A mother’s attempts to avoid enforcement of a New York Family Court child support order on which she had defaulted resulted in issuing a warrant for her arrest after she repeatedly failed to appear in court for a hearing. The Appellate Division, Second Department recently invoked the doctrine of fugitive disentitlement to preclude her from seeking relief through an appeal of the lower court’s order.

The case of Allain v. Oriola-Allain, decided in October of last year, asked the appellate justices to apply a doctrine normally used in criminal cases to prevent those who flee the jurisdiction from using the courts to their benefit. The justices agreed with the woman’s former husband that her fleeing to Nigeria would justify the dismissal of her appeal.

The parties had one child during their marriage. Following their divorce in 2005, the parents became embroiled in several years of litigation in the Family Court with the mother filing petitions asking for a modification of her child support obligation, and the father filing petitions seeking enforcement of the support order. The mother’s petitions were dismissed by the Family Court or were voluntarily withdrawn by her.

Beginning in 2011, a petition filed on behalf of the father asking for a finding that the mother was in contempt of court for willfully failing to obey the orders of the Family Court was scheduled for a hearing. The case was adjourned several times, but a hearing was finally held in 2012 after the mother was given permission to participate by telephone from Nigeria to which see had relocated. A Support Magistrate in Family Court ordered the mother to pay more than $28,000 in child support arrears and recommended that she be jailed for disobeying the previous support orders.

The mother appealed the issuance of a warrant for her arrest by a Family Court judge. The Appellate Division cited that the mother intentionally removed herself from the jurisdiction of the court to avoid attempts to collect child support arrears. This, said the court, was sufficient for it to take the unusual step of dismissing the appeal based on the fugitive disentitlement doctrine.

Jayson Lutzky is a divorce and family court lawyer who handles cases in the greater New York City area. He has over 32 years of experience and offers free in-person consultations. Call 718-514-6619 to set up an appointment. Visit www.MyNewYorkCityLawyer.com to learn more about Mr. Lutzky’s firm or to request immediate assistance.