My ex perpetrated all sorts of BS, with this experience being one of them (blogged about here). All was on video.
On the 18th of October, I went to pick up my children from their mother’s house, yet when I got there, standing about 4-5 meters from my kids, since a safe distance is needed to ensure no antics from my ex and her family (which is a long story in itself, but suffice it to say that I’d submitted a petition to the courts a few months prior to gain a restraining order against that family for a number of reasons). Although this approach worked without flaw the last 4-5 exchanges, the kids didn’t budge this time. They’d had wonderful times with their daddy on each two-day visit at his house for all six weekends since he first saw them—after six months of their mother abducting them—on July 26th, so there was zero reason for them to hesitate. Zero. For them to hesitate this time was odd.
Instead, my ex decided to take both kids by the arm and proceed to approach me, with her father walking at her side videotaping all on his iPad, causing me to back up down the sidewalk, even out into the street at one point. I needed to tell her that I’d filed with the courts to keep her distance from me. She walked further, so I reminded her again. She finally stopped, and I finally got the kids to come to me without her.
The next day, when I asked my daughter (a mere 5.5 years of age) why she didn’t just come to me, she stated, “Mama didn’t let me go.”
That’s the antics I have to deal with here, in a foreign country. Of course divorced/separated couples all over the world might go through similar situations from time to time (to varying degrees of challenge), yet, it is much worse being an expat overseas. Oh the stories I can tell.
However, there are other incredibly dramatic issues that set the backdrop of these most recent experiences. They include my ex threatening me to apologize for something by stating she’d call my boss, during our separation stage, which she did. She threatened me 3-4 other times with various actions; she withdrew my daughter from school without my consent; she refused to let me gain access to our bank accounts. She’s sent emails that stated, “Watch your back.” She called the police on me even though we’d agreed in writing to have me pay off the balance of our car loan to obtain the title, and then she told the police it was her car—and that I’d never paid for it, never put money into a bank account together (with her father stating the same, sitting next to her in the police station—when all was done in the local language). All lies.
Worst of all, from January 18th until July 26th, she abducted my kids and didn’t respond to a single communication I’d sent (email and text) to see my kids, to help them, to deliver diapers, to set up a bank account, etc. She even had her buildings security guard reject my delivering gifts to the kids after my third attempt. Then when I finally got the courts to issue a court order, she finally wrote me about seeing the kids in late June, but for three weeks, all her communication about the kids visits was in the local language—which I don’t read. During those three weeks (of the initial court order), she avoided my seeing the kids by not being in town, by refusing access to the children with my friend present, with my lawyer present, and even with the police present. She insisted I go into their 10th floor residence by myself without any witnesses to be there for me. Moreover, she’s filled countless court docs (all in the local language) with egregious, unfounded lies, aiming for my jugular, saying I have mental problems, that I have problems professionally, that I have health problems that won’t permit me to be a good daddy. And she’s accused me of trying to strangle my own daughter! So the next drama I’ll explain has all of that as a backdrop that needs consideration when reading about what happened.
On Sunday October 25th, 2014, I had an 8am pick up scheduled for the kids, but…
I went via taxi to get my children, and on the way that’s when I saw that at 737am, she wrote, “[Your daughter’s] temperature is higher than normal. Please don’t bring her around large groups, and let her get plenty of rest today. Check her temp throughout the day.”
Of course I wondered what “higher than normal” meant. If normal is 37C, isn’t 37.3C also higher? 37.5? Vagueness is a key attribute to much of the recent goings on.
I responded, “It is my weekend by court order, so I will still take the kids.”
Meanwhile, she called 8-9 times while I was approaching in taxi, still trying to text her back between her repeated calls.
Since my Windows 7 phone cannot record while I am speaking on the phone, I didn’t answer, relying on text to document all for the courts. The last thing I wanted to do was have her potentially say aggressively what I needed to do or not do without being able to record it.
Today was my school’s 10th anniversary event. I had pleaded with my boss to let me come in 30-plus minutes late since I had a kid pickup at 8am, the time the event started. All was set, but I needed to get the kids efficiently to be able to get to school 30 minutes late.
