My name is Anna and I’m 34 years old. I work as a flightattendant for a German Airline.
I have a son Mat, who is now four years old.
He is probably the first child who was born in Dortmund with the German citizenship and got extradited to Canada by the German court.
With this report I ask everybody to help me to get my son back home to me. Mat lived in Dortmund since he was born and he was registered there as well.
Here is my story:
In 2005 I meet a guy in Cuba, he is a Canadian citizen, I’m a German citizen. A long distance relationship develops.
2006: He asks me if I want to marry him. I told him it was too early to talk about that yet.
2007: It gets more serious. We don’t want to be separated anymore. He wants to live with me in Germany which is a foundation for me if this relationship should endure. He tells me, he is financially dependent on his parents and it would be his biggest dream to stop this dependence as soon as possible.
His plan is to earn his money on the stock market. I’m a bit sceptical about the stock market so we decide that I keep working. Therefore I see this plan as realizable. He asks me to not talk about our plans in the beginning. We making plans to have two children and we want to have a civil marriage as well as a church wedding in Germany. We make plans to move into a bigger apartment and talk about the baptism. He doesn’t want our children to be baptized because he is not religious.
He says he doesn’t want to move to Germany immediately, because he wants to save up more money to invest it later in the stock exchange. I agree and our long-distance relationship continues.
2008: I’m pregnant and we are happy. I’m sure he will immediately move to Germany to be with me. He comes to Germany for one week and proposed to me. I tell him "Yes", but I want to marry when the child is born. He tells me that his parents recently opened a new store and he has to help them. Therefore he can’t move to Germany right now, but plans to come at the end of the year, latest beginning of next year (2009). He flies back to Canada.
After a few weeks he has an idea: He wants to buy a house in need of renovation in Canada, renovate it and then sell it for a profit, so he has a better start in Germany.
2008/2009: He visits me at New Year’s Eve and it turns out that his movement will be delayed. He hasn’t found a house yet. Still he asks me to keep our plans from my friends. The reason: He wants his parents to travel to Germany for the birth but he doesn’t want anyone to open their mouths.
March 2009: He buys a house.
May 2009: He comes to Germany for the birth of our son Mat. We are not married but he accepts the fatherhood. I have the sole custody for Max. He tells me that he has underestimated the cost for the renovation and he can’t give me any financial aid. I have to pay for my apartment and all our other expenses myself. Furthermore he couldn’t pay for the flights back and forth to Germany therefore he thought it would be better for me to travel with Mat between Germany and Canada since I get the flight tickets cheaper. I’m furious and disappointed not knowing how to pay for everything with an income of 850 €.
End of June 2009: He flies back to Canada.
End of July 2009: I fly for the first time to Canada with Mat. I see the house he bought and I’m shocked to see how much there needs to been done. He calculates he can get the house done in 12 months, but hopes to be done earlier. A few days later he tells me one of his employees at work accused him of sexual harassment. He says he is innocent and I believe him.
Start of September 2009: I fly back home together with Mat. Because of my damaged disc in my back he insures me privately in Canada. I keep on travelling between Germany and Canada with the child and the renovations keep going on and on. He tells me for the financial situation it would be useful to marry. One reason is that I would automatically get health insurance in Canada what is for free.
October 30,.2009: We marry spontaneously in civil marriage, we don’t even have rings. We don’t accredit the marriage in Germany.
He tells me that the charge of sexual harassment is withdrawn, supposedly because the employee admitted it was not true. (Later I hear that there was never a trial because both sides came to a settlement). We request health insurance, they ask for a residence permit. He tells me he didn’t know that they require a resident permit. I don’t want a residence permit as I’m allowed to stay for six months in Canada without a visa or resident permit. He threatens that I would have to pay for myself in case of a surgery of my damaged disc, because he doesn’t have the money for it. I tell him I will fly home if the damaged disc gets worse. Thereupon he makes a horror scenario I wouldn’t be able to fly home with Mat because of the pain. I agree – his arguments sound reasonable. He forces me to fly home to request a residence permit at the Canadian Embassy in Berlin. I fly home.
We decide to enrol Mat in a kindergarten to make sure he has a spot when I have to get back to work. I enrol Mat in two kindergartens in Dortmund in August 2010.
September 2010: I receive my residence permit. By the time I travel back (September 9) the house is still not ready for selling. I get impatient. I don’t receive any income anymore and therefore no money. I fly back to Germany together with Mat.
