At the end of 2009, six months after I moved out we both moved.
I did something stupid and rented a house with my girlfriend in Munich – I know it seemed like a good (financial and otherwise) idea at the time, but afterwards it was very definitely a case of from the frying pan into the fire. But at the start it was great, and my children loved coming every two weeks to a lively house where something was always going on.
We even were able to spend Christmas Day together! Though that stopped later on.
My soon to be ex-wife moved to Eichstätt, north of Ingolstadt and around 100km (1.5 hours) away from Munich. And I didn’t try to stop it. I could have, as the reason behind the move had nothing to do with her being nearer to work (It probably took her the same amount of time to get to work as before), but it was obviously down to the fact that her boyfriend had got a job at the local clinic. So she took the children out of their environment and moved them to a completely new area, away from me, their friends -everything. She even asked me to go to the last Parent-Teacher meeting knowing that she was moving and there was no reason to go.
This was the first major step of what I now know to be parental alienation.
In January they were established in a temporary flat in Eichstätt. And I encountered the first body blow. For which there is no excuse whatsoever.
As I had the children during the week and every other weekend till the move I made a conscious decision not to phone them that often. Once a week at most, sometimes not even that if they were with me during the week. As Jonathan especially was suffering due to the break-up I felt that this was better for the children. I included the phone calls I had made in my diary. After she had moved out I did not have an address or telephone number for my children. After a couple of E-mails (non-inflammable) to my wife I did get the address and a mobile phone number.
One day at work I called the the mobile phone number I had been given to talk to my children, to see how they were getting on – Martin answered (as it turned out it was his phone) and I asked politely to talk to my children, and he said no! I asked several times, trying very hard to keep my anger suppressed. Then he said something I will never forget:
“Du musst Dich an die Spielregeln halten” translated: You have to play by the rules.
I asked him what rules he meant, but he was not forthcoming. I asked him again to talk to the children. He refused again, and I slammed the phone down.
When I got home the ‘Rules’ were waiting for me in the form of the first lawyer’s letter (yes she threw the first stone).
Apart from a long diatribe that the children should not spend a lot of time with technical gadgets. (At this time the only gadgets were the TV, and the odd game on the computer – no consoles, no smartphones, no tablets, no ipods) the tenor of the letter was quite clear “I am in charge – I make the rules”.
The letter detailed where and when I was to pick my children up every two weeks. Friday at 17:00 to Sunday 16:00, pick up at the car park at the clinic where you know who works! And I was only ‘allowed’ to ring every Saturday at 12:00. Which since the children were with me every two weekends – it meant I could only talk to my children twice a month, and more to the point at dictated times. Thus taking away all spontaneity from the calls that had been present before.
So to sum up, I was told to use the boyfriend’s e-mail address, phone number and pick my children up from where he worked. Could be she was trying to provoke me again – It didn’t work! In fact the venue was changed later to a supermarket parking lot, as the clinic’s parking lot was strangely enough very busy at that time on Sunday afternoon with visitors! And we always had to wait in the cold for my wife to turn up.
To put this in perspective, my lawyer’s response, as well as the second lawyer years later confirmed that this way of handing the children fosters distrust in the children, and is only usually reserved for couples that are completely antagonistic towards each other. And at this stage we weren’t.
I responded legally, but it took me several years to realise that nothing can be done. She could torpedo everything – especially phone calls. Phone calls can always be “at the wrong time”, and thus worse than useless – even adults hate forced telephone calls, children even more so on a sunny day when their friends are playing outside.
As a humorous aside (yes there really is one in this mess). My wife’s lawyer was based in Stuttgart, and a former state justice minister who had to step down after being embroiled in the billion euro Flowtex corruption scandal, and she was actually charged afterwards – Fits!
There was nothing to justify reducing the level of telephone contact in this way, and this was the start of an effective contact ban. Bonding with children relies on keeping in touch with them, and what they are doing. This reduces the conversation about current topics to a question and answer session every two weeks. I personally cannot understand why something like this is not seen by the court as de-facto proof of ongoing parental alienation.
A tip for anyone at this stage: All classes at school have a list of the parents e-mails and telephone numbers – Make sure you take a copy. My children were able to keep contact with three sets of friends of theirs. Which they really enjoyed. Needless to say the lack of routine in the visits to Munich later caused by my ex-wife led to these contacts drying up due to the fact that organising visits with a day’s notice is really successful.
Note: under German law, you can stop your ex-partner from moving away with the children if there is no good reason, the principle of continuity for the children where they live holds, and can be used to prevent the move.
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