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The Expat’s Tale: “I’m a stuck mum”

Last week a visitor to the blog read my post about Payne v Payne (Leave to remove a child: what about the parents left behind?) and contacted me with her story. This reader married an overseas national and moved to another country. After her marriage broke down, the court in that country refused her permission to relocate with her children. Describing herself as a “stuck mum”, she is keen to make contact with parents who are in similar circumstances. With her permission, I am sharing her story here.

On the blog this week, we are going to look at the fraught subject of relocation in more detail. We will be examining external relocation (leave to remove from England and Wales) and internal relocation (within England and Wales). When one parent wishes to move away with the children, there are no easy answers. In different countries, different rules and priorities apply. Compare this reader’s experience with that of a father in a case recently heard by the Court of Appeal. It is often impossible to reach a solution that satisfies all parties.

“I’m a stuck mum”

I am, I believe, one of a great number of women who have been trapped by family court decisions. My relationship with an overseas national fell apart, and now I live in a remote area of the world (let’s call it “Faraway Land”) where I have no family or support system.

I have two children from a previous marriage, who have always lived with me.  I met a new partner, a native of Faraway Land, and we had a baby. My partner informed me that in his home country, life was safer, healthier and more family-friendly. He also persuaded me that if we moved there, it would be to our financial advantage.

In retrospect, the relationship already had a few cracks in it. I also believe that he may have wanted to improve his prospects of winning custody of his own child, a toddler at the time, by being able to draw upon his own legal and financial system, which he knew well.

We moved to Faraway Land, to a rural area, and for a couple of years we shuttled the older two children back and forth between their biological father and their new stepfamily. However we soon ran into debt as it was simply not an affordable scheme. The cost of living was much higher than at home. My older children and I found it difficult to settle in, and my relationship with my partner deteriorated. It was a clear flop. We just wanted to go home.

My partner dug his heels in. He refused to take any actions to sell up and return, then informed me that Faraway Land had jurisdiction because our child had lived there nominally longer than in the child’s country of birth. He demanded that the arrangement continue as it was. I tried to find local accommodation, but ended up in a women’s refuge, having left him the house and car so that he could find a job.

I consulted a few lawyers, one of whom told me that despite the circumstances, I had a four per cent chance of being permitted to relocate. This was due to my older children being of an age to make a decision, and the youngest too young to do so. In this country, the parent who wishes to relocate is first asked by the judge and also the court psychologist whether he/she will stay with the child if denied relocation, even when the reasons for wanting to return are good. An answer of “no” is often taken to be proof of a lack of care for the child, resulting in the child being handed over to the non-relocating parent.

The lawyer who took my case was not the one I should have picked, as he never had much time and he was not clear in his communication with me, but he was recommended by someone I liked and trusted and all the other lawyers in town were busy.

I was panicking at this point. None of us wanted to live here, but seemingly we would be forced to do so anyway. The ladies at the women’s refuge told me to “do a runner”,  so that I would at least have a few years left to enjoy my children’s youth before I was dragged back to Faraway Land by the Hague [Convention]. I thought this would be illegal and decided to play with a straight bat, as my lawyer recommended.  I encouraged my child’s relationship with his father and tried to keep things as civil as possible despite our pain and panic. Ultimately my good behaviour didn’t matter in court, but I know women who did do runners and who were pulled back to Faraway Land by the Hague [Convention].

It took almost three years just to obtain a decision, such was the bureaucracy.  My child’s father’s lawyer regurgitated all manner of concocted and irrelevant assertions, in an effort to cast aspersions on my parenting. No evidence of anything was offered.  Only accusations and mud.  All my evidence remained in stacks and files in my lawyer’s office, never introduced either in affidavits or in court.

The half-siblings did not matter to the court.  I was blamed for the financial problems, for being “disorganised in my finances”. This, despite the fact that I had managed my own business at home for 30 years without a hitch. Their dislike of living here and their stepfather’s treatment of them were dismissed as no longer relevant.  So while the mother (myself) and other children did not want to stay in Faraway Land, the father played his home advantage. I was denied leave to remove my youngest child. I found I could not convey the tragedy and causality of our situation in court.  I was of the impression that they wanted to rush the case through because of their backlog and the amount of time it had already dragged on.

My child’s father made a big deal out of my son’s grandparents being very available to him, one of the benefits of our child staying in Faraway Land. Yet he barely saw them at all, and rarely mentions them.  They have since moved out of the area.

