Single Mom S.O.S.: Can she take the kids overseas?

by mssinglemama on June 17, 2008

Occasionally urgent questions land in my Inbox from single moms or married women desperate for help and answers. They are so urgent in nature I call them Single Mom S.O.S’s.

This one is the most urgent of all.

Belle is European and has no family here in the United States.

Her husband, who has abused her physically in the past is refusing to leave their apartment. She has no where to go, no where to stay and wants to know what will happen if she takes her children back to her home city in Europe.

I am being very vague here to protect her anonymity.

I have advised her via e-mail to stay put, to stay calm and to pretend like nothing is wrong. I have also told her that if he lays another hand on she or the children that she must immediately call the police or find a local domestic violence shelter. She’s reading this post, hoping for some advice, encouragement or answers.

What is the safest way to leave your husband when he has violent tendencies?

Can you leave the country with the kids? Could her Ex accuse her of kidnapping?

Previous Single Mom S.O.S. posts:

Her Ex wants full-custody

Explaining the break-up to the kids

Should I leave my husband?

Related posts:

  1. Will our kids be worse off?
  2. Single Mom S.O.S. – Explaining a Break Up
  3. Single Mom S.O.S.: Her ex wants full custody!
  4. Dating a Single Mom, Part 1
  5. Dear Single Men:

{ 3 trackbacks }

» Single Mom SOS: Can she take the kids overseas?
June 17, 2008 at 6:33 pm
Single Mom S.O.S.: Play-doh & Toddler-Goo « Ms. Single Mama
July 20, 2008 at 10:41 pm
Single Mom S.O.S.: Should I leave my ex alone with my son? « Ms. Single Mama
August 9, 2008 at 11:19 pm

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Sparkling Mama June 17, 2008 at 6:39 pm

It depends on the state she lives in. Each state has different laws regarding this. The thing is that as long as divorce proceedings haven’t begun she can do as she wishes because there is no custody order.

My state is one of the states where you can’t remove a minor child without the permission of the other parent. My ex and I were separated and I left the state with the kids. It was fine. When we got back together I returned to our state, ultimately things didn’t work out for us and I filed for divorce. At that point I could not leave the state without permission (or a big legal battle).


Elissa June 17, 2008 at 7:47 pm

I know in California that once you have filed for divorce you can’t leave the state. Prior to that I believe you can do as you wish. I know that my attorney advised me not to allow my now ex husband one on one visits before I filed because if I did and he left with them I would have no recourse since I hadn’t yet filed for divorce. I would say run away to her family if she can! On the other hand if she can’t then I would advise her to file for a restraining/stay away order… she can, via that order, force him out of their home even if he doesn’t want to leave.


tidemon June 17, 2008 at 7:54 pm

All of this is very interesting and good learning, as well.

I need to do some research about a recent story where a European mother went back home in Europe with her two boys while or in process of getting divorced. A few weeks after her arrival, her husband showed up at their children school and removed them from their class to immediately and legally flight back to the U.S. Heartbreaking news but i’ll see what i can found out about it and post my search results.

good luck all my single parents!


Valerie June 17, 2008 at 8:41 pm

She should contact her local domestic violence shelter ASAP. They would be able to give her advice about her state laws and she would be able to tell them the details so they can help her create a safety plan. Leaving the relationship is the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship. That is great advice to pretend like nothing is wrong until she is safe to leave. He will abuse her again. They always do and she can’t control when or the severity. The national domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).


Shunji February 5, 2015 at 7:46 am

There is one thing in this situation, we canb4t chnage the fact that our kids father will be their father forever, and hopefully theyb4ll have a good relationship with him, but that means also that Ib4ll have to look at his face for the rest of my days. Is hard but necessary, and fair for the kids. This article really focuses on whats best for children, I liked it very much, I hope I can learn to communicate with my ex in a better way.


Valerie June 17, 2008 at 9:03 pm

One more thing… I don’t mean to scare anyone, but I think it is important to keep in mind. If you get abused in front of your children, child protective services can get involved, and eventually… if you don’t leave your abuser, they can take your kids. So it is important to get help now if you are in that situation and there are counseling services available for abusers too (if your partner is willing to try to change).


