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.

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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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Throw in the towel? No way in hell!

Three years ago on my other site I wrote about this nonsense (here).

It started with… “Get out, move out… get a lawyer! And get a visa!”

The final demand. At least the final demand before we separated, the one that led to a seemingly, theretofore, inevitable divorce. Marriage had become burdensome. My ex and I couldn’t deal with things any longer. In fact, for a long time before, we’d not dealt with anything. For a stretch, life together had not seen sunshine, except with and for the kids.

Fuck. What about the kids? They were all that mattered to me.

All else in marriage in August of 2013 was practically intolerable.

I’d grown so damn weary of the days-on-end silent treatments, the pure drama when trying to talk to her (i.e., the absurd, defensive reactions over the simplest issues), and the struggles that were faced because of her disorders. My patience had worn incredibly thin with her avoiding communication. I got antsy about being ignored. And because she’d shut me out so many times, over the years, never initiated any dialogue, and swept things under the rug so constantly, I’d started to give up on any in-person conversation—other than when with the kids for daily plans, what’s for dinners, logistical issues and the like. Yet for years, I’d resorted (sometimes because of our opposite work schedules, but mostly because she’d just unleash drama when I tried sharing my feelings with her about our issues in person) to sending her emails or private FB messages. I needed to get things off my chest. I needed to open up. I needed to let her know how I felt. Especially during the 3-4 day periods when she utterly ignored me. But about a year before, she simply stopped responding to most of my messages, leaving me feeling like she didn’t give a shit about my feelings. For me, it was better to at least open up electronically than experience complete disengagement between husband and wife.

For one example, back a few years ago when we had enormous decisions to make about leaving the country we were in or not, I’d put thoughts to paper (to keyboard, really) one night while I was on an extra work-related duty, and explained the pros and cons about staying, moving back to her country, or moving on to another country. The email was tantamount to a 3-to-4-page Word.doc; however, she wrote back, “You and _______ decide.” That’s it (oh, she included the name of my school where the blank lies). Yes, sad that I’d resorted to getting things out via email, but utterly shocking that such a life-changing decision was up to me—or that she couldn’t communicate her needs, desires, insights or ideas.

There were smaller issues, too, that we allowed to destroy us, such as how we argued every time one of our kids was feverish, for she wanted to administer medicine, provide sponge baths, and even take our kids in to the doc or hospital at the slightest sign of fever, at around 38.5C (101.3F). Yet I was fine with the body’s natural defense mechanism of elevated temps to defeat whatever bug or infection was happening, thinking even 103-104 (39.4-40C) was acceptable, with watchful eyes being ready just in case we needed to step in to bring the temp down. Without fail, it brought tension to our home. We couldn’t see eye to eye on that nor quite a few other parenting issues, some of which were cultural, for certain (e.g., her culture saying air currents cannot cross over the exposed navel).

Habitually, and more and more over the years, she sided with her parents. She couldn’t question her parents’ decisions, even though I knew she didn’t necessarily, internally agree with all. For nine years I’d known her to really have issues with her own parents, but for months on end beforehand, it seemed to be that it was three vs. one. The expat, foreign husband against the in-laws and their daughter. Even when they suddenly cancelled all childcare because I’d suggested my wife volunteer at my school last August—so that her resume experience would increase, so that our teaching-team marketability would grow by leaps and bounds (since she’d not yet had any classroom teaching experience that overseas schools want—since doing her Master in Education), i.e., my suggestion was to benefit the family… well, she couldn’t question her parents’ choice to leave us without babysitting.

When I asked, she simply said, “That’s my dad’s decision, and in _______, we don’t question our elders. It’s disrespectful.” That was the final straw, really, so when she yelled at me to “Get out…”, it actually appeared to be the best solution, though it was the second time she’d shrieked similar sentiment in about a year’s time frame.

The first month, honestly intended to be a month away, was full of pure drama. On one occasion, when I’d picked up my daughter at 7am for school, my ex held open the elevator door, with our son in her arms, with my daughter at my side, and squealed emotionally, “Tell me, ________, is it over? Is it over? Tell me!” Rapidly, but trying to be subtle about it, I motioned for her to stop screaming. She wouldn’t let the door close. It fought against her grip a few times.

Then on another night, when I told my daughter—upon dropping her off after school at mom’s house, that I was going out with some new co-workers, my ex dramatically demanded to know why I was going out when I had said I’d been so busy at my new job. Her drama in front of the kids was scary—and it was causing a considerably more harm than good. It was supposed to be a “take-a-breather” month, to recuperate, to consider our thoughts. Such actions prompted more distance-is-needed thoughts. By the end of the month, it was the only option.

Undoubtedly, it wasn’t about a month’s time off, however. It had needed such closure for eons.

With that said, this journal isn’t about the end of the marriage. Writing is a means of unloading. Hitherto, the intro served as a background of what’d been happening.

What has happened since is what I need to get out on paper here. I need to experience the release.

First, it was the accusations that hurt during the initial stages of the separation, when she said such things as I was no longer family, that the kids had all the family they needed—and that I’d abandoned the family. Even though I immediately explained I wanted joint custody, and that I was happy with the schedule of every M/W/F night at my house—and seven hours on Sunday with the kids, she threw it at me repeatedly that I’d abandoned the kids—and she later told the courts that. How can someone who wanted custody and the kids so much actually be labeled as abandoning his children?

Then, there were erroneous accusations that I was “seen being intimate at bars.” Absurdly wrong. No ifs, ands, or buts about that. That was followed soon by, “Your so-called friends are being friendly” with sharing with her what I said and did. Great. I started to feel I couldn’t open up with anyone we’d previously had as mutual friends. Most of our friends were mixed-race couples with kids. That local wives were surely going to listen to everything she created, everything she alleged, was clear.

Then, there were threats. One being, “Return the passports by midnight or else Isabella won’t go to school tomorrow.” On one of the nights I was watching the kids at “her” place until she came home at 10pm from work, I decided to keep their _________ passports with my possessions and me—and I’d left their _________ passports with her. If I’d taken all, that would have been wrong. Yet she told people I stole the passports, which she told the courts, and then she told me that “the passports belong with the family, and you’re not family any more.”

That threat was followed a few weeks later by, “If you don’t send an apology to me by 1pm, I am going to call your boss.” She did. That whole saga is its own book.

A few weeks later, she sent a Thursday night email to say, “Tomorrow is ______’s last day. Make sure you get her things when leaving school.”

Unreal. When I begged and pleaded for her to reconsider, she wrote an email that said she and her parents were my children’s family and that they needed to know what family meant, so having my daughter back at home every day was best. My daily commutes with my baby girl, dropping her off in the morning and picking her up daily, to opened-arm hugs, were done. No more afternoons tell-me-about-school moments between father and daughter. She had taken that time with my girl. Left were three nights a week and Sundays for seven hours.

Her email she sent to my boss to withdraw my daughter included how she felt my boss was discriminating against her (since my boss is an expat and my wife is a local) because my school told her (after she kept wanting to interfere with my job) that it was a family issue, not a school issue.

My ex later sent me an email that accused me of having an affair with a co-worker and that school was covering it up by telling her it was personal business and not something school could handle.

Unreal.

On top of all that was the fact that she denied me access to our two accounts. She said I couldn’t take out money. And when I asked her to not use our money until the courts decided, she went ahead and accessed it, spending it on their rent for six months upfront, even though I had rent to pay and the kids were with me three nights a week and on Sunday days.

I started feeling like I was a punching bag.

She’d also kept my work-related documents, docs I’d needed to get my license renewed.  When I wrote that she cannot hold them from me, by law, she wrote back, “Sue me!”  When I said she’d hurt me professionally since my job requires certification, and that could hurt the kids, too, if I cannot keep my position, she wrote back, “Think of how you hurt the family by moving out.”

On top of that, she’s kept my memorabilia, old letters of my mother’s, etc.

And more threats ensued.

“Watch your back,” was sent twice via email.

But I kept on chugging along, not wanting to throw in the towel. The adversity was heavy and constant. No matter, I couldn’t let it all get to me.

And then in December, after I toured around an international visitor with my kids for three hours on one of our Sundays together, visiting a sightseeing hotspot in our city and going for great local food, she went bezerk. Even though we’d met five different women while on a family trip in another country just eleven months before—all through the same hospitality exchange website for travelers, she now accused me of having an affair with the traveler—and exposing my children to it, saying I hurt my kids and that I was a bad dad. Quite the contrary. The kids had a fine three hours. My daughter held hands with the woman walking up the stairs. We joked around, taking pictures together. It was just like our trip last January, but without my wife present. How that was twisted into being wrong, I still don’t know nearly a year later.

