against their will, without my or their consent.

Up until January 18th, I had paid for everything aforementioned. On top of that, she’d sent me an email in Nov/Dec that stated she was sending six months of rent payments in to the landlord from our joint account! I was paying for half of their rent, a huge chunk of their expenses.

If at that time, I took the kids, dropped them off, and stated, “I never want to see the kids again. You handle all their finances, educational and health expenses, etc.,” that would have been wrong. I would have been neglecting them by putting all the expenses on her shoulders (besides the rent already paid from our joint accounts), and I would have been held responsible to pay something, of course.

However, SHE ABDUCTED THEM! I asked her repeatedly to change her mind. I asked via email and text messages nearly every day for 88 days hitherto to see them (she now claims I didn’t come to their house to see them and that’s my fault, which is completely unrealistic and unfathomably false). So, if she abducted them, taking all responsibility for their welfare and wellbeing, which includes financial obligations (except rent, since that was paid), how on earth could she turn around and demand financial support? I WASN’T ABLE to spend money on them on outings, for food, for clothes, for any household-related expenses, which I’d theretofore done. She changed all that.

Wouldn’t my sending them money result in condoning her actions?

“Take my kids away from me without my consent and against their rights.  I’ll pay you!”

Really?

I explained this to my lawyer ten days ago when he was steadfastly pressuring me to agree with her financial demands (which her lawyer said we need to agree to before we even discuss scheduling times with the kids). I even drew a picture of two families of three, showing how expenses were shared up until January 18th. I drew an arrow to represent that if I shoved the kids completely on her, that I should pay for my share to help her raise them. But when she abducted them, she changed that financial obligation somewhat. Did I then turn around and say, “Hey, you’ve taken my kids from me, but, here, let me give you some cash to help you out. Let me assist you in this whole sordid chapter of YOUR abduction of my children!”

That didn’t seem right.

By the way, other lawyers I’d visited in the months leading up to my finally retaining one in March stated that I “shouldn’t pay her anything.” The courts were to decide what legally was obligated for child support (and even with the notion of getting joint or sole custody in my mind, I didn’t feel she had a right to demand payments). Even family wrote, “don’t send her anything; let the courts decide; she doesn’t mandate anything.”

With that said, she had emailed me once in the late fall of 2013 to say, “You don’t owe me a cent!” Then, a few months later, she demanded an absurd amount to be paid in a six-month’s lump to her bank, with a threat of “then we can talk” about the kids.  She didn’t even know what she wanted, and that’s proven by her vacillations.

Naturally, there is an inclination to say I should have given them something more (and I would have if I had them in natural roles of parenting and such), but please keep in mind that she HADN’T responded to single message. And I’ve said this until I turned blue in the face, but she had also kept our bank account funds and sent me a message to say I cannot access the bank. She has played a game the whole time, but yet she claims now (through her lawyer and in the divorce petition she submitted) that I didn’t pay anything for them.

My lawyer at this point of the meeting further explained that we need to negotiate seeing them four times a week, not the one time per week which was brought up in the last negotiations.  I had told him to explain that I wanted four times/week because that was normal fathering, for we could go out, do things, have fun, etc. Once a week wasn’t enough.  It wasn’t right.  It wasn’t fair.  I am still their daddy and I should have a right to their time equally.

The negotiator or her lawyer stated that if I loved my kids, I wouldn’t leave other things out of this all, like asking her father to leave or focusing on old family issues.

WTF?

From here on out, the main focus for her lawyer was to address why I took their passports, as I’d done back in the fall of ‘13 when moving most of my things out. Having done that made and apparently continues to make my wife fear that I will leave the country, and they claim that is the reason why I cannot have access to my children now.

The following is what I wrote someone the night of the negotiations.  I wasn’t taking the passports for anything related to planning to leave with them.

The reality is is that back in October, while cleaning out some of my office paperwork and documents when moving out, I decided to keep the kids’ passports from my country when I took mine from the stack of travel-related docs, and I LEFT their two local passports with hers. My mentality was that we are BOTH parents and we can both maintain their official documents, splitting the passports based on the parents’ nationalities (I didn’t take both sets of the kids, which would have meant I could have taken off easily and exercised all control).

On the other hand, keeping all with her when I moved out felt like she would then have total control of their documentation, so I split them up between us. Lawyers have stated that as a parent, I can hold their paperwork, etc., for they’re minors, just like she could, but this scenario has resulted in drama. The very night I split them up, she threatened me by email/text “Bring back the passports or [your daughter] doesn’t go [with you] tomorrow or until you do.” For months afterwards, she claimed repeatedly in emails I stole the passports, and that I better return them because they belong to family “and you’re not family any more.”

I simply responded that my lawyers said I had a right to them, too, and the consulate told me in person “That sounds right,” when I explained the scenario as I have here. On top of this issue, which to me is a non-issue, for we both have sets of passports (and I’ve been told that I cannot travel with them without her easily–and more so now because my daughter’s passport expired when she turned five recently), she has incessantly referred to a conversation we had in November, the only time she and I have met face-to-face to talk since I moved out Oct 5th.

In that conversation, she was explaining how she was going to get sole custody and how she would never give me joint custody, and she was explaining how she wouldn’t give me custody because of some health problems, meaning I wouldn’t be able to take care of them as well as she could, she felt (and I disagreed with, totally). All I had asked for until that point (from moving out until then) was joint custody because both parents should have a say in raising the kids.

However, at one point in the conversation the topic came up of if I had custody at all. She demanded to know what I would do and if I would leave. I stated, “I would only ever take the kids if something happened and you weren’t able to care for them or were unfit.” As a result, she immediately went haywire in sarcasm, repeatedly stating, “Are you saying I am unfit?” and “How can you say you will take them from their mother.”