January 2011: He convinces me to help him with his company for a few months. I request permission from my employer in Germany and get permission to work part time in Canada. It’s only for a few months. I work from February 2011 until May 2011 afterwards I fly home with Mat. The salary is on his account. After a few discussions I get permission to the account.
June 2011: We go to Disneyland in the USA for vacation.
July 6,2011: He confesses an affair with one his employee while I was in Germany. I’m shocked. I want a divorce and to fly home with Mat. He tries to apologize and asks me if I don’t want to rethink my decision about the divorce. I refuse. He tells me a random story that he would get blackmailed by the boyfriend of his affair and the boyfriend want to do the same with me what my husband did with his girlfriend. He tells me if I would agree the two would be even and everybody happy. I’m shocked.
I pack all of my and Mat stuff.
July 10,2011: I fly home with Mat. The father-in-law and my husband drop us off at the airport. With tears in his eye the father-in-law says good-bye.
Back in Germany:
He doesn’t let go of me. He text me up to 20 texts a day and every few hours a call. Every day! He talks up to three times a day with our 2-year-old son. Mat doesn’t want to talk to him all the time and he makes me responsible for it. He tells me that he couldn’t come to Germany to visit Max, because he has to work to pay the bills and to provide us financial aid. He wants me to travel to Canada so he can see his son. I tell him he could see Mat anytime in Germany.
July 27,2011: He blocks my credit card and my access to the bank account. I don’t have any money. I go to the employment agency and need to request welfare for my son and me.
August 4,2011: The criminal police pay me a visit. The father of my child claims I have kidnapped Mat and he hadn’t had any contact with the child for days. Furthermore he says I made myself chargeable in Canada because of child abduction. I show the statement of agreement and my phone
with the incoming calls from the father (with the duration of the call). The last phone call was a few hours ago. The police advise me to talk to a lawyer and leaves.
August 5,2011: I go to a lawyer. My child is born in Germany and since his birth, like me, registered in Germany. We might be married but the marriage isn’t registered in Germany therefore I have the sole custody for Mat.
We request the residence permit in Dortmund and receive it.
The public prosecutor’s office investigates the case of child abduction. The routine is usual for such cases. The case gets closed. The public prosecutor’s office doesn’t see need of action because nothing infringed a law. My husband files a motion in Canada regarding the Hague Convention which gets denied. (The Hague Convention is a set of rules and regulations which simplifies international litigation. One chapter deals with family law especially child abduction/ withdrawal of minors).
He gets a German lawyer from the USA.
September 2,2011: The lawyer sues me for child abduction by the Hague Convention at the district court in Hamm. In 90 % of The Hague Convention cases the case starts in the country where the child was kidnapped from. Before the date of the trail I receive a letter from Canada. It’s an order from the Canadian court. The Canadian court decides that the child wasn’t kidnapped and doesn’t get hold back in Germany. I’m relieved knowing the custody proceedings will be continued in Germany. The certification of iniquity gets ignored by the German court.
October 10, 2011: Trial Hague Convention. I loose. I have to give Mat to his father, if I do not do it the bailiff will take the child.
Quotation from the judgement from the court in Hamm: "Even if the applicant should tell some falsehood, so it would still not be established that would be demonstrated and proved their disputed claim of consent". The judge didn’t allow my key witness to testify.
The custody trial must take place in Canada. The German court sees no child abduction, but is of the opinion that Canadian courts are responsible for the custody process.
I do not understand the world anymore.
Canada is of the opinion that Germany is responsible for the custody process, Germany is of the opinion Canada is responsible.
I'm going to appeal.
He makes again a complaint with the Attorney General in Hamm for child abduction, just before the appeal trial. This method is also adjusted.
Trial before the High Appeal Court of Hamm, I am convinced that I won. The judge still gives my husband the opportunity to consult with his lawyer in order to negotiate a generous visitation rights in Germany. My husband still messes with the judge yells at him that not he, but the Canadian courts had jurisdiction. The judge declared that German citizens would be protected when danger threatened them, which obviously is indeed the case. The judges want to know from me whether my husband's parents are wealthy, I say yes, but still do not know why the judge asked this question. The hearing is much shorter than the hearing at the district court; my lawyer is thrilled by the turn of the procedure. I am going home; it is the first night since months that I sleep through.
Three days later, the terrible news: I've lost! They give me time until January 23, 2012, to bring the child to Canada.