Yet that night came another threat. “If you don’t email me by midnight with a promise that you’ll never meet another _____.org traveler, I will contact the woman and tell her of your indecent behavior.”

What? Indecent behavior?

I just wanted it all to stop. It had reached the ridiculous.

Yet, three-four weeks later, when an 18-year friend from Canada came to visit _________, a woman who was married with two kids, herself, it just got worse. On the one Sunday she was in town, I thought long and hard if I should invite her with the kids. I knew in principle there was nothing wrong if she met them. Nothing. But having her return to Canada without seeing my two kids, especially because I am so proud of them, especially since they are the loves of my life and I wanted her to see them in person (compared to years of FB videos and photos) because it might be years before we meet again (it had been 9-10 already), was just to odd. So we went for 4-5 hours to a major religious temple complex and then for lunch. The kids had a fun time. No harm done. All was legitimately based on being long-time friends, i.e., all was platonic.

That night, I got a text that said, “An anonymous texter told me they saw a woman getting out of the car today.” Of course it was my daughter her told her. Then, all went haywire. More email accusations of how I was a bad father, exposing the kids to my “women” and involving them in my “affairs” followed.

Then, a threat.

“Bring back the car by Tuesday, or else. The car is a family car, and you do not have women in the family car.” None of what I wrote via email got through to her. She wouldn’t listen to the truth.

We’d already agreed via emails over the last three months that I was going to pay off the bank loan balance when January arrived.

Two days later, I pulled up that Tuesday morning to drop off my two kids at her house, on my way to work at 7am. Her parents arrived with her, extracted the kids from the back seat doors (in an effort like an Ocean’s 11 heist), and she then jumped in the car, demanded I turn it over, and then called the police.

Five hours later, with my lawyer at my side in the police station back room, with her daddy having alleged to the police that I’d never paid money for the family, nor the car, etc., I was forced to sign over the car. That whole fiasco nearly pushed me to the brink. It wasn’t so much that I lost my car (I was the sole driver; she never drove in nine years together), it was that I’d felt like I was stripped bare in the police station and that they’d fucked me with a baton.

The issues related to the language, customs, culture, etc., that were present for me, the foreigner with limited language skills, all just rushed over me, submerging me in so much doubt that I’d ever get a fair shake in this country.

I haven’t yet, eight months later.

All has gotten worse.

And it got worse dramatically soon after my car was taken.

Eleven days later, I dropped my children off (with the help of a taxi since I was left without transport) on that Saturday morning of January 18th and kissed them goodbye, saying, “I’ll see you tomorrow,” since it would have been my Sunday’s seven hours with daddy.   That never came.

That night, I received an email stating that I could not take them out again, that they couldn’t stay at my house any longer, that if I wanted to see them, they’d be waiting in their apartment courthouse garden for me—in her presence. Within the email exchanges the next 3-4 days were the preposterous allegations that she was protecting the children from my social life and women.

My jaw had hit the floor so many times over the last few months that when it did that night, too, while reading her email, I wasn’t surprised as much as I should have been. She’d just been building up to this all.

189 days passed before I saw my children again. 189 days. You do the math.

Yet everyone I spoke with during those six months said the same thing.

“That isn’t legal.”

“She can’t do that.”

“That illegal.”

But my response stayed the same, “You’re right, but nobody has been able to do anything about it.”

I filed forms. I went to near-countless legal aide appointments. I paid hourly consults at various law firms.

Being a foreigner in a foreign land isn’t easy at times. Try going through this ordeal. I no longer felt like a punching bag. The feeling was more akin to being one of those lifeless dummies that Armies use to practice thrusts with bayonets at the end of rifles on.

Months were spent searching for lawyers, translators, and help; immeasurable hours, on collating, documenting, translating, screenshoting, printing, sorting.

Having taken off so many days of work to attend consultations, etc., I went over my job’s limit of days off (via sick and personal days). I lost a couple of thousand in pay. I’ve spent nearly $10 grand US in total.

I was pushed to the brink a few times, but resilient as hell, thinking of my kids at each and every turn, I stepped back. Yet tears flowed continually. When I heard kids on the street playing, saw dads carrying young ones, held friends’ kids, I cried. Seeing my children’s bedroom, which stayed mostly behind closed doors for six months, brought tears to my eyes.

And this was all done mostly alone. Solo was the name of the game. After such crazy accusations at the start of it all, I went into maximum I-better-not-even-go-for-coffee-with-a-woman mode. I cancelled my Chinese tutor. I avoided chatting with anyone for too long anywhere I went. Loneliness set in on all levels.

Being forced to go cold turkey without my kids’ hugs, kisses, pecks on the cheek, pats on the arm, holding hands, etc., was the worst part of it all. When you’re a parent, that close natural bond and intimacy of the heart is so powerful. When it is taken from you, especially for utterly nonsensical reasons, it kills you. She was killing me. She knew it.

To know that I’d done nothing wrong made accepting some of it all more easy—but, simultaneously, such knowledge made it worse. Unfair it was, without a doubt.

One translation service charged me well over $100US to do a two-page document, but when I got it, I noticed a paragraph was missing (as were two small statements elsewhere). When I asked via email why they’d not translated the paragraph, she wrote, “I didn’t write it because in our culture, we do” this and that, and “I didn’t think it was fair…” That was one of the most absurd moments of this whole fiasco. Still, months later, my blood pressure rises. She manipulated my documents (the translation of) based on her perspective. Translators and interpreters cannot do that.

Court hearings (negotiations mandated by the court system here) resulted in pathetic outcomes in March, April, and May. The first she didn’t show up for. The second she left after ten minutes because I didn’t want her daddy present. The third lasted twenty minutes but she left in a huff because I wanted to address not seeing the kids and she wanted the divorce signed. Unreal.

The injunction I’d filed to see the kids resulted in a court hearing with a real judge. Though I was the plaintiff, the female judge started with my wife—who went off for me in the local language, acted dramatically, and set the tone for the rest of the hearing. The remaining 45 minutes after her charade felt more like an interrogation than my chance to press for seeing the kids. She said I was unfit, that I’d hurt the kids by exposing them to women, that I’d had parties in my house when the kids were over, that they’d returned to her house tired from lack of sleep, and that they’d been really uncomfortable on the two outings with visitors. None of it was true. Literally… nothing.

It must be mentioned, too, that for six months, I sent near daily emails and text messages, none of which were responded to. I’d written about bringing my son diapers, bringing clothes, about needing her signature to sign on to a bank account for the kids, about how much I loved them and missed them. ZERO answer.

Back on January 22nd, four days after her email stating I couldn’t take the kids any longer, she said, “We’ll let you know when we’re not busy.” She never did. That was her last message.

And at one point over those six months, she sent a 2.5-page PDF file to friends and family via former FB connections, accusing me of so many wrongdoings, stating, wrongly, that she’d supported me over all the years.

She also told the courts that my children were afraid of me.

That accusation hurt the most. My heart knows the truth, but when she said that, I couldn’t take it emotionally. She was aiming for the jugular.

Then came the positive news that I was striving for. A court order arrived that gave me M-F eves with the kids from 630pm until 8pm—and every 2nd and 4th weekends, monthly. Immediately, I jumped at the chance to contact her.

The following three weeks so no result. She changed the content of the court order with an email, explaining what would happen, most of which was directly contradictory to the court order! Yet nothing became of it.

The court order stated I needed to tell her one day in advance of a pending visit. She dictated 12 noon the day before.

The order listed “residence” for the M-F nightly visits. Although at the court hearings she’d stated it would happen in the courtyard garden (public) at their building, she dictated in email that I’d have to go into her parents’ 10th floor apartment to see them.

The court order clearly showed that she couldn’t be present during my visits, but she dictated she’d be there each time.

During the three weeks, she was a no show once, she refused my coming with a lawyer, and she rejected my entry with a friend—whom I’d brought as a witness. Even with the police, who came with me for my first Saturday pick up, which she’d made hard to arrange because she claimed I didn’t tell her by 12 noon the day before, I couldn’t enter. Her building guard said I could go solo to the 10th floor, but that I couldn’t bring the police. The cops went instead, but they couldn’t retrieve the kids without a warrant.

Three weeks with a court order and… zilch.

The bayonet bag had fallen to the floor and was being kicked repeatedly.

