The agony of the deported Mexican who returned with a special permit to North Carolina to fight for the custody of his three children continued when the scheduled trial at a state family court was suspended Friday.

Felipe Bautista Montes, 32, was unable to meet in person with Alleghany County Judge Michael Duncan, who excused himself for medical reasons, possibly postponing the hearing until Aug. 24.

"My client is disappointed at not having his day in court," Donna Shumate, Montes' attorney, told Efe on Friday, and "though he has seen his children, we hope the custody matter can be resolved soon and that they can return to Mexico."

Montes received on July 25 a special 90-day visa to return to Sparta in hopes of winning back Isaias, 4, Adrian, 2, and Angel, 1.

The Mexican was deported on Dec. 3, 2010, after being detained several times in Sparta for driving without either a license or car registration.

His wife Marie, a U.S. citizen who suffers from an unspecified disabling mental illness, lost custody of their children shortly after the deportation due to economic difficulties and a decline in her health.

The state Division of Social Services placed the kids with foster families who are now seeking to adopt them.

Outside the Alleghany County courthouse, representatives of the Mexican Consulate for the Carolinas and the immigration attorney they hired to obtain the special visa for Montes, Ann Robertson, repeated their commitment to the Mexican and his custody case.

Robertson said that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is aware that the process of child custody can take more than three months.

"After 90 days, Montes must return to Mexico and we will have to apply for the pardon again. Nonetheless, ICE has collaborated a great deal in this case, something we find a little unusual," she said.

The Web site, which has followed the case from the outset, reported that during Montes' visit with his little boys, Isaias asked if he was going to adopt them, to which the Mexican replied: "No, I'm your father, and you're going with me when I've arranged everything."

Montes's situation is not an isolated case, according to the Applied Research report "Shattered Families," which shows that more than 5,000 children of deported or detained immigrant parents are currently in foster homes.

Last month a Missouri judge scratched the parental rights of Guatemalan migrant Encarnacion Bail Romero, detained in 2007 during an immigration raid at a chicken-processing plant, and ordered her son put up for adoption.

Montes wants his children to live with him in the modest house in the northern state of Tamaulipas that he shares with aunts, uncles and cousins.

However, the North Carolina DSS has argued that the children, who are U.S. citizens, would be better off in this country in the custody of other people. EFE