Ex is leaving the country - any advice on international custody? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 18 Old 05-27-2011, 10:59 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I x-posted this in single parenting, but it's a quiet board and I really need advice asap!

 

My ex informed me last night that he will be moving to the Dominican.  We are in Canada.  This is far away. =P  He won't be taking the kids.  He wants to try and start a better life there, he says.  Currently, our custody arrangement is joint, though I have primary physical and he takes them maybe 4 or 5 days a month, max, when it's convenient for him and he's not lying about fake funerals or other crazy reasons to avoid taking them for a weekend.

 

He wants to take them for a month each summer (on my dime, he expects me to pay half the plane ticket) which I'm totally NOT comfortable with.  First, that's a long time.  I get upset at 8pm on a Friday after he's only had them a couple of hours.  A month???  Serious??  Plus I've heard some not-so-good things about the country from family who have vacationed there, and friends who have family living there.

 

He does not pay child support, but currently pays half the daycare bill which works out to about $350/month.

 

He says that once he's gone, he will pay child support (but no daycare) at a rate of $250/month, for two kids.  He is "self employed" and has always hidden his income with his father's help (his employer), so it's near impossible to enforce any sort of payments based on the regular child support chart, as I have nothing to go by.  Plus, there is nothing to garnish as he has always been paid in wads of cash.

 

Child support aside (I'll be honestly shocked if I receive a penny) what else do I need to arrange before he leaves?  I have about a month.  I know I need to:

 

1) Get their passports now, as he needs to sign for that.  I'd like to be able to take them on vacations in the future

2) Get a notarized letter for unlimited travel with the kids (is this possible?) as he won't be here to sign them on an as-needed basis

3) Change the custody arrangement wording so that I have full authorization for decision making, as he won't be around and will be likely unreachable most of the time, as he is now.  Any thoughts on how to word this?  Can I simply amend our agreement and have us both sign it?  I don't know if we have time, at this point, to take anything to court.

 

Am I missing anything else?  Anyone have experience with international custody, or know of any good resources online or otherwise?  I've been googling all day!  Can't really find much aside from international kidnapping advice, heh.

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#2 of 18 Old 05-27-2011, 12:08 PM
 
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My lawyer told me that I could get a court order dispensing with the need for ex's signature for travel, so if you two are able to agree on that, a notarized letter would probably work. 

 

If you have a typical custody agreement, it probably doesn't need to change. You are required to inform him of decisions that need to be made regarding the kids, consider his point of view and try to come to an agreement, right? It's up to him to make himself available to facilitate those discussions. My ex lives in another part of BC. When something comes up with the kids I send him an email detailing the issue, what course of action is recommended by a professional, any other options I've considered, and what I intend to do and when. If I've made an appointment, it's set a few weeks off (if possible) I request that he respond with any questions, suggestions or concerns, and then the ball is in his court.

 

If he emails back with a concern, I can provide more detailed reasons for the decision I've made. Example: when DS needed braces, ex suggested that I take him to the university a 2+ hour bus ride away to save some money, rather than use the orthodontist a 20 minute walk down the hill from my house. I felt that wasn't a reasonable option, based on how much more school DS would miss and that the cost difference wouldn't be significant after factoring in bus fares and the lunches I'd end up getting us, and possibly needing childcare for DD (I provide after school care, so I'd actually be losing income, too)  SO wouldn't chip in for the local place, but I doubt he'd have helped pay even if I took the option he suggested.

 

As long as you can prove that you attempted to contact ex, and provided the opportunity to weigh in on decisions, your bases are covered. It would probably be helpful to formally, in writing, ask him for contact information so the two of you can share parenting decisions, and the kids can get ahold of him. 


~Teresa, raising DS (Jan. 02) and DD1 (Jun. 04) and DD2 (Dec. 11) with DH.

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#3 of 18 Old 05-28-2011, 08:41 AM
 
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"It would probably be helpful to formally, in writing, ask him for contact information so the two of you can share parenting decisions, and the kids can get ahold of him."

 

... unless you think it's reasonable to hope that he will stop making contact once he's living in the DR, and you will be able to petition for sole custody due to abandonment. 