I kept repeating that it was a conditional tense to say that “if” something happened, I would still have some responsibility or decision making power (I’d been told by one lawyer that if she died, her parents got rights here to take the kids, so I was speaking from my own fears of losing control totally myself).

When she asked how and why I would do that, I pointed at people in the cafe around us and said, “What if that man has a mid-life crisis and discovers he just cannot be a father any more… and what if his wife didn’t have custody? What rights would she have?” And I pointed at a woman and said, “And what about her. What if she has a mental breakdown and doesn’t want her kids any more? What would her ex-husband be able to do if he didn’t have custody?” And… “What about that woman? What if she crosses the street and gets broadsided by a bus? Who would get control of her kids if she were divorced and had custody?”

I explained further… so if there ever was a reason you were unfit or got hit by a bus, I would like to have some power to decide what to do with the children, and that would be the only reason I’d leave.”

She responded dramatically, “Are you saying I’m unfit?” “Are you taking my children from me?”

I kept repeating it was all “if” conditional examples, but she cried.

Ever since, she’s stated, “You threatened you will take the children away from me.”

I never said that. It was never a threat.  She’s used it repeatedly in the most dramatic interpretation. By the way, the whole conversation is recorded and since I just typed more of it up in an excerpt, I recall stuff in detail. I never threatened and I never said I am going to do that. She’s run with it all and is now, obviously, stuck on that notion.

Incidentally, I’ve mentioned repeatedly to friends and family for the last six months (and even dating back to over a year ago when we first had major divorce-possibly-pending issues) that I was willing to stay in this country for the next sixteen years so that I could be with my children and so that she could, too, since the kids deserve both parents in their lives.  I felt that way for the longest time.

So that surely was the focus of this April 17th negotiation (and it was brought up in the last session, too).  It seems that all is based on this fear of hers.

By the way, I am starting to not use the word ‘negotiation’ with much certainty of that actually having occurred.

The negotiator stated that for the scheduling of childrens’ times, certain pre-conditions must be met. She said the parent has to be close to the kids and there has to be a willingness to see the children.

Of course those pre-conditions were met, but they (her lawyer and family–and maybe even the negotiator) apparently don’t think so.

The other lawyer had different ideas on that note, which he was eager to explain, which he did.

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To be continued…

(By the way, dear reader, please don’t leave any comments.  Email me if you’d like to!)

 

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Court Negotiations in a Foreign Land: Part II

Going through court was hell, so I posted this piece (here) in April 2014.

April 17th, 2014: The Second Negotiations, Part II

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As I stated as a disclaimer in my first post about such negotiations abroad, please read this from the perspective of an expat living in a foreign country, for the system, culture, communication, etc., all create a less-than-desirable situation.)

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My lawyer at some time brought up (whether he was prompted to, I don’t know), the whole CouchSurfing issue. Something was mentioned about my wife going or not, so I hope he explained the whole experience about our family vacation last year and how we’d met Couchsurfers and such. I also have evidence of my having told her about pending CS visitors for tours around our city, and one, at least, states that she would go with if she wanted.

During this second round of negotiations, there was ZERO mention of what her lawyer suggested last time, that they don’t want to see me because they are afraid of me. This prompts me to wonder if they’ll pursue that notion—and it wasn’t mentioned at all in the social services record that I received one week later at my lawyer’s office (April 23rd).

The negotiator mentioned that her experience tells her that mutual custody is difficult for couples. Though she isn’t a judge, and she’s not deciding anything, I wonder if the actual judge will have a similar perspective.

She also mentioned, even though she is supposed to be neutral and fair, that she doubts I will get sole custody.

Ouch. Thanks for that, ma’am.

Another lie surfaced at one point when my spouse’s lawyer stated that there was a ZERO balance in the bank account by December. She must have spent a lot of money from our joint funds, living INCREDIBLY lavishly to do so!

At the beginning of the session, the negotiator had mentioned that my wife was not willing to allow visitation. That had been clear; otherwise, I’d be with my kids now. The fact that I haven’t is killing me, especially because western friends keep reminding me that if I were in my home country, this couldn’t happen. I’d have seen the kids already.

However, the mediator also stated that the children’s rights is a top priority, and that the best way for the welfare of the kids is for both parents to be involved in their lives. If she stated this, this begs the question, “Why the hell have 99 days now passed since I’ve seen my kids!?!?”   (99 days at the time of writing up this summary on 4/27/2014.)

She continued on the same track of kids’ rights with that the mother had expressed some concerns about the safety and security of the children, but she didn’t elaborate on this topic at all. At that point, however, the recording I had made reveals that my wife tried to explain something then, but the mediator asked my wife to please let her continue. I wonder what the ex was trying to state.

In providing her understanding of the current situation, the mediator went on to say that there was also concern on the father’s behalf (my behalf) that if something happens to the mother (and she’d gotten sole custody), I wouldn’t have any power, that her parents might get the children. She explained that I don’t have to worry about this because by law, I would be the next person in line for custody. Further she clarified that she sees there are problems in the relationship but the focus for the negotiations is an agree for the children’s rights.

Again, that prompts me to ask, “What the hell is the delay based on? Why am I NOT seeing my kids now?”

[Incidentally, dear reader, these last few paragraphs were just translated for me from the audio recorded copy of the session, ten days after the negotiations. An interpreter just listened to the first seven minutes of the session to tell me what had been discussed before the interpreter had arrived in the room. Why my lawyer didn’t inform me of what was being said irks me.]