Incidentally, this past Tues I asked my ex via email if I could get kids at 715am this Saturday for “an event,” without saying what it was because I felt she’d immediately reject the idea since she knew it would put me in a bind with school (she had written my boss two months before to reveal some personal issues we’re having in the divorce phase regarding the kids and communication—writing three of my bosses in her mail, even though we’re divorced and she has no right to do that—to get my job involved, and I’ve since filed another restraining order to stop her from contacting my job). She wrote back, without answering my question, and instead suggesting 9am since “the kids sleep late now that weather is colder” (here there are still highs of 82-90F and 28-32C here). Playing difficult. She was playing games. She does all the time.
So I wrote again an email to ask for a one-time pick up of 715am for this weekend. She only replied “too early” (even though last fall she demanded a 700-730am return of the kids for 2.5 months of the initial separation-phase sharing of the kids).
Even over the last two months, I’ve had to communicate incessantly to a court investigator because my ex wasn’t letting me call my kids at times (permissible by court order), saying “the kids are too busy.” I’ve asked for five-minute calls, but she has made five minutes sound like I’m demanding 5-hour calls. It has been pure nonsense. She started by demanding that I call at 9am this school year, when that time was not possible, as I explained. She then demanded I call at 1230pm, but I had to explain to the courts that as a full-time elementary school teacher, I have lunch duty, nap duty, and various other tasks at lunch. Finally, she won’t have my kids call me back when I miss them at night, but she tells the courts she wants to ensure my bond with the kids (this comes from the woman who took my children from me—and took their rights to be with their daddy—for 189 days!). Similar antics happen all the time.
By this time (after her rejection of the earlier pick up for one weekend—and I offered to return the kids on hour earlier on Sunday night), I wondered if she knew exactly what event we were going to attend. She’d been to the same event last year (even though separated) since my daughter went to school there, too. Could it be that she doesn’t want my daughter to return to the same school where she used to go (and enjoyed doing so), where she would know teachers, where she would see her old classmates, where she would possible like spending time (and want to go back) with her daddy. Currently, my daughter goes to the local school my ex and her grandparents chose, but she used to love my school, until her mom withdrew her with one night’s notice back in November of 2013.
When she texted specifically that I should make sure my daughter stayed away from crowds, I wondered why it was she (potentially) knew that we’d be around crowds. Hmmm… Did she know that my school had a major festival? Perhaps the fact that my coworker is a childhood friend of my ex’s (and their dads were great friends) reveals why she knew the day’s plans (i.e., there would be a lot of people around).
By texting that, and not just “higher than normal temperature”, it put me in automatic doubt about whether I should bring the kids or not to such an event. But that would have caused issues with school, for they require that all staff attend the event, on a Saturday. And I’d already missed some days recently, too. My mind was in overdrive about what decision to make.
But it was MY decision to make. By court order, it was my weekend to have the kids. Even if my daughter’s temperature was “higher than normal”, I had the right to make that decision—and I wanted to see my daughter, first, before cancelling going to the school or not. Again, I was in a taxi a few minutes down the road as I was brainstorming all options, trying to text her while she was calling me repeatedly.
I texted again to have her meet me at 8am. She kept calling instead.
She then wrote a text, stating, “This is an emergency. How can you do this to your children?”
Immediately, I surmised that this wasn’t the truth of the situation. Having a “higher than normal” temperature—so “keep her away from large crowds,” doesn’t constitute an emergency. Yet, of course, she’ll now use her text to explain to the courts that she’d warned me about an emergency, yet I didn’t answer.
I responded that I wanted to see the kids downstairs (from their high rise building) at the planned place and planned time—for it was my right via court order.
Again, I wanted all documented for the courts, so I just texted. If I called, there would possibly be anger in her voice. Threats? Who knows?
Or, as I was pulling up in the taxi at 755am, I thought, “Maybe she wants to have my daughter talk to me, to have my baby girl say she doesn’t want to go.” My ex could record my daughter stating that, and then use that against me if I still insisted on picking up the kids (again, which is my right via court order). In the back of my mind, I also worried that she’ll try to throw a monkey wrench into my plans or twice-a-month scheduled weekends with my kids in the future—if I just cave in to her this one time.
