Divorce & Custody with Non-US Spouse
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Divorce & Custody with Non-US Spouse
My partner and I have been together 10 years, never married. I realize CA does
not recognize common law marriage. We have property (both our names on deed) and
a 5 yr. old child. He is also a foreigner with a green card renewed in either
'09 or '11. I'm wondering how to go about separating from someone whom you are
not married to? What rights I do have (mother, american)? and he? how does
custody work? I'm unemployed at the moment so I need to talk to someone either
pro bono or at a sliding scale to help me understand how to get my ducks in a
row. We will try counseling but I'm afraid I already know the outcome, sadly.
any suggestions, advice? Thanks. anon
California does not distinguish between children born in or out of wedlock.
Child custody and child support issues are treated the same. Also, whether both
parents are Americans or only one is or neither are makes no difference. The
only problem is whether one or both parents wish to take the child out-of-state
or out of the country. The courts look at what is the best interest of the child
to decide custodial arrangements, whatever the parents marital status or
nationality. I am not sure about the division of property, especially real
estate---it would depend on your written or oral agreement, and who paid what.
I am finally planning on leaving my husband after just over 10
years of emotional, psychological, and occassional physical
abuse (which I regret was not reported - and which never
escalated beyond pushing and shoving - though I was pushed even
with a baby in my arms, and even as I tried to nurse a baby to
I am thrilled to be going! However, because of possible custody
issues, I want to be sure that I do everything carefully.
My husband has hidden several thousand dollars (I have records
of him taking several thousand from our joint account). He can
hire a lawyer. At present I am without any income, but I will
work hard to find help and information. I've already found
leads right here on BPN.
He is here on a Green Card, and may wish to return to his native
country. I do not want him to take my child! He is capable of
blowing up, and I do fear that he might just take her. Her
residence has always been the U.S., and I have always been her
primary (nearly exclusive) caregiver.
To start out on my own, I want to stay with family about an hour
out of the Bay Area, but I don't dare take the child and leave
because I don't want him to accuse me of taking her from him, or
to later take her out of California entirely. I want to do
everything as openly and honestly as possible, but he is telling
me that I ''may not'' leave with my daughter. How can I get out
in a way that will look acceptable in court once we file for
I do not want for him to blow up and try to ''take'' her before I
do, and I also do not want to do anything that would hurt a
future custody case.
Ready to get ... outta Dodge
As I understand it, both parents must be present in order
to apply for or to renew a child's passport (for exactly the
concern that you raise of one parent taking a child out of the
U.S.). Your husband may be able to get the child a passport
from his country of citizenship and have the child travel on
that passport, however. You'll have to check the rules.
I could really use some help here, folks. I am married to a man
from another country. We have a son, a toddler. The ONLY reason
we are still married is because I fear that if we get divorced
I'll either never see my son again (if my husband takes him away
to his home country), or we'll have to work out some arrangement
where it's one year in the States, one year in dad's country for
the next ten years or perhaps longer. I also am leery to discuss
this with my husband, since I don't want to give him any ideas if
he's not had them already...
This is not an abusive relationship, by the way: he and I both
love our son, and our son loves us; I just can't stand my
husband, and I suspect that my husband can't stand me. My ideal
scenario? My husband leaves, and I get sole custody. How likely
is that to happen? I really doubt it. Can anyone offer some
help or advice or suggestions? Thanks very much.
NOTE FROM MODERATOR:
Do not rely on BPN for legal advice. The responses
posted are advice based on personal experience,
and your own situation may differ greatly!
You need to consult a lawyer, quietly, before having a talk with
your husband about divorce. Your husband does indeed have rights
in terms of custody, so getting sole custody of your child
without his full consent is indeed unlikely, I would guess. And
in fact, your son needs his Dad. Shutting that relationship out
of your son's life, while convenient for you in some ways, could
be very painful for your son. Your husband has a culture and a
family that belong to your son as well. That is part of your
son's inheritance. And he belongs to them as well. I am
divorced and I know how hard it is to accept the idea that I
couldn't just raise my son on my own more easily and more capably
than trying to parent with his Dad. But that idea is false. The
best possible thing for all of you is if you can continue to
parent together, share the responsibilities of parenting so that
each of you have space and time to develop your lives and
careers. Single parenting is HARD. Ask any of the single
parents on this list. Co-parenting with an ex-spouse is also
hard, but doing it well is worth it. So I would suggest
protecting your interests by making sure that your husband could
not take your son away completely or for longer periods than seem
advisable for your son's welfare (i.e., diving the school year).