The proceeding felt like an anti-relocation farce to me. This didn’t seem to be about “families” at all – it was a simple belief that all one child needs in order to be happy is the isolation of two parents in a status quo situation.  It is a very simplistic formula, being applied to one complex case after another, just to move them through an inefficient court system.

My child’s father won shared parenting, and we don’t know when we will be able to go home. Ever? Soon? Next year? When my youngest child turns 16 and the others are all grown up? This process itself is abusive of families. We can’t make any longer-term decisions about any of our lives while pinned down to a place where no one actually wants to be, and the provisional misery being generated cannot be good for this child.  The courts are pinning us down like butterflies on corkboards and saying, “this is how we will create stability for this child”.

I have struggled with the debt left by the marriage, the loneliness and the high cost of living. The recession is awful here, and citizens of Faraway Land have been fleeing to healthier economies. We don’t even have the freedom they have to do this! One of my older children lives with his biological father in our home country, and homesickness is the overweening flavour of our household.  This is not good for anyone, including my youngest child who is the object of the case.

I have held it together, working like a maniac to stay afloat. I co-parent, am pulling myself out of debt, studying, caring for my children.  But genuine emotional cracks started to develop after the court permitted us to return home for a visit.  This visit was made after years of being prevented from leaving Faraway Land. Home was everything I remembered it to be. Family, friends, natural beauty, emotional warmth, comfort, ease, stimulating activities, inexpensive living… It was glorious. My youngest child loved it there as well, and he has uncles, an older brother, similarly-aged cousins to play with and no lack of male role models and relatives, unlike here.  We could own our own home and not be bumped from rental to rental.

It was terrible returning to Faraway Land after this visit. Now I am living day to day, unwilling to jeopardise my professional work by going on anti-depressants.  I was told by local doctors that anti-depressants are a “solution” to which many unhappy expats resort, whether they are stuck due to children or some other reason.

I have spoken to so many other women in the same situation. In one case the mother had to “import” her own mother from the UK on a humanitarian visa just to have family nearby, she was in so many bits due to the decision.

My youngest child deserves to experience the culture he was born into, for at least part of his childhood, so he can make an informed decision as a teen about which society he prefers to live in as an adult. His remaining sibling and mother both want to be home. It is all the harder for me to have two other children affected by this case as the years drag and drag. It is not about just the youngest. It is harming my mother, my other kids, other people back home who want to be a part of our life, to help and be helped by us – and cannot because we can’t make any long-term plans!

I perceive that the vision of families in the courts these days is not an organic one, and the judges are not weighing enough factors in making their decisions.  They are focusing on the child-made-happy-with-status-quo-and-two-parents formula and decreeing unnatural, stressful situations to try and bring a dead fairytale to life for that child, whose world has already irrevocably changed with the splitting-up of his parents.

The founder of Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known family law solicitors and divorce lawyers. She retired from Stowe Family Law in 2017.

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  1. Sara Lawrence says:

    Very well expressed. The same thing happened to me in Faraway Land and I had to wait until my children were 18 to find work in the Middle East. I brought all of us here on a free ticket from my employer and have been working very hard to afford to get my children back to our home country, where they have always wanted to be. Three yrs have passed and they are finally there and enrolled in community colleges, working and building their new lives. It has been extremely hard for them to slot back into the culture they were born into and wanted to be a part of. They just have no points of reference. I am finding life here difficult as well now that they are gone. i am an older mother and have suffered a small stroke. I miss them a lot and can only keep working here until I can save enough money to go ”home”. I haven’t been able to go home for 16 yrs. I really need to stay here until I hit 65, when Medicare will cover my health expenses. Only 7 more yrs to go. Sigh. Had I known that all this would be the result of letting my foreign husband convince me to go to Faraway Land, I would have run like hell 21 yrs ago.

    • Nazia Yaqub says:

      Hi, I am currently collating details of individuals’ experience of parental abduction to Islamic countries, where children were either taken from the UK or retained after a trip that was originally consented to. I have personal experience of parental abduction and this has motivated me to try and make a difference. The research forms part of my PhD study at the University of Liverpool and I would be grateful if you would kindly get in touch and tell me about your accounts. You can email me at [email protected] or visit
      I look forward to hearing from you
      Nazia Yaqub

  2. Chambers says:

    2 children from the mothers previous marriage were dragged to ‘faraway land’ because of the mothers wishes. I don’t suppose these children’s father had much of a say in this mothers decision to transport them from their school, friends, crucially their father and other family.

    Then the mother wants to do the same again with her new child by moving back and thereby terminating/severely limiting another child’s relationship with their father.

    The children who were dragged to ‘faraway land’ and who had to make the best of it and may have settled, then had their mother decide to move countries again.