At some point in the early process, before my spouse walked out with her dad, she asked my lawyer if I had job security. He explained in ‘Swahili’ that I did. She pressed him again in a dramatic way how that was possible. So she repeated again her belief that I don’t have job security, adding something about my visa status. He mentioned that I had a job, but she kept on questioning if I could prove my job stability, so he even leaned over and asked if I had a contract for next year.

I scribbled on notepaper in front of me, “Yes, I do.”

From that ambiguous focus, which was weird enough that I even went to my boss for reassurances when I arrived at work later that day, the negotiator moved on by stating that if there is no consensus reached in the negotiations, it will be up to the court for arranging visitation.

By the way, I hate the word visitation, for it implies a sense of her having total control, and that, on the other hand, I can merely see the kids at her discretion.  At this stage of the game, I feel, adamantly, that I have a right to a normal routine (during this separation period) to be with my children.

My lawyer reiterated my desire to return to a normal three-nights-a-week routine for my kids at my house, and the seven-hour outings on Sundays. That is normal father-children relations, not the visitations she might allow in the garden courtyard at her complex, with her present.

Her lawyer mentioned that maybe after divorce they’d be willing to negotiate my spending time with the kids. They remained steadfast in how they want to handle divorce, uncontested, first.

He stated, “After the divorce, make a request to see the kids.”

I spoke up at this point and exclaimed that divorce proceedings can take a very long time (actual litigation and not coming to an agreement for divorce in the negotiations that we were having) and that that was way too long for me to wait to see my children.

My lawyer clarified my concern that if divorce is settled first, I will have no power to negotiate anything about the kids. My only focus is on seeing the kids at this point.

Her lawyer responded by saying it is best to get a divorce, first, and that he feels we’re trying to use divorce as a bargaining chip. And my ex chipped in that I could still visit the children—but only at her place, for she is afraid that I will take the children from the country.

Again, showing (in my opinion) that she ISN’T unbiased, the negotiator added that from her experience dealing with interracial couples, she feels that other expats will take (have taken) their children back to their home countries.

How downright wrong and unfair she is to make an assumption that I would do the same. What if some expats here set a bad reputation for some foolish behaviors? Does that mean I am going to do the same? What if some expats here smoke marijuana, even though it is highly illegal? Does that mean I’ll partake, too?

So how can she make such assumptions? Doing so also means she’s leaning to one side, favoring my wife now, it seems.

The upshot is that my allegedly planning to take the kids from the country is the main focus of their NOT letting me see the kids, but there are many reasons why this simply isn’t feasible, and I explained them.

I first explained that I had all along, before the kids were abducted from me, focused on getting joint custody so that the children had a right to both parents, equally, and so that both parents could have a say in decisions. Taking the kids overseas would be against that original notion.

Secondly, I stated that in this day and age, international laws are in place to ensure that parents don’t abduct their children and escape to other countries. In some places, immigration can be notified of a parent who is at risk, per se, for doing this, and there are measures such as documents needing to be presented upon leaving a country that clearly show that the other parents agrees to international travel. Whatever the situation is here in this country, I do not know, and I hope my lawyer follows up on my request to find out for sure.

Moreover, I stated that I would not create an international abduction case because that would surely ruin my professional career, to boot. I would NOT do that, leaving my job here and moving back to my home country, because it would shoot me in the foot professionally.

At this point, the negotiator chuckled! Outwardly! I almost said it directly to her, but I instead turned to my interpreter and asked, astonished, “Why is she laughing? She’s laughing.”

Pure travesty this whole event was.

If that wasn’t enough, and it wasn’t because her lawyer kept on referring back to the worry she has I’ll leave, I thought I would provide the strongest evidence I wouldn’t just up and leave if given the chance to take my kids out.

Thus, I went into detail about how my daughter’s passport (from my home country) expired after her fifth birthday, which I didn’t see her for (er, that is, wasn’t allowed to see her for). The fact that her passport is expired should have put their minds to rest.

Instead, the negotiator questioned if it was indeed expired, showing her doubt by saying local passports don’t expire so soon.

Instead, her lawyer added, “What about your son? You still have his passport!”

His implying that I’d take my son, just two, and leave his older sister, is ABSURD. And it hurt.

I would NEVER separate my kids! How cold and cruel would that be? I wouldn’t take my son to my country and leave her behind! I love her and couldn’t do that. There is no way I’d just make a new life with him but not her. And I couldn’t just simply return to this country in the future to visit her! Such notions are crazy. How could their mother claim I would do that?

Her games continued.

——————————————-

To be continued….

 

 

 

 

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I’ve Lost My Identity: No, It was Taken from Me

Hardships of varying degrees made up my life in Taiwan for 3.5 years of divorce and custody battles, posted here.

We live in a world full of horrific strife, frequent tragedies, and unimaginable horrors, so I know that my venting here, my emotional unloading, just doesn’t compare to some of the ills that others experience elsewhere, every minute of every day, worldwide.  In comparison to what others go through, my experience pales, so knowing that massive fires recently wreaked havoc on communities in Southern California, that the ferry disaster in South Korea has left scores upon scores forever affected, and that hundreds were lost on that mysterious Malaysian Airlines flight, leaving families distraught in a world of the unknown to this day, well, I should simply close up my laptop and put these thoughts down on paper instead, merely to rest on a bookshelf or in a drawer–and not publicized here, lest I’m labelled as selfish.   However, the urge to get this off my chest and out to friends and family–and to whomever is listening, overwhelms me.

You see, I am a father.  But for the last 148 days (as of June 15th), that identity has been challenged, almost to the point that I feel at times, when I am most down and out, suffering from angst that rivals nothing I’ve experienced, hitherto, that my identity as a father has been taken away.

