Cape Town mother fights to keep her children from Thailand-based dad
A Cape Town woman is fighting a legal battle in the Western Cape High Court to stop her children from being deported to Thailand – into the custody of their allegedly abusive father.
The woman, who cannot be named, said her children struggled in Thailand after her divorce and it was in her and her children’s best interest to move back home.
When she got married in February 2007, the couple were already a blended family with children from previous relationships, and they later had a daughter and twins together.
They had lived in South Africa, the UK and Singapore before they settled in Thailand, where her ex-husband worked for a private hospital group.
She said he was controlling and emotionally abusive towards her and she later discovered he was grooming her son and sexually abusing their daughter, who was 8 at the time.
The woman said when she explained to her daughter what divorce meant for their family, the child spoke up about the abuse.
“The next day, when he was at work, she said: ‘Promise me one thing, I will live with you and daddy.”
She explained to her daughter how shared custody worked. Reportedly frightened by the prospect of being alone with her father, she said the little girl told her about the sexual abuse.
The authorities in Thailand investigated the allegations but found the child showed no signs of physical abuse.
“Police there told me it’s my daughter’s word against her father’s and they lean towards believing the adult.”
The distraught woman claimed she was repeatedly harassed by her ex-husband and had to rely on charity groups to help her when she was homeless in that country and her children’s visas expired. She added that her ex-husband insisted on seeing his children, even though the divorce agreement states that visitations can only happen if initiated by the children: “They were really scared of him.”
Her ex-husband fought her in the Thai courts and failed, and she left that country with her children, which their divorce and parenting agreement did not prohibit.
Now, with her husband fighting for the return of the children, she said the court had ordered that he was entitled to video calls with them.
“I make sure that after the calls they’re debriefed and at a safe space with a therapist, because it’s difficult for them,” she said. Panicked that the children could be taken away from her and legally forced to return to Thailand to their dad, she said she had to prepare them for this possibility.
“After the court case, I took them to Green Point Park and with a good friend of mine explained they might have to see their father again... it did not go well,” she said.
“The children aren’t eating, the 11-year-old is wetting the bed and their nightmares are so bad they won’t sleep in their own beds.”
The attorney handling her case said the matter was before the Western Cape High Court and judgment was expected soon.
“The matter was argued on July 24.”
The judge has asked that the legal representative prepare orders for both eventualities – of the children being returned to Thailand and remaining in South Africa.
Their father is British but has South African citizenship and is living in Thailand. In his affidavit to the court, he denied the allegations of abuse:
“The fact that (the child) wanted to spend time with me on all those occasions is inconsistent with a child that fears me, suffers from anxiety around me and who has been abused by me as claimed.”
He further claimed that his ex-wife’s recollection of events in Thailand was untrue.
Judgment in the case is expected next week.