Sunday, October 10, 2010

To Death Do Us Part, A Guatemalan Divorce Nightmare

My Guatemalan husband divorced his Guatemalan wife here in the US. The papers were sent her way, she signed for them, and years ago he went to court in Rhode Island to get a divorce so that we could get married and adjust his status here in the US. We'd been together for a year or so, and his "wife" met another man shortly after he came to the US and had a child with him. My hubby had the pleasure of supporting them by sending home money for his two children, not knowing that she had a new man and a new baby to support. When he found out, well, the gravy train stopped and the boyfriend was long gone... (yes, he continued to support his kids by paying for their education, materials for school and uniforms and all clothing needed directly by sending the $ to his parents who paid for those things to make sure it was being spent on the kids)

Anyways, the lawyer told us that the paperwork would also be filed in Guatemala-but come to find out, it was never done. Now, over 10 years later we find that his divorce was never registered there. Actually his ex wife called last Christmas time asking for a divorce. Apparently she believed she was still married since the paperwork had never changed and when she went to register her newest child with yet another new boyfriend they told her she had to get a divorce first. Sigh... so we headed to the Guatemalan Consulate in Rhode Island and submitted all the paperwork for verification. For those that are unfamiliar with this, it is very hard to do since each signature must be verified-the court clerk, the notary who did the translation from English to Spanish, and the judge's signature-all verified by the Secretary of State in RI then brought to the Consulate for official stamps and then the paperwork needs to go to the Ministry of Exterior Relations where it is verified yet again. Then off to RENAP (their registry of people in the country) or so we thought.

We actually took in the paperwork during our visit in June/July and were told that a verification of one signature more was needed. Why someone from the Consulate did not tell us that in the first place, I don't know. So we came back to the US on July 6th and headed to the Secretary of State's office in RI and got that signature verified. Then sent it via express courier to my brother in law to take it back to the Ministry of Exterior Relations. And it sat for a week or so, until they told him to come back, pay a fee, and then told him it was all set. Or so he thought.

My brother in law brings the paperwork to RENAP only to have it refused-twice. Apparently the translations we have provided here and had to have verified weren't legal. So we had to pay for MORE translations there. And then pay the lawyer for her stamp. And on the 28th of September it was supposed to be all set. But it wasn't, because now the JUDGE needs to stamp it as well. Everyone gets a fee, for a stamp, a signature, or whatever. I originally told hubby we should have paid a lawyer in Guatemala to do this for us once we found out the divorce wasn't registered. But he refused. Too expensive he says... Um, the fees for the translation, the lawyer RENAP suggested (who happened to work in their office btw) and the judge are adding up.

Once the judge puts his signature and stamp on it, it's back to RENAP for my brother in law. He will turn in the paperwork and *pray* that they will issue my hubby a new birth certificate that says he is single. Once that happens, his ex can get married and register her kids with her new man. Now this has been going on since APRIL so I can only hope we will have some success. (FYI, Guatemala has begun a new process which is using a different format birth certificate and has begun a new national ID card as well-the system is a bit messed up and has had its share of problems since Day 1)

Once hubby gets a birth certificate from his brother stating he is SINGLE, it is back to the Guatemalan Consulate in RI again for us. This time, with our own marriage certificate from 1998, my info, etc... and all those signatures, stamps etc... to be verified again before being sent to Guatemala and the Ministry of Exterior Relations to register our marriage and add my name to his birth certificate. Hubby will be heading down there in December and hopes to get this paperwork resolved and our daughter's Guatemalan birth certificate (she is a dual citizen) so we can get her passport. (from Guatemala-she still has her US one)

It's funny because my hubby has family members here who are married legally in Guatemala and married here in the US too. It used to be easy to rip out the page that was on their Cedula stating their civil status (married) which is one of the reasons I think that Guatemala has put all that stuff on one ID card instead. I have in the past argued with these people saying they are bigamists, but they just ignored me. Their wives here apparently weren't too upset either. I've met many Guatemalan people who have said to me that they thought the marriage in Guatemala was only valid there, and their marriage to US spouse was only valid HERE. Um, no-you are married in one country, you are in the other as well. Until you get a divorce...or are caught for bigamy. Granted, I can see why so many people don't bother to get a divorce over there, it is expensive and a pain in the a$$ to do so. Everyone has got their palm out asking for money for a stamp, a validation or a signature. (but even here in the US, greasing the right palms is done on a regular basis, though it may not be as noticeable here at first glance)

So now I sit and wait-Guatemala knows hubby is divorced legally, the Consulate told us not to worry about it, all was done correctly-though they did scold us a bit and say the divorce would have been much easier had it been done in Guatemala to begin with. But, according to them, it is their citizens responsibility if they live in another country to make the changes at their local Consulate so it DOES get reported to their country as well, something our lawyer who charged us $$$ here in the US did not tell us. (and yes, he was a lawyer who worked with many immigrants and knew the requirements!)

So here we wait, since April, for the right paperwork to be done so we can register our own marriage down there. My brother in law is traumatized by all he's had to go through, and he's not even the one married. (and he states that he won't be either, after seeing all of this take place-much to the ire of the woman he has lived with for the past 10 years or so) After all this is done, I will breathe a big sigh of relief-but it won't last too long because I still need to adjust my daughter's status to having parents that are married on her birth certificate. (the Consulate put parents are SINGLE since they couldn't put us as married as he was already married per their records...to a different woman) Wish me luck!

1 comment:

Expat Mom said...

Ah the joys of red tape. This is one of the reasons Irving and I aren't married. His ID says "Soltero" still! Technically, we are commonlaw, but he didn't put that on the paperwork when he went to get the new card.