[She’s already alleged that I am the one who wanted the kids just twice a month and not M-F, which is so far from the truth—which was a result of the final court negotiations fiasco in July, 80% of which I didn’t understand because it was in the local language. That was another long story in itself. But knowing she has accused me of wanting the kids less, I was very reluctant to not pick up both kids as scheduled—by court order, at 8am.]
She again wrote back that it was an emergency, adding that if I didn’t call back, it would be “consent” for my daughter to stay home. I responded in text that there is nothing in the court order that would create “consent” because I didn’t call back. I was communicating clearly via text.
It was after 8am by then. She then texted that my son could go, but that my daughter was being reluctant because she was sick. If I agreed to that, I’d not see my daughter for another two weeks. As it is, I get them 70 hours per month, total. Even if I had to cancel the school celebration, I wanted to at least spend the weekend with her if she were really sick.
Again, I asked her to bring the kids down. I wanted to see how my daughter was. I wanted to determine myself if we could still go.
She wrote back saying, “Your daughter wants to talk to you. How can you do this to your children?”
Uggh. I responded that I had a right for the court order scheduled 8am. Whether it was they were sick, if it was raining, or if I were ill, it would still be my time to take care of them. She didn’t have a right to not bring the kids down. I still wanted to see my girl.
I wrote that I’d call the police to enforce the court order.
Now, each time of the last three pick ups, I’ve taken a taxi (after the first three exchanges were with a friend), and I’ve asked the cab driver to park just around the corner from the place I meet the kids, just in front of their complex.
So I was standing outside the cab, on the corner, 15 meters diagonally across the street from their house.
I called the police. They gave me the number for the “foreign affairs” police, which caused me to run into the convenience store nearby for a pen. I then called the second police station since they sometimes have cops who speak some English.
All this time, I had to go back to my waiting taxi at intervals to ensure the driver that she was still going to take us to my school, but the third time I just asked her to leave, paying her, of course.
The officer wanted details. We struggled through broken local language (mine) and broken English (his), but I didn’t know the address of the convenience store, so I had to wait for the clerk to get through two customers, first, before she could talk on my cell phone. What an ordeal already.
Concurrently, through the store’s windows, I saw that my ex and her daddy had come down to stand outside their complex with my son in her arms. No grandma and no daughter.
After talking with the police (and the clerk, too), I decided I’d go at least pick up my son, knowing he’d not eaten breakfast most likely, for I had breakfast in my backpack for them—and I knew that I could at least spent time with him.
She let him come to me without event, and he ran to my arms.
I hated to do it in front of my son (who is 2.5), but I said, “I’ve called the police,” and I walked away back to the opposite corner (this is city living, so not far away).
I sat with my son at a sidewalk table (outside the convenience store) and waited over 15 minutes for the cop to arrive.
When he did, I explained the background of it all and the details of the court order. Fearful that he is from this country and I am already (most likely) at a disadvantage because of that simple fact (and that some expats here do consider the locals here biased towards their own and racists towards outsiders), I said that no matter what I explain, she and her daddy will say I am a bad father, explaining to that the court docs are full of accusations. I told him they’d used “this is an emergency” in her texts, but that it was just a “higher than normal” fever (with warnings about being around crowds). That that wasn’t an emergency.
He then crossed the street to talk to them.
I watched, sitting with my son, feeding him breakfast, giving him water, etc.—then tickling him, having him bite my nose, etc., to distract him.
When the police officer reached the other side of the road, the ex and her father invited him into the courtyard area, to, I assumed all along for the 10-15 minutes, bring him upstairs to see my daughter.
Returning to sit down next to us, the cop said, “I saw your daughter in an iPad video.”
“I saw your daughter in a video,” he resumed.
“Sorry. I don’t understand. You what?”
“Well, I saw your daughter.”
“In person? Face to face?” I queried, a bit befuddled, wondering what they’d been doing for all that time.
“No. On the iPad. The grandfather took a video.”
“Really? So you didn’t see her?”
In my mind I was wondering if this would happen in my home country. If this was legit. If he’d already been swayed.
“No. But on the video, your daughter looks… uncomfortable. I recommend that you not take your children. I feel it is best.”