But be prepared for the possibility of joint custody and for
having your son visit his father's home country for periods of
time. If it works well, it can work to everyone's advantage.
divorced mom with 50% custody
Go ahead and get divorced. Your child cannot even be issued a passport without
both bio-parents present. Your divorce decree should specify terms under which
the child should be taken out of the Bay Area- and violating those terms, even in
the USA, can be grounds for arrest because of the court order which your Final
Settlement Agreement is.
Even if the divorce documents do not say this, you and your ex will not be able to
get your child on any international flight without a notarized letter from you
that the trip is acceptable. Taking your kid out of the country without authorization
is considered kidnapping legally and most countries will extradite your kid back to
the home country.
Where is your STBX (soon to be ex) from anyway ? Unless it is someplace that is
basically lawless you are quite safe.
Obviously, I have been there.
Been There, Done That, Better off.
This is a difficult situation, before you do anything consider
the options, as I am from a different country and my ex-husband
put a restraining order not to live from the state and from the
country with the kids. So, I was stuck here with two children
with no family around and had to reconstruct my life here in
the US, not that I am saying it was a bad thing but it was not
the best for the children, as I struggled to make money to
support them and I had no help whatsoever after the divorce, my
ex husband paid child support but I had to go to court to
garnish his paycheck as he was not paying, after two years of
the divorce he started dating and canceling his visitation
times constantly, and ten years after the divorce, he rarely
sees his teenage children who are in College now, his children
speak with him or visit him two or three times a year, and he
did not give a dime for College, it was and it is a nighmare
for me. Not that this would happen to you but I was limited to
stay here, while in my country I had a home to live in, support
from my family and my children would have been in an
international american school which would give them a better
education and social interaction, much better than in the US.
For me, it was a tradegy that I remained here, I do not know
for my children,I stayed here with the hope that my children
will never turned to say that I was the cause of not seeing
their father if we were to move to my country. So,it depends
from which country is your husband, what kind of arrangements
you can have if he is to move to his country, and what are the
advantages and disadvantages for your child, not for you or him
but for your child. This is what you have to consider: what is
the best for your child.If you are both involved into raising
your child equally then it is different but if you are more
involved with raising your child then very rarely the courts
would give a child to be raised in another country if he/she
was born here in the US.
I feel compelled to reply to your posting because I have been
in the same situation except that I was the foreigner. I was
married to an abusive (American) husband, so I had no other
choice than divorce him (a few years ago). We have a child (5
years old at the time). I was scared at first to divorce
because of the international dimension of it but I wanted to go
back to my country. The evaluator who was hired recommended to
the judge a custody arrangement alternating 3 years in each
country. I couldn't agree with such arrangement (I specially
thought it would be detrimental for my child's education, not
to mention the stress associated with international
transitions) and after much grieving, I decided to stay in this
country so I could be part of my child's life. We are now like
any other divorce and share the custody of our child which
works fine, except that I still miss my country.
I wish you good luck, it is not an easy situation. The best
scenario for you would be that the dad would go back to his
country and agree to leave the custody to you, but is he ready
I am currently going through a divorce. My ex and I have been
separated for more than 7 months now. It will still take a
couple of months before our divorce is finalized. My ex is not
an American citizen, and it is nearing the time for his
immigration appointment to get his greencard.
I now realize that I was just used by him as a means to get into
America. I hate the fact that I was used like that and want to
ensure that he doesn't get the greencard. Has anyone gone through
a similar situation? If so, what process do I need to go through
to notify the INS of our separation? Will our divorce prevent
him from getting a greencard? Will the fact that we have a 1 year
old daughter play any role in this?
Any tips or advice will be greatly appreciated.
One thing that you might consider in all of this tangle is what
role you would like for your ex to play in your child's life.
am divorced and do not particularly like my ex-husband, but he
is a very important person in my son's world and I consider it
essential that my son have his father in his life. If your ex
loses his chance at a green card, will he be separated from his
daughter, perhaps permanently? Whether or not he tricked you
into marrying him in order to get residency status, he is still
the father of your daughter. I would give this issue
significant consideration, trying to leave aside your own
feelings of hurt and betrayal.
