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Question
Posted by: Frustrated | 2009-04-11

Split between two countries

Me and my European girlfriend has a 5-yo son which was born in Europe. She has lived her 3-yr maternity leave in SA with me, and afterwards I spend 3 years living with them in Europe, working there as well.

For her to adapt to SA was easier than for me to adapt to Europe. So we discussed returning to SA and she agreed to it. I returned ahead of her last year to prepare everything. However, since then things at her work has been going so that will make it more difficult for her to leave (she' s a civil servant for the government and they are very strict) without losing all her benefits and running the risk of never finding work again in her field if she returns to Europe one day.

Also, I' m not sure if she loves me anymore. She seems completely disinterested (or " too busy" ) to do anything to further our plan to settle in SA. She tells me she is happy in Europe and she don' t know if/when her work will let her leave. Pleas from me to her to do something, speak to some people, and the fact that a son needs his father, seem to fall on deaf ears.

Now I am sitting here in SA, already re-settled (at huge costs), working, got nearly everything ready for them to come over, but now there are unexpected delays from her side with no indication of when she will/can come or whether she' s actually doing anything to further the plan or whether she' s still interested in coming or whether she still loves me.

The frustration is killing me - not to mention not seeing my son. I fly over every couple of months to see my son and help her sort things out, but she' s always " too busy"  with work and nothing comes from my attempts. And obviously, flying over all the time is way too expensive and ridiculous. There is also no way of my retaining my sanity should I go back there - not to mention the effort and costs of settling there again - despite my longing to see my son.

Naturally the best would be as a family to stay together in a place where both were &  are happy - in SA. There are much more Europeans for her to befriend with here than South Africans for me to befriend with there. So, the question is, how should I go about reaching this goal? Is there some different strategy/tactic I should try? Or should I just go back and become depressed again? Or should I just sit here and wait and hope for the best, hoping that they will come one day?

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Our expert says:
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I think she urgently needs the advice of a good labour lawyer --- It sounds unlikely that any European country would be allowed, buy law, to treat any worker in this way. Benefits earned thus far can't, surely, be taken away from ehr, and I don't see how they could prevent her from working there again any time she wants to, especially if she is a citizen of that country of any other European / EEC country. I wonder where she would have heard such threats, which are probably illegal to make. Dare I ask, is it possible these are excuses for not returning to SA ? The Embassy of whatever country she is citizen of and/or working in, should also be able to advise on the relevant labour law issues. She is not, I am sure, entitled to insist on staying in Europe and keepign your son there --- here you will need legal advice, too, including SA legal advice.
There's litle point in just waiting and hoping for the best --- you need to understand the legal facts of the situation, and how to put pressure on her to be fair rather than selfish

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