Carmen Vj June 17, 2008 at 9:25 pm

You can file a report at the police station in that area because god forbid anything happens to her, it will be on file. Put the word out on the street. This situation has to be watched and let everyone know in your area what is going on. And the minute he steps out of the house, tell her to run for her life with the children.


single supermama June 17, 2008 at 10:46 pm

This might also be helpful on a state-by-state basis:


Rebs June 17, 2008 at 10:46 pm

Leave. Head to a shelter. Once she’s there, she’ll have access to legal counsel and a report will be filed with the police.

If the kids do have passports, she should make sure he doesn’t have access to them. She may want to ensure that she has her passport and the kids’ passport on her at all times in case she needs to go and go quick.


marchmommy June 18, 2008 at 7:07 am

I think her best bet is to do what the others said and go to a shelter. I would just add a caution on returning to Europe with the kids as he could very well legally have them returned to the US as it could be seen as kidnapping. I have had to research this for myself as I myself am leaving Europe and returning to the US with my daughter (different situation however). I wish her all the best, this is a very tricky situation. Perhaps she could get legal counsel from a women’s aid hotline on this? Just a suggestion.


Leslie June 18, 2008 at 10:08 am

I would say get prepared and leave to a safe place here. I agree they’ll probably be able to advise her on the next move. I think staying in the situation any longer is just endangering her life and the kids.

You’ll be in my thoughts and prayers :(


Single mom in New England June 18, 2008 at 12:26 pm

I was in a verbally abusive relationship (but not physical.) I left my husband when my son was 6 months old. (my son is now 3, and my divorce is still not final from the ongoing legal custody battle…) But at least I have been safe and healing for the past 2.5 years. It’s so important to get out of an abusive relationship – for her sanity, and for the future of her children.

I sought a lot of legal help and filed for divorce on 1/1/06. I was told alot of the same things… depending on the state, you can leave BEFORE you file for divorce. Once you file though, you have to get the consent of the other parent to leave the state for good. Also, if she files for divorce, she will have court hearings she will have to be here for.

If I were her, I would start secretly stashing money away (preferably in someone else’s name like her mom or best friend) as soon as possible. Start moving out the most precious things in your apartment that he won’t miss and leave them at work or at a friend’s house – anything he might damage when he finds out you have left.

Could she call her country’s embassy to ask some questions? (So she’s not accused of kidnapping or some other awful thing) Maybe her other country could also grant her temporary asylum to protect her from the abuser?? I don’t know, I’m just thinking out loud. It sounds like it’s time to talk to a lawyer and get some solid legal answers.

If I were her, I would leave the country, but in good faith, let him know where she can be contacted overseas. That way, she can’t be accused of kidnapping, right? – if she tells the dad where they are? If there is an immediate threat, get to an anonymous women’s shelter ASAP. Don’t mess with an angry abuser – get out of there! I know it’s AWFUL. It’s always better to have police reports for records when and if she does file for divorce and go to court. I was also told that if you can prove that there was physical abuse, the state also has programs that will actually help you relocate to another state.

I do know that years ago, my mom had a friend who was in an abusive relationship in the 70s. She just up and left and flew back to the country she was from, taking her son with her. That was years ago though, and the laws protecting the rights of fathers have changed dramatically. Back in the 70s, moms could take their kids across country if need be – even after they were divorced, without the consent of the father. Times have certainly changed. I really hope this helped and know I’m sending strength and clarity of mind your way. Godspeed and GOOD LUCK!! You’re not alone.


mommypie June 18, 2008 at 3:18 pm

When MP’s father was alive, I was told I had to have a signed letter from him in order to take her out of the country. I wasn’t aware it was different in each state.

You’ve got a lot of good advice coming in. My thoughts and prayers are with her. If you hear anything, keep us updated.


ME_BELLE June 18, 2008 at 7:39 pm

Thank you to all of you! and i mean it!!! I am truly receiving your love, your strength and your help in your posts.

Physical abuse have occurred in the past years but i was never courageous enough to press charges. These past 10 years, i have been experiencing verbal abuse in front of the children. I have recently been recording some of the verbal actions and i have been keeping a journal that i mail overseas for safekeeping, just in case. Why 10 years–that long? Because i always believed that HE will change with the years, and i do not like conflict. It is embarrassing when it happens in public and instead of hiding my embarrassment, it is time for me to do something for the sake of my health and my children. I like the idea of saving funds under someone’s else name, that i can trust. A good friend of mine and her husband are going to help me with future funds, if needed.

I do not know which one is worst between verbal and physical abuse. But i can tell you that verbal abusing is terrifying and traumatizing for man/woman, as well as for the children. My poor children! These events are starting to weight heavily in my mind and health. As a lady mentioned in one of the answers, i do not want to mess with an abuser, as I believe that they are not mentally fit and they can act on their verbal threats.

