Doesn't it appear as though I'm writing a lot about child custody issues of late? You're right.
It's because child custody issues can be the most emotionally contested issues in a divorce. And there are simply too many cases where parents are unable to provide the care - and address the needs of - the children they bring into the world.
In addition, it can be difficult to revoke custody from an ex-spouse.
Mother Gives Birth to Premature Twins
In this particular case I about to discuss, two premature twins were born on October 3, 2013. Just six days later, the Department of Health and Human Services petitioned for a child protection order. The department felt that the babies were at "risk of serious harm based on the mother's affliction of fatal injuries to the parents' adopted son" earlier that year.
In addition, there was an allegation that the father had inflicted serious bruising to the son just two days before he died.
Needless to say, the court granted the department's petition. When the twins were released from the neonatal intensive care unit, they were immediately put into foster care.
Parents' Child Abuse History Catches Up with Them
By May 2014, the court feared returning custody to the parents. It was at that time that the court discovered that the parents played a role in the death of their previously adopted son.
Let's put the twins aside for now and discuss the son. When the son was less than two years - and this was before the premature twins were born - the father beat the baby boy with a wooden spoon. He beat the boys so badly that there was visible bruising on the baby.
The night after the father beat the boy, the mother called 911 because the boy had stopped breathing. At that time, she told emergency responders that the little boy had fallen several times and hit his head on the bathtub and floor.
Just two days later, the boy died. He had suffered from retinal hemorrhage, optic nerve sheath hemorrhage, subarachnoid hemorrhage, cerebral edema, hemorrhage in muscle and soft tissue surrounding the upper cervical vertebrae, and a subdural hematoma.
In other words, this two-year-old baby had suffered extreme and extensive injuries. The chief medical examiner in charge of the case ruled that the little boy's death had been a homicide.
Mother Indicted for Manslaughter - Father Receives Assault Charge
The system indicted the mother for manslaughter. She was then convicted and sentenced to serve eight years in prison with 42 months suspended.
The father was convicted of assault and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, however, six months of his sentence was suspended.
The court determined the father's "recent actions, including refusing to vaccinate his highly susceptible premature infants, show utter disregard for the health and welfare of the twins."
The court also determined that the mother failed to show remorse for the abuse she inflicted on her child.
The court ordered that the twins remain in foster care and be available for adoption. However, both parents appealed the decision.
Fortunately, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court denied the parents' appeal.
What to Do if You Suspect Child Abuse
If you should suspect child abuse in the homes of your friends, colleagues, members of your family, or neighbors, there are a variety of websites that can offer advice.
One step you can take is to go to this website and fill out the Suspected Child Abuse Report form. There is also valuable information on the HelpGuide.org website.
In Sonoma County, the 24-hour hotline for Child Protective Services is 707.565.4304 or 800.870.7064. For other counties, conduct a Google search for the keywords child protective services and the name of your county.
With respect to your divorce, if you suspect an ex-spouse is abusing your child, document your suspicions, keep a journal, and talk to your lawyer immediately so that action can be taken.