    It’s not rocket science to understand that the mother is only focussed on her wants and not what is best for the children.

    The ‘faraway land’ court should be commended for its good sense in stopping the merry go round of the child/ren being moved from pillar to post by a parent who is primarily interested in her own wishes.

  3. Lukey says:

    Chambers may come over a tad harsh, but it is a hard position to argue with, when adults are continually screwing up their lives and the lives of their children it is hopeless to expect any court to ‘make it all better’ for everybody 🙁

  4. L&R: Dirty Divorce Tricks (Audio) says:

    […] financial settlements are far more modest. If children are involved, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to leave that foreign country to return […]

  5. Amanda says:

    I too find myself in a situation where i feel trapped in a country which is not my own, using a lauguage which is not my own, coping with the burocracy of this far away country. My husband decided that he would “put his firewood in other bonfires” as he kindly explained his actions, and that i was no longer of use.
    After giving up my job as a teacher to look after my children i now find my self stuck and unable to work or return to the UK where i have family, friends and job prospects. Here i can not return to teaching as the timetable would mean my ex husband would have our children every evening and if this happened he would ask for custodity, saying i was not caring for them. With the custodity i would also loose the right to the house where we now live and if i wanted to be with my children i would have to rent and work all hours of the day to see them alternate weekends.
    My children are now 12 and 10, i dont know when i will ever be able to return to the uk . Depresion and low self esteem follow. My life i live for my children while my ex husband enjoys his job, family, friends, and social life and plans for the future. My plans are only based around my children, surviving with little money, concious of a better life i could offer them but knowing i am not allowed to, because my ex husband has so decided. I see my life as holding out physically and mentally until the decision of my children can be taken into account, and then perhaps we can all get on with our lives.
    I don´t want to take my children away so they never see their father again and I am more than willing that they spend their holidays as long as they wish in his country. Which when comes down to numbers is aproximately one third of their time. What I do need is the freedom to start my life again, i came here for this man and now i have been left by him and yet i have still to stay here and do whatever he wishes.
    Probably the men who what to see their children all the time do not understand this however i do wish they would put themselves in the ex spouses situation and consider what they would do themselves.

  6. Deidre says:

    Amanda, our situations are really similar. I’m in the middle of the court case right now, trying to get permission to return home to the UK with my 2 children from Italy. We are all English, we moved out here 3 years ago. I ended up leaving their dad because he’d developed a drink problem. Then I went out to work but when I saw the children suffering because they weren’t seeing me enough, I went very part time, but then couldn’t afford rent, bills etc. My ex refuses to give me any money from our house, and because we weren’t married and my name wasn’t on the deeds it might be complicated to get anything back. The long and short of it is I can’t afford to stay here. And also I don’t have any “reason” to stay.
    If I don’t get work, there is a benefits system to “catch” us. I’ll be closer to friends and family, and be able to bring them up to a decent standard of living.
    Of course their dad claims they should stay here with him, even if I can’t stay. He claims they have their whole lives here and to change would be harmful for them. He also claims it’s “nearly impossible” for him to return to the UK due to the economic climate, so the court would be depriving the children of their father.
    I’m told he has a strong case and there’s a good chance the judge (an older man) will take his side. I’m really scared, as I can’t live off the loans of family and friends for much longer. I no longer have a job, and still must pay rent etc. I receive only 84 euros a month from the Italian social security.
    If my children are separated from me I’m scared that my ex will start drinking heavily again (he’s stopped for the court case). My daughter (4 years) and son will grow up without the daily love and practical care of their mum. And of course it would break my heart.
    This is the most stressful thing I’ve ever experienced. But at least until the court declines my application I still have hope. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be told “no the children must stay”, knowing that you must go.
    I can’t believe I’m in this position but there must be thousands of mums and maybe dads out
    there like me/ us. Are there any specific blogs out there other than this one? It would be great to be in contact with other people in the same situation…

  7. Amanda says:

    hello Mary

    I would love to start a facebook page or a blog about this. I feel like we are the silent few that for one reason or another have to give up the rest of our lives to be with out children knowing we could do better else where.
    Perhaps some one out there can let us know if there is something already up and running.
    I hope it all works out for you, i dont think anyone can know how this feels til they go through it.
    Ive posted this page on facebook and you can get in contact with me if you want. xx


  8. andrea says:

    FYI the father in Payne v Payne still enjoys contact with his daughter including phone and email contact and his daughter visits the uk annually

  9. s.mum says:

    I’m the mum in the first story above, and my own husband’s cannabis growing and abuse (among other things, including my father-in-law’s behaviour with my daughter and husband’s employment reluctance) were left out of the story above. As were his claims to be a qualified accountant. By the time our case came up in front of a court, he had gone off drugs, and his contribution to getting us in the sad situation we were in, were of no interest to the judge. My lawyer warned me that if I were “negative about the father” that it would go against me.