Yes, as I’ve just stated, this is nothing like a world-altering terrorist event or far spread famine, but, nevertheless, a tragic loss for me–and if I may extend this to them, for my children, too.

No, my children haven’t died.  They didn’t meet a tragic fate, there wasn’t a horrible disaster, and they haven’t been scarred for life.  Actually, some might argue that they have, but I’ll expand on that concept later.

You see, on January 18th, 2014, a Saturday, my kids were forbidden to go out with their father, to go to his house the three nights a week and on the outings for seven hours every Sunday that had been previously scheduled (and agreed upon by two separated parents).  The morning of the 18th was the last time I saw them, having dropped them off via taxi service at 7:00am, the time their mother required, at her house.  I hugged them and kissed them as I always did, saying in the local language of where we live, “See you tomorrow!”

My spouse, from whom I’d been separated for about three months at the time, demanded that I could no longer take them out; moreover, she dictated that the only way I could see them was to visit them under her supervision in the apartment complex courtyard in our city somewhere here in the Eastern Hemisphere.  She claimed in her email that evening that she was protecting the children from my social life and from my “women” and in order to do that, I needed to visit them with her present!  Those details are for another blog, which I’ve already started, for writing about them, to me, is therapeutic, but suffice it to say that I had no social life, that there were no gatherings at my house (which she now claims in the divorce paperwork), and there SURELY were no “women” I was exposing them to.

Incidentally, my initial reaction to her demands was that I wasn’t going to concur, for she had no right to dictate how and when I saw my own children, yet two days later, after receiving advice from female family members via email, I wrote her back to accept her offer, lest she one day use it against me that I chose not to see the kids.  She’d even said, “What are you afraid of?  That you’re women cannot come?”  Instead of then agreeing to my idea to see them that Tuesday, two days later, under her terms, she wrote back, “Sorry, but we’re really busy now.  We’ll let you know when.”  That was the last I’ve heard from her.

Since January 18th, I’ve sent nearly daily emails and/or text messages, requests that have run the gamut of ideas–all respectful and placid, for I am not going to stoop to her level and turn this into something wicked.  I just want to see my kids.

So about my exposing them, hurting them by having them with my “women” (that is such nonsense that I despise even repeating her accusations)…

The quickest way to explain is that in December, I’d taken the children out with an international visitor (a female college student) from a website, Couchsurfing.org, a traveler’s hospitality exchange site, the same one we’d used as a family eleven months before to plan eight excursions with five different “hosts” while traveling for nine days in another country here in the region.  All the CSers I’d arranged to meet there were women, too, and they all loved interacting with our family, especially taking to our daughter, just four years of age at the time, and son, a mere one year then.  There, some of those women held hands with our girl, watched her dancing and singing, and hugged the kids when saying goodbye.  CSing is a wondrously good traveler’s concept, and we, as parents, had NO qualms taking the kids on such adventures.

So, how on earth did a three-hour outing sightseeing with said female visitor turn into anything wrong?  Yet that night, after taking my kids back to their mom’s after dinner, I received an email labeling me as a bad dad, stating that I had no clue what my children needed, that I was exposing them to my “women” so early after abandoning them.  Huh?  Why on earth was this misconstrued?  Three hours with the kids.  We had a fine time.  My kids enjoyed themselves.  Nothing transpired to cause such an emotional reaction.  Nothing.

Trying to keep this summary brief, for this blog is simply about losing my identity as a father (hopefully temporarily so), I need to also mention that 2-3 weeks later, I had a friend visit from overseas, and on one Sunday for 4-5 hours, we went with my children to a local religious site for sightseeing, also, and all interactions were equally wholesome and genuine.  My son and daughter enjoyed the outing.  In fact, all was completely natural to the point that they didn’t blink an eye.  My friend of 18 years, a world traveler herself, having decided to come to see my adopted country for the first time, instead of repeating the destination her husband and children were heading to, was great with the kids, being a mom, herself.  We all had a fine time.

So, how on earth did a 4-5 hour sightseeing outing turn into anything wrong That night, I received a text and email that gave me an earful about being a bad father, that I had no sense of what being a good dad entails.  Another innuendo about being out with the kids with my “women” surely stood out.

Hmmmm…  I wonder what triggered such a reaction.

It must be said that if my good friends Bob, Ben, or Brian had come to visit me and had gone touring with the kids and me, well, there would have been ZERO issue.  So, did I make a mistake in being out with the kids with someone?  Or was it merely, simplemindedly, because it was someone of the female gender?

Two days later, after an email warning that “you don’t take women in the family car,” my wife also called the police on me and essentially, heavy-handedly wrested the vehicle from my possession (for I’d been the only driver for the 18 months we’d owned it).  Eleven days later, she took my kids.

And my identity.

Being that my daughter is five (and I missed out on her birthday three months ago–as well as my son’s), the last half decade of my life has revolved around being a father.  My travels and my profession, the one-two combo of what I’d identified myself as years before my kids (and somewhere in there was my spouse, but I cannot honestly give her any credit or kudos for anything being that she has abducted my children) were superseded by my daughter (and three years after, my son).

Those five years only solidified my identity as a daddy.  My solo travels went from 2-3 times per year before having kids to once a year (and I am aware that some people cannot fathom a father traveling without family, but it was something I’d expressed I’d still like to have once a year after we had family).

Now, I’ve long been a person who needs balance in my life, and I have long striven to incorporate a variety of those needs, which for five years surely entailed my children coming first, with spousal time, me time, occasional social outings, and work providing the rest of the ingredients for a balanced life.  My ex, who is a homebody by nature, who doesn’t value or need ‘me time’ (she’s one of those martyr moms who just needs to prove every single second of every single day is for others and never her), who doesn’t have any hobbies, would argue that I liked my ‘me time’ too much, which included blogging, photography, and language study.  However, first and foremost, my identity centered on being dad.

