- As you’re aware by now, I’m Irish – from the land of leprechauns –and Guinness, of course. I’ve never quite got the whole Guinness thing. I really find it an unpleasant beverage, but who am I to question the great Arthur’s signature drink that has quenched the thirst of so many men over the past 100 years? Cheers to Arthur.
Ireland sits far up the globe, way north of South Africa. No, it’s not part of Britain and it’s not part of the United Kingdom. (You would be surprised: I get asked that a lot.) It’s a freestanding, lovely, neutral little country that generally tries to keep its nose clean. There were snakes there once, a long time ago, until St Patrick came along with his great big stick and banished them all into the surrounding sea. Thank goodness for that. There are no snakes in Ireland now, but there are leprechauns. They sit at the end of every rainbow, wearing green velvet suits and sporting pipes in their mouths. The saying goes: “If you find a leprechaun, he’ll share with you his pot of gold.” My saying goes: “If you find a leprechaun, you’ve probably been smoking some serious pot of gold.” They are not real. So that means no snakes and no leprechauns. Okay.
So, anyway, Dublin is the capital of Ireland. It’s one of the greatest cities in the world and buzzes with tourists and Irish tradition. I lived there for 10 years – a great 10 years. I sure made the most of my 20s. I made new friends every month, and I lived a carefree, fearless life. My life was going in a direction that excited me.
If you jump on a train in Dublin and travel for three hours, you will reach Cork. That’s where I was born. I lived there until I was 18 years old. It is tucked right down in the south, where some of the most beautiful places in Ireland are located, like Killarney, the Ring of Kerry and Gougane Barra. A lot of incredible Irish history was birthed down there. There’s lots of beautiful countryside and large, open tracts of land. The Earth speaks in poetry and tones of luscious green, and if you stand really still in a field and listen, you’ll hear the music of 200 years play through the trees and fill the air. The people speak in a song that dances up and down the scales. You know that there’s a bit of home soil rooted in most Irish people’s souls. Its immovable. Lots of us travel and leave Ireland at stages in our lives, but few of us ever make memories fonder than those of growing up in Ireland.
When my ex-husband left, I thought that I perhaps wanted to move home. After all, I had relocated for him and, well, now that we are no longer together, I thought: Why should I remain here? (FYI, Morgan, it’s the law, that’s why.) By having my children here in South Africa and not in my home country of Ireland, I automatically tied myself to South Africa for the next 18 years. I didn’t know that at the time. Eh, someone could have told me? It was a big detail to overlook and, had I known that, it would have definitely been a deciding factor where I gave birth.
When my divorce process began, my children’s passports went ‘walkies’ out of my house. (Don’t ask!) However, thanks to The Hague Convention, if one parent wants to leave the country with a child, they must have the written consent of the other parent. If they do not have consent, then removing the child from South Africa, for example, is not allowed. So, I found myself boxed in from all angles. I couldn’t even take my children out of the country on holiday.
Then, towards the end of 2015, my visa expired. With the divorce going on, I hadn’t even noticed that it was about to expire, when all my documentation came back, I had overstayed by 8 days and so I found myself in a sticky situation in which I became an illegal alien. (Queue Ex-files theme song). That ended with me experiencing the inside of a holding cell for the first time in my life.
The key that locked that gate was the biggest I had ever seen. I stood there with my Burberry handbag over my shoulder, looking through the bars at my emigration lawyer’s assistant, thinking: “How in the name of God did saying ‘I do’ to the man of my dr… (I can’t say it) end up like this?”
Anyway, as a result, I was not able to go home during the two years of our separation, and that made me miss Ireland with every beat of my heart. I felt so frustrated and stuck. If I had left South Africa with my children, it would have been viewed as abduction. If I had left South Africa alone, even to visit Ireland for a week, I wouldn’t have been allowed to return for five years, given that I had overstayed my visa duration. The bottom line was: I couldn’t leave.
I moved to South Africa about a month before our wedding. I was pregnant for 75% of the duration of my marriage, and then going through a divorce for practically the rest of it. I needed to put a support structure in place around myself and my children. I figured they needed uncles and aunts, cousins and grandparents. I needed to be in Ireland. The children didn’t have any of that in Cape Town, where we live. They had nothing consistent. I felt they deserved more than circumstances had given them, and I felt extremely guilty. I found myself having to weigh up all of the pros and cons of South Africa and Ireland. Always keeping my children’s best interest in the forefront of my mind. In the end, I decided for my children, to stay. More than grandparents and cousins and more than what I needed, they needed their dad. It came to the point where, one day I looked at Cadence and Carter as they played in the garden, and I distinctly remember thinking “you, before me”. My decision was made. Sometimes we have to put our own wants aside and say “what is best for my child”. For whatever reason my path has brought me here and so, who am I to interfere with that. My life, since I was young, has been full of twists and turns. I don’t think I would want it any other way. South Africa, for this season of my life, it seems that I am here to stay.
If you want to leave South Africa and move to another country with your child, but do not have the father’s consent, then you must apply to the courts for permission to relocate. The judge will listen to your case and then he/ she will decide whether it would be in the child’s best interest to allow the relocation. The court takes this decision very seriously, as the child will generally benefit more from having an active, consistent relationship with both parents.
If you decide to ask the courts for relocation, then you, with the aid of your attorney, will need to start building a relocation file to put before the judge. If relocation is something you are considering then it is vitally important that you are keeping records and documenting everything right from the beginning of your divorce.