I have no advice, but wanted to ask you a few questions. First, do
you really want to deprive your daughter of her father, or make sure
that your daughter's father has to work illegally to be near her?
Make sure the answer is yes, before you take revenge on him. Because
by taking revenge on your ex, you will be taking revenge on your
daughter. You might hate the man, but will your daughter be missing
an important person in her life? I ask, because my mother never got
over losing her father through divorce.
Revenge is often not useful.
i was married to someone from another country and we divorced before
his green card came through. you are very angry -- please keep a cool
head and be guided by the fact that you have a 1 year-old daughter
with this man. unless he has been a rotten, absentee father and does
not love the baby, don't be vindictive.
however the INS decides to proceed -- there are too many variables
re: his country of origin, etc. to predict how it will resolve -- you
do not want to tell the INS you were ''used'' unless you have
IRREFUTABLE PHYSICAL PROOF. proof is not heated arguments or even the
fact that he may have had an affair. are you saying that conceiving
your daughter was part of him ''using'' you? if you look into your
heart, were there signs of discord that you ignored at the time?
also, what if the INS doesn't believe you? what if your ex -- to save
his own skin -- says you're lying and he gave you cash? do you really
want to tangle with a federal government agency? are you aware that
the INS is now since 9/11 under the control of homeland security? you
could be under investigation as well.
i went to see an immigration lawyer in LA during my separation. he
said that there was a 50% chance my husband would be allowed to stay
in the country. he also reminded me that when my husband and i began
the process, i signed a paper saying that, in essence, i sponsored him
and that if he went on any public support (i.e. welfare) i could be
responsible to pay it back for 7 years. divorce does not change this.
however, the lawyer said he did not know of a single case where this
if you have proof that your husband is into something illegal or
criminal or belongs to any organization that has a terrorist
affiliation, go to the INS.
my husband cheated. Furious, i threw him out of the house but not out
of the country. i wrote him a letter stating that our marriage was
not for a ''green card'' but a relationship that went wrong, sadly
like so many. that was 5 years ago-- he's still in the country.
you may not like this advice now, but how will you feel when your
daughter is old enough to understand that her father was sent out of
the country by her mother, never to be able to return?
you can live with your anger, it will pass. you can't live with the
possibility that your daughter will hate you years from now.
see an immigration lawyer for professional advice. peace.
sleeping peacefully in oakland
It may be hard to say or decide what's right here, but I can
tell you of someone I know who did do what you are asking. The
result is that the son of the ex-couple, now hates his father (
the one who took away or made possible for the mother to loose
her residency ) And he really loves his son, the only one and
wants to have a good relationship with him, but it has been
poisoned by his act. He feels bad for his mother who still does
not have papers and complains to his father about it. So
consider this story a possible outcome. The guy lives in
Concord. So, think it hard and through before you decide :)
a friendly advisor
Wow. You say you feel ''used'' by the man but you must have had
some deep feelings for him at one point since you made a baby
with him. I think you better think of the long term
consequences of your actions because your child does have a
right to see his/her father and by preventing the greencard
(residency) situation to fall apart in the end is drastic (as
you know it's not an easy journey to reach milestones). If
you're trying to get revenge, if you really believe it's best
that this man be barred, then do what you need to do, but try to
remember how you're affecting the life of your child. I'm
speaking from the POV of a person who is married to an
immigrant, too. Good luck.
You sound really mad and betrayed, and you have a right to be.
However, you said you have a child with this man. You need to put
your mad feelings away for a sec and ask yourself if you want
your child to have a relationship with her father as she grows
up. If he is deported then she may not have very much contact
with him, unless you go on costly trips to visit him, or if and
when he comes to visit her. Is getting revenge for feeling
betrayed by turning him in worth her not knowing her father? Yes,
he may have used you for a green card, but now that you know that
you may be able to also say to him that you feel it's important
that he has contact with his child and needs to also support her
financially. He did get himself into this after all and now has
to take the responsibility. You know some people will PAY to
marry someone to get the green card, so maybe NOW he has to pay...
Good luck to all of you.
Normally, both of you need to be there for the interview,
together. He is getting interviewed, but you have to be present.
If you are not there, they don't even conduct the interview. let
alone simply give him the GC. Also, on a GC of this type they
attach a 2-year condition, to make sure this is not a fake
marriage that lasts until the green card is issued.
