Earlier this month, California's 2nd District Court of Appeal handed down what many are calling a surprising and controversial child custody ruling. The decision has ordered that a Los Angeles County mother surrender custody of her teenage daughter. Even though the record has shown that the mother has been a vigilant parent, the troubled teenager will now live with her grandparents.
According to ABC News, legal observers are surprised at the ruling and are asserting that the decision goes against well-established state custody laws. "Typically, for the state to take a child from a parent involuntarily, there is a finding of abuse or neglect or unfitness on the part of the parent," Family Law Professor Ralph Richard Banks told the news outlet. "But in the absence of any type of determination of parental deficiency, it is unusual and perhaps unconstitutional."
The teenager in question has run away from home several times, missed significant schooling, once ended up in the hospital, and had a child at the age of 15. While these are all alarming, the girl's mother has contacted the police and Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services for assistance on numerous occasions. The record also shows that she also regularly went out looking for her daughter during those run-away periods and let the daughter live with grandparents for intervals, as well.
The court ruled that the mother was "neither neglectful nor blameworthy," but maintained that the daughter was out her control and that she could not ensure her child's safety. Legal experts note that the ruling is in contradiction with a 2010 decision. Many are now expecting the state Supreme Court to provide clarification and render a final decision.
A dangerous precedent?
Observers recognize that the ruling may very well be a response to the frustration both parents and the legal system feel in trying to control wayward youth. However, experts are also claiming that court's decision is unlikely to make a positive difference for this family.
"Kids want their parents and most parents are truly doing the best they can with what they know and what resources they have around them," Susan Dreyfus, president and CEO of The Alliance for Strong Families and Communities told ABC. Instead of forceful removal, she recommended that earlier intervention, counseling, and other community resources should all be explored first before such a drastic court action.
If you are facing a child custody issue you need to place in trusted hands, then I invite you to call me at Kevin B. Gibbs, APLC today. As a certified family law specialist and experienced Orange County divorce attorney, I am well-versed in making compelling and thorough cases for custody to the court. I know what needs have to be met and how to ensure you and your family put their best foot forward before the judge.
Contact me today to schedule a free case evaluation.