Getting divorced abroad: A Filipina's journey
I filed for divorce, went through its long process, struggled on various conflicts, and thrived on it.
I was torn between my Catholic faith and my personal safety, but in the end, I courageously succeeded.
I met my former Swiss husband in 1995, among the 4 million people during the World Youth Day Eucharistic celebration. We were married in Switzerland.
Love gradually died when I was treated like a slave and a doormat for his insecurities, rancor, repetitive psychological abuse, and destructive criticisms. I lost my self-esteem and was trapped in a doomed relationship, with daily tumultuous conflicts witnessed by my daughters.
I had continuous back and chest pains, 7 and a half years of stress, and mornings of waking up to nothing but the worst irreconcilable differences and psychological domestic abuse.
We tried marriage counseling, but it didn’t work.
We longed for freedom, harmony, and a normal life.
Divorce procedures vary from country to country. It also varies according to the individual situations of parties filing divorce, financial matters, legal standards, issues on child custody, visitation, and alimony.
These are the things I did as I thrived as a Filipina divorcee in Switzerland:
- Seek advice
I sought help from the Associazione Consultorio e Casa delle Donne Lugano, an organization which helps abused women.
- Know your rights
I had to learn the court procedures in the Italian language, find a lawyer with expertise on family cases. Fluently, wisely, calmly, and honestly, I defended my rights in the Italian language during the court hearings.
- Save money
I had to maintain a good-paying job, plus additional income from part-time work. I also had to tighten our belts.
- Be brave
I had to face stigma and recurring misjudgments. I had to be confident. I also had to deal with the gossip and toxic remarks from my ex-husband's relatives. I discovered who my true friends are.
- Be there for your kids
I tried to reduce any stress my children may feel as a result of the divorce. I provided stability and warmth. I helped them with their studies, gave proper discipline and respect, and bonded with them. I honestly told my children, without sugarcoating, what the situation was without vilifying their father.
- Be calm
I had to manage a roller coaster of emotions. I learned to let go of bitterness, hatred, and regrets. I forgave and acted on resolutions, putting my children before my personal needs.
The years after
I was granted the full custody of my daughters. (WATCH: Divorce procedures in Switzerland)
Moving to the Netherlands, the case was reopened with false allegations against me leading to a higher court order to have the passports of my daughters sequestered.
At this critical stage, my daughters bravely sought an impromptu meeting with the judge.
At the end of it all, my daughters and I rewarded ourselves by traveling to historical destinations, an effective way to heal our wounds. We tried to regain our lost self-confidence.
We protected our privacy by being discreet. Even after everything was solved, we never aired our dirty laundry to the public.
My advice for other divorcees is, despite the long years of court litigations and family conflicts, to never blame your children. Don't put too much emotional weight on them. Invest on mutual trust, open communication, honesty, respect, and love.
Children need to reconcile with both parents. Don't let outsiders break the bond between children and estranged parents.
After divorce, one can remarry in countries where divorce is recognized and legal.
There is no divorce in the Philippines, so even if one has acquired "dual citizenship," if you return to Philippines, the divorce is considered illegal.
But with the "naturalized citizenship," you are legally divorced and free to remarry again in the civil ceremony. The municipality where you will be married abroad checks the civil register of your resident country where you acquired naturalized citizenship and where your legally divorced status is registered.
I got the full custody of my daughters, respected the court decisions, and visiting rights of my children to their Swiss father.
6 and a half years later of being on our own, I remarried a Dutch citizen. I’m a Swiss citizen and my divorce is valid and legal here in The Netherlands where only one of my citizenships is recognized and that is my Swiss citizenship.
With past conflicts solved, my children have a strong bond with their father despite our different countries of residence.
As a divorcee mother, my daughters and I faced many uncertainties, but we launched our rockets of courage to face all adversities.
The prizes of my divorce are freedom, serenity, and new portals to a better life free of domestic violence.
Without divorce in the Philippines, many Filipinos may get stuck in a cycle of abuse, indifelity, disrespect, and loveless or unhappy marriages. (WATCH: PH, divorce, sanctity)
The Philippine divorce law should make the procedure affordable, provide pro bono lawyers for those who cannot afford legal costs, and provide safe and healing shelters for the abused.
If the divorce law will be passed in the Philippines, then many Filipinos will be given a chance to move on with their lives.– Rappler.com
Ana Angelica Abaya van Doorn is a Swiss-Filipino writer. She studied creative writing in University of Oxford. She is also an Italian-English translator and a Romance Writers of America novelist. She supports organizations helping less privileged schoolchildren in the Philippines.
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