Incidentally, the court order had also granted calls at any time, but she made it utterly, insanely challenging to call. She demanded I notify her a day before of an exact time to call the next day. She refused giving the kids messages, saying I should just tell them when I see them on my weekends. She claimed my photo attachments I’d sent didn’t work—and then stated I could give them things in person, instead.

Her father hung up on me once, and that was followed by an email from her to apologize for him since he thought I was a solicitor trying to cheat them. Sure, a foreign guy whom you’d known for nine years, asking for the children, was a solicitor? Really? Games.

For the three weeks of the court order, my wife wrote me in her language, only. Nine years together, and she suddenly forgot how to use English—or that I didn’t speak her language that well—or read it at all, practically.

Resilient, I tried to not let it all get to me. Pushed to the edge again. Yet I stepped back again and again.

At the end of the July, there were the 4th negotiations. I’ve written about that in detail to family and friends, but suffice it to say it was overly unfair and biased. The interpreter the court assigned was horrifically incapable of interpreting. I missed 80% of the conversation. Dialogue swirled around me. I was lost. Demands were made. I agreed to paying custody in exchange to see the kids the 2nd and 4th weekend, but that’s all I wanted to agree on. I’d already told my lawyer I didn’t want to sign the divorce until custody was taken care of.

But when my lawyer stated, “Okay, we’ll sign the divorce papers now,” I sat there numb. She, the negotiator, and my wife all claimed that it had to be done, that that was the system in this country. My wife and her lawyer got up, even after we’d agreed to the kids in exchange for custody payments, and declared they were leaving, that I wouldn’t see the kids… unless I agreed to divorce.

Three days later, I attempted to file an appeal. I was rejected. I wrote all about coercion and duress. It fell on deaf ears.

My lawyer, the second since I’d fired the first for complete lack of effort (though paid up front), hasn’t followed through with my requests on a number of fronts, and one topic she has completely avoided in three messages recently.

Assassinating character might work in western courts, but here, I’ve been told, it won’t work. So I’ve got struggles to deal with even with my own lawyers and their approach.

Drama continues.

But, I was finally able to see my kids starting late in July, and I’ve had them three times at mine on weekends. Picking them up the first day was such a surreal event. My heart was racing. It was filmed. All went smoothly for the most part, but my ex stated something that got the mental cogs turning.

The Sunday night of that first weekend, she wrote an email that stated my son had a 3 cm bruise by his elbow. The tone of the email connected me to what she’d said the morning before when I went to hold my daughter, taking her from her grandfather’s clutches. She added, “Don’t hurt her.”

After six months without my children, how dare she say that to me?! I wanted to respond. I didn’t. I bit my lip.

But a week or so later, my ex included in an email—which are now at least in English since the divorce was signed, that I “tried to strangle” my daughter.

OMG.

She isn’t going there, is she?

Unreal.

There are so many aspects of this all that still can be included here, but suffice it to say that, even though I am resilient—and that I’ll persevere no matter what—the process in this foreign land is daunting.

I am afraid her father will want to bump me off, but the court refused to let me file a restraining order against her and him. That’s the email my lawyer has ignored.

Yet even though I’ve spent three wondrous weekends with my wee ones, the drama hasn’t stopped. Until a few days ago, she’d played more games and not let me call the kids. She’d demanded I’d only call at certain times, and then when I started my new school year again, being in full-day training workshops, she dictated that I call at 9am those days. In staff training workshops, I couldn’t just answer the phone, so I asked for evenings. She said they were too busy, insisting the next day I call at 9am again. And then when school started full-throttle, she told the court investigator that I’d have to call from 12-1230pm only.

Once more. Games.

Once more, the courts weren’t willing to get the ball rolling. They wouldn’t demand she let me give my kids a cell phone for direct calls. They’d not require her to provide a schedule of her evening hours and the kids’ classes (she claimed my son has evening classes, even though he is 2.5 years of age) so I know when to call and get them!

Now, I just found out from my new principal that my ex has written my job, asking why they won’t let me make calls during lunch!  Unreal.

And I’ve received notice that my school needs to withhold 30% of my wages for the next eight months, on top of the child support I am already paying, but the court document to garnish my wages doesn’t even state why!  My lawyer said that document will come later.  Unreal.

I’m now at $1800US/month gone from my paycheck, and I don’t even know why.  She’s killing me. Or at least trying to.

All is enough to make many throw in a towel. I won’t. I cannot. They’re my kids.  They’re all that matters to me.

 

 

 

 

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More Antics (or Were They)

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.

Time passed.

Returning to sit down next to us, the cop said, “I saw your daughter in an iPad video.”

“Huh?”

“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?

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A Letter Asking for Help…

I asked for all sorts of help (here)!

I am writing to you again as a follow up to our communication about 1.5 week ago in person and via email afterwards.  When I wrote you that the the social services’ report concludes with a recommendation that my ex-wife gets custody of my children, I didn’t clearly state what the report states, for I’ve had three translators look at it since–and they all agreed that there is a sense of negativity in the explanation of that recommendation.  From what I’ve been told, since it is in Swahili**, of course, it states that they feel it is best her family gets custody so that they can keep the children “AWAY FROM THE INFLUENCES OF DIFFERENT LANGUAGES AND CULTURES“.

I am sorry, but this seems rather biased and downright provincial.  The children are clearly bi-cultural, mixed-race children, and that should be supported, promoted, cherished and tolerated.  Years ago, at a wedding of someone in my wife’s family, one of the relatives called my daughter a zebra.  To be honest, I am afraid this is the type of attitude that may influence my children in a negative way, of course.  And I fear that if her family’s attitude is indeed to protect the children from such “influences”–and they win custody based on that recommendation, my children are bound to a life of narrow-mindedness and bigotry.

They should be allowed full access to both cultures, that of the mother and father, and bilingual education.  Even today my daughter told me that her mom now only speaks Swahili** with her at home (unlike the first five years of her life).

Is there something that can be done to ensure my two children, as American passport holders, have access to a more liberal-minded upbringing just based on the fact that they are US citizens (instead of being protected from “the influences” of their father’s culture)?  Even my direct supervisor recommended on Friday getting a human rights organization involved in this. Have you heard of such an organization that would even consider this case?

At the first litigation hearing on Thursday, it was again a nightmare proceeding.  She was not present, but her lawyer was.  He started off with the most preposterously absurd claim that I am the one lying about not seeing the children from January 18th until July 26th!!!  He claims that she let me see the children every Mon/Wed/Fri for those 189 days!  My jaw dropped.  My lawyer scoffed.  My interpreter squirmed.  But the judge didn’t make a single comment!  She is the same judge who oversaw the 5/15 hearing in which, even though I was the plaintiff who’d filed the injunction to see my kids, she started off allowing my (then) wife to dramatically attack me for 15 minutes with claims of all sorts.  This time, the judge didn’t remark on their egregious claims.  And instead of aggressively attack his allegations, my lawyer simply stated we have evidence, otherwise–yet she didn’t ask me for anything to submit to the court.

Anyway, my lawyer actually walked out to the room without stating a single thing to me (not even a goodbye) when I found out on the spot that my submission of a restraining order two weeks ago was then going to be heard as a completely separate case, and I had to physically move across the room to take the plaintiff’s spot (with her lawyer simultaneously taking my place in return); I knew it was a different case number, but I didn’t know there’d be a clearly delineated process.  Anyway, it was then me against my ex’s lawyer!  My personally-hired interpreter, who’d been sitting next to me the “first” hearing then informed me she had to go since she’d made plans for a family dinner (and didn’t know I’d have another case so late).  At least the court-appointed interpreter was there.

However, at one point, my ex’s attorney got dramatically aggressive with his claims, staring at me directly, and he commented on last weekend’s event of my wife not bringing my daughter down for our 8am (court ordered) exchange for my weekend, instead stating via text my daughter didn’t want to go since she was sick.  However, because it was legally my right to have them for the weekend (and to take responsibility of them, healthy or sick) and they refused to bring my daughter down, I called the police at 815am to help me. Their lawyer did state, “You acted in a way that is not like we do in __________.” (According to the court-appointed interpreter.) He didn’t state anything about me being an American, per se, but as a foreigner I wasn’t acting like them and how they do things.  To me, that was in an attempt to sway the judge to be biased against me because of my race/culture.

Does that count at all for something here, regarding biased treatment?  