To now have no dad time at all is a sickeningly arduous experience.  On the average day, I proceed numbly through the steps of what life is supposed to otherwise be about.

I awake in the morning to thoughts of my babies.  I go to sleep at night with similar mental musings.  It sounds cliche, but they are on my mind all the time, but it is completely different than having them in my life regularly, naturally.

When I leave my house for whatever reason, I cannot, obviously, say goodbye to them.  When I arrive home, they’re not there with a hug and enthusiastic “Daddy!” to greet me.

There are no more outings.  No “Daddy and _______ Dates”, which my daughter and I shared at various time (when mother was too pregnant to go out much or during the recovery after brother’s birth), excursions to parks, playgrounds, or cafes to lounge together.  No more “Family of Three” trips that I labelled them as after separating from my wife, which included restaurants with children’s play centers, kid’s museum visits, or our adventures by subway to a variety of places in our city.

Nothing.

Such an identity helped me, admittedly, also develop a slightly stronger sense of purpose, moreover.  I’d had a decent sense of who I was, theretofore, but once you become a parent, many other aspects of life don’t matter as much.

But now that my kids are gone from my life, nothing matters at all, really.  They were all in retrospect.

Nowadays, I have more ‘me time’ than I ever wanted.  It is all I have, yet I cannot identify with anything that is currently in my life.

I blog, but I am not into it as much as I used to be.  I periodically work on my photos, but they’re irrelevant now.  I do such things in a numb state just to force myself to not be 100% concentrated on the lack of my kids in my existence.  Being that I am still married legally, I cannot engage in any interests on other levels, either, so this ongoing focus on my loss of identity continues without those types of outlets for getting my mind off such matters.

Losing my identity as a father has also made me contemplate those people who intentionally leave their children.  How could they?  Isn’t there a natural inclination to have one’s kids in one’s life?  Forever?  That’s another topic for another time, I suppose.

But speaking of which, a man I know here recommended a few weeks back that I just start over, that I just accept this situation and move on.  Impossible!  They are my core.  How can I just replace them with something/someone else?  Never.  They aren’t replaceable; neither is my connection to them.

Currently, I am waiting on the court system here to render a decision about my seeing the kids.  I don’t have any clue how so many near-countless days have already passed without that decision already being made.  The court hearings to date have been a travesty of what actual legal proceedings should be.

Thus, with this wait, hand in hand, comes waiting for my identity to be restored.  Until then, I simply don’t have one.  I am hollow inside.

Will the law prevail?  Will my rightful status as a custodial agent for my son and daughter be returned?  Will my identity, also?

If not, I am… nothing, it seems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Negotiations in a Foreign Land: The Third Meeting

Court BS prompted this posting (here originally).

Here, for family, are the 3rd negotiation notes, which took place on May 28th.  They’re going to be sketchy and sporadic, for it was a frenetic, brief, charged event.  It took place on a sofa, loveseat and chair arrangement in the office of someone, not in the negotiation business-like conference room of the last three total visits.