That said, you should look into the forms you had to fill out as
the sponsor. If the instructions tell you that you must notify
them in case of dissolution/separation/divorce, you need to do
that. You have responsibilities, and are subject to the laws as well.
It's well understood that if the marriage isn't actually there,
they won't give out a GC. He might have another way of staying in
the country, but this is not a trivial matter, in general. You
cannot just move from one type of visa, or immigrant category to
another, etc. Some people seem to think that ''they'll never find
out'' but this is a rather tragic mistake to make. Typically, in
cases like this, they'd need an immigration lawyer to get through
the maze of complex rules, etc.
If your daughter is his daughter, they do not think about this,
unfortunately. Sadly, this forces the removal of one parent from
the country in some/many cases. In general any type of
development like this imposes more severe limitations on the
prospective immigrant than it does on the citizen. Other
countries have much more gentle laws for the fact that we as
humans are not always that predictable, and that life can change.
If he has to leave the US and go back to his country of origin,
depending on how they process the case, it may be easy, hard, or
even impossible for him to enter the country again. Of course, it
may make it really difficult for your daughter to see her father
again any time soon, or frequently.
So you're really angry, and you have this big form of leverage
over him. In fact, you could seriously mess with his life. But
who benefits if you do? Certainly not your daughter. She's too
young now to understand, but in only a few years she will be old
enough to be (justifiably) angry with you for deliberately
interfering in her relationship with her dad. And you're not even
doing yourself any favors: if child support is a consideration,
then you could be shooting yourself in the foot by forcing him to
leave the country. You're also setting yourself up for some
pretty complicated logistics: single parenting ALL the time,
sending your kid to another country every time she wants to see
her dad... How is this better than just allowing the INS to make
the decision it makes?
So my advice is that you sign up for Kids' Turn and start reading
books like ''Joint Custody with a Jerk'' so that you can learn to
keep your sights on your daughter's best interests and not get
dragged down into the mire.
I went through a divorce a couple of years ago, and my ex (who is
from Europe) briefly considered moving back. But it would have
been so much harder on the kids -- and on both of us. And believe
me, I DO know what it's like to be pissed off at an ex. Mine has
been narcissistic, childish, and just plain mean since the split.
But I firmly believe that taking the high road is better for me
and my girls. It ain't easy, but it beats the alternative.
Good luck to you
I think you are very angry and very wrong about being used for
getting a green card. If I were to do this strategically, I
would tolerate whatever bothers me until I have my green card
and then divorce you! I think you are making a really bad
choice envisioning yourself as an informant, because one day
your child may understand that you played a vital role in
making sure that the father got deported. I am 100% sure it
will happen anyway without you having to call immigration.
Immigration is amazingly thorough! You can save yourself that
extra little revenge and subsequent guilt.
I married with the intention of getting a green card along with
getting a great man - and guess what - I am still happily
married to the same man for 22 years, although I have one of
those older green cards that does not need to be renewed and
the marriage had its normal share of ups and downs.
Relationships are real - which ones last or don't is a
different story. I encourage you to look at the relationship
the two of you had and not simply place the blame outside (''He
just wanted a green card''). The victim role you place yourself
in is neither healthy for you nor is it a good role model for
Tricky situation. Are you sure you mean the appointment to get
his green card and not citizenship?
If you mean to get his green card. Then yes if your separated
you can notify BCIS that this is the case, and I think his
application will be canceled. The issue will be that even though
your married, he still needs a US Citizen sponsor to be here, and
at present that's you (provided you make enough money), so remove
the sponsor he's lost. I may be wrong but I don't think your
child has any bearing on this.
However, I'm sure that because of the child even if this
application is denied he can reapply under a different
application connected to her.
If you mean citizenship. Sorry he's got his citizenship in hand
no problem. Officially if you get your green card though
marriage you only have to wait 2 years from date of card issue
(not marriage) until you are eligible for citizenship. But all
that you need to prove at this point is really that the marriage
was/is real. So if the marriage ends before that point, your
still really proving the same thing. If you have a child
together, I think that's pretty easy proof that it was real,
whether you feel that way or not, and I think, even if you get
divorced he'll find it easy to get citizenship. If he's filing
as divorced you don't need to be at the interview, nor do you
need to provide any information. The only thing I think you
could do is write a letter to the BCIS stating you think the
marriage was false, but you'd have to reference his application,
Alien Reg # etc. and with the child as evidence, I don't think
it'll do much good.