In the end, after his rant and some related court ongoings, I was asked to sign the printed out stenographer’s transcript, but at after 610pm, her lawyer was getting dramatic about the time, leaving first, and then the female judge and two female stenographers, female bailiff and remaining female interpreter all were standing, waiting for me to sign the transcript.  The interpreter gave me a quick explanation that all that was said was recorded, but she/they didn’t have time to go through every detail (they’d already scoffed when my personal interpreter skimmed through the first case’s transcript an hour before, even provoking consternation by her lawyer and remarks from the judge why it was taking so long–and even my own lawyer snickered that I’d asked the interpreter to go through more thoroughly the document).

I apologize, Sir, for being long-winded here, but this is all a nightmare process.  I don’t believe the court’s decision (which some in my family and I already feel is in a sealed envelope already, awaiting delivery) should be based on a recommendation to protect the children from influences of language and culture (since they are mixed-race children and have a right to their father’s culture and language), and I don’t believe the court should look at me as doing things differently from what’s done in ____________, otherwise.  Is there any help here I can get?  Will a human right’s organization even listen?

Thank you,
______________

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Another Court Fiasco and a Bit o’ Mockery, to Boot!

The woman knew no boundaries (explained originally by this post)…

She got her way.  Today.  Finally.

For well over the last 15 months, my family and friends have recommended that I don’t let her get what she has attempted to all along, what she has aimed for–through the myriad complex challenges that have faced me, past the countless obstacles thrown at me vindictively along the path I have traveled, hitherto, yet today, she did succeed at what she’d set out to accomplish.

No, folks, she didn’t win the custody case or successfully reign triumphant with regards to pecuniary affairs in court, nor has she shot down my efforts in the criminal case that’s still pending (I’d filed thoroughly valid actions against her for libel, extortion, perjury, and a violation of my custodial rights–and for the abduction of the children for 189 days last year).

No, she didn’t win on that scale at all.  What’s she’s done, folks, is, at last, gotten me riled, riled to the point that I left the court house, livid, this afternoon.

Admittedly, the causes for my exasperation were numerous, and not all were my ex’s doing.  But she can take the credit, for it has been because of her that this whole sordid experience has transpired.

Of course, there is the grain that I am trying to fight against during this whole process, my being a foreigner in a foreign land, battling cultural differences, legal unknowns, potential bigotry and bias, a vengeful ex and her family, and a whole slew of behind-the-scenes happenings.  Those issues alone could knock the wind out of someone, repeatedly, leaving one gasping for breath, unable to just roll with the punches, like I’d do more so if I were in my homeland. She has, undoubtedly, got home field advantage. Additionally, there are all the antics that I’ve faced, including the handful of interference happenings during the exchanges on weekends I see my kids, the blatant hardships regarding communicating with my kids (or, attempting to communicate with them), and the absurd lies and fabrications she’s created to serve her needs.  Gasping for air would be an ailment I’d enjoy compared to the emotional consequences I’ve endured as of late. Her abduction of my kids for 189 days, for completely unfounded reasons, was simply a test, for it has all gotten thicker, heavier, and more burdensome since.  I never would have thought that something would surpass that six-month onus I bore, for the loss of my kids practically pushed me to the edge, yet the recent experiences have taken their toll more.

The underlying current has been swift and steady, potentially debilitating to many, but my fortitude and persistence has paid off, hitherto. However, the aforementioned hardships permitted the emotions that finally overcame me today at court.

Today’s fiasco and the related forces that were out of my control forced me to take a tenuous step in the wrong direction, with my equilibrium thrown suddenly into chaos, my emotions shown mostly in tears, both inside the courthouse and outside, afterwards–and that anger finally reached a point where I nearly expressed it outright. Nearly.  So she didn’t fully get the best of me, for I’ve refrained from exhibiting it, other than a few mumbles under my breath as I drove home after court, one of the loneliest rides I’ve taken in my life to date, beside myself in frustration and hurt.

In addition to the ongoing undertone to life in this country these past 15 months, another specific (one of many) happenings caused my feathers to get ruffled both last night and this morning.  Having dropped off my daughter early on Sunday evening (around 615pm instead of the standard 7pm return) to their mother’s house, because she was feeling sick and exhibiting some saddening lethargy, even feeling warm to the touch, I later followed up with texts to my ex to see how my girl was doing.  Yet my ex didn’t bother to write back. Again, this morning, the day of my court hearing, I texted twice to ask her how my eldest child was, requesting someone to please let me know. No response.  Unreal. The woman cannot even return a text when my children are sick.  Because she often doesn’t answer the phone, claims that the kids are out, or certainly never returns my calls (and I wasn’t sure if my daughter had gone to school or not), I just hoped that she’d text back instead of me calling, which most likely would have resulted in more disappointment.Disappointed I have been.

After weeks of incessant preparations (actually, months and months) because I’ve had to counter her unfair, unfounded, and un-freakin-fortunate claims, I have just reached the point of exhaustion, too, barely staying afloat with various aspects of my life.  For my children, though, my resolve is impressive, if I may say so myself, however pummeled I feel today.

With that all said, finally, today’s court happenings were a travesty–as they were on 10/30/14, the last Family Court hearing we’d had (to which she didn’t show, either time).

The first case heard was the restraining order I’d filed against her and her family.  Starting promptly at 4pm, the hearing lasted until 430pm.  Without hesitation, I can readily say that about five minutes of it all was worthwhile.

The Judge, seated far above in her bird’s nest, with another overseer of sorts seated close-at-hand, and then two more gals there to pass out and collect paperwork and transcribe, began by asking what was the purpose of the restraining order I’d filed. She disclosed that there were three main points to my petition, which I agreed with, once my interpreter ($30US/hour) finished her explanation.  Yet all of that had been covered already 2.5 months ago at the last hearing.  She then proceeded to ask to whom my ex-wife had written, wasting so much time on getting the names of the people into the court transcript, asking for spellings and positions of authority for each.  However, back in September/October when I’d done up the petition, I had provided the screenshot of the email that my ex had sent my three bosses at school, clearly showing the names of all three.  There was no need to clarify, making it a total waste of time to ask again in so much detail.  And I then was asked to describe the background of why she’d contacted them–which was an exact repeat of the 10/30 hearing.  Nothing new was addressed.

My mind awhirl with doubt if the proceedings even mattered, for I am the foreigner in a land that readily labels me as such, going against a local woman whose painted a horribly false picture of me, I proceeded steadily with the explanations anyway.

I then asked the Court if my latest petition (for a new physical restraining order; not just to keep her from contacting my employer) was added to the same case file as the one being discussed, for I’d been told it would be when I filed it on 12/27.

Because my ex has interfered a few times with the exchanges of the children on weekends, causing drama and discomfort (e.g., following me and the kids 100 meters down the sidewalk once in early December, with her dad doing the same on the other side of the road), I want the nonsense to cease. The harassment she’s partaken in is killing me, for I feel more nervous about the 8am pick ups than the joy of seeing my kids, wondering each time what she and her parents are up to next. Moreover, I’d already filed such a petition last July, but that petition was once described as “lost”, then later discovered to have been put into a file for a case that was closed (only because I’d filed another petition to find it and search my own court records), i.e., it was never processed.  Such shenanigans are taxing, to say the least.

However, the Judge responded assertively with queries like, “On what date?” and “For what reason?”, etc.  Sadly, I didn’t have the application copies in front of me, having brought stacks of new documentation and evidence.  When my interpreter leaned over and repeatedly asked, “What date?” and “Why didn’t you bring the copied petition?” I wanted to curl up in my chair and call out for my mother.  Thankfully, directly in front of me was a printed out list of all the documents I’d submitted to the various courts, and I saw the date of said petition and the infraction, too, thankfully.  Whew!

I didn’t come off as totally unprepared.

Across the room, champing at the bit, was my ex’s lawyer, his eyes fiery and nostrils flared.

Incidentally, I represented myself in this same case back in October, and I chose to do so again today.

After I’d had the first 15 minutes or so, Mr. Pleasant, her attorney, was given the floor (though we all remained seated, facing each other from our respective sides of the room, our hardwood desks perpendicular to the Judge’s elevated bench).

For the next 10 minutes, he ran wild with odd allegations that ran the gamut of all he’s regurgitated before.  Even though this is a case primarily for a restraining order, he exaggeratedly detailed how my bicycle (which I’d asked for in court documents) was purchased by my ex (a lie) and how I’d taken her things (a lie; for I’d sent her work-related e-files and family photos from my computer, early in the separation; and a bag of her memorabilia sorted out from my box, soon after separating, has been brought to each negotiation and hearing, but her lawyer doesn’t want to take it).

