call custody cease-fire for kids sake.

            Posted on Mar 1,2009   

            Call custody cease-fire, for children's sake.

Q. During our 2006 divorce, my husband had temporary custody of our three children. I had visitation rights and paid child support. In July 2006, I helped him and the kids move temporarily to his folks' home in Bridgeport, Conn., where he also started working for his dad's company.

In December 2006, we reconciled and dismissed the divorce. He was supposed to return to Massachusetts, but in February 2007 said he'd be staying permanently in Connecticut.

In July 2007, I filed another divorce in Massachusetts seeking custody of our kids. In November 2007, the court ordered the kids returned to Massachusetts because I'd agreed only to let them leave temporarily. Then a judge in Connecticut awarded my husband sole custody and ordered I not remove the kids from CT. The two judges talked on the phone a few times, each concluding the other was wrong. Then things got crazier.

I filed for contempt. He didn't show and was ruled in default for the next step would have been his arrest. But, the Connecticut judge then enjoined law enforcement authorities from assisting in his arrest. The Massachusetts judge ordered authorities to assist me in obtaining physical custody of the children. But the CT judge enjoined its authorities from helping me.

In March 2008, my Massachusetts divorce was tried. He didn't show. I was awarded sole legal custody, with no visits to my husband.

In July 2008 the MA judge vacated our December 2006 dismissal finding my ex-husband had committed a fraud against me. He ruled that dismissal gave Massachusetts jurisdiction and again ordered that the children be returned from Connecticut. But nothing has happened since then.
What's your advice?

S.W., Harvard

A. First, you had to, but didn't claim fraud within one year of the December 2006 dismissal, so your motion should have been denied. Besides that first divorce case was superseded by your March 2008 divorce judgment.

Second, hoodwinked or not, the kids were outside Massachusetts for more than six months before you filed in July 2007. Consequently MA had no jurisdiction over them and had no power to make orders regarding your kids' custody or visitation.

Third, stop spinning your wheels. Vacate all Massachusetts orders dealing with custody and visitation.

Fourth, go make peace in Connecticut and do whatever's needed to start seeing your kids again, including supervised visitation and paying child support. While this won't be easy, it will be worth it.