The only positive is that if he does get citizenship or his green
card at least then you can get child support from him. In
another country you have no chance.
Immigration - the bain of my life!
I won't repeat all the things that have already been said but i
agree with all of them. One thing i wanted to ad is that you
should be very careful what you wish for. Say he has to leave
the country, your child will still be is child and he might
(and should) fight for some custody / regular visits with his
child. If that happens, how will you feel when you have to put
your child on an airplane and not see her for an extended
period of time? How will she feel? It's not like you can have
her the week and him on week end. It's disturbing for children
no matter how old to live in one environment and then be
displaced somewhere else for a months, with someone they barely
know, in a place where they don't speak the language.
It sounds to me that since this relationship isn't working, you
want him to disapear and never be around so you can have the
life you want. I get how that would be much easier for you. But
would that be best for your child?
I am looking for a divorce lawyer to help a friend who is a
SAHM with no income.
Some quick facts:
- Her husband left her while she was pregnant and went to work
in China for an American company(even though there are many
jobs here he could have taken he claims he couldn't find a
- He has always been verbally and mentally abusive to my friend
and talks down about her to me (I IM with him on a regular
basis but he doesn't know I know what's going on)
- Their son who is now a year old was born full term but had a
long NICU stay and continues to have many issues.
- When he comes to visit he gets upset that the baby cries b/c
he is constipated or sick and hits him and tells him to shut
- Since moving to China he has not sent her a penny and has all
his money in a bank in China
- She is living off her savings and some money her mother has
- He has access to her accounts and questions anything she buys
or why money has been taken out
- He is threatening to take the baby away from her and take him
to China and hire 2 full time nannies who he says will do a
better job taking care of him than she does
- Her English is shaky and she is shy and he is taking
advantage of this-trying to keep her down and keeping her in a
constant state of being scared that he will take her son
Can any help me find someone who is low/no cost (or will
accept payment after she gets money from her husband) that
might be able to help her?
Appreciate any help
You can tell her to call the SF Bar Associations VLSP
(http://www.sfbar.org/volunteer/index.aspx) to see if she
qualifies for free legal services. Also they run a lawyer
referral service if she can afford to pay some fees.
Tell your friend to contact Asian Pacific Islander Legal
Outreach. APILO is a public interest, non-profit law firm
that has lawyers that will work with your friend on a
sliding scale basis. They have offices in Oakland
(510/251-2846) and San Francisco (415/567-6255) or email
If your friend's husband is hitting their one year old
child, I would highly recommend she obtain a restraining
order against him. If she qualifies, she could also obtain
temporary custody, child support and spousal support. I
recommend contacting Family Violence Law Center at
510-208-0255. I also recommend attorney Margaret Gannon who
handles a lot of domestic violence/international custody
cases. Her number is (510) 452-1700, but I have no idea if
she could take a no/low fee case.
I am European. My ex-husband is American. We are now divorced.
We have a son. At the time of the divorce, a custody evaluator
has been hired to come up with a custody arrangement that would
be ''in the best interest of the child'', as I wanted to go back to
my country and my job there. The evaluator submitted a custody
plan to the judge: my son would stay with me, in my country, for
3 years, then come back to the USA and stay with his dad for 3
years, then with me for 3 years, and so on until he reached the
age of 14 when he could decide for himself. I didn't like the
plan, but had no other choice than to agree with it to avoid
another costly trial. The father also agreed (for the same
reasons), but convinced me to stay in the USA, for the sake of
our son (''he will have to leave his school, his friends'', etc.),
which I did. In fact, I was afraid of subsequent transitions for
him and thought it wasn't a good idea. I have been wondering,
since then, if other couples have faced the same situation and if
it has affected the children (moving back and forth between two
different countries, different cultures, different languages,
etc.). Thank you for your feedback of this subject.
We have been juggling custody between two countries with my
stepson for a couple of years now. In our case there was no
custody agreement, but the agreement that my husband reached with
his ex-wife is pretty similar to what you described. My stepson
had been living with his mom, and saw his dad (who was living in
a third country) only occasionally. When my husband moved with me
to the US, she agreed that their son could live with us until he
got US citizenship (about 3-4 years), and then he will go back to
live with her for another 3-4 years, at which point he will be
close to 18. He spends summers with his mom now too and we will
get him summers when he is living with her. It has definitely
been tough, but we all feel it's the best solution in terms of
him being able to spend as much time as possible with both
parents, long-term. (In our case, it's not feasible for her to
live in the US or for us to live in her home country). He is also
getting the experience of growing up in two cultures, which will
be invaluable later on.
