Today is *Marina’s son’s 2nd birthday and it is the first time she is able to spend the day with him ever since he was abducted by her estranged husband several months ago.
The young couple’s marriage came under strain after their son was born and Marina struggled to receive the help and support she needed.
During the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, Marina had a heated argument with her husband, *Jeffri about financial issues, as he was very tight with the purse strings.
“He is a very calculative person”, she tells us, “and when I asked for a little extra money to buy things for the festive season, he refused.”
That’s when Marina decided to file for a maintenance order so that the Family Justice Court could help explain to her husband and also calculate what would be a reasonable amount for her to receive that would be adequate enough to buy necessities for their son, *Adam and herself.
Although their relationship was strained, Marina was still hopeful that she could somehow reconcile with Jeffri.
But instead of trying to settle things amicably, Jeffri waited for Marina to leave the house to go for her babysitting job which she took up to earn a little pocket money, and that’s when he took Adam away from Marina’s mother and left for his own parents’ house.
When Marina returned from her part-time job, she was shocked to discover that Adam was not there.
She tried to contact Jeffri on his handphone, but he did not answer her calls, so she went to her in-laws’ house, which was when she was met with hostility from everyone there.
She recounts, “They refused to let me into the house to see my son and were just shouting at me, verbally abusing me and kept saying I was money-faced. The whole family was involved — even his grandmother! It was such drama.”
Marina approached the police for help, only to be told that there was nothing much they could do as this was classified as a domestic dispute, since she and Jeffri are a legally married couple.
No matter how much she begged and pleaded with her husband to let her see her son, her requests were denied and she was not allowed to visit him at all.
Her 1-year-old son was still being breastfed at the time he was abducted by his father
Denied of his mother’s breast milk
Adam, who was only a year old at the time, was still breastfed by his mother, so she was desperate to have him back or at least see him again so that she could give him some breast milk.
“I kept begging [my husband] and his family to please let me breast feed my son, but they said that ‘breastfeeding is not needed’ and that they can use formula milk instead”, Marina says.
She had always hoped to be able to breastfeed her child up until the recommended two years, or even beyond, but unfortunately she was denied this right.
Only after sending countless text messages and calling her husband nonstop on the phone, did he grant her request to see her son for no more than two hours, about once or twice a week.
These short visits were also restricted to her in-laws’ house, where she was told to remain indoors at all times and she was not allowed to bring him back home with her.
Marina tells us about the first time she was allowed to see Adam:
“My worst fear was that my son would not recognise me anymore, but he remembered me! He smiled and was a bit coy at first, but then he started getting comfortable with me. He started to laugh and said ‘Mama?’. I was so thankful that he remembered me, because I was so afraid he would forget me”, she says.
At the end of each short visit, when Marina had to go home, Adam would start to cry.
“That is always heart-breaking. He will be very angry when I have to leave, so I try to explain nicely to him so that he understands — I would tell him, ‘Mama is going to work, don’t cry ok?’”, she says.
*Names have been changed to protect their identities
Marina has already filed for a divorce from her husband
No more hope for reconciliation
Marina has been married to her husband for almost three years now, but after Adam was born, the stresses of parenthood put a strain on their relationship.
“We couldn’t get along, there was no communication and we just had a lot of differences”, she shares.
She has since filed for a divorce from her husband and does not regret her decision especially after he used their child as a pawn in their marital war.
According to her, she feels that one of the main reasons Jeffri refuses to give Adam back to her is due to financial reasons:
“My husband is very tight with money, so I think it’s all about money. We have a house, so whoever has custody of the child gets the house. But I’ve already told him that I don’t care about the money, he can take everything! I don’t care. I don’t want anything at all, I just want my son back, that’s it.”
But she also feels that Jeffri probably has had more time to bond with Adam, since she was his main caregiver for the first 20 months of his life and he had left her in charge of the household and child-rearing duties.
“I really didn’t expect [my husband] to do something like this. Maybe he was under pressure from his parents, so they wanted to get back at me. I can see that they haven’t really bonded with my child yet and are just using him as a bargaining chip”, Marina says.
Marina has recently been granted temporary access to her son
Light at the end of the tunnel
After asking the Legal Aid Bureau for help, she was assigned a lawyer for her case.
But things were moving too slowly and as weeks turned into months, Marina got help from a more proactive private lawyer instead who gave her better advice in detail.
“This private lawyer is really good. She gave me more assurance and immediately helped to arrange for temporary access to my son before the final court hearing in December”, Marina explains.
After a recent meeting with a judge, she has now been granted more visitation rights with Adam and is allowed to have him stay overnight with her on alternate weekends.
Although she is very happy that she can finally spend more precious time with her young son, especially on his 2nd birthday, she still feels hurt and shocked that her husband and his family could ever try to separate a child from his mother.
“I hope they admit their mistakes and realise that what they did was wrong. I have no idea how on earth any parent can support their child committing this kind of crime – especially someone who is a mother themselves. How can you do this to another mother?”, she asks.
As for her birthday message to her son, Marina says:
“I hope he grows up well and will become a good person. I just want the best for him and hope [that] one day he will learn from this and he will look back at this time and remember my efforts and can realise and analyse on his own what happened when he was younger. I’m doing all this for him and I’m sorry if I have done anything wrong and for allowing this to happen to him. However, I won’t deny him his father, because no matter what happened, I don’t want him to grow up without his father.”
Do you think a parent has the right to keep a child away from their other parent? What are your views on parental abduction? Share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment below!