A child custody battle has been brewing in Maine for the past six years.
The battle began when the parents of "M.M." divorced in 2008 and the mother received primary custody of the child with parents equally sharing parental rights.
Unhappy with that decision, the father later sought custody, and a district court awarded him sole parental rights but noted that the mother had the right to frequent visitation.
The custody struggle was far from over.
Petitioners Allege Child Abuse Against the Father
In 2013, four petitioners who were unrelated to the child - the mother's investigator and three private citizens who had no legal or familial relationship to the child - filed a petition for a child protection order and alleged the father abused M.M. The petitioners also sought a preliminary protection order granting custody to the mother.
A preliminary protective order can be issued upon the filing of a petition provided the request is supported by an affidavit or sworn testimony before a judge.
The petitioners provided the court with documented incidents of child abuse, including evidence that the father had assaulted the child's head with a metal pan, physically abused his second wife, and was unwilling to allow the mother to visit her child.
The court dismissed the petition and denied their request. The judge determined that the petitioners lacked legal standing and that the claims asserted by the petitioners were barred by the doctrine of res judicata. Res judicata is Latin for "a matter already judged."
Displeased with that decision, the petitioners appealed to the State Supreme Court.
Supreme Court Looks at Its Role to Protect Children
The Supreme Court noted "the critical importance" of court in protecting children from abusive situations. It also stressed that the petitioners weren't seeking contact with the child; they were seeking safety for the child and an appropriate home. In addition, the court noted that the father's refusal to allow the mother to visit her child was equivalent to a finding of contempt of the order.
In its conclusion, the Supreme Court ruled that the petitioners had standing to bring a petition for a child protection order and otherwise affirmed the judgment.
Child Abuse Statistics in Sonoma County
Sonoma County has a serene, rural, "wine country" image. However, incidents of child abuse are common. If you live in Sonoma County, here are the statistics that reflect the incidence of child abuse according to KidsData.org.
- Emotional abuse: 12.8% of children living in Sonoma County
- General neglect: 45.4% of children living in Sonoma County
- Physical abuse: 24% of children living in Sonoma County
- Sexual abuse: 4.5% of children living in Sonoma County
Courts will not take abuse or alienation allegations lightly. The legal team at the Law Offices of James V. Sansone can help explore your options for ending alienating behavior. This may involve anything from getting a court order to stop the offending behavior to requesting the presence of a third party during visitation time. We understand how harmful parental alienation can be. That is why we will always operate with the best interests of both you and your child in mind.
California's child custody laws are constantly shifting to accommodate the needs of families. It is vital to retain the support and counsel of a knowledgeable child custody lawyer that will review your options and help you determine the best course of action to protect your rights and the best interests of your children.Attorney James Sansone will take the time to understand your needs and the potential challenges that may lead to dispute, presenting your options and helping to determine the best approach to ensure a favorable outcome.