Having a good relationship with his dad will be important (I
think it's actually easier to do when you're in different
countries!). Explain to him that you will be happier, have a
better job, and more support in your home country, which will all
benefit your son as well. Tell him you've tried to make it work
here and still believe you will be better off there. Try to be
reach an agreement so that they can still see each other as much
as possible - summers, winter break, etc. Get a web camera so
they can see each other when they talk by phone. The initial
transition may be tough for your son, but kids adapt very quickly
and he will look forward to coming back to see his old friends
when he is with dad.
Having parents in different countries creates different issues,
but on balance I'm not sure our situation is any more difficult
than any other shared custody arrangement.
My husband is American and I'm Greek. We're talking about divorce. One of our child was
born in Greece, the other here in Berkeley. I don't know what are my rights in case we
decide to live in different countries, what court prevails, what about custody and
alimony, etc... Could you recommend a good lawyer that might have expertise in such
cases? I desperately need legal advice. Thank you very much
i have enjoyed my affiliation w/ laura basaloco-lapo, who is helping me tie
up the last legal ends of my divorce. i was recommended to her by my dentist, who
was recommended to me here on bpn. i believe she is brazilian and she writes me
that she is about to receive ''letters rogatory'' whatever that is, from brazil so
as to be able to serve papers on an american living in san francisco.
her contact info is: phones: 415:392-2018; direct line: 415:433-6727; email:
best of luck.
Hi, I am going through a divorce, that is quite difficult.
Ihave a 4 year old son and am mostly concerned about him.
We went to mediation and my husband who is very bossy
controlling and manipulative, got his way on everything.
I am a foreigner, so this whole situation feels very
overwhelming, and I got easily intimidated.
Now I decided to get a lawyer, because our son had to witness
animosities anyway and I need to protect myself.
My husband brings him back without shoes and tells my son that I
would throw away the shoes that he bought new.Just one example.
How can I protect my child ?I already suggested to go to
counceling for our childs sake and he declined.Everything I
would say would not be heard.When he finds out I have a lawyer
he will become even angrier.Has somebody been in a similar
Are there support groups, maybe among women from other countries
who are stuck here now too ?
Try International Institute of the East Bay.
They have the Violence Against Women Program. I don't know if it's your
case, but perhaps they can help.
Being a foreign person myself I totally empathize. I cannot offer any
legal advice, unfortunatly. Your decision to talk to a lawyer is the
right one. If I were in your shoes I wuld contact local associations of
people coming from the same country as you.
I'm sure there are some in the Bay area, probably even a lawyer from
your country and other people who went through the same problem. If
you're thinking about a divorce, it would be a good idea to compare laws
between the 2 countries and bare in mind that the settlement here will
probably force you to leave in California if you want any part in the
custody of your child.
I'm a foreign national male whom has just completed an insane
dissolution involving 2 daughters which took 4.5 yrs. You have
the same rights to your son irregardless of nationality.
Getting a lawyer involved to protect and get back some of your rights
and time with your son is a good start. Everyone goes through a period
of ''temporary insanity'' during the early stages so take it as that.
Keep in mind that the court and family court services (mandatory
custodial mediation) will always try to accommodate the needs for the
child to be involved with both parents depending on how the
issues/challenges are framed.
As far as a support group for foreign nationals going through divorce,
Im not aware of one at his time.
My husband and I are in the process of separating and will be
seeking a divorce. I am American. He is European. We have one
daughter, who is 3-years-old. My husband wants to return to
Europe ASAP and wants 50% custody. I would like my daugher to
remain in this country except for 2-3 months in the summer when I
would accompany her to Europe (staying at some distance so that
my husband can have maxiumum time with her alone). What's best
for our daughter? We can't afford lawyers; I've just purchased
all the NOLO Press books on this subject and will consult them.
Any advice or experience from BPW members would be appreciated.
Though a court would probably grant primary custody to you, it makes me
feel very happy that you seem to comprehend that your child should have
a father in her life.
