The Ridiculousness of Being in Court Negotiations in a Foreign Land (and the Appeal that Flopped!)

All sorts of nonsense happened in Kaohsiung’s family court over 3.5 years, including this BS (originally posted here).

I’ve written up this summary of the fourth negotiations in my divorce and child “visitation” cases, hitherto, in this foreign land where I live.  As an expat, I wish this on no other expat.  Going through this whole ordeal overseas is a nightmare.

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There is an average of 730 total hours per month (calculating for months that have a varying number of days). I have been given 70 hours with my children per month until the custody case involving the children is resolved and comes to fruition (and that includes roughly ten hours of sleep time). Why on earth is there such an inequity in the amount of hours I can see my children? Why does the ex get roughly 90% of their time each month? I still have legal custodial rights of my children, yet I have been given about 10% of each month to exercise my parental rights. That is clearly wrong, clearly unfair.

[From this point forward, there is a switch to the third person in this recount, for this was originally written up to provide the courts with an appeal.  That appeal fell on deaf ears this Tuesday, July 20-something, 2014!  However, I have removed all names and references to place and people.  As with other entries on this blog, the term Swahili replaces the actual language here in this country.]

During the courthouse negotiation meeting on 7/21/14, the husband was surely under duress, and when he stated he agreed to seeing his children on two weekends per month, he wasn’t able to further negotiate properly because of a few factors. The outcome is drastically unfair because he was under such duress.

First, the court-provided interpreter was horrible. Not only did she not provide quality interpreting, she left the husband in a confused state of uncertainty and doubt about all that was being discussed. In total, he understood about 10-15% of all that was stated (and he wasn’t fully clear on even what went into the document which he was asked to sign at the end of the fast-paced, frenetic session). The interpreter remained silent for much of the goings on, she wasn’t able to keep up or keep track with interpreting what was said, she fumbled on her words many times, and she was clearly nervous about being there. A few times, she didn’t know the English word for something said, and one time the husband’s lawyer even corrected her English (even though his lawyer’s spoken English is not efficient enough to communicate clearly).

Second, the husband doesn’t communicate enough in Swahili to understand more than 10-15% of what’s being addressed in regular conversations about topics he can speak about basically, but with regards to court proceedings and dialogue, he needs to understand 100% of what’s happening. He can speak some, but his listening skills are quite bad. So for the court to assign someone who is incapable of interpretation, he was unfairly placed in an extremely difficult position. He was uncomfortable. He was pressured. He reluctantly conceded to divorce, but he was not clear about all the details.

Additionally, the husband was put on the spot, and he was even confused by what the interpreter tried to help him understand during a discussion in the hallway during the process. His lawyer explained, partly through the inept interpreter, that if he agreed to pay $______ that he could see his children on two weekends a month. It sounded like the new arrangement would be more binding than the previous court order (which she fought against for three weeks–and evaded, for he didn’t see his kids at all), so he was keen on seeing his children. Yet, five minutes later, back in the negotiator’s chambers, it was brought up that the husband agreed to divorce! He was totally unprepared for that! In fact, he even had told his lawyer (and earlier showed her a written document to explain) that he didn’t want a divorce UNTIL something was worked out for (temporary) equitable child sharing until custody was decided.

He was shocked that they said that! He tried to explain in Swahili that it wasn’t what was discussed outside in the hallway! He fumbled on his words and couldn’t explain everything, for it isn’t his first language–by any means. He said that he had agreed to paying money and seeing the kids, but there was nothing discussed about divorce. And then his wife and her lawyer got up and left the room, stating that if he didn’t agree to divorce, he couldn’t see the children at all!

Immediately, the husband told the negotiator and his lawyer to have her and her lawyer wait outside! They’d already left the room! He was so fearful that he wouldn’t see the children for months to come! They were playing a tactic that put him under duress—especially given the language barriers and confusion.

He tried to explain that they’d just agreed to the $_________ “deal” and then to him seeing the kids! That was it! They couldn’t go back on their oral agreement, but now they were all saying that divorce was agreed on, too!

The husband’s lawyer put pressure on him that in [this country], divorce is handled first, and even the court negotiator came over with three examples of other court cases (he could see the paperwork were cases, but couldn’t read the Swahili at all) that were on her desk, and they both energetically expressed that divorce happened in all of those cases (from what he understood from his lawyer’s and the interpreter’s broken English) before custody was decided. That moment was pure hell for him.

His wife was ready to leave outside the door. He was thinking of his kids and the focus was on agreeing to divorce to see the kids, so he didn’t even have a chance to negotiate other aspects of the temporary agreement, such as seeing the children M-F, or how often he could call, when he could call, etc.