He continued spewing forth about how I videotape the exchanges of the kids, which she and her father have done 8 of the 11 exchanges, themselves (she wrote in recent documents that I was childish for videotaping, when she, herself, or her father has also done it).  Finally, he said that the only reason she contacted my three bosses via email in September was that the children asked, “Momma, can you ask Dad’s boss if he can call us from work?”–even though she’d been the one last fall to demand that I call ONLY at 12 noon during workdays (having herself told the court investigator I cannot call in the evenings), even though she has returned my missed calls to the kids ONCE since I was finally restored my rights to see them last July (6.5 months ago), after the 189 day abduction.

I calmly explained that the children, aged less than six and three, respectively, don’t have the cognitive wherewithal to formulate such ideas to contact my bosses and to make such requests, especially since our communication at that time (between my ex and me) was all about why she wouldn’t let me call them at night, about how busy their evenings were, etc.  Their claims are ridiculous.  My ex is the same woman who, in the fall of 2013, threatened me in a countdown of threaded emails that she was going to call my boss unless I apologized about something, which she did after I didn’t capitulate.  Nothing has changed, yet the explanations I’ve made seem to fall on deaf ears.

So after Mr. Pleasant finished his charades, I was given one last chance to explain my stance, which I feel I did a decent job of.  I mentioned the honorable lawyer across the way (the man is a schmuck) and his explanations of the bicycle, etc., but that I felt those topics were reserved for a different case (property, which hasn’t yet begun). I’d also brought along documents regarding the continued hardship of communication with the children, especially last summer for the three-weeks of the failed initial court order (because their mother makes it so challenging), so I was able to submit them, but I was told for the issues regarding the kids specifically, that it would be for the next case hearing, which was scheduled immediately after the 4pm hearing.

All in all, the first case hearing, as I’d mentioned, seemed like a waste of time, for I’d already explained 99% of what it entailed at the 10/30 hearing, and her lawyer just spewed forth the same nonsensical BS. Nothing new was really broached. The only value I thought might stem from it all was that I did squeeze in at the last minute how my ex had not responded at all to my requests via text last night and today to how my daughter was doing, having dropped her off last night a bit under the weather back at mom’s.

Thus, we switched sides, as we did last time, literally standing up, walking across the chamber, should bag and stacks of paperwork in two.

As my interpreter was explaining some aspects of the transcripts that the clerk had printed, there was some conversation between my ex’s attorney and the Judge, but being that there’s the added dilemma of having the whole proceedings take place in a language other than my own, interpreting causes many delays and disruptions (even though I could describe some of the last text message difficulties in the local language).  Of course without it, I’d be screwed, as I was in the 7/27 divorce hearing last year.

Oddly, the Judge started in with my decision (and the defendant’s, my ex’s) about the Guardian ad Litem she’d recommended I’d apply for after the last hearing.  Quickly, I responded, “I didn’t apply.”

Yet she followed up with a… “Why not?”

“Because my lawyer suggested it isn’t necessary,” I retorted.

However, family in my homeland have also commented that it would NOT help my situation if I had one, for the person assigned would be a local, potentially biased and potentially in favor of my ex, and the language barrier would be a hassle.

The other party replied, “We’ll support what the Judge suggests,” my interpreter told me.

With that said, my interpreter tried explaining the transcripts from the previous case, which just ended, for I was needing to sign it.  I, concurrently, was re-organizing the sheaths of documents/evidence I’d just stacked up when we crossed the room, when I went from my role of plaintiff to defendant. The pending custody case hearing was, indeed, more important than the previous restraining order case (which, in its own right, was also important).

Simultaneously, my interpreter also added in that the Judge was assigning a Guardian ad Litem, explaining that he was a professor at a local university, and that he would be assigned to provide insights and experiences in going through the process.

Because the social services organization that had come for two visits last March and July had NOT seen me with my kids, yet had concluded that my ex had a better relationship with the kids (and the kids, her), I immediately thought, “That’s not fair,” so I asked, “Will this person be in the presence of me and my children?”  The judge stated that it would be up to me.

The Court asked, “Are you fine with this… and if so, how would you like them to contact you?”

My response was simply that if the person spoke English, he could call me, but if he doesn’t, maybe email is better, but then the Judge said there was a woman available who studied abroad and could speak more English.  I went with that option, but I was skeptical about it all.

Sadly, without an attorney present, I really didn’t know what to say nor do.  I’d explained that I’d not filed out an application, but the Judge seemed persistent with my going through with it.  Moreover, when my ex’s lawyer quipped, “We agree with what the Judge suggests,” I had to quickly evaluate if it would hurt me if I rejected the judge’s idea.

Now, that’s where I am feeling I shot myself in the foot.

Two month’s prior, at a Criminal Case hearing, the Prosecutor suggested at the end of the 2.5-hour hearing that I accept her recommendation for counseling.  I had the wherewithal, on the spot, to say (and think) that it was a sham, for my ex’s wrongdoings had already transpired months ago.  No counseling was going to rectify the wrongs she’d committed (abducting the kids, writing a libelous letter to family and friends, attempting to get me to pay $10,000US up front in order for her to get my work-related documents from the house).

So with this ad Litem, I just didn’t know what to say.  I regret it.

But that wasn’t the only problem.  Don’t forget, but I was livid at the end of the hearing.  For a reason (in addition to all of the above nonsense).

After the eight-minute discussion on the ad Litem issue, her lawyer got up to leave.  Gone.  Nothing said.  I thought he dismissed himself to go to the bathroom (for before the 4pm start, he was actually in the stall next to me, unbeknownst to him, and was just tearing up a sound storm).  Because there was a feeling of a transition time between the first case and second, I figured that was a safe bet.

My interpreter was still explaining things about the first hearing (in the printed transcript), yet the clerk announced that we were done for the day! 

Huh?  Come again?

Not only did my jaw drop but it also ricocheted off the padded seating on my chair into the edge of the table.

I gasped for air, 85 times, I counted, in 45 seconds.

My interpreter repeated that today was apparently assigned to just find out my decision about the ad Litem.  Nothing else was to be addressed about the custody case.

2.5 months had passed since the last hearing, and yet NOTHING was going to be discussed?  WTF?

I’ve gone through continued hardship for months, hoping that there was something constructive on the horizon, knowing that my employer is starting to get antsy about all the time I’ve missed because of hearings, lawyer visits, courthouse visits (to submit documents). Sitting there dumbfounded, I wanted to do more than huff.

I looked at the piles of paperwork on the desktop in front of me., considering the NINE hours of work I’d done this morning, photocopying and printing at 7-11, sending last-minute translation requests to various translators, going through piles of paperwork in my bedroom.  The countless hours, averaging most nights 4-5 hours after work, i.e., 530-930pm or later, have been killing me, especially the heavy push these past few weeks, defending her latest court claims that I beat my kids, that I threaten them if they don’t smile in my videos of them, that I do drugs, that people in my Stateside family are _________ (think of the worst), and even that because I don’t like wax apples, my daughter doesn’t, either.

A tear formed in my eye.

I sat back and looked at my interpreter, wanting to bark out at the courts to let go of all the frustration that he built up.  Yet I knew I couldn’t be an ugly American.  I knew that my ex-wife would jump all over it if I showed emotions in court, which, folks, is 99.9% the reason she herself doesn’t attend the hearings (for her drama would scare the paint off the walls).

In the haste of it all, the Judge, herself, left, as did the unknown woman by her side.  The two typists/clerks remained, but one went to turn off half the lights in the chamber.

One sat patiently, thought she kept on looking over as my interpreter continued to go through the transcripts of, by that time, both the first hearing and the 10-minute dealings about the ad Litem.

This clerk has helped me obtain paperwork copies, etc., hitherto, and she seems rather polite, but because she was also waiting past 5pm, I asked my interpreter to skim through the transcripts (instead of word-for-word translation) to facilitate the process.  She even whispered that we could go get photocopies downstairs, even though that isn’t usually the process, apparently.

However, while perusing the transcript of the first hearing, I did notice that my ex’s not calling me back about my daughter’s well-being today was not even mentioned.  I had no choice but to ignore that fact, for the room was nearly empty and half dark.

I made a bee-line to the courthouse front help desk, a place I’ve spent much time at about 10 times in the last year, 4-5 times just in the last three weeks, to submit some of the documents I’d brought today. new evidence I felt was most important to the case.

Yet because the same friendly clerk came to gather the transcripts from us, after photocopying, I wanted to ask her about what had just transpired.

I started by revealing my intent to submit more docs, but she clarified that because the ad Litem process would take time, the case is to be basically paused.