For now, I'm sorry but I don't have a lot of advice. However, once it's
time for school, I think you will have to decide where she attends
school, and where she spends all of her holidays/summers.
Right now your daughter isn't going to school so it's theoretically
possible to have 50/50 custody with that distance (though I don't think
it would work well). Once in school, there's no way 50/50 is in the best
interest of your child. I split with my ex when my child was 5. Though
we have both had times when we would have liked to move, we are
committed to staying in the Bay Area until our child is in college so
that we can maintain our 50/50 custody arrangement. If your ex insists
upon going to Europe, I think he needs to be more realistic about how
much custody he can really have.
please please please get a lawyer. There should be low cost options and
I am hoping that someone else will post some of these. It is already
difficult enough for children to go through a divorce, but if you throw
distance into the mix you will set yourself up for a disaster and long
life difficulties. 50% custody when both parents are near each other
comes with its difficulties but it can work for many parents. Not sure
how you would see this work when one parent is in Europe. My sons father
lives 200 miles away and I have sole physical custody. My son spends
every other weekend away and most vacations, and half of the summer
vacation. That is as much as I was willing to let my
son go away without completely disrupting his life. If you are
not able to figure things out on your own, and I would absolutely
predict it won't coming from two different cultures, things could get
very nasty. I am European and my son's father is American. I ended up
having to sign in the custody agreement that I would never take my son
to live in Europe, so ultimately if I want to stay with my son, I cannot
leave either but that is a small price to pay. You need someone who can
help you figure out what is best for you and your child. I had no money
but had to put all my lawyers fees on my credit card. It took me many
years to pay it off but in the end it was worth it. This is too big to
handle on your own with ''do it yourself book'' you need to protect your
daughter and yourself.
have been there
I can't comment on your soon-to-be-ex husband going to live in Europe,
but I can say that your daughter at some point will have to go to school
and she can't do half a year here and half a year there, it isn't
practical. I think your solution is good:
summers with him in Europe, the rest of the time with you here (also
other holiday times that either he or you can get to the other
continent). Going such a long time without seeing her dad might be hard
on a little girl. Another thought would be if he waited to go to Europe
full-time until she started school, that way she could get used to the
idea of you guys not being together, and see what it's like going back
and forth from one house to another. I separated from my ex when my
daughter was almost 5. She went back and forth for a while, until we
worked out a different solution. We were only across town from
eachother. You don't say if he is willing to do your plan or not. If he
is, then I suggest going to a mediator to hammer out a plan in detail.
This can be what you use for your divorce. That's what I did. The lawyer
that my ex hired to draw up the papers wanted to change it, but we
insisted that this was what we wanted-unchanged. If he is not willing to
go with your plan, you still might go to mediation to work out a
compromise. It will work out better in the long run than going to
lawyers who can be so aggressive (and expensive). If the woman we went
to is still around you could give her a try, Nancy Foster. She was in
Corte Madera 10 years ago. Good Luck. And get those frequent flyer miles
Although I have no similar experience to draw from, my gut tells me that
shuttling a 3 year old back and forth across continents would be
extremely stressful -- esp. for her, but also for you.
Your plan of 2 - 3 months in the summer sounds much more feasible and
would be, in my opinion, much easier for your child. That your child's
dad would want to flee to Europe as soon as possible
-- away from his child -- is, in my estimation, a poor showing of his
devotion to his daughter (I grant you that I am being highly judgmental
here, since I don't know the specifics of your/his situation). Although
it is understandable that he would want to go ''home'', I just don't get
his wanting 50% custody at the cost of his child being bounced around
the globe like a ping-pong ball. Maybe he is a great dad, but the
situation, as he appears to want it to pan out seems to take little
consideration into how the poor child is going to feel about all of
this. Throw the stress of international travel in the mix, and boy, does
that sound unfair! So my advice is to stick to the 2 - 3 months in the
summer idea, so your child won't get quite so rattled and bewildered by
such enormous change in her life.
You really need to get a lawyer, especially if this is a case where your
husband is a German national.
--make it legal
I received some great advise/words of caution in this column
about going to Europe with my child for the purpose of visiting
her relatives there (I'm American, the father is European, we are
divorcing and our child is 3-years-old). Many of you warned that
I should have a custody agreement in place before doing so. I
spoke with a divorce attorney about this and was told that - in
the end - Calfornia custody agreements are not respected by
European courts; the attorney said that even with one, I would
basically have to trust the good intentions of my husband. Does
this agree with what others have been told?
