Child support order extends across the ocean

Washington state readers of this blog who follow child support issues will be interested in a story that crosses international borders in a very dramatic way.

In April 2010, a Russian boy’s adoptive American mother sent him back on a plane, alone with a Russian passport containing a visa to the United States, a backpack full of clothes and a letter attempting to revoke his adoption.

On May 18, a Tennessee judge ordered the woman to pay $1,000 per month in child support to the boy, who is now in a Moscow area orphanage. The ruling also requires the woman to pay fees totaling $150,000.

The fees include $58,000 for the boy’s health care and support. The judge also awarded the adoption agency $29,000 for expenses and almost $63,000 in legal fees.

In this case, the judge deemed the boy to have been abandoned. The boy’s adoptive mother is required to begin the payments in June and must continue to do so until the boy is 18 years old.

Notably, the adoptive mother in this case lives in California and does not reside in Tennessee. In fact, she was absent from all of the hearings. The agency that facilitated the adoption sued the adoptive mother and a national adoption advocacy group joined the lawsuit.

Judges have wide discretion to order child support and are generally charged with acting in the best interests of the child. Here, the judge upheld an argument that the adoption created a lifelong legal obligation to the child and that parents who adopt a child have the same responsibilities and rights toward that child as they would a biological child.

The judge in this case took the position that the best interests of this child would be served by requiring significant child support, regardless of where the child lived.

Source: The Los Angeles Times, “Woman who sent adopted boy back to Russia must pay $1,000 a month,” Michael Muskal, May 18, 2012