    • Chloe says:

      In hindsight if you went back and could just leave the far away land would you have gone and then fought from a safe place?

      Currently deciding on leaving or going through court. I don’t want to be a stuck mum. I understand if I go I many be called back but what if I’m not… what if what if

  10. Mary says:

    Hi Amanda, I’ve looked on Facebook but can’t find it! So I’ve just started up one called “Expat stuck mums” – hope you can all join. It’s an open group. But perhaps we should start a blog or forum, it might be more inclusive? I think us stuck mums (and family and friends) need a way to communicate, for sharing important legal information and giving emotional support. Like you say, no-one can really understand what it’s like until you’re in this situation. Hope to be in contact with you all soon

    • Andrea Wainer says:

      I am a stuck mom and the kids are miserable. I was in Singapore for 9 months only uuring a divorce, brought the kids to the US for the summer, the father gave up the home in Singapore then filed a Hague case against me. I volunteered a return and it’s been hell ever since. The children have not seen their grandparents now in 9 months and 2 were not in school for 4 months. When he failed to pay child maintenance Singaore did nothing at all and the kids basically lived off donations and me selling my clothes as I do not have a work visa here. I am horrified that Singapore cannot see any of this as problematic to the children who had no medical testament when the father refused to pay for it for months in Singaopre. It’s a mess.
      I have leanred a lot along the way and promise when I get through this to help other people in my situation. Good luck and never give up hope.

      • RM says:

        Interesting I am inot a similar situation with a twist. I am a stuck father. I have been the primary care giver for 10 years. What I discovered is in Singapore stay at home fathers are not recognised and go figure this despite my wife was the primary bread winner through out our marriage and it was agreed when our daughter was born in would give up work and look after her. Under the local laws I have to pay my wife maintenance! Even though I have not worked for 10 years. My visa for staying in the country expires and was dependant on my wife.
        So I will have leave the country and my daughter behind.

        • Andrea Wainer says:

          Stuck Father in Singapore. I can help you find help. Please do not give up and go home! Please contact me. There are people here who can help you and your child needs you.

      • Tina says:

        Dear Andrea. My daughter is now stuck in Singapore and we are all suffering such incredible stress as she is so vunerable. She has lost her Relocation case and we are now appealing. Did you manage to get back home?

  11. online says:

    Those of us who have court cases going on for years, with the exes and their lawyers taking notes on everything as ammo for the mudball fights, would be served best by a private discussion group.

  12. Arosdra says:

    I would like to make contact with expat mums in Australia, but I too don’t think the facebook page is the best way.

  13. Ruth Mcauley says:

    Please pass on my details, I am from New Zealand and miss my homeland and live here because of my child.

    • Chloe says:

      Ruth. Did you make it back home. I’m in NZ too. I need help deciding what to do. Go through court or just leave…