Quotation from the Appeal judgement Hamm: "In the view of the Senate it is by no means that the locally competent court will order a stay of Max in Canada. On the other hand, the Senate seems unable, in his decision to anticipate the Canadian court so far already to predict a subsequent to the conclusion of the custody proceedings return to Germany as safe. Although this seems likely in view of the circumstances, as the mother is undoubtedly the main caregiver of Mat, supplies him without any complaints and offered the child’s father a generous visitation rights. Ultimately, however, it will be the task of the competent Canadian court to assess these aspects."
I turn to my husband on a regular basis, with a request to hand me over the child’s Canadian passport. He does not give me the passport. I turn to the court regarding the passport, I do not get it. I file a constitutional complaint. The Federal Constitutional Court puts both judgments on hold until a decision is made. A small glimmer of hope.
Mat gets sick, stomach flu.
February 17, 2012 constitutional complaint gets rejected.
I am planning my trip to Canada to fight for custody. I inform the German Appeal Court that the child is still sick, but I am confident that I can fly soon. Mat is on sick leave from his paediatrician until March 4, 2013.
February 27, 2012 His lawyer informs me via email that I have to appear in court in Canada on March 1, 2012.
In Canada, the parties determinate the court dates and not the court. The judge confirms the date when both parties agree to the appointment. I contact the Canadian court, asking for postponement. The court date will be postponed to March 16, 2012. I book flight tickets for March 6, 2012.
The nightmare begins
He let the bailiff pick up Mat on March 1, 2012 at six pm. I feel like I'm in shock. At this time I have no way to reach my lawyer. It follows the first, agonizing night without my child. I fly on the scheduled date to Canada, get under with a German friend. Have no idea how I can get legal help. After several phone calls I get a list of lawyers who work with legal aid. I phone from morning to night, no lawyer wants to take over the case. He makes me problems with seeing Mat. He has a court order that I may see Mat only under supervision.
Finally it comes to a visit, I can see my child under the supervision of the grandparents in a shopping centre. The grandmother refused to let me change the diaper of my son. She will not give me a diaper, she pulls the child on the hand to the washrooms, tells me she would do it now, I would not be responsible anymore.
March 16, 2012 court date. I have no lawyer, only an interpreter. I know that for the final stages of the custody proceedings an independent judge should be provided, one who does not come out of the town. I am relieved the family has relations with the mayor of this city, which had me worried. My German passport and the passport of the child have been taken away from me by the Canadian court. The court decided that my son is coming back into my custody on the same day.
He shall have the child every weekend so temporary joint custody. The judge orders a one-time payment to me, so I have money to live until May 2012.
The judge wants to complete the final custody proceedings in May 2012. The other side wants to consult a lawyer for the child.
The judge refuses. I am picking up Mat with my German friend on the same day.
Mat wants to go home, I explaining, we need to stay a little bit in Canada. I ask my Ex by e-mail about the money that the court ordered him to pay. He will give it to me when he picks up Mat. I tell him I would like it in cash but he brings a check. I cannot cash the check, since I have no account in Canada and it is impossible for me to open an account without my passport. I tell him that I urgently need money, but cannot cash the check, ask for cash, but he refuses again.
Mat does not sleep through at night, wakes up and cries instantly, "Mom, mom, where are you?". Mat doesn’t want to leave my sight and immediately begins to cry when I'm not around him, I cannot even go to the toilet. Mat has changed totally and disturbed.
I have no clothes for the child, he will not give me any. The friend helps out, because she has a son Mat's age. After numerous visits and a bank guarantee of my friends, an account is opened. It will still take a week until I get access to the money.
Court date April 16, 2012: I have a lawyer, but she tells me that she will not represent me to the final negotiation. She has no experience. The lawyer sends her partner into the court date, who seems to have just read my file in the hallway. Meeting of formalities child support is granted He provokes me when he picks up Mat on the weekends, trying to make sure that the child stays longer with him, I do not want to talk to him, just shut up and turn around, he always calls my name louder and louder. The neighbours of my friends hear everything. Because I do not want to talk to him, he rumbles for several minutes at the door, I get scared. I tell him to go away, or I would call the police. He uses my son to get me to open the door, and he blocks it with his foot and says he would be sure to talk with me. I do not want to talk, again threatened with police. The neighbours are listening to everything so he leaves. He brings the child, as he likes from the weekends back, even though the court order is that he has to bring Mat back at 10 o´clock in the morning.
He provokes me every time in the hope that I get a nervous breakdown. I cannot stay with the friend; her husband does not want it because the neighbours start talking now.
