†††††††††††††† THE COUNSELORíS CORNER

Here is a ruling that is hard to stomach.A mother hid a coupleís children from their father for four years after their divorce; however, a state appellate court has ruled that the father must pay $59,000.00 in child support that accumulated during that period of time.

As a general rule, issues of visitation and issues of child support are kept separate by the court system.A mother cannot threaten to deny her ex-husband visitation if he does not pay support, and similarly, a father cannot threaten to cut off support if he is not granted visitation.I understand the general policy here; however, this case is different.This is the matter of Kim and George Vroenen, who divorced in 1990.At the time of the divorce they had two sons, one twelve years old and the other, age ten.The agreement was that Mr. Vronen would pay $600.00 per month in child support.Later that year, the former Mrs. Vronen moved the children from their San Bernardino home.She first moved to Santa Barbara, and then over the next few years, she moved the children to Florida for a period of time, and then eventually back to California.In 1994, the former Mrs. Vronen contacted Mr. Vronen, let him know where the children and she were living, and he was once again able to see his children.He resumed making child support payments at that time.

Five years later, in 1999, the former Mrs. Vronen sued Mr. Vronen to collect past due child support for the 1990 -- 1994 period of time.The trial court judge ruled in favor of Mr. Vronen, finding that he had attempted to locate his sons during the four year period of time; Mrs. Vronen concealed their whereabouts and therefore she did not have a justifiable claim for child support.


The appellate court however overturned the trial court, ruling that Mr. Vronen was on the hook for the sum of $59,000.00!The court held that the key here was that the concealment of the children ENDED while the children were still minors, and that the lawsuit to collect was filed before the children reached eighteen.

What kind of basis is that upon which to make a ruling?Who cares when it was filed?Why does it matter when the concealment ended and whether or not the children were under eighteen when the concealment ended?Someone without a moral compass who reads this opinion might realize that one can secrete his or her children for a number of years; however, when the children reach seventeen, one better let the other spouse know where they are and then one must file a lawsuit around that time; one way or the other, they must file before their children reach eighteen.

This is absolute nonsense.I believe that if either spouse, in effect, kidnaps his children and actively conceals their whereabouts from the other spouse, they are, in effect, deciding that their children do not need child support during that period of time, and should not be able to file a lawsuit at a later date in an attempt to collect.Letís hope that this case is appealed further and that the trial court judgeís ruling is reinstated.