This story is extremely difficult for me to write, it is not my story to tell, I am playing a supporting role and have to be sensitive as there are children involved.
I need to tell this story across my blog so I can help project a voice into the ‘sphere’ and have it vibrate off the hearts of the understanding and many supporting mothers.
This story involves a husband, a wife and their three children.
I am living as an expatriate wife here in Santiago Chile. When you live this style of life and arrive with little to no understanding of the local language you tend to associate yourself with those women that look and sound the same as you. These women become your support network, your substitute family. We lean on each other almost instantly, from the minute the introductions are passed you place the mums cell number into your phone and you know that there is help whenever you need it.
Help should only ever be a phone call away.
The day I answered my phone and listened to a fellow expat mum tell me she needed an ambulance because her breath was constricted and her heart was tightening was the day I chose to take on a supporting role in my friends life and for that I am thankful she called me.
My friend’s marriage fell apart some 6 months ago, possibly a lot longer, but it was six months since she discovered the proof she needed to cement all her fears as truths. With this evidence, my friend (let’s call her Anne) confronted her husband, requested they downsize the family home into two separate dwellings and continue on with an informal agreement keeping Anne as the primary caregiver and shared custody of their children until his work contract concluded, which was a date to be determined some time in 2014.
I think it is here I would like to highlight that as expatriate wives we surrender a lot of first world freedoms you may take for granted back home in your countries when we travel as the ‘supporting spouse’. Bank accounts can only be opened and operated by the working spouse, Credit cards can only be issued via the working spouse, we can not find employment and we can not leave the country with our children without written and notarised consent from both parents.
Sure the pay off and rewards of living a life as expatriates could be seen as huge compared to these “few little sacrifices”, and believe me when things are good none of the above comes into play. When things go south as they did for Anne your world starts to close in and your voice starts to weaken.
As recent as last week September and first week October 2013 Anne was bundled up in a local diner in front of her children by her estranged husband and the visiting parents-in-law demanding that they have the children for the weekend. The police were called and asked them to relocate to Anne’s home. After re-negotiating the weekends custody, Anne agreed to hand the children over on a non visiting weekend to the husband and he agreed to return the children Sunday evening.
Anne is still waiting to have her children returned to her, some 30 days after this event. (as of Friday 20th December, 2013 – Anne still did not have her children returned to her – 3 months without her kids and no formal court document to explain this – absolute madness)
No phone calls were answered and the children were not in school the immediate Monday after this event, so Anne contacted the police to demand her estrange husband explain where her children were. It was there some 24 hours after the agreed return date/time that Anne was handed a court document (in spanish) advising her to appear in court for a violence order and a second document (in spanish) advising that due to the violence order being made the father now has temporary custody of the children for the next 60 days.
No investigation into the claims made by the father were conducted, no social worker visits were scheduled, no contact to hear the mothers side of the story were made. Just a judge following the Chilean law – act now, questions later.
One Tuesday afternoon in early October the violence claim was dismissed by a judge within 6 minutes in a Chilean Spanish court session. Yet the custody of the children still remains with the father, and nobody can explain the reason why.
Anne is a housewife who arrived in this country (Santiago, Chile) with the intention to support her husband’s career and be the primary caregiver of their children. Anne has no criminal record, has followed her husband across many different countries and now finds herself trapped inside a country where she does not speak the language of the law, can not open up her own individual bank account and/or gain any employment to support herself.
Anne’s circumstances are appalling, her estranged husband has decided to stop paying her an ‘allowance’ as she is not complying with his demands and because the children are no longer in her care, therefore Anne’s money concerns are not his problem. (yes people, that’s true, I heard it from his own mouth on a phone call)
Other families in the expat community were temporarily loaning her money for food and petrol/gas, many of her utilities have not been paid for over two almost three months and are due to be cut or terminated within days.
Anne’s voice needs to be heard, her rights as a mother need to be addressed and they need to get their story back home to Canada so they can begin to take the necessary steps in obtaining a fair and just outcome for ALL involved – currently this battle is completely slanted in the favour of the person holding the power and money.
From the day I answered my phone and heard the desperation in Anne’s voice I have seen this remarkable woman endure behaviour equivalent to the treatment of ‘road kill’ and yet she still smiles and gives thanks for her day.
Please spread her story and pray that her remaining time spent in Chile will pass without more pain to endure, her children will be returned to her and the law makers in Canada will listen to her story.
God Bless you all.