Q. My husband has been physically and emotionally abusive through our marriage. I always hoped he’d stop. Now have 8-month-old twins. I’m a teacher who took a one-year sabbatical so that I could care for the twins.
In July, my husband convinced me to rent our Massachusetts home and travel with him to Morocco on a six-month tourist visa. I learned there that – without my knowledge – he’d bought a house in which he wanted to stay permanently.
In Morocco, his abuse escalated. He pushed me down a flight of stairs, pulled a knife on me during an argument, and screams at our babies when they cry. He agreed I could bring the twins back to Massachusetts for three weeks for my mom’s 60th birthday surprise party while he stayed in Morocco. The real reason for leaving is that I was and still am terrified by his conduct.
Do I have to go back?
A. Not only do you not have to, you absolutely should not go back. Instead you need to file a complaint for divorce in Massachusetts. Check the boxes asking the court to grant you sole legal and physical custody of your babies, child support, alimony, and an equal asset division which would include the Morocco house. After the court issues a summons you’ll need to serve it on your husband in Morocco using the Hague Convention on Civil Service Abroad. See hcch.net. Both the US and Morocco have signed this and the Hague convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
Also request the probate court to issue an abuse prevention – keep away – order. Then send him a copy by email. In Massachusetts, any delivery of a restraining order – which results in your husband having knowledge of that order – is enough to hold him accountable for any violations of the order.
When you don’t return to Morocco as he expects, you might be a defendant in his case seeking a court order requiring you to return the twins to him in Morocco. But he should lose his case because you continue to have a job and home (albeit temporarily rented) in Massachusetts, and you had only a tourist visa in Morocco. So he can’t prove you gave up your Massachusetts domicile and agreed to permanently move with the twin to Morocco. Also, because your children weren’t out of Massachusetts more than six months, Massachusetts still has jurisdiction over them.
Your husband might show up here and try to fool you into letting him take the twins for a walk, etc. so he could then take the twins back to Morocco. Don’t be fooled. Always keep your cell phone with you. If he contacts you by phone, mail, or in person, immediately call 911 to say he’s violated the abuse protection order. I’d bet – even after he’s been arrested for violating the abuse protection order – he’ll never figure out he’s the fool.