I fear for my work, my parental leave ends on May 12, 2012.
I have to look for a new place within a week, no one wants to rent me an apartment for a short time, and I have a child and no income and no furniture. I finally find a furnished, small apartment near my acquaintances. I have to pay the rent in advance to mid-July 2012.
May 2012 He changed the lawyer, he is now represented by the best family lawyer of Toronto. The other side argues that in the short time not all important documents can be translated from Germany, and require a postponement of the end process.
Again, the opposite side requires an attorney for the child, this time the judge agrees and postponed the final process on expected September 2012. Support for me is ordered. I am forced to appear for questioning at the opposing party (According to Canadian law, the lawyer can cross-examine the opposite party in the presence of their lawyer before the trial .) Although I do not have a lawyer, I have to do this interrogation.
There is no interpreter for me. It is very tiring and I get a headache after a few hours. I do not understand the questions in part, have to ask again and again.
I'm desperate to have my apartment finance at home and ongoing costs. The support is not enough to pay for the apartment in Canada. My son keeps asking if we can finally go home. I get unpaid leave until the end of September 2012 from my employer. I'm looking for a place again, which proves to be impossible, because every landlord asks for a 3 month deposit, which of course I cannot afford. Until now, no support for the child or me has been received on my account. He lets the support payment run through a support bank, this takes up to 3 months to process a new case. My lawyer keeps on telling me that the money is coming. I want that my lawyer goes to court, so I'm able to take an apartment. She refuses. She tells me that she could not stop me from going, alone to court, but then our paths would separate. I explain my situation again, urge her to help me. I get a response, she would get only 80 dollars per hour from legal aid and her normal hourly rate would be at $ 250 plus tax, she has to pay her staff and is also in the middle of moving, so she already has no time for my case. I am devastated. It has gotten so far that I do not know how I'm supposed to buy food.
I take the matter into my own hands and go to a welfare institution in Canada, where I'm brought to the floor of the facts by saying to me that although I have a residence permit for Canada, but de facto does not live there, because my employer is in Germany , and thus I am living in Germany. I show the German court ruling in which they have imputed me to habitual residence in Canada. This provides only for a laugh, they tell me that the Canadian government decides who is resident in Canada, and not German courts.
I explain my situation, I am told that they could not do anything for me that I should contact the court or the German Embassy.
The first payment of support for the child and me comes three months after arrangement.
I go to court, as soon as I have no accommodation and no money for food.
I ask the judge if he can guarantee me that he does not take away the child from me if I go to a shelter. The judge denied the guarantee. I break down at the courthouse.
By great good fortune I meet a woman who offers me that I can live in a room in her house with the child and can pay some rent if I get money. The old landlord lady who knows me just a little over a month, lends me money and invites me and the child to dinner. I am very grateful, since I have just 20$ left in my purse. I move in with the woman that I met in court, about mid-June. What else can I do?
She lives in a place 70 kilometres away from Toronto. All around is nothing. There is a bus that runs twice a day from Monday to Friday, not on weekends. For shopping, there are 15 minutes away by bus or 40 minutes walk. To Toronto, where my friend lives, there are 2 hours. To the court, it is an hour bus ride.
I have no lawyer and no money, the child is from Monday to Friday with me, I have to take him with me everywhere, to the court to file papers on time, to copy etc. He does not compromise, he wants our son only for the weekends, because he is working. I don´t know sometimes how to afford money for copies, the court does not want to help cover costs, since I'm not a lawyer.
At night, when the child is sleeping, I'm working on the court papers, using Google translator because I do not understand everything. It is a very hard time.
The other side keeps me busy, I have constantly to take a position on something, and I’m at the end of my tether. Only my child gives me the strength to carry on, and the prospect that the horror is almost over and we can finally go home.
It follows a court date for support. I represent myself, for fear and despair I come to an agreement with his lawyer in the hallway of the courthouse. There is no court hearing. He takes his time with the payment. I learn later that he would have to pay me a lot more if it would have come to trial.
I'm looking desperately for a lawyer; no one wants the case under these circumstances. My papers from Germany are not translated, legal aid will not help me, and the papers must be submitted by an attorney to ensure that the translation is approved, but I have not any.
September court date, the judge announced that the final negotiations will take place in November and is expected to last 21 days, with or without a lawyer. I'm terrified that I will lose my job, turn to the court with a request to be allowed to go home with the child, so that I can start my job. I´m not getting the permission, they tell me that I could fly, but the child must remain in Canada until the final negotiation.