Standing there with my hands clasped in front of my mouth, biting my lip, kicking myself in the ass for even letting the process go that far (Why the hell didn’t I just say that I steadfastly refused having one?).

Thoughts of purposeful delays filled my head.  If this ad Litem is brought in, when will the next custody case hearing be?

More thoughts regarding the restraining order case surfaced.  If the Judge isn’t willing to proceed at a faster pace (thus, basically repeating all the same information in today’s hearing that had already been detailed on 10/30/14), is it because of the fact that IF A RESTRAINING ORDER IS ISSUED AGAINST MY EX, SHE’LL NOT GET CUSTODY?  At least that’s my understanding of what would happen.  Was today totally intentional?  Did her lawyer get them to stall?  Is the system against me as a foreigner?

Making matters worse, I pondered the Criminal Court case process, too, and wondered why it has been two months without a word from the prosecutor.  Knowing that a judgment against my ex would also hinder or impact her chances of custody, too, I figured that has to be it.  Rationally, perhaps the delays are because of the heavy load the court system deals with, but I am emotionally prone to feeling such delays are tactics, perpetuated by my ex, her lawyer, or connections her father may have in the system.

So I stood there in disbelief, with mounting bitterness seeping into my mood.

My interpreter took over the conversation, which I’ve asked her not to do since any and all interpreting should be between the two interlocutors and not initiated by an interpreter, and I tried to jump in.

She turned to me and then said, “It is out of ________ that the Judge has assigned one, for he/she will help you two come to a better understanding, and it is for the children.  They will help you work through differences.”  (I cannot recall if she said ‘compassion’ or ‘good faith’.)  I scoffed, internally, but externally I only looked down momentarily, biting my lip.  The last thing I needed was to reveal my disappointment and frustration in front of the female court clerk.  I nodded, still with my hands clasped, resting on my chin.

Politely, I got a “thank you” out before departing, looking at my watch, now bemoaning the fact that 15 minutes had passed out in the hallway, leaving ten minutes to submit documents before the courthouse closed up.

As my interpreter and I entered the adjacent office, to reach the help desk, where two uniformed clerks were on duty, I turned to her and said, “This is a mockery…” but I didn’t finish because I needed to pull out the most important document I’d had translated and finalized just this past week. There was no way I was leaving without at least getting it in, but I was filled with doubt that the damn paperwork will sit in a file for the next 1-2-3 months while this ad Litem process transpires.  If I had been given the time in court to explain to the Judge that the document revealed some very compelling evidence to counter my ex’s claims, I would have, of course, left a happy camper.

Vexed and chagrined, I leaned back in the chair as she and the clerk filled in a top sheet to submit with the document, saddened by the fact that I’d done so much to prepare for the day, yet nothing for the custody case was accomplished.  Moreover, I’ll now have to request more time off from work to submit more documents during office hours (so clerks can assist me) instead of the night drop off window, where the Court Police aren’t very helpful and speak no English.

I cried.  Tears flowed for a few seconds.  The clerk got a packet of tissues and tossed them my way.

My interpreter leaned over and asked, “Did you mean I mocked you?”

Oops.

“No,” I muttered.  “I am sorry, but this system is a travesty.  How on earth did the custody case not proceed further?  It has already been 2.5 months! The ad Litem will do nothing to amend communication with my ex.  She abducted the kids for 189 days.  She ignored the court order last summer.  She’s lied about everything.  She’s fabricated nonsense.  She’s embellished the rest.”

I continued that the reason I’d rejected the therapy in the criminal case was because what had been done was done.  My ex’s egregious actions and childish antics have already taken place.  Nobody will rectify that, unless some positive outcome comes my way in the custody and/or criminal cases.

The lights in the building’s lobby went out.  The clerks finished up the coversheet, copied it, and hastily returned it so that my interpreter and I could run across the atrium floor to get to the daytime window for document submissions, much to the chagrin of the woman waiting there.  Getting my stamped duplicate, I left to walk to my scooter down the street.

Outside, I apologized to my interpreter for crying in front of her.

Yet I cried more, explaining that I still don’t feel prepared to defend myself yet my lawyer has not met my needs at all.

Incidentally, this morning, the day of the hearing, having met my lawyer last Friday for a consultation (to discover that her attitude is still that my chances are low and that my ex will get custody; this is the same attorney who said, “It’s useless,” once we saw the social services report’s recommendation for my ex to have custody), I wrote her and told her that I wanted to represent myself in the second hearing (custody).  Her lackadaisical approach the first custody hearing also hadn’t impressed me.

Yet, in the back of my mind the whole afternoon was, “Why didn’t my attorney tell me that today’s second hearing was JUST for a quick discussion about the ad Litem?”  Or… did she notify the Courthouse this morning to tell them that she would not be there, and the Judge decided to dismiss further dealings for some reason? Whatever the case, and whatever the connection, I am incredulous that she did not tell me to not prepare so much since there was no custody discussion/process planned in the first place.

I am heading to bed tonight, head down.  Nothing was accomplished.  My kids will still be in my life for two weekends a month for who knows how long.  I wasted so much time preparing for today.  I missed a day’s pay from work, all for naught, for finalizing evidence that wasn’t used or even discussed.  I could have just asked for half a day or to leave work an hour early, instead of a whole day’s salary.  Nothing came to fruition.

Tomorrow’s another day, kids.  Dad will continue the fight, even if my spirits are low at the time of writing this.

May I rekindle my resolve… somehow, some way…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Loss of One’s Parent Identity, Part I

A nightmare experience prompted this blog entry (here).

Despite this blog having been intended for entries related only to going through divorce abroad, I am now turning to my keyboard to express some emotions here regarding my current state of affairs, affairs that I wouldn’t wish on even the most evil person whose ever walked the face of the earth.  Afraid of someone labeling the choice of “on my own worst enemy” as uncreative, I decided to go with that “evil person” option, but I believe I truly meant it, too.

You see, my wife took my children out of my life, and there is ZERO legitimate reasons for her to have done so.

Though this entry isn’t about all that had transpired to have led to such actions and all that has come as a result of her absurdly wrong actions, i.e., taking them out of my life and taking their father out of theirs, suffice it to say that her doing so is not only morally and ethically wrong but also illegal in most countries.  Here, there doesn’t seem to be much recourse.  Months ago, I was told, when I went in to the station to visit, that the police wouldn’t get involved unless she was doing or manufacturing illegal drugs–or abusing the kids.  I wasn’t going to play that false card.  Social services had a near-identical response.  Moreover, my consulate here in this country stated that they cannot offer legal advice, only offering a list of interpreting services and lawyers who speak English as a response.

With that said, I’m feeling like I am going solo.

But that’s not what this blog about.

Identity.  Yeah, that’s it.

Well, it is gone.

No, fuck that.  It was taken.

On January 18th, when my wife, from whom I’d been separated for about 3.5 months, theretofore, wrote an email to say… well, she said a whole hell of a lot.

First came an attack that simply doesn’t make sense, for my FB posts don’t get read by my children, and my posts were only vents about things that had transpired up until then, with NO direct attacks against her as a person.  For example, she’d once threatened, “Bring back the kids’ passports by midnight, or [your daughter] will not go to school tomorrow or until further notice.”  I believe I wrote something about it to my friends on FB.  What she threatened me with didn’t bode well with me spiritually, logically, etc., so I made some sort of comment about it.  However, that wasn’t an attack on her.  Why did she take offense to such a revelation.  Yet, she said she was fed up with my publicizing some family issues.  I believe wholeheartedly that she was just embarrassed I’d shared what she’d done (oh, and irate, to boot).

Furthermore, I’d sent some private messages to friends here in my adopted country when my wife’s father had cancelled childcare for our son “by the end of September” because I’d sent my wife an email to ask her if she’d be willing to volunteer somewhere.  That’s no lie.  He wrote back saying I didn’t respect him and his wife because I should have come to ask his opinion first, for I wasn’t considerate of their needs as in-laws.  He further exclaimed that I should have thought about how her volunteering would have put greater stress on them since they’d need to take our son more.  However, I’d only sent one single email to suggest it.  I didn’t make a plan.  I didn’t demand such action.  I didn’t put a time commitment to the idea.  It was sent in an impromptu fashion to my wife to ask what she thought.  How on earth did it result in her daddy writing me and cancelling all babysitting for our son, giving me a deadline of a couple of weeks?  Thus, I soon wrote 4-5 couples we know, saying we needed to get information on childcare services in our city ASAP, and I wrote that her dad had cancelled without any warning.  My explaining why wasn’t an attack, and it wasn’t ‘moi’ who’d made some irrational, emotional, like-a-kid-throwing-a-tantrum response.