 

The passports and the notarized letter authorizing unlimited travel sound like good ideas. Obviously, you aren't going to send off your young children for a month in the DR, let along pay for half of it, but you don't need to fight about that now. What's he going to do - come back to Canada and sue you? As long as there's nothing in the custody order specifying that you'd do such a thing, you do not need to do it. 

 

Once he's gone, it might makes sense to file for support through your provincial government. You won't GET the support, but knowing that he owes a squillion dollars in back support may keep him out of the country and out of your hair.

 

(As you can probably tell, I'm not a big fan of men - or women - who move to other countries and leave behind small children.)

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#4 of 18 Old 05-28-2011, 09:11 AM
 
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Also, *he* is the one moving... so *he* is the one creating the distance, and the cost. Therefore, it is most likely that a court would rule that *he* be responsible for the full cost of travel for any visitation.

 

There is also (in many areas) the possibility of having the courts require him to post a bond for the kids to visit him out of the country.

 

So many other factors.

 

You really need to find a custody lawyer that has extensive experience with international custody, Hague Convention cases, and hopefully such cases between Canada and the country he's moving to. (What's reputation does the country he's moving to have in regard to Hague Convention custody cases, for ex.?)

 

At the very least for an hour or two of consulting to get more informed on the potential issues/problems (what if he refuses to send the kids back?) and possible solutions and what can be done now to minimize those risks. Especially in regard to the climate in the courts in your area.

 

Expensive? Perhaps (depends on the hourly fee for a consult). Worth it? TOTALLY.

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#5 of 18 Old 05-28-2011, 07:00 PM
 
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I don't know how old your kids are, but DH's ex lives in another state and she gets DSS almost 2 months every summer (7 weeks).  DSS has spent that much time with his NCP in the summers, since he was only 7.  It's standard here.  I don't know about Canada.  

 

It is horrifically unfair that because HE decides he wants a "better life" far away - and HE doesn't care that he'll be so far from his kids - you may have to spend so much time away from them, every year.  There's just nothing I can say that will make that seem less outrageous, or selfish, to you.  It is outrageous and selfish.  I remember how outraged I felt, watching my (now) husband cry, the day the court let his ex move away with their son.  (He later got custody.)  It felt so completely wrong - wrong for the child, wrong for my husband, absolutely intolerably hateful of his ex-wife.  But she had the legal right to do it and there was no way to make her not do it.  This is a little better, because your ex isn't trying to take the kids away from you all year long.  But I know, when it is time for them to visit him in the summer, you will feel the same way.  And you're probably also angry that he can stand to live so far away from them, most of the year.  You have every right to your anger.

 

But once you accept that you cannot stop him from moving, you have to ask yourself what's in the best interest of the kids, separate from your feelings?  Is it really not in their best interest to spend at least 30 days around their father, every year?  The fact of his relocation creates an unavoidable choice: Either they spend a long period with him once a year (because obviously you can't afford to fly them back and forth every other weekend!), or they scarcely spend any time with him while they're growing up.  It's not good for them to spend a long period away from you, but IMO - unless he's abusive - it is worse for the kids not to spend even 30 days with him, out of 365.  They will be with you all the time, the rest of the year.  Again, I'm not saying it's OK!  I think it's a rotten situation he shouldn't create.  But since that's what you have to work with, you have to step away from what's fair, or what you feel you can tolerate, and really ask yourself what the kids need.

 

It's also possible that having responsibility for them for a straight month that he can't walk away from (you won't be nearby, for him to pretend something came up, and drop them off) will usher in a whole new world of parenting, for him.

 

That said, you should definitely make him give you a plan, in writing, for how he will care for the kids when they're with him, before you agree to send them.  Who'll pick them up at the airport if something happens to him/his car?  Who will watch them while he has to work?  Who will watch them if he has a date?  Who will show up in a pinch to care for them, if he has appendicitis and is rushed to the hospital?  If he hasn't thought about these things, then he will have to.  He should have to answer these questions, not dodge them by saying you're unreasonable if you ask them.  A reasonable judge would back you up, in wanting these questions answered.  It's just responsible parenting.

 

And you could make a good argument in court for him having to pay all the transportation costs.  That's pretty common.  He's choosing to create those costs.