At the beginning of the negotiations, the negotiator had stated that maybe it was best to meet in a safe place (the husband had to say the word “neutral” to his interpreter, which she agreed was what they meant). Yet that topic got quickly swept aside in the drama of the proceedings about him agreeing to pay money to the wife.

He had also brought copies of __________’s Swahili emails, copies of what she had dictated to him regarding the first court order, etc., yet that was all brushed away in the hastiness of everything. Thus, the first court order fiasco wasn’t addressed properly. Things were not ironed out. When he tried to address the negotiator by asking, “What is this court order?” hoping to get her to understand that “it is a legally binding document”, she instead said that it stated he could see the kids M-F and two weekends per month. Yet he couldn’t speak more in detail about how his wife had not followed the court order—and the inept interpreter was sitting back and just watching (instead of talking for him).

He didn’t want his wife to leave, knowing that she would have the kids for another length of time. It had already been around 185 days since she’d taken the children from their father, so that was on his mind when they threatened to leave.

Being that his lawyer and the negotiator were claiming divorce had to come first, being that his interpreter was inept and unhelpful, and the being that he was put on the spot to agree or not to divorce (with the threat of not seeing his kids on his mind), he made a decision under duress. It was a nightmare experience.

With all of the aforementioned parties milling about, with an addition 3-4 clerical staff coming in to work on the new divorce document, there wasn’t enough time to sit and discuss anything else. At one point, he realized that the whole issue of his wife’s repeated use of Swahili only to communicate about the children wasn’t addressed yet. He asked his lawyer into the hallway again. With broken Swahili and broken English, they discussed that. When the negotiator walked by, his lawyer brought it up to her, but she dismissed it with a wave of her hand! He insisted that his lawyer have the clerk add something to the document about using English.

Yet that was it. The clerks had printed out the document. The other party had skimmed through, changing items and adding items. The husband’s lawyer was supposedly doing similar things, some of which she tried to explain in broken English. At one point, the interpreter had stepped out, but she came back and gave a quick run through of the document with him. The other party had agreed to having the children come to the front gate of their complex, instead of their demanding he enter their building and meet them on the 10th floor at their residence, but there were still details to work out.

When the husband was told to sign the document on the last page, questions were still running through his head, and everyone was milling about, ready to get their work done. Swahili was, of course, thrown around, and he simply didn’t want the other party to walk out because of the threat he’d not see his kids.

He signed, reluctantly.

He regrets doing so.

Thus, the husband would like to file an appeal for a change in the scheduling of the times he can spend with his children. He should have more equitable time with his children. He has a right to that, for he is still their custodial and parental caregiver.

For the duration of the time before custody is finalized, the husband should have two weekday nights per week with the children, from 6pm until 745pm. The two nights are flexible, since his daughter supposedly has classes some nights, so he is willing to agree to any two nights Monday-Thursday. This will give him more overall time with them per month, but also allow them to see him more regularly. The second and fourth weekends of each month is not consistent enough, and there is too much of a gap between each weekend. He wants to be a more consistent caregiver for his children. His children also need more of his parenting and care giving for their own benefit.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

In addition to another document created as an appeal from the children directly, for his daughter had told him on their first weekend together this past weekend here that she would like to see him more often, this [modified] document above was submitted to the courthouse.  Actually, it was rejected immediately and not submitted, but he tried.

That process, in itself, requiring a translator to attend with him, was a travesty.  Here’s a summary that was sent to friends and family back in my home country.  To have an understanding perspective, imagine you are in a country with a different set of cultural norms and practices, where perspective, outlook, ideas are different, where the language is not easily navigable (only reading just a few words), etc.  Even the approach of my lawyer is different, based on social understandings here, not those of my home country.

The Summary:

After writing up the appeal, having it translated, then verified (and paying my translators for that), and having a translator take half a day from work, I… got rejected.

The courthouse clerk, who knows me by now, wouldn’t take the doc I’d done up, and I also included what I’d done up after the above document (an appeal for/from the kids directly since they’d told me they wanted more time with me)–which required today’s translator friend to hand write it in Swahili on the Word.doc I’d printed at 7-11 this morning, i.e., I put 4-5 hours into doing it all, plus money, plus transportation, which is a 30-minute transit each way…  well, he rejected it.  His supervisor was standing over his shoulder, and she reiterated the same sentiment.  This new “agreement” isn’t a court order.  I cannot disagree or argue against it because we both “agreed” to it.  No can do.  Nothing.

I asked again, to make sure.  Nothing.