My wife turned around and blamed me for revealing too much about our personal issues!  In a society that values sweeping things under the carpet and not  sharing personal stuff much, this was somehow my fault.  That whole issue, too, resulted in a continual debate about how she never supported me when it came to issues with her parents.  Living in a culture and being married to a family that values total filial piety had certainly strained our relationship at times.  That broke the camel’s back.

So she wrote on January 18th, “For several months, I have tolerated your verbal expressions regarding private matters on FB and on your blog.”

If I decided to blog to get things off my chest, how in the hell does that justify her taking my children out of my life?  And how can that give her any right to take their daddy away from their lives?

In the same paragraph (and by the way, I am copying direct quotes from her email here), she stated, “For several months, I have tolerated your refusal to pay for the kids’ expenses.”

Sadly, this was another utter lie.

When I moved out, I sent her an email to say I’d like to split the money in our joint accounts, sans the money that her parents had given us for the kids upon their births.  She wrote back to simply say, “No.”

Another email states, “The money in the accounts will be split when the divorce is final.”

So she was holding my money, too.  That’s clear.  She then sent an email that explained she was paying for the rent for six months, for December until June.  I’d moved out at the start of October, and I’d explained that I also had to pay rent, that I had the children at my house every M/W/F evening and overnight–and on Sundays for seven hours, so by default I was also paying for accommodation and bills related to the children, and that included outings those four days a week, food, etc.  I’d also purchased clothes.

We’d had numerous email exchanges leading up to her taking my kids that focused on finances, but I stuck to my guns and said she had kept the accounts, paid the rent for half a year, and reminded her that she’d even sent messages saying she was taking money out to pay bills, too.

Not to mention, my daughter was going to school for free, for my employment provided that benefit, which was tantamount to $10,000US/year tuition.  My wife withdrew my daughter on a whim in November, much to my chagrin, against my pleas for her to reconsider, and, obviously without my consent.  So for her to NOW state in court documents that I am not paying for educational expenses is wrong.  My daughter could still be going to school for free, and at a much better school than she is going to (incidentally, I just found out a week ago that she was even going to school in the first place).

You see, I’ve not heard a single thing from my wife in 120 days–even though I’ve sent near countless, almost daily emails and text messages asking to see the kids, stating I’d like to bring diapers for my son, that I wanted to see them for their respective birthdays.  She’s given me no response.  Not a single thing since January 20th, two days after she’d sent her email about me not taking my kids again.

But back to finances, she’d also written an email once that said I should pay her a certain amount, but then wrote an email saying, “We don’t owe each other a single cent,” yet in early January she wrote, “You pay me $1600-plus US per month for six months up front.”  She vacillated so wildly with her claims and demands that I didn’t know what the hell to expect.

Yet, she still had my money in the bank.

However, even to this date (mid-May), she claims I’ve not helped financially.

All along, knowing what I was spending on the kids when I had had them my four days per week, knowing she’d given me roller coaster demands, knowing she had our bank accounts to access money, I wrote, “We’ll have to work out everything legally… The courts decide, not you…, etc.”  I’d also added that “We should split education, health and clothing costs.”  However, she said that because certain things were in place at the house before I’d moved out, she wanted me to pay for her internet and telephone service, too.

Furthermore, I’d talked to a few lawyers, both in free legal aid offices and paid consultations, and some had stated, “You don’t need to pay for her expenses since you have the children at your house, too.”

Yet, she has told my family, friends, and people in our community that I’ve not paid a dime to her and the kids since she kicked me out (and I decided a few days later to make it a temporary move out–and a month later to take on a new apartment).  She even went so far as to send a PDF file to my friends back in my home country and some here in my current country to say she’d supported me financially for the time we were together and married.

Though she told the court last month she only makes $1000US a month.  Hmmmm…

So many things are curious about her financial ideas.

Yet, she claimed I could no longer take my children out because of these accusations.

The last time I checked, she didn’t have the right to do that.

Then came her major claim that seems to be the foundation of ALL of this.

120 days at the time of writing this without my kids.  Without my identity as a father.

Because of jealousy.

Unfounded, unfair, unrealistic jealousy.

With a tone of pure drama, she included the following statement:

“Just last week, I told you not to take them out with your ‘ladies’ because kids are still in the very beginning stages of your abandonment…you don’t see that that is anything harmful and even told me “If you had a male friend along on an outing, that isn’t harmful.”

First, her use of the term “abandonment” was really harsh.  She’d used it since day one.  I asked repeatedly for her not to, for I wasn’t abandoning my kids.  I’d wanted them in my life.  I relished having them at my pad for three nights a week and spending seven hours with them every Sunday.

For 2.5 months of them being at mine, we’d go out on outings.  We’d have dinner out at kids-oriented restaurants.  At home, we’d play with their toys (stuff I’d had to start over with by buying), I’d get them ready for bed, and we’d read together.  That was the “real father” stuff that doesn’t equate to abandonment.  I didn’t leave them.  And I was asking since the start for joint custody.  How does a man who abandons his children ask for shared custody?  How does he continue to ask for Saturday hours, feeling that she still saw his son more because of her not working days and getting many more hours with him than I did my three nights (since their bedtime was just three hours after I’d pick them up after work).

Fathers who abandon don’t ask for more hours!

WTF.

So back to the claim of “women”.  Uggh.

Back in December, I’d given a three-hour tour for a Czech college-aged student who came to our city, and I took the children with us for it was my Sunday time with them.  Three hours sightseeing at a local cultural highlight, followed by a simple local dinner.  That’s it.

This traveler had been using the website Couchsurfing.org and we met for a few hours the day before, with my having brought her to a rural community for sightseeing.  I’ve got a blog about Couchsurfing if you’re interested.  However, we’d used the site last year to contact travelers in a different country where we’d taken a family vacation.  My other blog details much about the experience, but it was amazing.  Five different women Couchsurfers met us there, individually or with their families, and for eight outings in nine days!  One mother and teen daughter pair met us for coffee, took us to an evening market (in their SUV) and then later treated us for dinner on our first or second day.  That same woman met us at a park two days later, where we played with our children and her five-year-old son for a few hours.  Another local met us with her two friends for a dinner at an outdoor vendor locale, sharing stories about being 20-somethings in their country.  We also met two separate Brit expats.  One brought us in her car for lunch at a buffet place, treating us, too–and then holding hands with my daughter as we walked to her car in the lot.  The other met us at a private yacht club, which we wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise, for she was a member, and there we swam in a kiddies’ pool–and she, too, treated us for dinner and drinks at poolside.  She met us a day or two later to bring us to a riverside eatery that we’d read about in our guidebook but couldn’t find.  That’s the notion of Couchsurfing itself: internationally-minded people who help other travelers.  At a seaside town, too, we met another and her sister and were treated to another great meal.  There, one of the gals colored a book with my daughter and exchanged hugs and holds with my kids in the parking lot when they said goodbye.

When the first local woman met us at the airport the day we flew home, it solidified what CSing is all about.

So, when I took my two children out for a three-hour outing with a female college student, bringing her to eateries with my kids that she’d not have found otherwise, it resulted in a warning text message ten minutes after I dropped my kids off at her home at 7pm.  A subsequent email just an hour or two later labelled me as a bad father, that I had no clue what the kids needs were since I’d abandoned them (she loved throwing in the word to all the related mails about this), and how I should not involve them with my “affairs”.  Huh?  Really?

I did ZERO harm to my children.  In fact, since they met someone knew, someone international, and even had a good time, with my daughter taking pictures of us all, even holding the gal’s hands as they walked up steep stairs at one point, I even feel they benefited from the wholesome exchange.

Nothing was wrong.

Yet, she wrote another email to threaten me that I could have “No more CSers with the kids.” By following her threats with this final statement, she made me realize that she was being totally irrational: She stated, “By midnight, I want to see a promise in my inbox that you will never take them again with a Couchsurfer, and if you don’t, I will tell the woman of your indecent behavior.”

Indecent behavior?  Seriously?  How on earth could that experience be misconstrued as indecent?  And how could she threaten me with such ridiculousness?

Her sarcastic use of the terms “women” and “affairs” really led me to believe she wasn’t being fair in her judgment of the situation.  I asked her to remember our CS experiences just 11 months before, by she blew that off as nonsense.

It was only sense.

A few weeks later, I’d posted something on my Facebook page about needing any support, so that if someone was able to come visit me in my land-far-from-home home, I’d appreciate the visit.