 

 


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#6 of 18 Old 05-29-2011, 08:30 AM
 
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"But once you accept that you cannot stop him from moving, you have to ask yourself what's in the best interest of the kids, separate from your feelings?  Is it really not in their best interest to spend at least 30 days around their father, every year?"

 

It may well be. But my guess is that this guy is going to drop off the face of the earth once he's back home - no child support, no regular contact, etc. Eventually, he'll meet the legal criteria for abandonment. I think the OP would be shooting herself in the foot, and endangering her children, if she made a legally binding parenting plan with her ex before he leaves that involves shipping off her kids to a foreign country. 

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#7 of 18 Old 05-29-2011, 03:40 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I won't allow them to go down to see him.  Period.  Not at this point.  Not after hearing the horror stories about that area of the world from people who have travelled there.  I'm just so uncomfortable with it, for many reasons.  It's not about keeping him from the kids.  His entire family lives here and I see no reason why he couldn't come HERE in the summer to be with them, staying for free with his parents (which they would totally allow.)  It's not like he works and would have to leave a job. =/  I'm happy to have them spend time with him if it doesn't mean flying them to a foreign country where there are natural disasters and gun toting guards and unsafe drinking water (according to him) and it's dangerously hot during the month he expects me to send them there.  I'm not worrying about it for now, though, because I'm sure the entire living arrangement will fall apart long before next summer.  His girlfriend will only tolerate being a meal ticket for so long, I'm sure, while he bums around on the beach devoting time to "learning spanish" so he can get a job. 

 

I'm wondering about sole custody at this point because I'm pretty sure he would be agreeable to it simply to avoid future headaches.  He's very minimally involved in the kids' lives right now, while living in the same city.  The school/daycare honestly don't even know he exists, as he has never once gone there for any school events or even to meet the teachers.  I have caught him lying many times to avoid taking the kids for his scheduled weekend (he lied about going to a funeral, even!)  Like I said, he currently doesn't pay child support, and I have my doubts that this promise of a measly $250/month (my father says he paid more than DOUBLE that 20 years ago when we were kids) will ever actually hit my bank account.  I don't know.  I just don't want to have to attempt to track him down every time there is a decision to be made.  I can't even reach him in city 99% of the time when there's something going on with the kids.

 

It's a bad bad time for this to be happening, simply because I'm due with a new child in three weeks!  So lawyer visits/etc will be difficult to accomplish with zero income (takes a month for my maternity pay to kick in) plus, well, I never know when I'm going to go into labour, hah.  I half wonder if he waited this long to tell me just to be a dick and stress me out when he knows I'm due.

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#8 of 18 Old 05-29-2011, 05:18 PM
 
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He may well have. (Or he may have no ill intent at all, and simply be so self-centered that he didn't even consider your pregnancy.) 

 

There are risks either way, but suing for sole custody due to abandonment AFTER he's gone and AFTER you've gotten through your postpartum period continues to sound good to me, based on the information you've posted here. If he wants access, he knows where you are. For sure, you don't ship children to a foreign country to be with a parent who doesn't exercise his visitation rights while living in the same city. 

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#9 of 18 Old 05-29-2011, 05:57 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Sounds good to me.  I'll wait it out and see how everything works out.  I'll work on getting the passports/notarized letter for now so that I'm at least able to travel with them after he leaves.  We're near a border town so I've been meaning to get their passports anyway, just so we have the option to scoot over there for a day trip and what not.

 

I'm waiting to hear back from my lawyer on whether she has any advice on any other paperwork that will need to be dealt with before he leaves.  We were still tying up the last strings of the divorce (everything was finally submitted months ago, after 2 years of him procrastinating on signing anything until he was in a huge emergency to get married - then he paid extra to put a "rush" on it, but forgot to pay the lawyer conveniently, so yeah...) so I needed to contact her anyway to make sure that nothing falls through the cracks.

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Originally Posted by Smithie View Post

 

He may well have. (Or he may have no ill intent at all, and simply be so self-centered that he didn't even consider your pregnancy.) 

 

There are risks either way, but suing for sole custody due to abandonment AFTER he's gone and AFTER you've gotten through your postpartum period continues to sound good to me, based on the information you've posted here. If he wants access, he knows where you are. For sure, you don't ship children to a foreign country to be with a parent who doesn't exercise his visitation rights while living in the same city. 