In my despair I keep getting bouts of wine and do not know any further, it is the longest time I have ever spent in Canada. I am totally isolated with the child, no friends, no family, 6 hour time difference, my roommate is not home sometimes for days, and my only company is my 3 year old son. My roommate tells me to see a psychologist, but also tells me that they were charged in Canada. I have neither the money nor the opportunity to get me help, the child is the whole week with me on the weekend I'm not going away, because no bus.
I just want to go home.
My parents are very worried about me, cannot financially help me, my father turns night into day, helps me emotionally to endure everything, helps me with the papers, by phone and Google Translator, promises me again and again that all is well would be.
Finally a little relief my employer has given me for the last time on unpaid leave granted to February 2013.
My father noted that I'm getting worse; he comes to Canada, despite considerable financial problems. My roommate and landlord provide a room in her house to use, free of charge. Now at least there is someone there for me, with which I can entertain me, and comforted me.
My mother follows.
A week before the final trial in November, a lawyer takes my case. Meanwhile, six banana boxes have accumulated to court papers, and the papers from Germany are still not translated. The lawyer told me he could not comment on the stuff in Germany, the time was too short to be fully acquainted.
I trust my lawyer, stick to everything he says, he tries in this short time to prepare for the hearing.
November 19, 2012 the beginning of the trial. It turns out the transaction is conducted by a local judge, who has been a family court judge in this city for years.
The Judge by the Higher Regional Court of Hamm and the Youth Office Dortmund refuse to testify before the Canadian court. My husband admits before the Canadian court that he lied in court in
Germany and would have done anything, just to get the child to Canada. The Canadian judge has full understanding of it - I'm speechless.
I am completely shocked and do not understand the world, as in a court day my lawyer hands over his business card to my Ex, with the suggestion that he was doing mainly criminal law and would recommend himself.
After almost three weeks it's all over, the judge points out that he would announce the decision in a few months, because he had to undergo surgery. I protest, I have to go back to my work. The judge takes his time with the decision to January 2013.
The judgment on January 7, 2013 is sole custody for the father. The reasoning of the judge:
"The mother still seems to be angry with the father, and thus the probability is very high that she will give him trouble if the father would have to exercise his visitation rights in Germany."
The father, who had the child in Canada only on the weekends, was made from one day to the other the main caregiver.
Mat is allowed to come home for a week at Easter, a week in the summer holidays and one week at Christmas, every two years. I can visit the child two weeks during the summer in Canada. The travel expenses of the child must be borne by me.
He earns about 8,000 euro’s a month, I do not even earn 1000 Euro’s. I'm supposed to pay support for the child, as soon as I work.
The court cancelled all support payments for me and the child immediately.
I want to appeal. I know that I need the court transcripts for the appeal, and this urge to learn that these cost $ 5000. I do not have the money. A lawyer for the appeal costs about $ 20,000. I pay $ 500 for the transcripts, but how I shall afford the rest I do not know. Since February 2013 I cannot proceed with my appeal because I lack the financial means. I hereby apply for legal aid in Canada for an appeal, which was rejected.
I set myself an appeal before I fly home. I do not have a lawyer for the appeal. I fly home on February 6, 2013 without my child.
I do research at home on the internet and find out that legal aid would be granted to me when I have no sufficient financial resources in the country where I Iive and the local court issues a certificate for legal aid in Canada.
The District Court of Dortmund tells me a certificate cannot be issued for Canada.
The last chance of an appeal was taken away from me.
April 2013, the same judge who pronounced the sentence custody, sentenced me to a payment to my husband in the amount of 105 000 dollars, for incurred legal fees and court costs.
The Canadian court has defined three solid days a week with fixed times for Skype contacts between me and my son.
At my request to my ex husband to keep skype flexible because of my working hours, I got the answer that it is a judicial order to which I have to stick. Since I have to work, it is not always possible for me to Skype at the prescribed times, so I'm afraid to slowly lose contact with my child.
The Skype contacts every second time are interrupted by him, because he does not want me to tell the child that I love, miss, and that he is also missed by family and friends.
Mat is saying frequently that he wants to stay with me and that he wants to come home and is getting upset and cryies and I can not help my son.
Please help, by publishing my story, share it with friends and people, so maybe somebody can help to end this nightmare for my son by beeing separated from his mother and primary caregiver at the age of 4 years.