Friday, 14 November 2008

International Custody Battles

I went to bed last night thinking of all those I have met over the years, friends and acquaintances.

When a couple separates the children generally stay in the country they reside in, unless the parents come to some other sort of agreement. Here is my list:
  • one who stayed here for the sake of her son only to have him move to Switzerland with his father and new wife. Her son was then a teen so he could make his own decision. This woman is an inspiration, she got on with her life and made the most of the situation right from the beginning. A good relationship with her ex-inlaws helped her along the way.
  • one who came home late one night to find her things outside the front door and the locks changed. She got to see her infant son every second weekend for the first year or so. She too is an inspiration, after many difficult years she got on with her life and made the most of it. Today her teenage son lives exclusively with her, despite years of going back and forth between his parents, one week at a time.
  • one who stayed and made a life for himself in Stockholm, only to have his ex-wife take the kids and move to the north of Sweden, severely limiting his time with his children.
  • one who was refused a passport for her daughter (father wouldn't sign the papers) and was unable to take the children home to see their grandparents and other family members.
  • one whose son ran away from his mother, making his way back to his father because that was where he wanted to be, despite a court ruling stating otherwise. The police came and forced their way into the bathroom where the 11 year old had locked himself in, taking the child back to his mother.
  • one who was so miserable and without hope here he packed up and went home, hoping his wife would follow with the children to keep the family together. Eventually she did.
  • One left her 3 year old son here with his father and took their 1 year old daughter home with her.
  • and then there was the case of the woman who was killed by her husband, chopped into pieces and thrown into the frozen lake because she threatened to take the kids and leave the country.
Apart from the last, these are people I personally know. There are countless others out there. They all moved to Sweden to be with their partner, and stayed to be with their child or children. The fear of the child/children being kidnapped and taken back to the other country seems to be a common theme, even if an unrealistic one. The Hague Convention, a quick phone call to the airport and agreements between governments and police forces all stand in the way of kidnapping in reality. Still, there are always those who do manage to get away with it, and articles in Swedish SvD and SVT talk of the growing numbers of kidnapped children in Sweden. Probably because there is a growing number of international relationships.

I met a young guy last night, his girlfriend is Australian and planning on moving here next year. I (lightly) asked him if realises how complicated they are making their lives, how much more difficult it becomes. He laughed and said, yes, they had already seen that.

I paint a dismal picture, I've also been here a long time and met a lot of people. No matter what the circumstances these stories are all personal tragedies for those concerned, especially for the children. One of my friends thinks young couples should be made aware of the risks of international relationships. My advice? Stay at home and marry the boy or the girl next door, life is complicated enough without adding to it. Don't take the risk. Either that or find a neutral country to live in.

But then again, who wants an easy life? Of the stories I tell all of them have been an inspiration to me, in one way or another. To live in and make their way through a system that is not their own, to make a life for themselves despite their own personal tragedies.

I have met many, many more who have happy stories. Because after all. love endures all, right? And I have to confess, I wouldn't change my life or my decisions one little bit.....


  1. I was reading earlier in the week about a Swedish woman who has kidnapped her sons and the father has flown here from Melbourne to look for them. The story was at

    Sadly, there seems to be no easy answer to this. Certainly not one that makes all parties happy.

  2. Ahhh.... another terrible story. I've seen first hand what this does to the parents, all they want is their kids, right or wrong. It is so sad.

    Having seen all these cases and heard of many more it is a wonder I (or anyone else) ever dared to have kids...

    You are right, there is sadly no easy (or right) answer - it is a lose-lose situation in most cases.

    I find it heart-breaking.

  3. There's a follow up story in today's Age as well, with pictures of the two boys.

    Poor kids must be feeling very frightened and confused. I DO understand both parents' points of view, but this really is no way to solve it. Tragic really for all parties.