  1. First, my interpreter will be “fired” (or at least never contacted again). She, the same woman who cam to the second negotiations on 4/17–and was late then, was late by ten minutes. She wasn’t there when my lawyer chatted prior to meeting in a hallway waiting room, so I missed out on that dialogue other than that my wife and my lawyer and hers were chatting about seeing the children. This interpreter showed up around 7-8 minutes into the negotiations, but since the time frame from start to finish (when my wife and her attorney walked out) was only about twenty minutes, she missed a good chunk of the all-present—except her—process.
  2. The negotiator started with something about my wife’s behavior, refusing to let me see the kids, resulting in the injunction I’d filed (and resulting investigation on 5/15). Why that was brought up, I have no clue, but that English understanding came from my lawyer, who was trying to keep up with dialogue and interpreting simultaneously, an arduous task.
  3. My wife (I don’t even like to use her name any more) stated in response that I chose not to come and visit and instead prefer to sit at the convenience store outdoor café across the street (which I did once with co-workers who go there regularly—so I could possibly get a glimpse of the kids and videotape her or her parents trying to avoid me trying to see them).
  4. She and her lawyer immediately went into an emotional demand to know why I haven’t signed or agreed to sign the divorce paperwork yet. My lawyer explained something in the local language, but I think, as he told me before the negotiations, when we met for around 15 minutes, that I had friends back home and a lawyer friend suggest I not accept divorce yet. I didn’t speak up about this for I just wanted her to get more emotional, thinking it would hurt her image.
  5. She and her lawyer then went into some BS about how even starting back in July and Sept/Oct I wasn’t even financially responsible for the kids. That’s a total fabrication, but I wonder why they were trying to paint that picture (other than trying to say I was a bad dad). I considered on the spot if they are trying to get me to say I was working private lessons—and then they could attack me for not paying taxes for the two years between living in the last country we lived in and until my current full-time position. They further stated (and my interpreter came in by now) that I was not making a living, that I was not responsible, that I had/have no concern for the financial well-being of the children. Her lawyer said that loving the kids is natural, but if I don’t pay a penny, I don’t love them. I allegedly “wasn’t able to pay for them” even back in those months.
  6. Although I had promised myself that I wasn’t going to reveal anything new (i.e., reveal any evidence I have to refute her nonsense), I was getting worked up at that point. Enough that I wanted to shout at her to stop the drama. However, I didn’t. I asked my lawyer to give me a few moments to talk. I addressed the moderator (the same not-an-attorney woman from 3/17 and 4/17’s sessions—but not the judge from the 5/15 investigation), and then explained that her claims were not correct. I explained that in the first three months of the separation, she vacillated with her demands—and that in the beginning, she told me one amount in one email, but then later said “we don’t owe each other a cent”, yet later stated, “Send me $_______________ paid in six months up front.” During this exchange, my wife kept on harshly demanding, “Show it!” I simply responded, “I have documentation I will present in litigation.”
  7. Her lawyer then got dramatic and explained, “Why are we dealing with this, this is so trivial.” He said we shouldn’t be discussing any of this since even back in July… September I wasn’t supporting the children.
  8. There was quite a heated discussion at this point.
  9. My attorney mentioned that regardless of what happened, we can agree on paying a certain percentage now into a bank account for the kids. (I don’t actually agree to doing this just yet, for I do feel that by doing so, it simply, somehow, shows I concur with her abducting my children. I once explained to my lawyer that since she abducted them, why should I turn around and say, “Hey, let me support you now, financially, in keeping my kids from me.” Before she took the kids, we split the time with the kids [though she’ll argue she had the kids more because I work longer days—which even is wrong because she took on my daughter MORE back in November when she took her out of school], and that felt natural like I was also paying for them, too, via rent, clothing, kids furniture, etc.)
  10. My guy chimed in that regardless of a sole custody or joint custody decision, the support we pay should be proportionate.
  11. Throughout this emotionally-charged section, I was really getting annoyed with her lawyer claiming that such affairs were trivial.
  12. I asked for time, having to really press to stop them all from going on and on. I reiterated that her lawyer (with a false “with all due respect and honor”) had reiterated a few times that such discussions about finances from the past were trivial. Pause. However, their entire argument about me not seeing the kids is about my supposedly not helping with the kids, but how could that be the foundation of their stance if discussing finances is now trivial?
  13. They added somewhere, too, that I should be responsible for half the kids living expenses. I responded that I have emails that clearly state she WAS paying certain monthly bills and that she’d informed me she was taking it out of “our account” and “the joint account”. My wife scoffed, repeating what she said in the 5/15 investigation that the money was all hers.
  14. Her lawyer now started on the slant of “If we aren’t going to discuss divorce, we don’t need to proceed.”
  15. It was mentioned again that I could take the children back to my country if they let me see them. Tired of those claims, I reached into my bag and produced the kids recently cut passports (I’d cut the corners off the front and back of both, making them void and useless–even though my daughter’s passport was already expired). I flicked the corners back and forth, repeating, “I am not going anywhere with the kids.” They said I could still travel and take them to my country. My voice grew stronger in repeating, “That is nonsense. It is impossible.” Then her lawyer and she just jumped in with “What if he takes the kids to the capital city for a month and I don’t see them?”
  16. At that point, I wanted to ask, “So, if I take them and you don’t see them for a month, how is that different than you taking them for nearly FOUR months!?” I didn’t, worried that they’d just jump onto the notion I’d do that as retribution.
  17. Her lawyer threw out that a man should be willing to pay for his kids, and that I am not. This notion was repeated a few times.
  18. Once more, it was brought up emotionally (my wife was starting to get impatient), “Why hasn’t he agreed to divorce yet?” My interpreter asked, but I didn’t respond. My man explained something in the local language, but too much cross-communication happened that I don’t have anything written down about what he said.
  19. Even the negotiator, in her partially-biased method, which she has revealed already (by laughing when I’d stated last time that I wasn’t going to ruin my career by absconding with the kids back to _____________) spoke up and said, “It is rare that someone isn’t willing to discuss both child visitation and divorce/finances at the same time.”
  20. Then, the negotiator brought up (I don’t believe that it was my wife nor her lawyer initiated this) that my wife can submit something to the government to hold part of my income because I’m not paying living expenses.
  21. Now, this got to a point of disbelief, because my lawyer retorted with the word in _________ for “foreigner”. Internally, I was wondering what the hell he was getting at. The interpreter went on with “foreigners sometimes makes mistakes that will be enlarged by the courts”, but he feels that if I have the children ½ the time I am willing to pay ½ the expenses. (There was such a whirlwind of activity and emotion, there wasn’t much of a chance to respond.) Her lawyer and she went into attack mode about their allegations of my not giving financial support.
  22. At one point earlier, when I’d mentioned the email exchanges and how my wife’s demands fluctuated wildly, the negotiator did press my interpreter, “And did he pay?” I just responded with another, “She has the accounts! She wrote about what expenses she was paying. And I kept reminding her that the courts should decide this all.”
  23. Her lawyer stated, “Why are we arguing about this? This is the simplest issue. He is not supporting his children.
  24. I once more went back into the facts that her emails vacillated, that her different demands were not what I agreed to, that she did tell me she was paying for the expenses, etc.—and that I continually repeated that we should come to an agreement with the courts, not her demands.
  25. My wife and her lawyer got up and left, saying that if we weren’t going to be discussing divorce, they didn’t need to be there.
  26. Egad.
  27. After a few minutes of them leaving, the negotiator finalizing comments to them, my lawyer chuckling outwardly, and much frenetic activity, the negotiator came and sat in the couch across from our loveseat. She explained, “Based on my experience, people usually come to an immediate agreement about finances and that is no argument about money. [I sat there feeling that cannot be true, for money is a huge aspect of many separations/divorces.] She said that it is clear that my wife is upset (she even patted the spot where my wife had just been sitting) and that she understands what she is saying because I am not paying for the children’s expenses. And that I haven’t been doing this in a good way. And this is the third case she has seen from ______________, which is my place of employ! What the hell does that have to do with the price of tea in China?!?!?!?!? And that I may take the kids to the capital. And in her experience, she feels custody would be unlikely because I am not paying for the children and because in this country custody usually goes to the women. And that she understands my wife’s side, and that maybe I just see things because of a different culture.
  28. WTF.
  29. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…
  30. I had to chime in then. I had to.
  31. While she was providing her “insights” of wisdom and experience, I went into my computer bag (I didn’t bring the three 3-ring binders of documentation I’ve brought the first three times), this time. But inside my shoulder bag, I have documents my translators and I have been working on recently.
  32. I explained, “With all do respect… You keep on repeating that I am not paying and didn’t pay expenses for the children, but please listen. Here is the photocopy of the bankbook. When I moved out, we had $15,000US dollars in the account so she had money to pay expenses and bills and for the kids. And I had the kids living with me—and my expenses were also “theirs” for I had to pay for rent and bills for the house just like she did. And here are emails that are highlighted where she informed me in October/Nov/Dec that she was withdrawing money to cover expenses from “our account” and that we had this much “left in the joint account” after paying six months of rent up front. And here is where she said, “I’ve sold off our stocks”.   And here is her email that clearly states, “we don’t owe each other a cent,” and “I hope this sounds fair to you. It should be, because I am not asking any money from you.”
  33. The negotiator responded, “But your wife was talking about money for her. What about you not paying for the children?”
  34. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!
  35. She then explained that my not visiting the children because I am demanding M/W/F like before may be too much time. Maybe I need to start off with once a week. (But the discussion was SUPPOSEDLY all for naught, anyway, since the investigation on 5/15 is apparently going to result in a decision of my being with the kids. I ASSUME that today’s experience will have no impact on the other case number’s judge’s decisions, but I should clarify with my attorney. These negotiations aren’t recorded, with no stenographer present, so even legal aide attorneys told me months ago that what is said within doesn’t apply to later litigation proceedings.)
  36. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…
  37. She got up at that point, but I asked for one more question.
  38. As she sat, I asked (in both ____________ and English), “In your opinion, was my wife taking the children away from their daddy right?” She replied that “No, it wasn’t right… and then rambled on about how she understands that my wife is upset.” I cut her off and asked her to please look at one last thing. But I slipped in, “Ma’am, if I had written emails to her and told her I wouldn’t pay anything, then I should be responsible and even punished by the government holding part of my income, but I never said I wouldn’t. If I was a jerk and said I wasn’t responsible for helping financially, I should be punished, but I didn’t say that. Showing her the highlighted email print out, I explained, “Here is my request on January 22nd, four days after she emailed to say I couldn’t take the kids out, where I asked her to reconsider her decision—because her decision was killing me, that she was hurting me already.” I then pointed out where my wife said, later the same day, “The fact that you think it is not a problem to take the kids out with a woman makes me feel like I need to protect my children… please give me your schedule, but we are busy, I hope you understand.” And I revealed that on January 24th, I wrote “You talked about meeting in your courtyard. I assume that means Tuesdays and Thursdays. What time? 530pm? 6pm? How much time would I have with them?” AND THAT EMAIL ON THE 22nd WAS THE LAST MESSAGE SHE SENT ME, and I HAVEN’T SEEN THEM SINCE OR HEARD FROM HER, but I have sent her 130-days’ worth of texts and emails asking to see them, saying I wanted to open up an account for the kids but I needed her signature, that I… and I started to cry here.
  39. The negotiator handed me a box of tissues.
  40. That was it.
  41. Nothing more. My lawyer, my interpreter and I walked to the door. Putting on our shoes, they small talked momentarily, but I didn’t have anything to say.   She said, “It is clear they both love the children.”