A friend from abroad wrote to say, “I’ll come!”

I responded, “Great!”

However, on second thought, I wondered if it was great.  I knew in my mind already that it surely could be a problem in my ex’s mind.  There was absolutely ZERO wrong with the pending visit.  Zero.

I’ve known her for 18 years.  Married with two kids herself, she said she’d come to visit since she didn’t want to go to the same locale that her family went every year.  An agreement was that simple, for she’d traveled the world  herself, but hadn’t been here yet.

Yet, I wrote seven female friends in my home country to see what they’d think.  Six of seven wrote that I should be careful of my wife’s reaction–even though there was nothing wrong with a friend visiting.  The last recommended that I simply enjoy a friend’s visit.

I wrote a hasty email to her back in her home country, asking to reconsider coming, but her response was that she’d already bought the tickets and was heading to the airport in a few hours!

The bottom line from all of this is that nothing happened.  Nothing wrong.  Nothing that crossed any lines.  And the reality is that my concern about a potential reaction from you know who prompted her to take trains and buses to other parts of the country for most of her time to see more than my city.

However, on the Sunday she was here, I told her that I wanted her to see my kids.  They’re the loves of my life, so how on earth would I want my 18-year-long friend to return home without seeing my kids once?  Maybe many more years would pass before we’d meet again, I’d explained.  So for me to suggest she would/could, doesn’t make me a bad dad.

That’s not what my wife believed.

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Purposefully Perpetrated Is Perfectly Plausible

My ex surely had her plans before it all unraveled (posted here originally).

Dear Queen Mum,

Time continues to fly by, and your passing is still heavy on my heart, undeniably so, but, thankfully, Mother, you’ve not been around to see what’s happened these past 18 months. Your passing was one of the most spiritually and emotionally challenging moments, theretofore, in my life, for many reasons, yet I cannot help but think it is better that you’ve not born witness to everything that’s unfolded since.  I know you’d be overly burdened, markedly so, Queen Mum, if I may use the nickname bestowed upon you from someone you once knew, or at least the impression of someone you once knew.

Of course, Mom, I would give anything for “just one more day,” as they say. How I wish I could tell you those things that were always meant to be said, things left <em>unsaid</em>.  How I wish I could tell you that I <em>do</em> miss you, that I would give <em>anything</em> for you to still be alive.  How I’d love to fly you here, for support.  How I’d love to tell you <em>all</em>, a I’ve shared with those who support me instead, calling you, writing you, Mom.  However, I can’t.  That hurts so much to say, and to realize that–to the point I have tears in my eyes as I write this, is one damn immense pill to swallow.

Thank goodness, Queen Mum, you’re not alive to know all that’s transpired, for if you were, you’d be immeasurably distraught, so undeniably troubled by the actions that have occurred this past year-plus, especially for six unbearable months last year.

The last 18 months would have forced you through various phases.  Most likely, you would have reached out, at first… to both parties.  You would have recommended moderation.  Actually, you did years ago.  However, based on your own experiences, you may have simple seen the reality of all and let life take its course, but then, Mom, you most likely would have developed stronger reactions over time–and that’s why I’m glad you <em>weren’t</em> here.  Come January this past year, you would have been flabbergasted, with the ensuing months catapulting you into emotions that I’m glad you didn’t experience.  They were hard enough for me.  What they would have been for you makes me ill to think about.

Mom, you see, you didn’t know that summer we last visited you, the final two days I saw you alive, that things had deteriorated so.  Naturally, you knew there were troubles.  Of course.  You knew all was tumultuous.  You knew.  Right?

Did that last eye exchange you make with… well, did that last eye exchange reveal anything to you?  Could you have known what was in store?  How I wish that the moment you last saw my children, one for the first time, could forever be recollected as being healthy, pure, real.  Yet it will always be tainted, instead, with the pure possibility that the glances you received were false, that those eyes hid a knowledge that I didn’t discover until later, that you were to never know. That there was perhaps a plan lurking behind those eyes, eyes that also last glanced your way that day.

I know from our conversations back then that you had hope, but you were a realist, Mom.  You’d been through tough times, too.  You’d been there, done that.  However, Mom, you’d still be happy to know I tried.  Though I failed, too, Mom. I am sorry to you for that.  Mothers all, naturally, want their sons to live that dream. Obstacles were immense. Hurdles were too frequent, left untended, left un-traversed, left in the way. I could write a book for you about all that that entailed, but suffice it to say, it was time.  Thankfully, you didn’t see the end, Mom.  If you had, you’d not be happy.  I guarantee…

You didn’t now that the end was <em>that</em> near, right? Not <em>your</em> end, Mom, but the end of all I had known for the previous eight-plus years or so.  I assume you weren’t privy to that. Right?  God, I hope not.

Part of the reason you <em>weren’t</em> privy was that advice was given, Mom, to me. The advice offered was that if things were to finally end, <em>we</em> should wait, wait until after I saw you for the last time. After <em>we</em> saw you. Wait until that last trip was made.  The accompanying explanation was that you’d not know and that would be better. You were already suffering, but adding to that pain by your potentially knowledge of our difficulties and seemingly inevitable end would have been unfair, it seemed.

Keen, kind-hearted advice it was, right?  Or…

Or was it advice with some undertone of some prior knowledge of what was to come, waiting in the wings?  If it were done for that reason, i.e., ostensibly waiting so you weren’t to be hurt by the downward spiral that carried us to the breaking point, that would have been despicably devious.  Were you saved from such knowledge that would have troubled you so, intentionally?  Deliberately?  It now seems that the delay for such conclusive actions was, perhaps, <em>on purpose</em>. Five years ago, I never would have thought that.  Nor three years ago.

Would I now think that? In a heartbeat, Mom.

Well, let’s just say that it wouldn’t surprise me, actually.  In fact, that it was all purposefully perpetrated is perfectly plausible. If you’d witnessed such behavior, such antics, such decisions being made and acted out… you’d have been hurtin’ for certain, Queen Mum. Yet it wouldn’t have been the mere decline and conclusion of eight-plus years.  It was more than that that was waiting in the wings.  Greater actions loomed ahead.

Maybe sheltering you from the knowledge of the pending end <em>wasn’t</em> the real reason for the delay tactic, Mother.  Maybe it wasn’t simply about protecting you from future unravellings.  Maybe there was something more to it, Queen Mom, for someone else, entirely.  If there were other intentions in providing such a plan, “despicably devious” would be an understatement.

Mother, if you had known all that was on the horizon, you may have changed your mindset, your opinions, your impressions.  In fact, you most likely would have taken back those kind words you’d said all along. I’d like to think, knowing your personality and background, that you’d have offered <em>other</em> words, instead. Actually, I know you would have.

How I’d love to hear you utter them now, Mother.  We would even simultaneously let it all out.  How therapeutic that would be.

Alas, your impressions stayed with you on your deathbed, Queen Mom.  Good impressions.  That’s what you were left with.  That’s what you left with. Maybe that was the purpose for the delay.  Maybe your eternal mindset, if there is such a thing, was all about saving face–for someone else. It wasn’t about you, as I was led to believe.  It was about you showing your approval, acceptance and even your love until the end, when you wouldn’t have, otherwise, Queen Mum, if you were alive to see what was perpetrated–and has been since. Knowledge of your grandchildren enduring what they did for so long would have driven you to destroy your positive image of… well, of all that you were left with, possibly purposefully.

We’ll never know, of course, Mother, if you now know otherwise.   I’d love to get a signal from you somehow.  Just rattle the table, Mom.  Tell me you know.  Tell me you understand what I’ve gone through.  How I wish you would, for I could use that extra support.

How I’d love to explain those false impressions to you now, Mom, and to have you know the truth.  If I knew of tangible proof that you were listening, Mother, somehow, I’d share them with you.  I’d love to, but I cannot, afraid that you’re not able to “read” such a message from down here, wherever you are.  Yet, in my heart, I’d like to believe you already do know, Queen Mum.  You’ve watched from above, or from all around, whatever your beliefs were regarding where you thought you’d be.

You’re shaking your head, right?  I hear the “Tssk, tssk, tssks…” from down here, Mom.  When the wind whispers, and I hear distant, barely audible murmurs of displeasure, it is you, right?

Impressions, Queen Mum; that’s what they were.  That’s what was intended, I now believe. Impressions. Don’t let them mislead you.  Wherever you are… I implore you.  Don’t let them mislead you.

We were fooled.  Both of us.  And for that, I will forever be sorry.  That last impression isn’t deserved.

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