TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A U.S. citizen has left his job and flown to Taiwan to try and gain custody of his daughter after his Taiwanese wife allegedly abducted her twice and has refused to allow him to see the child in over a year and a half.
The 38-year-old man, who goes by the nickname "Ari," was born in Ashkelon, Israel, but his family moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina, when he was 18 months old. At the age of 16, his family immigrated to the U.S., where he has lived ever since, becoming a naturalized citizen in 2010.
Having recently moved to the San Francisco Bay Area for work as a software engineer. While there, Ari met his future spouse on a dating app. The woman, now 32, had been living in the U.S. for over five years prior to meeting him.
Their relationship developed rather quickly, and in October 2014, the couple began living together in the city of San Mateo, California. Ari proposed to her in September the following year.
Spouse (left), Ari. (Ari photo)
The couple had a civil ceremony in February 2016 and a formal wedding in July in Napa Valley. Their daughter was born a little over two years later and is now two and a half years old.
She told Ari that their daughter would not be able to receive Taiwanese citizenship if she was not born in that country, and he acquiesced to having her delivered in Taiwan. In exchange, she agreed that three months after delivery, she and their child would fly to Florida, where Ari already had job prospects lined up.
The couple traveled to Taiwan in February 2018, three months prior to the delivery date. During their stay in Taiwan, she told Ari that her father was "in the worst financial crisis of his life" and that he was in desperate need of cash immediately. Over the course of his six months in Taiwan, Ari lent her father over US$50,000, but he claims this loan was never repaid.
As part of his preparations to return to the U.S., Ari found a job in Florida as a consultant for ThoughtWorks, Inc, which assigned him to clients such as McKinsey & Co and Spotify. He says the couple also found a "beautiful home" in Boca Raton, Florida, and finally returned to the U.S. in October of 2018 after she had recovered from childbirth and their daughter was of age to board a plane.
First alleged abduction
However, Ari alleges that only five days after she had arrived at their new Florida home, on Nov. 5, 2018, she "abducted" their daughter and took her to Los Angeles. He said her explanation for suddenly leaving was that she "does not like Florida."
After weeks of unsuccessfully trying to convince her to return, Ari was forced to take time off from his job and travel to Los Angeles to see his wife and daughter. However, Ari alleges that she had already hatched a plot to have her father travel to the U.S. to pose as the father of the baby in order to "abduct" the child and take her to Taiwan.
Ari holding his newborn daughter. (Ari photo)
As their daughter has both American and Taiwanese passports, Ari alleges that they used the Taiwanese passports to flee from the U.S. without him knowing.
Two months later, she traveled by herself to the U.S., leaving the child with her parents in Taiwan. She then allegedly demanded that Ari send funds for her to live in an apartment on the waterfront in New York City or she would never let him see their daughter again.
Ari's first flight to Taiwan
Ari says that he refused to relent to the "absurd demand" and instead took emergency family leave from his job and flew to Taiwan to see his daughter. He was only able to take enough leave to stay in Taiwan for one week.
Throughout this time, she assured him that she would return to the U.S., asked for his sponsorship of U.S. papers, and continued to demand that he provide her full financial support to live in New York. He claims that she completely ignored the fact that his new job was in Florida, that she had agreed to live there prior to delivering their daughter in Taiwan, and that the couple had a household in the peninsular state.
In April of 2019, she finally returned to the U.S. with their daughter but refused to come to Florida. She insisted on moving to New York City, and Ari alleges that she falsified paperwork to obtain a US$3,500-a-month apartment in the city.
Ari claimed that he was forced to support her in New York, with monthly expenses surpassing US$8,000. Ari says he had no choice, as he feared that if he did not comply with her demands, she would abduct the child again.
He agreed to support her fully but asked that she return the child's passports to him, as he was concerned that she was unstable and might abduct the child again. However, she refused and became angry, accusing him of not trusting her.
Ari said he did not consider divorcing her at this stage because she would not be able to stay in the U.S.
Second alleged abduction
In August of 2019, she asked Ari to ship their car from Florida to New York. He believes she did this with the goal of selling the car for the cash.
When he refused to do so, he alleges that she decided to "abduct" the child yet again. Ari said he was under the impression that she was "just planning to sell the car and run away anyway."
In September of that year, Ari filed for divorce in Broward County, Florida. She returned to the U.S. that same month, but this time she came again alone, leaving the child with her parents in Taiwan.
He claims she lied about coming with the child. The New York City Sheriff's Office served her with divorce papers, and a judge's order issued stated she must return the child's passports, but the child was not with her. She ignored the judge's order and fled to Taiwan.
Ari has not seen his daughter in person since August 2019. During this period, his lawyers strongly advised him not to travel to Taiwan.
In the time since he has last seen his daughter, She has purportedly continued to ask for more and more money from Ari. However, he claims she has completely denied him any access to the child.
According to Ari, she has not even allowed him to see the child over video. She has allegedly rarely sent him pictures of her and continually pressured him to drop the divorce case in Florida.
He accuses her of hurling "extreme brutal verbal abuse" on a daily basis while he begged her to return with their daughter and enable him to her. Ari says that she is still demanding U.S. sponsorship papers, but she is fighting against the divorce case in the U.S. while filing for divorce and monetary compensation in Taiwan.
In January of this year, after the alleged verbal and psychological abuse and what he described as "extreme anguish" over not being able to see his daughter, he lost his position as a lead consultant at ThoughtWorks.
Ari's second flight to Taiwan
After obtaining help from the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the Israeli consulate, and the Taiwan representative office in Miami, Ari was able to obtain a special COVID-19 visa, and he traveled to Taiwan on Nov. 21 of this year. After spending over a month in Taiwan, including the 14-day quarantine, Ari has yet to be able to see his daughter face-to-face.
On Dec. 10, he attempted to visit her home with police and two lawyers. However, she told the police that he comes from a country affected by the coronavirus and that for the safety of the child, she would not let him see her.
He then presented a document showing his completion of his 14-day quarantine to the police. When officers drove Ari to her house, she made the police wait outside until she reached her lawyer, who stated that the child was not home at that time (8:30 p.m.).
On Dec. 15, Ari filed criminal charges against the child's mother for child alienation and child abduction. Although there is a divorce case pending in Florida, she has filed for divorce in Taiwan.
Ari's lawyers are seeking to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction. Ari says he just wants his daughter back.
She had initially agreed with his lawyers that she would bring their daughter to meet him at Taipei 101 on Dec. 13, but she backed out at the last minute. Finally, later that day, she allowed him to have a brief video call with her, one year and five months after he had last seen her.
She then allowed brief video chats on Dec. 16 and Dec. 18 and allegedly plans for more calls on Dec. 23 and Dec. 25. Ari contends that the problem with the video chats is that they take place late at night when the child is exhausted while the TV blares in the background and adults feed her and distract her with toys.
On Dec. 18, he heard from his lawyer that she might be willing to let him see his daughter for one hour, but on the condition that it takes place at the Nangang Police Station. However, he told Taiwan News he did not think this was suitable for two reasons:
- It's not a good memory for the child to meet her father at a police station after one and a half years.
- He thinks it may be a trap, as he suspects her father may have connections with that precinct.
As of publication, Ari has yet to see his daughter in person. He says that the first hearing in the divorce proceedings will be held Dec. 23.
Taiwan News contacted Ari's spouse and asked if she had any comments about the allegations Ari has put forward. She declined to directly respond to the accusations and simply confirmed that she has indeed filed for divorce in Taiwan and that the proceedings are underway.