Thursday, April 02, 2009

Permission to Breathe

I really wish that divorced parents could sort out the way they divide up the time with their children without resorting to kidnapping.

Quite apart from the obvious traumatic drawbacks, it gives the rest of us foreign parents a bad name and gets to make life extremely difficult. We are treated with suspicion, as potential child kidnappers, and obliged to request permission everywhere just to take the kids on a little holiday to visit the rest of the family.

When French children leave France to go on a school trip, one of their parents has to go to the mairie and fill in a form for an Autorisation de Sortie de Territoire. This is shown by the child at the border, with his ID card, and with luck, ensures that the teacher does not then cart him off to South America.

For divorced parents, unless the child has a passport, this document is needed every time the child is to leave the country within Europe, even when travelling with a parent. The ID card is valid within the EU countries only however which, I seem to remember, have agreements on sending children back if they are abducted.

Well, I suppose it's another layer of security.

Another layer is added for divorced parents. When they apply for this Sortie de Territoire, the other parent has to go to his/her local mairie and sign a paper saying that s/he authorises the ex-spouse to make the request, and send it to the mairie in charge of drawing up the document. Then that document has to be signed by the authorised signature at the mairie (like the mayor) and once you've gone through all that, you and your child can go and see granny and make a foray to Primark.

Of course, it means that vengeful parents can block their kids going anywhere, prevent them from having a holiday, seeing the other side of the family, and generally having fun. I'm not sure how the law deals with spite.

My eldest is on a school trip to the UK at this very moment. I had to get one of these authorisations and you should have seen the suspicion with which the fonctionnaires treated me. It was a school trip, so I was not going and thus hardly a likely candidate for carting him off to South America. Yet, I was told that, given my situation, they could hardly be too careful. I felt like ramming the sodding paper up their noses.

The school trip next year is to the US. I have a feeling my eldest will not be going as that would involve getting him a passport, and that would make it much easier for me to up sticks and bugger off to some terrorist-prone zone of the world. Leaving behind my youngest, and the cat, obviously.

Rationality is sometimes not the strong point of a divorced parent. Paranoia, on the other hand, is...

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