In our global economy, oftentimes parents end up living not only in different states, but in different countries. When those parents are divorced or are no longer cooperating with each other on financial matters, one of them can petition a state court for a support order. The challenge then becomes having that order enforced by a foreign jurisdiction. That is what is happening in the case of a Nigerian man and his former wife, who lives in Florida.
Elijah Taiwo Abiara was married to Princess Adeyami Onibokun from 1997 to 2005. They have three children together, age 16, 13, and 10. In 2004, a Florida court ordered that Abiara pay Onibokun child support payments of $1,150 per month and granted Onibokun custody of their children. The couple separated in May 2005, and Onibokun obtained a modification of the child support order in June 2007 to $1,085 per month. In 2008, Abiara remarried, and moved to London and then back to the U.S., settling in New Jersey. In April 2014, Abiara obtained employment as a pastor in a Nigerian church and left the United States. According to court documents, he made no child support payments for the past ten years and now owes a total of $809,524. More recent documents indicate the failure to pay extends only to the past four years.
This international support matter is governed in Nigeria by the Foreign Judgments Act, Cap 152, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990. Also, the Nigerian Child Right Law of 2003 establishes that a child’s right to support from his parents can be enforced in the Nigerian courts. Anyone wishing to enforce foreign judgments in Nigeria must first file the judgment with a Nigerian court. Accordingly, the Florida court order was registered in a Nigerian high court on November 18, 2014 by a Lagos attorney on behalf of Onibokun. Abiara and his church were both served with a summons for contempt of a Florida State Family Law Court, which determined not only that he failed to pay the support that was due, but also that he “willfully” left the United States in order to avoid paying child support.
Many questions remain as to whether the Former Wife in this case will be able to recover the support money owed to her, and whether Abiara will be brought back to the U.S. to face his accuser. The United States does not have any formal arrangements with the county of Nigeria on the issue of child support, as it does with 26 other nations. The Office of Child Support Enforcement is the U.S. central authority for international child support. It assists U.S. states and other countries with international support cases. Currently, the U.S. has reciprocal arrangements with 26 foreign countries and provinces — the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Slovak Republic, Portugal, Poland, Norway, Netherlands, Israel, Ireland, Hungary, Finland, El Salvador, Czech Republic, Australia, and the Canadian provinces of Yukon, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, Ontario, Nunavut, Nova Scotia, Northwest Territories, Newfoundland/Labrador, New Brunswick, Manitoba, British Columbia, and Alberta. The agency offers services and resources to these international jurisdictions to help conduct child support business with the United States. It also provides states with policy, training, contact information and international caseworker guides to assist with international child support matters.
If you are a Florida resident facing a child support matter, whether you are the “payor” or the “payee,” we can help. The Law Offices of James S. Cunha, P.A. can assist you in obtaining or modifying an order that will provide the appropriate amount of financial support for your children.