Child Support Obligations When One Spouse Hides the Children

Frivolous lawsuits are notorious when someone is pursuing damages, but they are not exclusive to personal injury claims. In some instances, a family law court will need to deal with a lawsuit that has virtually no legal groundwork beneath its feet. The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Graff managed such a case a few years ago, and the lessons it embodied are still pertinent today.

Mrs. Boswell Hides Children for 15 Years

Vladixia Boswell and John Boswell divorced back in 1985, and the trial court at the time gave physical custody of both children – ages 5 and 3 – to Mrs. Boswell. The court ordered that Mr. Boswell pay her $140 in child support each month, which he did, but only for a short while. Only two months after the divorce, Mrs. Boswell abruptly moved out of state, changed the names of both of the children, and never gave Mr. Boswell her new address. After checking with the District Attorney, Mr. Boswell learned that they did not know where she was either and he stopped paying the child support.

It would be 15 years until Mrs. Boswell would finally reveal her location and the identities of her children to Mr. Boswell. She chose to surrender primary custody of their son, but not their daughter, at that time. In 2013, another 15 years after the custody exchange, Mrs. Boswell brought a claim against Mr. Boswell that stated he owed her more than $92,000, or all of the child support he had not paid her in the time she had disappeared with their children.

All the Makings of an Unreasonable Demand

Mr. Boswell came to the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Graff for legal assistance. Following an initial court trial, it was held that it was unreasonable to expect Mr. Boswell to pay all of that child support when he was wrongly denied any access to his children. The court would not enforce the child support order. Not satisfied with the decision, Mrs. Boswell appealed the ruling to a higher court.

My law firm was once again called upon to represent Mr. Boswell for the appellate case. Through a closer investigation of the previous court case, and a secondary review of the details behind the original claim, I was able to secure an affirmation that denied Mrs. Boswell’s appeal. The appellate court ruled in Marriage of Boswell that in order for a spouse to receive equity, he or she must reciprocate equity; in other words, Mrs. Boswell cannot unfairly hide her children from Mr. Boswell and still expect to be given her fair amount of child support. Furthermore, if Mrs. Boswell had truly been inconvenienced by the lack of child support, it stands to say that she would have sought the missing payments around the same time as the custody exchange of their son. Instead, she waited another 15 years to bring it up.

Impact of Marriage of Boswell Today

The unusual circumstances in Marriage of Boswell brought the attention of legal professionals and associations throughout California and beyond. It was named one of the top 40 cases of its kind in 2014 and was certified for publication. Perhaps upset over the appellate court’s decision, all 58 Department of Child Support Service (DCSS) offices in all the counties across California asked the California Supreme Court to de-publish the ruling. Recognizing the important implications of the case result, the California Supreme Court upheld it and denied all 58 requests.

If you would like to know more about this landmark child support case, you can read a detailed article from FindLaw by clicking here. If you need a Westlake divorce attorney for a complicated family law dispute of your own, I encourage you to contact my law firm at your first opportunity. I offer free consultations so my clients can know what to expect without having to pay upfront.

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