I explained, too, that my lawyer had sent a message this morning that I should cancel the retaining order I’d submitted last Monday morning, but they told me I’d have to go to another desk to process.  I don’t want to cancel it, but my lawyer suggested I should.  I conveniently forgot to follow up on it before we left–since we did get sidetracked with something else.

So the clerk asked if I’d received the divorce paperwork.  I said no.

He called up to the clerk who is handling the divorce/custody case for me and the ex and told us to go upstairs to see it.  My translator wanted to make sure that I didn’t sign for custody or property or anything unknown.  I’d made sure I’d not done that (but again, it was all Swahili).

The clerk upstairs was stern, stoic, and all-together… rude.  My translator explained that I’d not gotten it yet, but we wanted to see.  She pulled out from a large pile what she supposedly sent me yesterday.  It was on white paper, but the doc I signed last week was green.  I asked my translator to see the original.  The clerk said that was it.  I asked again.  She opened another cabinet where a stack of green docs lay, and mine was on the top, with signatures within.  I asked for a copy, explaining that in my home country I should, of course, get a copy of what I signed.  She said she couldn’t unless we requested it downstairs!  Red tape is around the world, eh?!  There were copiers within 20 feet!  When my translator asked why the doc we’d signed wasn’t in the pile for my case, the clerk really got stern.  She said they retyped the doc and that’s what they use (i.e., not the signed one).

My translator asked about any chance of appealing, and the woman (who may have apparently been one of the clerks in the negotiator’s office last week), stated, “Don’t worry.  It is just temporary.”

I almost barked out at her, but I didn’t.  I wanted to ask her if she had kids and how she’d feel if she got two weekends only and had to go through the BS nightmare of the proceedings in another country.  My translator stated that I feel I didn’t get a fair chance, and the woman scoffed.

She said, “He knows what he signed.  He knew what was going on.”  She totally dismissed my claim on the spot!  And she repeated, “It is just temporary [the schedule set for seeing the kids].”

OMG.  I wanted to tear her a new one, but in the back of my mind, I knew/know she’s handling all the paperwork for the case, and most likely will until the duration.  She gave my translator the blow off and went hastily around, moving piles of paperwork.

We walked away, and I explained to my translator that the woman had NO right to judge me and my understanding of the court proceedings and documents.  But again, in dealing with the culture, and my translator today is a mature woman (i.e., she knows what she was doing), I just had to accept it.

Did she have any understanding of how a parent feels when he/she is given a limited amount of time with his/her children even though he/she wants every day with the kids?  How dare she suggest, “It’s just temporary,” dismissing it like it is no big deal.

I can go without beer, football, and ice cream for months and have no concern.  Same with sex (egad, the last ten-plus months have been tough).  Same with traveling, my erstwhile raison d’etre!  But having my kids gone from my life… well, she cannot dismiss that simply with a wave of the hand.

The clerk wasn’t budging (to help), but we’d already been rejected by the help desk staff downstairs–so it wasn’t like she could change anything.  And although in my country I may have tried to jokingly plead or even flirtatiously beg to at least get a copy, the language barrier and cultural norms are surely factors that impede any such efforts.

Downstairs, the same guy asked how it went.  He then had to listen to our request to get a copy of the signed doc (not the one, unsigned copy they’d sent me), which required a form.  My translator had to then fill it out, yet the guy had to white out sections of it.  It took 15 minutes!  Yet the doc was sitting upstairs in a stack, 20 feet from a copier.  He then said the clerk would call me when it was ready, and I’d have to come back in or get it sent.  What nonsense.

Bottom line… No appeal was filed.  I’m so regretful about last week’s negotiations and how I accepted the pressure-cooker-induced deal.

I have spent soooo much time typing, translating, etc., for months, yet nothing has really proven helpful.  Even last Monday’s documents I had on my lap in the negotiations barely got “used”.  I’d had copies and print outs of all her Swahili emails/texts, translated English-Swahili emails I’d sent her, docs translated about divorce and why I wanted to hold off, etc.  Yet nothing helped.  It makes doing more even more daunting.  One translator is typing up a translation of the January 18th email exchange when Ling cancelled my outings with the kids.  She presented to the court a cut-and-copied section or two of the whole exchange–to suit her needs, but I am now having translators type ALL in Swahili to show she’s manipulated and presented incomplete “evidence”.  Yet I doubt now that it will even be used.  I’m nearing $9000US dollars total for everything, and it all seems like a waste.

But to have seen my kids this last weekend makes me continue.

If my kids know only three things about me for the rest of their lives (if I were to disappear off the face of the planet), it should be that I love them, dearly, that I am forever their daddy, and that I worked my fingers to the bone in the spring and summer of 2014 to get them into my life again (and keep them there).

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