  14. Name Witheld says:

    I’ve been through the family court wringer in New Zealand applying to relocate with my daughter back to the UK. I went to hell and back and then some.
    I understand how awful it is, especially when you are alone and a million miles from home and support when you need it most.
    I felt, and I believe many other share the same experience, that the courts immediately put you on the back foot for wishing to relocate and change your child’s status quo. However I believe my reasons were very reasonable- I simply wished my daughter to have a better life as I think most parents naturally do. I wanted to move back home to the UK for familiarity, family, friends, support network, better job opportunities, more affordable living and better financial security to offer my child. The courts used all sorts of things against me, and glossed over the father’s negative points (they there were some major concerns, such as pot smoking, being abusive, and being work shy) supporting their own citizens. I looked bad in the courts eyes for evening mentioning these things and I felt I’d have more chance of a successful relocation if I just shut up about that. New Zealand prefer the “friendly” approach to relocation. However you are damned form the beginning, eventually I realized that I would never be granted permission to relocate back to the UK with my daughter. I clearly stated that I did not at all want to cut out my daughter’s father from her life. Quite the opposite, I wouldn’t have moved to NZ in the first place if I didn’t want my daughter to have a father. I generously offered him 4 holidays per year in NZ and UK and a computer and internet service to keep in regular touch and I would foot the bill for all of that. It’s not ideal, but when 2 parents are from different countries it’s the best solution I could come up with. The father said no, that he will have our daughter full time and I can come and visit her. I am not a bad person at all, I’m a normal regular mummy. I would understand it if I had some terrible flaw, like being on heroin or something like that, but I’m not like that at all!
    My daughter was born in the UK and I was never married to her father. We were together for a year and a half while we both lived in the UK. We moved to NZ when our daughter was 6 months old. I knew early on I wasn’t happy in NZ, and there was none of the father’s family nearby either, they all live 6 hours drive away. I was feeling isolated and depressed, with little work opportunity. I have previously had a lucrative career in the UK and my aim was to replicate that in NZ, but unfortunately after exhausting every avenue it was not happening. My ex asked me to give it another year, which I did. So by the time I had completely made up my mind to return home to the UK we had been living there for 2 years. At the point of applying for relocation I thought “2 years, whoop-de-do”, the courts can clearly see that we’ve never settled here? No, they didn’t!
    I spent 2 years going through an agonising and expensive court process, enduring further abuse from the father and felt like I was living in hell. I was advised by my lawyer that to apply for a protection order in NZ would put me out of the running for relocation as the judges view that as a barrier to relocation, so I had no choice but to suffer on thinking of the long term goal, to get back home. I bent over backwards to be nice to the father, to try and make things as comfortable as possible, but things got worse and worse.
    By the end of 2 years fighting twice in the courts for relocation, it was clear that the courts were not in support of my daughter relocating back to the UK anyway!
    I was ill, skinny, messed up, a shell of my former self. I was permanently run down. I knew I couldn’t take any more. I felt like I was going to die within a year. That is no way to be a good parent to your child, my child was suffering because of my anguish. And I felt the awful conflict between my and the dad would never cease, it would only get worse. That’s no good for a child to see. Such a contrast to the happy day she was born and my excited hopes for her future, ones that I thought her dad shared too.
    I returned to the UK with my child end of 2011, my father was ill and consequently died. Despite this I started to feel happier, being back home and feeling for the first time in years safe. I could see an attainable future again. My daughter was also the happiest she’d been in years and we maintain regular phone and skype contact with her dad. In NZ it was living in permanent limbo, and having to run every life decision past the father, you lose your human right to autonomy in so many ways, and an abusive man uses the courts to gain more control. I knew that I couldn’t return to NZ in my heart and health. Her father applied through the Hague convention to have our daughter returned to NZ and was successful. All those clauses in the Hague convention (clause 13 b regarding grave risk of harm to the child) mean nothing. No matter how depressed I had been feeling in NZ and the knock on effect that had on my daughter the fact that we’d had shared care and he was willing to have her full time meant that was no defence. The abuse we’d suffered wasn’t bad enough, and they advised that NZ could sort out a protection order upon our return, they can’t do that before you leave. I have found out each country interprets 13 b differently, and even in very serious high end abuse, the Hague policy is to return the child to the other country and to get the social services of that other country to intervene. Who would want to live in the other country under a protection order when you can live in your home country and feel safe?
    Sadly I had to let my daughter go back with her dad recently. She is only just 5. She was ripped from my arms crying and screaming and saying quite clearly that she wanted to stay with me. Her father came to collect her.
    I am choosing to remain in the UK without her. To some that might seem terrible, as when you become a mum you stick by your kids through thick and thin, end of. I also feel like that. I am a good mum. But I view it as self preservation. I’d rather get myself strong, being home and happy and importantly alive for her when she is older and needs me. I just know I couldn’t carry on living lie that in NZ any more as I would be little use to her feeling the way I did. Or worse I would die. I really tried very very hard to make a life in NZ, but I just wasn’t big enough or strong enough to hack it.

    • Chloe says:

      I’m in NZ shall I just leave. I can’t bare this. I can’t bare it.

      I haven’t gone through the courts yet. But if he tries to get us back I can send him this and he can read for himself the damage he will cause us and the years we will be fighting.

  15. Sarah says:

    Hi stuck mums,
    It’s clear we need a way to secure way to communicate. The facebook page is there but it’s public, so unsuitable for free chat. (Although if you mail the Expat Stuck mums page the messages don’t appear on the page, they seem to come only to me as i set it up). A few of us want to start a private trusted group for discussion – ideas welcome. So far we’ve become fb friends, so can do chatting, and also have exchanged email addresses. But I think there must be a better way? Ideas welcome 🙂

  16. Hope says:

    It is being in a prison without walls!!!

