When The Child was born, The Foreigner and I went to the local Dutch consulate and registered her birth: Dutch citizen born abroad. She was entered, with my written permission, into The Foreigner’s passport. I also arranged a U.S. passport for her, in spite of The Foreigner’s objections. We were planning a trip to the Netherlands, and he argued that she could both enter and leave both countries on just her Dutch passport.
I thought it was a bit odd that he would object to her having both of the passports to which she was entitled, and also thought it might appear a bit odd that a child of a U.S. citizen would not be carrying a U.S. passport when she re-entered the United States. The Foreigner argued the point, but then he argued about a lot of things, so I don’t remember the specific reasons he gave. In the end, we took the trip, and The Child entered the Netherlands on her Dutch passport. She re-entered the United States on her U.S. passport a few weeks after that.
A few days after our arrival home, The Foreigner announced he wanted a divorce, and since things hadn’t worked out between us, he had no reason to stay in the United States once we were no longer married; he intended to return to The Netherlands. My Best Friend had to point out to me that most people would consider their own child to be a good reason to stay anywhere, then urged me to hire a divorce lawyer who specialized in international divorces.
I thought she was being excessively dramatic, but she was insistent, and persuaded me that a consultation wouldn’t hurt. So I met with Portland’s pre-eminent international custody specialist divorce lawyer, and explained the situation. My husband was having a breakdown of some sort, I explained, but we weren’t really getting a divorce.
I don’t remember in detail what he said, except for this one thing: If The Foreigner took The Child to the Netherlands and there were no legal proceedings underway here, I would have a hell of a time getting her back. Then he explained the legal steps we could take to ensure her return if The Foreigner did take her out of the country. Finally, the attorney asked, if I prepare the papers, will you sign them?
That was the moment I decided to file for the divorce I didn’t really want: Losing The Child was a risk I was not willing to take.
In the back of my mind, the discussion about Dutch versus U.S. passports was playing, dim and garbled, but at some point it dawned on me that The Child could not have re-entered the country after our trip without The Foreigner, if she’d had no U.S. passport.
When I returned to the attorney’s office a couple of days later to sign the papers, I delivered two U.S. passports for safekeeping – mine and The Child’s. I had also checked the Foreigner’s passport, and considered asking the lawyer to hold that, too, except that I noticed a curious and helpful detail: it about to expire. He could, of course, renew his passport, but adding The Child to his renewed passport would require my signature.
The Foreigner presented me with the needed papers shortly after, and I was so stunned by the request that I signed them. But then, rather curiously and helpfully, The Foreigner left the signed papers sitting on his desk, like a trophy, for quite some time. I scratched out my signature when he was out walking the dogs one day.
The Foreigner didn’t notice, but the passport office did.
He was enraged, but there was nothing he could do to induce me to sign, or ever trust him again.
There wasn’t much trust left by then, of course.