I have talked to two attorneys in Georgia whom have both advised me to stay put and save money as long as i can because it might get expensive to pursue a divorce. And also, to stay at home to not make it harder on the children with an abrupt change of lifestyle…. even if HE says it is okay for me to leave with our children. *** FYI = Before filing or leaving do your research on your State laws and County Laws, as the 1st question from the attorneys was in which county did I leave?

I have also talked to my embassy and they, too, advised me to stay put, file for divorce and ONLY return in Europe when the divorce is finalized. NOT BEFORE!! They say it is now about time to apply for citizenship to have the equal rights, and i will apply for it, as early as next week, since my friend is going to help me with the funds. *** FYI it cost $675 and takes 13-15 months to process and obtain.

I will also contact a Woman’s Aid Hotline.



mssinglemama June 18, 2008 at 10:10 pm

Belle, we’re all thinking of you … please keep us posted.

If you have evidence of abuse, would citizenship really be necessary to secure custody of the children? God, I wish we had a family attorney reading this blog.


Dawn June 19, 2008 at 2:43 pm

Im going to blog some more about this today because I really need to say all this to everyone that reads my blog..but first my heart goes out to you, and I want to tell you this…

Do you have legal aide near or around you?? When I left my ex husband, that is how I got my divorce, and I did not have to pay a dime. But PLEASE dont stay if a hand is raised!!! RUN AWAY, and STAY away…he will tell you he has changed, that he is in therapy maybe, or getting help for an addiction(if that is an issue)…he will say ANYTHING to get you back…but it is all LIES! I know! I experienced it…each time I went back the abuse got worse! So bad that he had threatened to kill me while he was doing it. Also, you MUST go into hiding …this is VERY important because they always come after you… Most deaths that happen to abused victims happen after they leave their abuser. Their abuser has lost control…and they will do anything to get it back(whether it be beg, nice things, or even more violent).

BTW..from all the research I have done in the past 7 years since my freedom day…I have found that the verbal is ALWAYS worse. I know I used to sit there and be screamed at for hours…and in my head I would say over and over “PLEASE just hit me and get it over with”.

UGHHHHH I want to say so much because Ive been there(without the cross the world thing..and children). You can read some of my story here (sorry MSM for the personal blog reference..but I think it might be somewhat helpful).

As posted by someone call the DV Shelter! I have done 2 stints in there…(from the same marriage). RUN HIDE!!!! Here in Ohio what happens is that they have you go to a hospital emergency room…they either come pick you up or send a taxi…and they take you to the shelter. If transportation to the liason place is a problem..they work it out with you. The one I was in had programs for the kids, counseling, and assistance with legal, housing, Job and family services..etc. Which leads me to something else…Our domestic violence shelter also has court advocates who can help you get the legal answers you need…PLUS go with you to court(which is sooooooooooo much a would never understand if you have never been there)…

So my advice is definetly contact the local shelter or the national domestic abuse hotline.

If you have a “safe” computer to go to the internet..check out their website Also, develop an escape plan…which sounds silly, but I wish I would have done more of this when I escaped. To see something like this check out . I had to leave with the clothes on my back(this was before I was pregnant with my daughter, thank God.). The shelter gave me clothes to wear and the things I needed, but somethings are just not the same if they arent yours!! Good luck, and if you want to talk…let MSM know..I think she has access to my email address from this comment…if not…Im sure she can get the message to me.

Good luck!!! And I give you all of my best


Single mom in New England June 19, 2008 at 4:11 pm

Belle — I’m glad to hear that you have talked to an attorney and your embassy! That’s great. Also, I’m really proud that you’ve taken the first steps to distance yourself and protect your kids from your abusive husband.

Like you, I also recorded my ex yelling at me in front of our son (you can hear him crying in the background – he was just a baby). I used the recording in court, and I now have sole legal and physical custody.

Yes, verbal abuse can be just as damaging, if not more, than physical abuse. It is harrowing and awful – I know!! Also, the verbal abuse can sometimes escalate to physcial abuse very quickly. Thank God that I have supportive parents that helped pull me out of there fast… once they were aware of the situation. It was hard to come to terms with because I was embarrassed and in denial for a long time. (classic abuse symptoms) But no one should live like that (!!) and I wanted to protect my son from it as well. I am so much happier now, I can’t even tell you.

