From Russia with custody issues


            Posted on Jul 22,2007    .     

            From Russia with custody issues.

Q. Since our son was born five years ago, my wife has been going deeper and deeper into depression. But she won't see a professional to get help.

We're both from Russia, here on temporary visas that expire in six months. I want a divorce and custody of our son and to be able to take him back to Russia. I'm worried my wife might not move back because she likes it better here.

Also, if we don't end up in the same country, no matter which of us gets custody, our son can be hurt by lack of contact with the other parent.

What's my best strategy?

B.E., Watertown

A.  If you've been your son's primary caretaker, you'll probably get primary physical custody. If not, and you really want his physical custody, then you've got to start doing way more than half the child care.

This will immediately let you find out what it really takes to care for a 5-year-old. And your wife will get relief from being the primary caretaker, which may help her mental health.

If you're not the primary caretaker and don't want to be, you can move back. But you cannot force your wife or your child to move back to Russia.

If, for example, your wife gets primary physical custody, you'll need to work out travel plans to come to see your son in the States during the school year and for him to travel to see you in Russia during his two-week Christmas and eight-week summer school vacations.

Also, get virtual visitation two or three times a week using a computer with a microphone and video camera in each home. That way the two of you can see each other while you talk; and your wife can see and talk with your son when he's with you.

There are lots of groups that have ideas to help long-distance parents keep in touch with their kids. So do your on-line homework.