    I am stuck in Germany and now my ex will move outside the eu.
    I informally asked a judge if I could move and she said yes, now he has. She said he can kick up a fuss, but if it is my home country I will win.
    The problem for me I worked hard at making it work here for the kids that now I do not see how they would cope in the U.k
    There is some graffti near where I live it says ; `Life is killing me` This is how I feel it makes mothers feel.
    I am sorry for us all- it is hard enough to go through separation and then this further insult.
    My advice is make a plan for when your kids are grown up- then you can move where you want and will be free. it can keep your mind happy to know this.

  17. StuckDad says:

    The fact is that when you have a child, you are ‘stuck’ with many things. Complaining that one is ‘stuck’ is all very well, but in a big way, this also betrays your selfishness.

    I and thousands of other dads are ‘stuck’ with a lot of things. Instead of complaining about it, we move to other parts of the world, we deal with litigious parties and their unethical counsels, we put up with non-stop harassment, and then we get put into cell for false allegations of harassment, and then we get up again and start the whole process over. Why? Because we would do anything.

    Being ‘stuck’ is the least of our concerns.

  18. Going home? - Marilyn Stowe Blog says:

    […] sad phenomenon of the ‘stuck mum’ is one we have examined in earlier stories. We have heard from some of them on the blog. They are brave women because they have stood by the rule of law for […]

  19. Jayne says:

    Hi all,
    I am also in a similar situation. I came out here 7 years ago and met someone here (who is enlgish) and had 2 children here. We are now seperated and he has put them on the ‘stop list’. I am currently fighting through the courts to get them removed but seem to be getting no where fast. My reasons for wanting to go home are not just because I want to go home. My son who is 2 and a half has been diagnosed as being profoundly deaf. He has been told he is a prime candidate for cochlear implants. I and everybody around me knows the UK is better for him. the support he will get and his whole lifestyle will be 1000 times better in the UK. It is breaking my heart that I and my babies are being kept here where I know he will not be able to live the life he deserves. I have liked the fb page but would love to get in touch with other mums who are also stuck in a place they dont want to be x

  20. Desperation and parental abduction - Marilyn Stowe Blog says:

    […] parents are gripped by a fear that they may lose everything if they do not run. They may be ‘stuck mums’ longing to return home after a foreign marriage has gone sour or simply so bruised by a […]

  21. Boy successfully objects to returning to his father in the US - Marilyn Stowe Blog says:

    […] may end up a ‘stuck Mum’, unhappily hanging around in a foreign country, wanting to return home after the painful end of […]

  22. Lisa Benson Alarcon says:

    Hi!!! I need help…Can someopne tell me if anyone is atill available to talk with in this group? IIn other words, is the group in fact still open? I do see that the posts are a bit old–2012…I´m a stuck mom….at least it looks like it so far….Thanks so much…My email is: [email protected]

  23. Raven says:

    Dear Lisa, I just wanted to wish you all the best and to let you know that sometimes things can change for the better. I was a stuck mum as well and know exactly how it feels to be in awful pain and panic. Fortunately and after a war of the roses battle I manage to convence my ex that it would cost him much less as pension for the kids if he would let us leave in our own country since life is much less expensive and we manage to come back. Not saying its easy because after years abroad to return home is like beeing a foreigner in your own country but the true is there is nothing like home and having family around makes a huge difference . I’m still trying to get my feet back on the ground since I left my career to go with my “husband ” and can’t find a job now, people here don’t understand that I was a stay home but I truly believe that I will find a solution. Please keep fighting for you and your kids and if you realise that it’s really impossible to go back, do the best to be happy were you are. All the best R

  24. Rachel says:

    Like many other mums who are trapped in a foreign country I have been frustrated by the lack of support groups available to support us/each other. Research shows that this is not uncommon but trying to find a ‘one stop’ place to get advice or help is hard to find. I have wanted to share my experiences to highlight the dangers of moving abroad with your partner and child/ren. The only place I have found is the facebook page of Expat Stuck Mums which I see is mentioned above, but sadly this is under used.

    I have written a book about my experience and this is available on Amazon in digital format only. It tells of the reason why I moved abroad to Australia on a trial basis and found myself trapped there with my son when my relationship with my ex deteriorated. I left the country and returned home, only to have to go through the Hague Convention and be returned. The experience was an awful one and I hope some of the things I learnt along the way can help others in a similar situation today.

    My story is called Don’t Let It Happen To You by Rachel Tilley.

    • Zoe says:

      In hindsight would you have left anyway? I’m making a decision to go. Woman’s refuge said to just get on a plane and leave. I don’t want to do the wrong thing but the right way seems like it will make me a stuck mum

  25. BritExpt says:

    It always seems to be the mums who are stuck. I’m a stuck dad with two kids in Canada. All my family are in the UK and ex wife doesn’t have papers to live there anyway. We share custody however even if i had full custody it would be next to impossible for me to take my kids to England or anywhere else for that matter.

