Crawling Out of the Woodwork

If you know an expat in Taiwan who is suffering under the burden of divorce and/or custody proceedings here, share this quick story with him/her. He/She is not alone. There are expatriates starting to come out with their stories.  They’re listening. I’m listening.  I’m willing to share advice.

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“The social worker came to my house, yet my children were not with me,” he recently explained.

“Huh? Really?” I queried, somewhat curious to know more details but utterly sympathetic because that was the same scenario I’d experienced myself nearly two years ago.

How on earth can a social worker visit both parents, separately, during court divorce procedures, but with one, ensure that the children are present, yet with the other, simply visit the adult without the child(ren) there?

And it just so happens that in both firsthand experiences we shared with each other, it was the expat fathers who did not get a fair deal. Imagine if our ex-wives had not had the children when the social workers came for their visits. Imagine the uproar they would have made.  Instead, our attempts showing how biased that bullshit is were seemingly shot down.

He continued, “Yep. I even asked the social worker if it was necessary to have my daughter with me for the visit, but her reply was, ‘Oh, it isn’t necessary.'”

“Not necessary? That’s nonsense!”

“That’s what I was thinking,” he explained.

“In my case, the social worker came to my house twice, without my children present. Her subsequent report was nonsense! So what was the outcome?”

This man, a recent divorcee in this country I now call home, a home I’m gradually starting to wonder about more and more, has gone through some of the same drama I have gone through during the various phases of separation and divorce–especially with custody dealings.

He begrudgingly stated, “Oh, the social worker’s report surmised that ‘the mother has a closer relationship than the father‘.”

“Dude, I am so sorry to hear that. It is screwed up, isn’t it? How can the system here be so blind? The social worker cannot visit the two parties involved and draw such conclusions without seeing both parents with the children–under similar circumstances and in similar conditions. It’s like comparing apples and oranges [with the apple being displayed in an air-conditioned grocery store and the orange being leftover at a roadside stand]. It is impossible! And how does a judge here accept such blatantly biased social service’s practices? Clearly, that’s based on racial or nationalistic favoritism!”

He nodded in agreement, stating, “And her report concluded that ‘the mother should get custody since she has a better relationship‘.”

I replied, “Yet she never saw you with your child?”

“That’s right,” he lamented.

Guffawing wildly, I told him it was exactly the same bullshit that the social worker concluded in my custody case, which I immediately fought back against with documentation to the Judge that such bias is not permissible in the case.

“Well, listen, Buddy,” I continued, “I’ve been doing some research into other expats here losing custody, and they are crawling out of the woodwork, ready to get their stories known. I met a guy a few weeks ago who has not seen his son in nine years.”

“Wow. Nine years?”

“Yep.  His ex-wife asked for custody payments and then agreed to two visits each month–and she was never heard from again.”

He was startled, just as much as I was when I’d been told the story, firsthand.

“However,” I went on, “I don’t know how much he fought or what he attempted to see his son afterwards. We only met for 30 minutes because he had his daughter with him from his second marriage. But, to be honest, I couldn’t accept what he suggested: ‘Just moving on and maybe having another kids one day’. There’s no way. My kids are my kids.”

Because this man recently lost custody, I didn’t want to bemoan the fact that too many expats are losing out, oft unfairly.  But the reality is, they are coming forth with their horror stories.

With my own heart eagerly, anxiously awaiting the outcome of my custody case here, I tried to reassure him that there might be other options, and I informed him of an organization in its nascent stages of development that is aiming to improve the treatment of foreigners here going through horrific battles in the judicial system.

The upshot is that he and I are not alone, but living a thousand miles from what used to be home, for many an expat, it is a rough fight against a system that, for many, is revealing itself to be unfair (choosing a diplomatic term for now).  Without family here, it isn’t an easy fight, but there is a change on the horizon.  People are starting to want to fight back, collectively–and they are looking for similar stories.

If you know of anyone going through divorce in Taiwan, and/or custody issues, drop me a note.  Folks are listening.

Nobody said it better than Mahatma Gandhi:

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

 

Change is on the horizon here.  Let’s help each other, fellow expats.

I’m here to lend an ear. I have some insights, indeed.