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British Professor Held in Rat-Infested Brazilian Prison over Alleged Child Support Arrearage

August 6th, 2008 by Glenn Sacks, MA for Fathers & Families

Another example of the way the child support system leads to the abuse/jailing of ordinary citizens. From British university lecturer thrown into crowded Brazilian jail for not paying ex-wife £20,000 child support (Daily Mail, 7/30/08):

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. 
 
Last night Mr Boyle, 71, said he received a mobile phone text message from his son reading: ‘Going into prison now. ’Have to leave mobile with lawyer. Don’t know how long I will be there.’ Mr Boyle, of Spalding, Lincolnshire, said: ‘I have read all sorts of things about these jails – terrible stories about riots and gang rape and it’s very disturbing.  ’I am very worried about his welfare.’ 
 
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’…  

Read the full article here. 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.

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