Grateful again to BPW
I think the main thing to keep in mind is that if your child is away for
your for a longer period of time, your spouse is creating a new center
of living for the child. So, no, a Californian custody agreement might
not work in Europe, because the argument is that your child now lives in
Europe. What is more important is that you are there, too, and that you
have a written agreement from your spouse that he is on VACATION and
plans to RETURN at a SPECIFIED date. This is what I have been told. I am
not a lawyer, and I suggest you clarify this with one prior to any
actual traveling Good luck
Although I am not familiar with international custody law, I do know
that there are US laws that would consider it kidnapping if your husband
does not have authority to keep your daughter (either with a court order
or your agreement), and I do not believe you received accurate advice.
I suggest you contact a few other attorneys to get more information. I
would suggest Margret Gannon, Cynthia Podren, and Dennis Rothaarr. I
would imagine it is hard to prosecute him if he is out of the country,
so it may be true that the other country won't try too hard to return
your child. However, I absolutely believe you will have more protection
with a court order specifying the custody and visitation so that it is
clear if and when he is in violation of that order.
Better safe than sorry.
Hi. I am going through something very similar: I moved here from
Scandinavia with my daughter (who is now three) and must bring her to
Europe this summer. But am worried about legal ramifications if I do
(the father could file papers to keep
her) and if I don't (the father could contest custody due to ''broken
visitation agreement''). Would be great to have somebody who is
experiencing the same thing to connect with.
It has been expensive (lawyers on both continents), stressful,
disillusioning (with respect to international law- lies, mistakes, bad
judges in Alameda county...). Feel free to contact me if you like- to
commiserate, laugh, yell, and just have somebody who understands the
incredible frustration of dealing with international family law
firsthand. I do not know fully what your situation is, but even though
I know I am so lucky to have had the choice to move back to the States
with my small daughter (who was one and a half then), it has not been
an easy adjustment.
Has anyone recently dealt with a divorce where the divorce was also
recognized in another country and where there are custody issues? I am
looking mainly for advice right now. My husband is very unhappy and has
been threatening to take off to Europe with our two young children. I
want to know my rights in two situations: 1/ as a parent, if he decides
against my wishes to take the children to Europe temporarily; and, 2/ what
would happen if we were to seek divorce and he wanted to move back to
Europe (he is Spanish, I am American). I was just reviewing the
recommendations for family lawyers and divorce attorneys and didn't see
anything that suggested any of these folks have experience dealing with a
marriage that is recognized in another country.
It doesn't matter what other countries the marriage is recognized in (it
should be recognized everywhere!) -- what matters is that it is recognized
here, and you and your family have established residences here.
That makes it irresponsible and illegal for your husband to return to Europe
with the children unless the terms of the divorce allow for that (this is
why they now have legislation requiring both parents to sign to acquire a
passport for their child). Otherwise you have a right to demand that the
children remain in the country -- and even in the state. This should all be
a part of your divorce arrangements.
That being said, my view is that in setting the legal divorce terms you need
to protect "your interests" (the children being able to be with their mom)
but also be fair to the needs of your husband. If he will have visa issues
and difficulty maintaining work here (or will simply be unhappy here), then
perhaps you should consider an arrangement whereby the kids get to spend
Summers in Spain with their father (at his expense, perhaps).
If you are fair with him then he is more likely to be reasonable with you.
If you think it is likely that he will agree to all this but then refuse to
return the kids to you after their first Summer visit, I don't know what to
tell you, because that could be a potentially costly and difficult legal
process (and it may take a long time) to get them back. If you are worried
about this I think the best place to start may be with an immigration
attorney (there are many good ones in San Francisco). Get up to speed on
your husband's exact status here and what that would mean to him, and to
your family, in the event of a divorce.
Run, don't walk, to see Miriam Steinbok in Oakland. 763-5611. I had a
chance to watch her work in the courtroom during my divorce, (where I acted
as my own attorney) and she clearly knows this issue, and if I understood
the conversation she was having with another family law specialist, she has
been actively in the legislature in seeking clarity on this matter for all
of the state.
Had my divorce been more acrimonious, I would have used her regardless of
the fact I had no such issues; she's that good. Also expensive, but
sometimes the very best is barely good enough.
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