    As I have been told by my own lawyer, I just have to “serve my sentence” until they are older (about 15 years time)

    • Marilyn Stowe says:

      Dear BritExpt
      I’m so sorry. Would you like to write a post for the blog? It might really serve as a reminder to those thinking of leaving the UK without a thought of what happens if it goes wrong? If you are interested please send it to me. No guarantee of publication but delighted to take a look.

  26. Chieko says:

    I had been stuck US 8 years. My husband and I are talking about divorce so many time… we had only one child toghter.after divorce I need stay in US… little bit money make my own.. my husband make 4 times than me… he talks to me mean most time. Rasing the voice front of the people. but if when I tell him I don’t like it rasing voice… ” just little bit the stuff you make big deal! I’m deal with 30 times a day you pisses me off but i don’t say anything!! ” he says. he loves daughter so much but he talks to me peace a trush most time… but he don’t think he does… ” I’m never felt my family no food, no money,never happen!!! evry time money in my account!! ” he says. He is right we never problem with money… so after divorce I see my self some shelter… no money,no family… feel so alone… I find this web?? A lot people stuk some country! Not only me! Keep up positive everybody and me!!!!

  27. Expatsnothanks says:

    Hi all stuck expats. I am Brit doing my time (looking at 10 years) in Australia. I am campaigning for more information and an Expat Strike ie don’t support your spouse’s international posting – you have too much to lose. Please contact me if you have a story of leaving the UK for a less generous jurisdiction in terms of spousal maintenance like Australia. I would like to compile a table of comparative jurisdictions.
    The multi-nationals employing your spouse will make very generous inducements to you as the supporting spouse (business class travel home etc) BUT they won’t want to know you if you divorce – something that is not mentioned while they are trying to get you to sign up. My email is [email protected] Best wishes to All

  28. Mahdi says:

    It was a emotional and perfectly explained non-fiction story, it helped me in my study course. I was wondering if you feel different about the foreign country males, I mean do you hate them or don’t trust them any more or any other of your feelings has been effected by your situation? anyone with same experience can answer I would appreciate it.

  29. Andrew says:

    If it is the man who is doing the earning – or the bulk of it – which it may well be especially when there are young children, she has to go where the living is or break up the marriage. That’s rather central to what being married is about, isn’t it?
    And why the employer should be concerned if there is a divorce I just cannot see.

  30. w says:

    my daughter who is a uk citersen in Australia with 2 Australian children wont to leave her husband and return to the uk how does she stand please help

    • Luke says:

      pardon my mistake if I am misunderstanding but you appear to be asking for help in getting your daughter to the UK and taking her Australian children away from their father and with her !
      If that is the case then personally I hope you get no help or encouragement at all from a lawyer as I think that would be an absolute outrage.
      Reading some of the posts here the levels of self-absorption and delusion and disregard for the relationship children have with their other parent continues to astound me…

      • aaa says:


        These situations are not so clear-cut as you might imagine.

        Often, the stuck parent has no means to support themselves or no legal right to work. Do their children deserve a parent who is forced to live under such stressful conditions?

        How can a parent do a good job of co-parenting when they are miserable, depressed, and feeling trapped and alone?

        While I certainly understand your position, it doesn’t adequately cover the full emotional breadth of these situations.

  31. Elena says:

    I would like to give some thoughts with regards to UK citizens expatriating. I could not stress how it is important to think through it because it could be very difficult for you to be considered as Ordinary Residents or you would lose your residency status when you return to the UK. For example, you might find that your children will not be eligible for UK University fees etc.

  32. Male 001 says:

    There is so much sexism innate to much of what is being written here it drives me crazy. I am a father and I am being forced to remain in far-away land in order to co-parent my son. This is not a problem of men abusing women, it is a problem of two parents who want incompatible things.

    All too often when I read about cases of abuse of different kinds, they are written with the assumption that the abuser is the man. As a result I feel unrepresented in the literature; where are the stories that I can relate to? Where is my support? I feel a crushing sense of isolation, loneliness and often suicidal thoughts because the situation feels so utterly hopeless, then add to that I am alone in it surrounded by the narrative that it’s all men’s fault.

    Having a child has left me serving an 18 year prison sentence. Of course I am free to leave at any time, but I will have to leave my son behind, making him the key to my cell, which is an awful feeling. I will stay, but I am going insane.