It’s interesting that the embassy recommended that you stay put. That is good information to know. However, I guess they can’t stop you from taking an extended vacation with the kids back home over summer break from school… but one step at a time… it would be great to have citizenship first (especially if you are planning on moving back for good) and you are doing all the right things – hang in there, be careful, and have a backup plan in case things get dangerous. Also, PLEASE don’t be afraid or embarrassed to call the cops – even if he is only yelling at you. They will be protective of you and even help you get to a shelter if need be.

Just know you’re doing the right thing for you AND your kids!! Keep your chin up, stay strong, and please know that a lot of abused women out there have reclaimed their lives just like you are about to! The woman’s aid hotline should be able to give you more ideas on how to make the transition as smooth as possible when dealing with a hostile man. You can do it! Take care.


mssinglemama June 19, 2008 at 8:57 pm

Thank you all so much for these comments! Each and every one of you is so generous for sharing your stories, because Belle isn’t the only one reading this – this post will be up for a while and who knows how many women will find it through google searches. So thank you all…


ME_BELLE June 20, 2008 at 7:34 am

-Misssinglemama: Yes, i am positive that other women will find this post, just like we did. All the posts are helpful and extremely supportive.

- Dawn: Thank you for the sites and as soon as i read your post i have planning an escape plan. it should be better than to go hide in the basement or to the kids’ room. You are providing us with a lot of great info/ tools!

- New England: I am sorry that other women had and have to go through any kind of abuse. At the embassy, we were all crying like kids but as one of the lady said to me:”Let it out, it will make you feel better”.

Yes, i am embarrassed to call the cops and yes, i am afraid to traumatize my children with a sudden move to a shelter. But things need to be done and I do not trust the future actions of this ‘man’. We did separate in the past, but only for him to come after me, stalking me and harassing me with vulgar notes (i gave up and we got back together). Women, let’s not be a statistic!

FYI–I am sending all my recordings and pages of my journal to my mother in Europe. Also, i have signed on Ebay and to sell books/ clothing to obtain some change.

** I am so Positive!!! Thank you again MSM for the post and the answers. **


mssinglemama June 20, 2008 at 7:55 am

Just remember that if you were to wake up in a shelter tomorrow – completely safe – your children will be better for it. What they are seeing is far more traumatic. I know in my community we have a fantastic shelter for abused women.

Good idea to sell things on eBay … lets us see the link to those eBay items so we can help you out.


Me_Belle June 21, 2008 at 3:40 am

Good Idea, MSM! I will post the links soon… hey! i feel even better since i have already sold 2 textbooks in 2 days!! I am going to be scratching cash from all over the place.

Take care!!


davidrochester June 21, 2008 at 3:26 pm

Belle — Another unexpected source of support and possibly local resource advice might be a local Al-Anon chapter. Even if your husband does not drink, I am quite sure you’d find a great deal of support there from women both who are in terrible domestic situations that they didn’t know how to get out of, and also those who have successfully done it and might be able to mentor you in the process. The meetings are free, completely non-judgmental, and there are always experienced members who want to help newcomers. Some Al-Anon chapters also have babysitting provided. At least in my area, there are some Al-Anon meetings that are specified to be women-only, but in my experience, most Al-Anon meetings are 95% women, so you’d be likely to fit in, and find someone to talk to.


Debbie June 22, 2008 at 12:00 am

To avoid red flags with her abusive husband (because usually abusive husbands like to monitor everything), she should casually flip through her local phone book and find the phone number for a CRISIS CENTER. They can assess the situtation (they can’t give legal advice) and help her find temporary living and legal services. They may even drive her and the children to a safe house. These safe homes are peopled with social workers and other crisis professionals.

Also – if she is not divorced – my divorce lawyer told me before filing that it was easier to leave and ask fthe court’s forgiveness than it was to ask for the court’s permission. Depending on her resources and family support abroad, she may consider leaving the abusive situation and being with family right now. Certainly being with family is much more comforting than being in a shelter. But she should really assess what her resources are abroad before making such a dramatic choice.

I will pray for her and her children’s safety.


L July 10, 2008 at 5:44 am

The first six months after an abuser knows you are leaving for good are the most dangerous.

You know what the safest actions are for you. Listen and trust your gut feeling. Sometimes the safest choice for one person (to leave immediately) might be different from another person’s (to stay put and buy time).

