My daughter was born 2.5 years ago in California. It was just my pregnant wife and me, with no family to help out. When the baby was born, I asked her parents to come for the delivery, but they said they couldn't make it.
A month after the birth, my wife suffered from mastitis and became very ill. Unexpectedly, her parents showed up with my wife's cousin. An 'intervention' occurred because we were experiencing marriage troubles at the time (this was during COVID, while we were both working from home in a small apartment, in addition to the pregnancy).
Her cousin and parents acted as mediators and eventually asked me to allow her to go to their home in Puerto Rico for a few weeks. Feeling pressured after our heartfelt discussion, I reluctantly agreed.
As she packed her things, I noticed she was taking her work laptop and all her important documents. I questioned her about this because she was on maternity leave, and she told me she still needed to input time (which I found odd because one usually doesn't have to log in every two weeks while on maternity leave).
My suspicions were confirmed when I later discovered she had secretly transferred her office to Puerto Rico. Over the next two weeks, her behavior began to change, and she started telling me she needed more time to recover.
Two months passed, and she informed me she wasn't sure when she would return. Then, she began demanding that she would only return if I bought a home (keep in mind, this was during COVID when home prices in California / the USA, in general, skyrocketed).
Another month passed, and I was served with custody papers filed in Puerto Rico. I filed a parental abduction report with the local District Attorney, and they opened a case, but they refused to take action, stating they preferred we settle the matter in court.
I attempted to reach out to the FBI, but they informed me they couldn't assist since it wasn't an international case; however, they said they would help if I obtained a court order granting full custody. Part of the issue was due to her creating a jurisdictional problem by filing in Puerto Rico.
Another part was because they considered my initial agreement to the visit as not constituting abduction (which I still believe is unfair because it doesn't imply she can permanently relocate - otherwise, anyone could exploit this loophole to leave with children).
Fortunately, I was able to hire a lawyer in Puerto Rico who specialized in parental abduction cases, and he easily dismissed the case. I subsequently filed for custody in California and won jurisdiction.
We underwent mediation, which lasted a year, and they eventually conveyed a few points to me: my daughter has an established life in Puerto Rico, I am a stranger to my daughter, she's too young to be separated from her mother, and it's not in "the best interest of the child" to return to California at this time. Consequently, they permitted her to move to Puerto Rico with my daughter.
However, the mediator mandated that my ex-wife travel to California monthly for a week so I could have visitation time. Considering all aspects of the travel (preparation, early departure for the airport, flight, layover, arrival, any delays), it amounts to approximately 16-20 hours of travel each way. She has to purchase tickets for herself and my daughter.
Currently, she drops off our daughter and returns the following day to avoid incurring hotel expenses and because she needs to work. This situation places a significant burden on her, and unfortunately, on my daughter as well.
Some friends and family tell me she deserves it and that my daughter doesn't mind as long as she has somewhere to sit or sleep, while others argue that it's harsh on both of them, and I should prioritize my daughter's well-being.
These individuals are further divided on whether I should relinquish custody of my daughter (which is not an option), or move to Puerto Rico (which I find unfair due to the vast differences in culture and environment, not to mention the significant pay cut and other challenges).
My ex's father has texted me, accusing me of not being a real man. He fits the stereotype of a macho, manly man, but it's just a facade. My ex has started to express that she cannot sustain this arrangement and might relinquish custody of our daughter.
She keeps asking me to allow her to visit less frequently, suggesting every three months instead. I pointed out to her that one week every three months equates to only four weeks a year, drastically reducing my visitation from 25% to approximately 7%.
Additionally, she could easily transfer back to California or find another job. If she returns to California with the same job, she would earn approximately $90,000 per year, so it's not as though she's financially struggling. So, am I the AITA for standing my ground?
Here are the top comments from the post:
NTA (Not the A%#^ole). She chose to move. Your daughter is 2.5 and is going to be fine. It’s your ex wife that is having problems with the stress and cost of the travel.
Realistically, there are only a few years of this as once your child enters school there will have to be a change - she can’t miss a week of school a month. At that point you will probably be restricted to holiday(s) so take advantage of this time.
Your ex should either suck it up and continue making the monthly trips or she can relocate back to CA where you can both have easy access.
She is the one who deserted you and took the child. Her having to work at complying with the custody agreement is not your problem. You can only develop a relationship with your daughter by seeing her often. If your ex is tired of it, she can move back. All this cr#p is on her. NTA.
If you have in writing her talking about giving up her child due to it being too hard for her to follow the agreement that came from HER actions? Take it up with another custody attempt. Its her own damn fault.
NTA. Do you have her concerns about giving up the child in writing? You should ask a lawyer about your options with that in mind.
NTA. Keep fighting for your daughter. Your ex made this problem for herself so she has to deal with it.
What do you think? Is OP right to keep the visitation agreement in place?