He reminded me of the moderator’s statement about my not probably having a chance at sole custody.

He went off on his same spiel about how divorce court could be long and drawn out and painful. I simply said that I am still pressing for sole custody.

[By the way, before the hearing, I got 15 minutes with him in a side room. He apologized for not letting me know until the last minute about his not attending the 5/15 hearing. He tried making an excuse that he was hoping that the presiding judge who received my injunction might simply feel that she could make a decision for me to see my kids without even needing to attend the investigation, so he was waiting to find out. Uggh.

I asked about why he’d not responded to my emails about not going with me to see the kids, or how 2.5 months have passed and I still haven’t seen them. He explained (not very well) that I may not feel that he is putting in much time, but that he has been doing a good amount of work for me since he is communicating and scheduling things, but he knows he hasn’t responded to all my emails. He said my email also went to an account where he sometimes loses emails (his Gmail account) and gave me his business card with a different email. I’d explained that when I wrote the other day “please check email”, he responded to an email from weeks ago about the investigation, but not to the email I sent him two days ago. Apparently a different email account.

At one point, he explained that his “something something” was broken, which was something about his phone (he said the word, but I didn’t understand his meaning—even trying to clarify) so he maybe didn’t get all my messages. Uggh.

I was honest in explaining that quite a few people have stated that my paying a lump sum up front may not get me the best service (stating it is the system—not just him and not personal) in _____________, that a lawyer may feel that the payment was received so a win or lose for a client may not matter. He explained that because it is such a small town, he would not be like that, for he has a reputation he needs to maintain.

He said that although he’d like to help me see the kids, that it would be hard for the extra time that it would include. He focused on “let’s get them to agree today to you seeing the kids in the courtyard.”

That didn’t happen.  133 days without my children…

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The Fiasco of the Court Order: Three Weeks of Nonsense

More of the court’s BS was blogged about in July of 2014 (here).

Here is the chronology of events since the court order was issued/received.  As with other entries here, I don’t use the name of the actual language spoken in this foreign land, where I, a foreigner, reside.

Sun., June 29th:     

The father received court order notifying of his right to visit and take the children sometimes.