But then she has to find a process server in his country of residence, or find a way to post a classified in a newspaper in the city he lives in, or something.  Not something I'd want to have to sort out.  I would just get him to sign over custody to you, since he clearly doesn't want it.

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#11 of 18 Old 05-30-2011, 04:23 AM
 
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Originally Posted by ~Nikki~ View Post

I won't allow them to go down to see him.  Period.  Not at this point.  Not after hearing the horror stories about that area of the world from people who have travelled there...

 

I know absolutely nothing about the DR.  If it's truly dangerous, then perhaps the most reasonable thing is to insist that HE rearrange HIS life to come back to Canada for a month every summer.  He will balk, but you can point out:  It means paying for 1 round-trip ticket, instead of 2.  You will be around, if he needs "childcare" during his month of continuous parental responsibility.  And didn't you say he works for his parents?  So, do they live in Canada, too?  He could stay with them.  Plus - while there's no point in saying this to him - it is SO much more fair for the parent who moved to have to inconvenience him/herself by coming to visit the kids, than for THEM to have to turn their lives upside-down and spend so much time away from their other parent, to visit the one who's selfish enough to CHOOSE to live far away.

 

I'm wondering about sole custody at this point...

 

Here, sole custody is standard, when parents don't live near each other.  For example, if one of your kids needs medical treatment, it would be completely ridiculous for anyone to feel obligated to TRY to get the consent of both parents, if one parent doesn't even live in the same town...much less country/time zone!  Again, I don't know about family law in Canada, but in the States, you would not have to convince him to agree to sole custody, you'd get it automatically, once he announced he was moving without the kids.

 

I half wonder if he waited this long to tell me just to be a dick and stress me out when he knows I'm due.

 

Honestly, it doesn't sound like he needs a reason to be a dick.  Whenever he decided to move to a different country than his minor children, he would be a dick!

 

But you're right, you need to involve the courts.  HE shouldn't be expecting you to ship the kids out of the country every summer, just based on verbal agreements.  But also YOU don't want HIM complaining to the court in a year, that you were supposed to send the kids to visit him in the summers, yet you haven't let them see him (have been trying to alienate them from him...) for a whole year.  You need to show the court WHY you're against sending them to visit and propose how else the kids might spend time with their father, then let the court issue a clear-cut ruling about what both of you are expected to do.


 

 


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#12 of 18 Old 05-30-2011, 06:54 AM
 
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Not an expert on Canadian Law...but a few things to consider:

 

1) If you do not get the papers right now for the passport -- you cannot fly the child to the DR...

2) Depending upon the ages of your children, which sound like they are on the younger side, they MAY BE too young to fly alone with the airlines chaperoning them.  There is a fee in each direction per child for the airline to do this (usually about $100 a child per direction -- so you are looking at $400 for this).  I am not sure if this is even offered by the airlines for international travel, but those are the costs in the US...

3) Yes, from what I understand DR and Columbia are not the safest places to travel/live in.  My father used to travel to Columbia all the time, at times he was escorted by armed security in armored vehicles.

4) What are your children going to do for a month down there. They currently do not speak Spanish and therefore potentially not be able to communicate with any of the kids living by your X and his GF.

 

Since, you do not know when he is leaving, you could always have your lawyer draw up the papers to modify things, and when you find out...have him served basically as he is walking out the door with the paperwork.  He can either stay and deal with it, or continue on and leave and hope it will be dragged out.

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#13 of 18 Old 05-31-2011, 03:46 AM
 
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Do your kids actually need passports to cross the border? We don't need passports for the kids to cross into Canada and back, just their birth certificates. If my stepdaughter is with us, we take a letter from her mom saying that we have her permission to take her to Canada but they only sometimes ask for it, and those who do only notice it because she has a different last name than the rest of us. We have actually avoided getting her a passport because we haven't felt terribly comfortable with her mom being able to travel out of the country with her on a whim (for good reason because of some history). Anyway, if you don't want them to travel to the DR and you don't actually need a passport for them, you might consider letting your ex make that effort if they will need it for HIS travel purposes.

 

I wouldn't agree to the change either, based on what you read. I would leave it up to him to file for the change with the court. Of course, that means you risk having the expense of a lawyer and court, etc. But if you are dead set against it, I wouldn't really even discuss it. It doesn't sound like he is going to make that effort, and not in enough time to actually do it.

