can't buy custody, but sure can try.


            Posted on Sep 10,2006   

            You can't buy custody, but you sure can try.

Q.   My wife, Shamba, and I were born in Nigeria. We met and married while working in England. While my wife was pregnant, we moved to Massachusetts and bought a house where we were living when our baby boy, Karl, was born.

A few months later, her folks came for a month long visit. One day, when I got home from work, Karl, Shamba, her parents and lots of stuff were gone. I discovered later they packed and shipped silverware, crystal, linens, towels and other stuff to Nigeria. That morning, after I left for work, they flew to Nigeria.

Shamba has refused all my telephone calls. I went to her father's home in Nigeria to try to see Karl. Shamba called the police and claimed I abused her and Karl. I was told to and did leave. It's well-known the local courts in Nigeria are corrupt and Shamba's father has influence there.

Since Shamba left, I haven't been able to sleep or eat. I miss Karl. What can I do to get my baby back?

K.K., Concord

A.   If you spend money on lawyers, nothing good will come from it.

Even though Karl was here for only a few months, Massachusetts is his home state and habitual residence. Shamba was cruel and abusive toward you. So, you have grounds to file immediately for divorce. The divorce judgment probably will award you all remaining assets and grant you Karl's sole legal and physical custody. But, Shamba will ignore the custody order and the Nigeria courts probably won't enforce it.

Nigeria hasn't joined the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. So that does you no good in asking Nigeria to order an immediate return of Karl to Massachusetts.

You need to fight in Nigeria for custody or visitation rights. But all this time your wife has been Karl's sole caretaker. That, plus her claim you were abusive, might result in her having sole custody, especially if she has home court advantage in a court which you say is corrupt.

My advice: use your money to try to buy your way into visitation. Send money to Shamba every month saying it's to help her support Karl. Tell her, again and again, you are not going to fight her for custody and hope that someday she will permit you to have some visitation with Karl in her parents' home. Send Karl birthday and holiday cards. Send him pictures of you. If you can, send age appropriate clothing, toys, bikes, etc. for Karl to use. As he gets older, send a larger check each month.