    • ExpatDadInExile says:

      Hi Male 001,

      I’m on the same situation as you, I’m stuck on a Faraway Land for at least another 18 years, and I would really like to know if there is a Group/ Chat for Expat fathers “serving time” abroad. I accepted my wife request to go live on her country abt 3 years ago because her parents are old and need support. She stopped giving a f*ck abt me when I became depressed after a close relative died. Every month was like 3 weeks of abuse and 1 week, and this went on for abt 1 year. I was going to divorce and return to my country when she got pregnant. Now I’m stuck abroad for at least 18 years, owise I won’t see my son and probably won’t even have a common language with him. I haven’t divorced yet to don’t screw my chances of a 50/50 custody but I will divorce when the breastfeeding is over. I would really like a Group/ Chat to share and seek advice, I’m stuck on a country where I don’t even speak the language (which is very hard to learn, although I’m trying), got no family, no friends and overall nothing that keeps me here except my son. If there is such a Group/ Chat let me know.

  33. Sara says:

    I am an American citizen with Italian citizenship acquired in 2019, married to an Italian in 2012 in Italy, with two children born in Italy in 2013 and 2017.

    I am currently going through a very aggressive and ruthless separation in which I am suffering greatly and my stability for my kids is being pushed to the limits. I am alone here and am very vulnerable financially.

    Any other Americans in similar situations?

    • Patricia says:

      I’m an American citizen, was an independent single mother in the US, met a charming Canadian man, dated off and on for 3 years, ignored the red flags and as he slowly destroyed my independence. I stayed in a small town near the border to remain close to him. Got pregnant in 2019, and wanted to return home to Los Angeles, but he promised me a better life in Canada, more stability for my daughter, that we would get married, I could have healthcare and work, and my daughter could go to school. I wanted to believe him.

      Once I moved to Canada with my daughter, he broke all promises. He became intent on punishing me every single day for ruining his life. He blocked me from applying for Permanent Residence so I was stuck as an illegal immigrant and his domestic servant for two years. He refused to help me with my expenses aside from rent and food, but also wouldn’t allow me to work, and wouldn’t help with the kids. I supported myself and them by selling my clothing and jewelry, essentially “working” illegally out of necessity while parenting full-time and homeschooling, cooking 3 meals daily, caring for our home, and meeting his physical needs without ever being able to talk about my own feelings or needs without getting “punished”. He refused to show me any affection unless we were having sex, and punished the kids if I didn’t fulfill his sexual needs.

      When he would go into violent rages or drinking binges, I tried to leave, but he would grab the baby and wave her around as she screamed, blocking me from getting to the door. We lived in a high-rise condo. He threatened to take both my children away, to have me arrested and deported. He had me so isolated, would not let me contact his friends or family without his permission, and kept my car from me at his parents place. I had nowhere to go if I left, and if I returned to the US while not having legal status in Canada, I could have been banned from re-entry and separated from my newborn baby for up to 5 years. Most times he would not let me take her out of our home without being accompanied.

      I finally got permanent residence for myself and my older daughter, and with help from immigration, social workers, doctors and the police, he was arrested and given a no-contact order. But, our family court judge has denied all my requests for protection or restricted visitation for the daughter we share, and I’ve been told by a few lawyers that I may never be able to leave Canada until my children are grown. I have no friends or family in Canada, no local support, no childcare, and am still earning money selling my jewelry, about to take another training to expand my income opportunities working from home. I am determined to return home and confident that I will be able to raise my children in a safe, healthy environment once I’ve regained my independence and financial stability.

      In the meantime, it still feels like slavery, and like I will never be able to address my PTSD, having to constantly show up as a parent and not fall apart, but that’s fine. I know how trapped it can feel to be so disconnected from home and support, and to do it ALL alone. I have found many resources that have been useful in the meantime while my situation gets sorted, which I feel are helping to speed up the process. If anyone wants any links please let me know.

      Sending strength and love and hoping for a good outcome for all.

  34. Unknown says:

    You should not be publishing statements about wanting to leave with children on social media or the very public internet.
    Nor should you have your name listed to these comments. It can be used to cause you further harm. Please be aware that some of you have stated you intend to abduct your child, which you will get in a lot of trouble for. Hague convention countries will not help you – they will force the return of your children and no amount of court battles will help. Non Hague ones will not support you if they are taken there. The British courts are broken and the system is there to perpetuate this and make money. All you can do is build the best life you can on the here and now. Please – think carefully about posting on the internet or on social media. Use forums for building a support network, not for exposing yourselves to serious litigation.

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