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Court Decides if Puerto Rican Custody Order can be Upheld in New York


A Puerto Rican couple married while they were citizens and residents of Puerto Rico. They had one son. The marriage was acrimonious. A New York Family Lawyer said the husband physically abused the wife and threatened her life. He threw out the woman from their conjugal home. The woman escaped her abusive husband and fled with her seven month old son.

The wife lived with her relatives in San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico but then a few months later, she left Puerto Rico and settled for good in New York City. Soon after the wife left the conjugal home with her son, her husband filed divorce proceedings against his wife. The woman was not served a summons. She had no idea that divorce proceedings had been filed against her. The husband served her notice of the divorce proceedings by publication in a newspaper of general circulation in Puerto Rico. On the date of the hearing, the wife failed to appear. A default decree of divorce was ordered. Custody was awarded to the husband and no visitation rights were awarded to the woman. The Puerto Rican Court recognized that at the time that it ordered the custody of the child to be given to the father, the physical custody of the child was with the wife. For this reason, the Puerto Rican divorce court also ordered the husband to pay $10 weekly support until such time that the husband gains custody of his son. Despite the custody decree, the husband never looked for his son. He never took physical custody of their son. And he did not pay child support as mandated by the Puerto Rican Court.

A New York Custody Lawyer said the wife went back to Puerto Rico six years after the divorce decree was entered against her. She asked the Puerto Rican divorce court to enforce that part of its decision for her ex-husband to pay child support of $10.

Two years later the ex-husband went to the Family Court of New York to petition for the custody of their son. The husband sought the enforcement of the divorce and custody decree of the Puerto Rican court.

The only question I whether or not the Puerto Rican divorce, custody, visitation and child support decree can be enforced in New York.

The Court held that the Puerto Rican decree cannot be enforced by the Family Court of New York. First, the wife was not duly notified nor served with notice of the divorce petition. Second, the service of notice by publication on the woman through a newspaper in Puerto Rico was ineffective since the husband knew that his wife was in New York. Third, ineffective notice on the wife can only mean that no jurisdiction over her was acquired by the Puerto Rican court. Fourth, because no jurisdiction was acquired by the Puerto Rican court over the woman she cannot be prejudiced by the judgment entered by the Puerto Rican court.

A Queens Family Lawyer said the Court also ruled that the Puerto Rican order of custody cannot be given course and effect because the Puerto Rican court made a decision on the custody of the child without taking the facts of the case into consideration. The wife was abused and threatened. The child has been in the physical custody of his mother from the time that they left the conjugal home until this petition was filed. The wife has continually and consistently supported her son. The father, who was awarded custody, has never even met his son, never tried to communicate with him and has never contributed to his support. The son was interviewed by the court and he has expressed his desire to remain in his mother’s custody for she is the only parent known to him. The child did not even know that he had a father or that his father was dead or alive.

The Petition for custody filed by the father is dismissed. The issue of visitation rights will be visited after a period of six months. In the meantime, a Queens Child Custody Lawyer said visitation shall be awarded to the father under supervision in the home of the mother.

Are you an estranged parent who desires to reconnect with your child? Are you thinking of filing a petition for custody or for visitation rights? Call and visit the offices of Stephen Bilkis and Associates. Their New York Family Lawyers can advice you as to the viability of a petition for custody or visitation rights. The New York City Family Lawyers from Stephen Bilkis and Associates can draft your petition for you. The NYC Family attorneys on staff can help you gather and present your evidence. Speak with any of the NY Family attorneys at any of the offices of Stephen Bilkis in the New York area.

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