What helped me: Think about the specifics of your own situation – what patterns/clues do you have from the abuse that happened in the past? If needed call a crisis line for help – volunteers where I live are trained to help you assess the level of danger. Make a plan not just for leaving, but what to do if your safety is threatened later after you’ve left.

I got a lot out of reading “the Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker. It’s useful in building your awareness and ability to make decisions in unsafe situations, rather than just reacting.



Belle April 12, 2009 at 2:39 am


Hello, dear MSM and readers.

i wanted to update you and at the same time inform others in similar cases… Being a foreigner and living in an abusive relationship. The following are the advices I have received from 2 attorneys, a therapist and a social worker. I truly hope it will help others…

1. Do not leave until the situation becomes unsafe. If so, safely go to a safehouse.
2. Do not leave! Even if he says it is okay for you to live with the kids.
3. Prepare an emergency exit plan. Practice your exit.
4. Prepare a bag with clothes and copies of birth certificate, utility bills, marriage license, s.s. cards, etc…. I have mailed a copy of every documents I could think of to my mother overseas.
5. keep a journal. Every time I wrote in my journal, I would immediately send the pages overseas.
6. Save as much money as you can.
7. Obtain your citizenship ($675) to have the same rights as your spouse and the children.
8. Get a support system or a therapist to help you if you do not feel ready to leave but you know you have to leave.
9. Know what to tell your children. They are smart and they can figure it out. Just don't say too much.
10. Take your birth control.
11. Talk with someone at your consulate. I was surprised at how often they handle these types of situations.

That's all I could think of for now. Hopefully, I did not take too much space. These advices are based on living in an abusive marriage.

(i will obtain a copy of the book titled "the gift of fear"– tk you)


mssinglemama April 12, 2009 at 3:27 am

Thank you SO much for updating us Belle. I also got your e-mail and just didn't have time to respond. I'm so happy for you… come back and leave another comment with a link to your blog for us.


Me_Belle April 12, 2009 at 1:58 pm

Thanks MSM!

I appreciate your quick reply and your readers replies as well.

Louna Cee


Me_Belle April 13, 2009 at 10:00 pm

Hello, again, MSM! Thank you for your reply and once again, I truly enjoy reading your blog and the comments.. It is great!!! Here is my blog address…

Keep enjoying life to its fullest!! Yeepee! =)

Louna (Me_Belle)

p.s.: you might receive this post twice as for some reason my child's pc is acting up..)


Louna April 21, 2009 at 2:35 pm


After, talking to an international lawyer in my area (a bilingual attorney), here is what he advised me to do concerning my situation.

1. RUN! Go! RUN!
2. It is legal to travel with the children overseas. (As long as you stay with family members)
3. Request a divorce from overseas.
4. GO now! (The Int'l lawyer is currently handling a case where the abused victim did not leave on time and her husband filed for divorce before she could obtain her green card and leave the country with their children…).

It was a relief talking with him… Why did I take so long!
Louna (Me_Belle)


rose andrus June 15, 2009 at 12:19 am

i am asking tis for my daughter. she has bee divorced for over a year and has custody of 3 children. she wants to start dating and her ex says no. she also wants to take her children to disneyland. she lives in oregon. she is also battling kidney cancer and wants to have abd be with her kids at disneyland. i know i am just a 67 yr old grandma and see whather ex is doing. also he has guns and when the jkids visit on weekends he says he took the bullets out and gave tem the guns to play with. my daughter does not like guns but he does it for spite


Andjela February 4, 2015 at 3:40 am

I’ve read it twice now, and I love it more this time. I reviewed the book . Personally, the outer wlrldoy aspect of the book is what I like the most. Too many people over-simplify Heaven. It’s the dwelling place of God’s unfiltered presence: it is definitely beyond our limited comprehension.Thanks for the comment!


roe1957 June 15, 2009 at 1:22 am

i am asking tis for my daughter. she has bee divorced for over a year and has custody of 3 children. she wants to start dating and her ex says no. she also wants to take her children to disneyland. she lives in oregon. she is also battling kidney cancer and wants to have abd be with her kids at disneyland. i know i am just a 67 yr old grandma and see whather ex is doing. also he has guns and when the jkids visit on weekends he says he took the bullets out and gave tem the guns to play with. my daughter does not like guns but he does it for spite


black friday sales at target May 17, 2013 at 12:53 am

Spot on with this write-up, I absolutely believe this
website needs a lot more attention. I’ll probably be back again to read more, thanks for the advice!


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