Now, this was already going on well past 9am. In the back of my mind I was thinking about my bosses and what they’d think (I’d already texted one and a secretary, too). For a half-day event, I’d already missed 20-plus %. With a commute of 30 minutes from their house, I was calculating how much time I was missing.
This whole time, I was 99% skeptical that my daughter was sick, knowing all my ex has done to make life a nightmare for the last 12 months (thoughts of her and her father lying about our finances in the police station on January 7th fill my head every time something like this happens; knowing she kept the kids from their daddy, though we both had custodial rights, is always on my mind), but there was, of course, a sliver reserved for the possibility she was sick.
That my ex has also claimed in emails to me that my children don’t like going to my house is also a huge factor in all of this, also—though the dozens and dozens of videos I’ve taken since our relationship was restored will hopefully counter her absurd claims.
So I asked what could work. He stated, “You can agree to have your children another weekend.”
In broken English, he explained that they wanted to switch weekends from this to next. Now, if she had said that from the very beginning it could have diffused the situation. Sounded pretty legit, but I told the cop I needed something in writing, but in the back of my mind, I was still quite incredulous that they were ONCE AGAIN able to get the police to work on their side (for I still felt she had just created the drama of it all, starting back with the emails days before that she countered my 715am earlier pick up with a 9am response, in order to cause a problem with my morning—or because she didn’t want our daughter to go back to the school she’d liked so much; in order to create another issue that she’d say I didn’t want the kids if I conceded; that letting her change the court order would establish a precedence for further alterations to what is legally my right).
He returned to them for another ten minutes, so I texted her in the meantime to ask if they were giving up the first weekend of November to have a switch from this weekend. She agreed in writing.
My thoughts had gone to a moment in July when I’d asked the police to monitor the first exchange for my first weekend with my kids, and that they’d showed up, two female officers, yet my wife rejected my coming up with them to get the kids! And she refused to bring them down to the security guard gate (in public). The police were then invited into their 10th floor residence, yet when they came back after 15 minutes of talking to my ex and her parents (they live together now), their attitudes and willingness to talk to me were gone.
And in the police station in January, regarding my car, the police joked and chatted with my ex and her father for three hours.
The cop returned from their complex to verify that she agreed via text–and that I agree to the switch.
I asked for his name card. He didn’t have one.
I looked for his badge number. There was none.
He scribbled his name on a ripped corner from a scrap paper in his patrol card, in the local language, of course, and handed it over.
Thus, kissing my son on the cheek, saying I’d see him the next weekend instead, I then walked him back across the road to his mother’s open arms and with grandpa standing next to her with a smug look on his face.
The cop put his hand on my shoulder as I turned to leave, saying, “Thank you, Michael.” He then turned to them and chatted while I walked back to the convenience store.
It took another ten minutes in the store to finally call a taxi (here in this country, they can call for you from such stores as 7-11), but the clerk had 4-5 customers to take care of. Another customer (who explained in English that he’d lived in LA) came over and helped me order a taxi through a electronic kiosk through which people can order taxis (all in the local language, however). Additionally, I then had to wait five minutes for the cab.
I left via taxi, and as we passed by her complex, I saw the police officer still chatting away with the two of them, my son in my ex’s arm, nearly twenty minutes after he’d thanked me. If only I could know what they were speaking about.
Nearly two hours late in total, I arrived at my school for their anniversary celebration, spending the next three hours watching other staff with their baby strollers with sleeping wee ones, toddlers in tow, etc., running around, having a great time. My kids should have been with them all. Solo I was, again.
Receiving queries such as “Where are your kids?” didn’t make me feel much better.
At 2pm, I returned home via another 30 minute taxi ride, turned off the lights in my living room, and lay down on the couch for three hours of self-pity that my chances at court this upcoming Thursday (October 30th) are abysmally low. Given the events for the last twelve months, that she was not even reprimanded by the courts (in four negotiations and one hearing), hitherto, for abducting the children from their father (against their rights and his custodial rights to parent), with the language barrier, cultural idiosyncrasies, potential payoffs by her father, etc., I am full of doubt heading into this final few days.
I miss my kids so much. They’re my purpose. I hope further antics cease, but I doubt they will.
Why does it have to be so?