Court:Caring for kid trumps sick mom


            Posted on Mar 15,2009   

            Court: Caring for kid trumps sick mom.

Q. After my husband and I were married in Brazil, we got H1B visas to work in Massachusetts, where our daughter was born in 2007.

After we got into a fierce argument last year, my husband claimed I threatened him and our child. He filed for divorce, and got temporary custody of our daughter, as well as court orders requiring me to move out and pay him child support.

A few months later, when I learned my mother was deathly ill, I took a three-week leave from my job to go be with her in Brazil. Because my mom needed daily care and workers on an H1B visa can't take an extended leave, I had to quit my job, which left me without money to pay child support.

When our divorce case got scheduled for trial I tried without success to get a B1/B2 visitor's visa. I notified the court and asked for a continuance, but the case went ahead anyway. My husband got sole legal and physical custody of our daughter, with no visitation rights to me. He was also awarded ownership of my car, retirement account, computer and everything in our apartment.

To make matters worse, I was found in contempt of court for not paying the back support and ordered to continue paying child support at the same rate as when I had a job.

Did the judge have a right to make those orders?

T.F., Porto Alegre, Brazil

A. You've got more problems than a junk yard dog with fleas - and I've only got limited space to discuss some of the problems you created for yourself.

Massachusetts had personal jurisdiction over you at the time you were served with the summonses in the divorce and contempt cases. You cannot divest the court of that power by leaving this jurisdiction.

When you claimed you had good reasons, you voluntarily left Massachusetts and voluntarily quit the job you needed to pay child support. The court surely had sympathy for your mother, but it had more sympathy for your daughter's need for support. The bottom line is your voluntary action doesn't excuse your nonpayment of child support.

Last, the vacate order obtained by your husband indicates that you voluntarily chose to be violent, which, of itself, is a stumbling block to your ever getting a visitor's visa.