 

I also echo a previous poster's recommendation to file for child support even if you don't think you can get anything right now. I don't know how it works there, but here the court just puts in an income for my husband's ex when she doesn't have one, based on her earning potential. 


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#14 of 18 Old 05-31-2011, 06:14 AM
 
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Ok, did a bit of research on US/Canada boarders.

 

Your children DO NOT need a passport if they are under the age of 15, please see below link, to drive across the US/Canada Boarder.  As a matter of fact, you may not either.

 

http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/whti-ivho/ls-tm-eng.html

 

For your children all you will need is either their Birth Certificate of their Citizenship Card.

 

That solves your problem about wanting to get passports before he moves away.

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#15 of 18 Old 05-31-2011, 10:14 AM - Thread Starter
 
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That's odd.  Last time I spoke to the passport office they had said the laws had changed effective January, I believe?  And that all citizens would need a passport to cross the border, birth certificate or not.  Either that or an enhanced driver's licence (which obviously the kids can't get!)  So I'll have to look into it again to make sure that Passport Canada has its facts straight.

 

Ugh, the more I look into the dominican, the more nervous I get about it anyway.  He raved that the kids would be 100% safe in their "gated community", but from what I'm reading they're sometimes the worst places to live due to the false sense of security, and the fact that citizens see it as a "hot spot" to rob.  And that the guards are easily paid off.  Sigh.  I hope we don't end up having to have that fight at some point.

 

My terrible lawyer still hasn't gotten back to me at all, so I'll have to start shopping around for a new one that's hopefully versed in international custody.  They seem to be difficult to find via google. =/  Time to start asking around, I guess!

 

 

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#16 of 18 Old 05-31-2011, 10:19 AM
 
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Contact the bar association in your province, they should be able to help you find a lawyer.

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#17 of 18 Old 05-31-2011, 10:40 AM
 
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Quote:
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That's odd.  Last time I spoke to the passport office they had said the laws had changed effective January, I believe?  And that all citizens would need a passport to cross the border, birth certificate or not.  Either that or an enhanced driver's licence (which obviously the kids can't get!)  So I'll have to look into it again to make sure that Passport Canada has its facts straight.

 


The laws are different for mode of entry/exit.  I also looked at the US, as we are a few hours drive from Canada and have gone across in the past before kids several years ago...the US website has almost identical information.  Unfortunately, we do not live in an area with the enhanced DL.  We might look into getting a limited passport card (allows travel only across boarders in Canada/Mexico/US and a few other things, by land.

 

Again, that no passport is via land - ie car, or bus, truck, etc....if you fly by air you will need a passport.

 

You might also look and see if they have what is considered a limited, to allow North American Continent crossings only, by land....again it would prevent him from taking the kids.  Also, look and see if they have the kid alert that will put your kids on the contact list if anyone tries to get a passport for them.  You would be contacted for verification/approval.

 

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#18 of 18 Old 06-01-2011, 05:15 AM - Thread Starter
 
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The kids are already on the alert list, thankfully.  I contacted the Passport office immediately when I first suspected he would be leaving.  Thank goodness I trusted my instincts!  So that's dealt with! =)  When I was talking to them, that's when they said that you do need one now just to cross the border, and as we have joint custody we both need to sign for a passport.  I may get them now just so that I'M the one that has possession of them.  Otherwise, my only option for getting one in the future is to petition for sole custody (which may or may not be easy?) so that I can eliminate the need for his signature, which I won't be able to get without taking a plane trip myself. =P

 

One positive: I've been in closer contact with his family, who I miss terribly.  They, of course, want to maintain a relationship with the kids after he's gone, so I'm going to make sure that happens.  They're a good influence in the kids' lives.  I question all the time how they ended up raising a son like him. =P  He's the polar opposite of them in terms of morals and work ethic and common sense, heh.  I think he takes more after his father (I won't have contact with him, he creeps me out) who was barely a part of his life growing up, and pulled the same stunts that ex is pulling now.  He's the one that ex works for, gets taken advantage of by, and will continue to be taken advantage by until the day the old man dies.  He's not a good person. =/

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