Los Angeles, CA–In my blog post British Professor Held in Rat-Infested Brazilian Prison over Alleged Child Support Arrearage, I detailed the ordeal of Martin Boyle. According to the Daily Mail:
Martin Boyle is being held in a Sao Paulo prison over unpaid child support. A British university lecturer has been thrown into a rat-infested Brazilian prison over claims that he owes £20,000 in child support. Martin Boyle, 45, is in a cell with ten other inmates in Sao Paulo while his family in Britain face ever-increasing demands for cash.
He flew to the South American country last Friday determined to be reunited with his 16-year-old daughter Rebeca by his Brazilian former wife Mara. But instead of seeing her, he was immediately taken into custody and accused of owing more than £4,000 to Mara. His retired parents, Peter and Mary Rose Boyle, raided their pension to meet the ‘debt’ and get their son released – only for the Brazilian authorities to accept the money but then demand a further £16,000. Martin Boyle, who lectures in linguistics at the University of Kent in Canterbury, met Mara when she studied at his private English school in London in the 1980s. They moved to Brazil together and married, but their relationship broke down a few years after the birth of Rebeca and Mr. Boyle returned to Britain. His father, a retired merchant seaman, said: ‘He’s been trying to gain access to Rebeca for years but it has always been denied by his former wife.’ Heartbroken by seeing other fathers and children at a recent family wedding, Mr. Boyle embarked on a spur-of-the-minute trip to Brazil hoping to see Rebeca for the first time in seven years. The Brazilian authorities demanded £4,156 they claim Mr. Boyle owes for child support dating back to 2003. His father said: ‘It was all wired to Brazil through the Foreign Office. Now they are demanding £16,000 more. ‘A cynic might say this was a scam’…
The full article is here. I wrote:
Leaving aside possible corruption/extortion by Brazilian officials, to me the central question here is Boyle’s assertion that his ex-wife was denying him access to his child. If that’s true, he shouldn’t owe anything. If she did allow access, I think child support was appropriate, particularly given the comparative poverty of Brazil. Boyle’s decision to leave Brazil and return to England after the break-up of his marriage doesn’t speak too well of him. However, it’s possible he was unable to make a living in Brazil. It’s also possible that she was denying him access while they were in Brazil, and he figured by leaving he had little to lose. One thing is for certain–I don’t trust most governments (including Brazil’s) to fairly adjudicate an international child support dispute.
Martin recently contacted me, and Robert Franklin spoke with him and wrote an update on the case below, providing Martin’s prespective. Martin Boyle, Part II When last we saw British professor Martin Boyle, he was incarcerated in prison in Sao Paulo, Brazil for alleged child-support arrearage. He”s out now and back in the U.K., having never gotten to see his daughter Rebecca. To bring you up to date, Boyle and wife Mara were married in 1988 and Rebecca was born in 1990. They separated in 1992 and were divorced in 1996. Mara cut off all contact between Martin and his daughter beginning in 1994, although she permitted some brief telephone contact in 1999. Pursuant to the divorce decree, Martin was to pay child support and be permitted visitation with Rebecca. This included her spending time with him in the U.K. Martin continued making his payments until two years ago when Mara stopped acknowledging them or the gifts he sent. Instead, he deposited over £50,000 in a bank account in Britain in Rebecca”s name. Unknown to him, Mara had remarried and her new husband had adopted Rebecca, terminating Martin”s parental rights in his absence, without notice to him and based on Mara”s perjured testimony that she didn”t know where he was. Desperate to see his daughter, Martin took a leave of absence from his job and flew to Brazil, only to be arrested at the airport and imprisoned for 30 days. At first the Brazilian government charged him with owing £4,000 child support, but, when he paid that, upped the ante to £20,000. So Martin likely will not get to see Rebecca until she becomes an adult, if then. To American fathers, this is familiar stuff. As usual, courts only enforce half of the divorce decree – the child-support half. Courts and various agencies of government are dogged when it comes to getting child-support money. In some cases it doesn”t matter who they get it from; anyone will do, the father or someone who”s not the father. But the visitation part – ah, that”s another story. Custodial mothers can move out of state or out of the country, effectively nullifying the father”s rights and courts are mostly indifferent. Custodial mothers can create elaborate fictions about why they don”t allow access and courts swallow it hook, line and sinker. One of the many failings of family courts is their failure to enforce visitation orders. The bigger picture is that, in our system of jurisprudence, the gatekeepers of fathers” rights are not fathers, but mothers. If a custodial mother chooses to allow the visitation ordered by the court, then the father”s in luck. If not, too bad. If a woman is pregnant, she can tell the dad or not, let him be part of the child”s life or not, place the child for adoption or not, and he”s got little to say about it one way or the other. In each case, his rights depend on her choice. If she wants another man to be the child”s everyday father, she can lie to the court and say that she doesn”t know who or where the true father is, and that is that. If her perjury is ever discovered, there”s rarely a price to pay. In no other area of law do we do this – place the rights of one free adult in the hands of another person. The most heinous criminals exercise their own rights, but not fathers. And that of course gives you some idea of what the judicial system thinks of fathers.–Robert Franklin