He immediately emailed his wife to notify her of Tuesday’s first visit.

His wife didn’t respond.

Mon., June 30th:    

Her lawyer notified his lawyer the family was in the capital city, but they’d return on Friday. After 170-something days, it was utterly surprising that they just happened to be out of town.

The father wrote her that he’d be there Friday.

Fri., July 4th:   

The father arrived with a friend, but nobody was home. The guard stated nobody was there. The father called the police.

They couldn’t do anything since nobody was there.

He wrote her to inform her of Monday’s visit.

Sat., July 5th:   

His wife wrote an all-Swahili email. The father had to send it to his lawyers and translators—on a weekend!

He later got the translation that she was dictating many things different than the court order’s protocol.

The court order stated that she can only be present if he agrees.  Her email demanded she be there.

The court order stated he should notify the family one day before of a visit.  She dictated 12 noon the day before.

The order lists “residence” for visitations, but she dictated only in her parents ____th floor apartment.  Residence also includes public spaces such as gardens and courtyards in this country.

Sun., July 6th:   

The father asked his wife to please use English to communicate; she only wrote back in Swahili.

Her text messages were only in Swahili; he doesn’t read Swahili.  After nearly ten years together, her language preference somehow changed with him.

Mon., July 7th:    

The father arrived for a visit. He notified his wife that he had a friend along to be present five minutes before.

She wrote back in Swahili (he needed to send it again to his translator) that he could NOT bring a friend.

Having to get things translated via text (or email) five minutes before such happenings is unfair (or at any time).

The security guard to her building rejected his friend’s visit; he didn’t go alone to their ____th floor residence based on fear.

The father texted to see if he could return on Wed., with his lawyer, but his wife said no.

She dictated only that he could visit the _____th floor.  But for months before, she’d said if he got to visit the kids, it would be in the garden courtyard.

Tue., July 8th:

The father notified his wife he would not be there for the M-F nightly visits until his lawyer worked things out.

However, he explained he would be there on Saturday for his first weekend outing with his children.

Friday, July 11th:

The father texted to his children that he was looking forward to Saturday.

His wife wrote back that he was “too late”, that they’d made plans, so he responded that he’d already told her on Tuesday, via email, about the plans. She claimed 3-4 days wasn’t in the court order—and that it says “one day”. And because his text was at 4pm,  it was “too late” (because she’d dictated he tell her by noon, even though the court order says “one day before”).   All her messages were still in Swahili.

Sat., July 12th:

The father arrived with a friend, a translator and the police to his wife’s house. His wife (via telephone to the guard) and their security guard stated that the cops couldn’t go with him to the _____th floor. He rejected the idea of going alone.  The cops went by themselves. They cannot interfere with the visitation, but they wanted to get her side of the story, they said later.  All happenings were done in Swahili.

Mon., July 7th:

The father’s father’s girlfriend wrote, “not realistic for anyone let alone you going alone behind closed doors without another pair of ears and eyes, suicide… I am extremely worried, uncomfortable you going alone, not a good idea!”

Wed., July 9th:

The father’s step-mother wrote, “… out to get you… it is so obvious NEVER go by yourself u will be walking into a trap…”

Thur., July 10th:

The father’s 33-year friend, who is a police officer, told him, “I would not go up to the apartment alone, that is just a disaster waiting to happen.”

Fri., July 11th:

The father’s step-mother wrote, “I agree with ——– [police officer of 23 years] 100%… you are walking into the lion’s den.”

The father’s father’s girlfriend wrote again, “100% in agreement with ——- [police officer].”

Fri., July 11th:

The father called her home. The grandfather answered, and when he asked to talk to his children, the grandfather hung up on him. He called his wife’s cell phone five minutes after. She spoke only Swahili, saying something about the kids not being there.

Later, his wife wrote an email (in her language) to apologize for her father hanging up because he thought the father was a fraudulent caller.  He knows his own son-in-law’s voice after nine years because he speaks broken Swahili.  There was no mistake.

Various July:  

The father wrote his wife three times to ask about needs of the children, such as what diaper size he should buy or clothes sizes. She NEVER wrote back about any of those questions!

Sun., July 13th:

The father called and talked to his children for the first time in nearly 180 days (even though he’d asked his wife between January 18th and July, with near-daily emails and texts message to speak with them, to see them, to help them, etc.). The grandfather was there and so was his wife, talking to the children simultaneously in the background.

Various July: 

The father has tried to call his children, but his wife continues to speak Swahili only and to write Swahili emails and texts.  The Google translations of her messages just don’t make sense.

He also sent them photos via text on his cell phone, but his wife wrote back saying “no attachments” (in Swahili).

Fri., July 18th:

The dad called to speak with his children. The grandmother said something in Swahili about calling the wife’s cell, but that didn’t make sense since he had already called the house phone. The children could have talked right then!  She hung up the phone.

His wife wrote some nonsense (what he could see on Google translate) about calling her phone and that the landlords would be upset.  The landlords are apparently her parents.  Such calls would disrupt the landlords, even though the kids have a right to get calls from their dad.

Sun., July 20th:

Because the father had sent his children photographs via email over the weekend, his wife wrote back in Swahili to say he couldn’t send them photographs any more! That is cruel!  She claimed he must only deliver photos in person, and not via email or text.  Yet she denied all access to them on attempted visits so far.

Three weeks of a court order ended in ZERO access to his children.  She made a mockery of the system.  The whole process is an utter travesty.

On Monday, July 21st, the couple signed a divorce statement.  That process, in a land where the husband is against the language, the culture, the processes, the family and spouse here, etc., was another nightmare.

If you’re an expat abroad, don’t get a divorce.  It is hell.

 

 

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