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Would You Flee to Mexico to Avoid Your Ex-Inlaws? This Mother Did

grandparents-custody-rights.jpgHow carefully have you reviewed the family law court order in your divorce?

When Jennifer Lopez met and decided to marry George DeJongh, she had three children.

But this isn't a story about Jennifer and George. No, this post is about the children's paternal grandparents, Gary and Cathleen Miller. You see the children's father was Brian Miller.

Mother Ignores Divorce Decree

Jennifer and Brian had divorced in 2007, and their settlement agreement included these provisions:

  • Jennifer and Brian would share joint custody.
  • Neither party would move out of Los Angeles County without the consent of the other ex-spouse.
  • Jennifer would allow her children to visit with Brian Miller's parents for "extended" visits. Those visits would initially include a reunification counselor and take place on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, at least initially. Then there would be a hearing in 2008 to review the grandparents' progress in reunifying with the children

Instead of complying with the provision for the grandparents' visitation schedule, Jennifer took the children to Mexico. The FBI became involved in their disappearance and in August of 2011, Mexican authorities released Jennifer and the children to the Millers at the US/Mexican border.

Mother Fights Ex-Inlaws in Court

Not only had Jennifer moved to another country, but to escape the reach of the parental grandparents she also changed her and her kids' first and last names.

When the couple arrived at the border, authorities charged Jennifer and George with three counts of child custody deprivation. The couple responded by filing a motion to dismiss the case, alleging the grandparents didn't have a right to custody or visitation.

Later, the DeJonghs withdrew their motion, waived their right to a jury trial and consented to a court trial. They court determined the DeJonghs were guilty and placed them on five years of probation.

The DeJonghs appealed the court's decision but eventually lost their case again at the appellate level.

Visitation Rights for Grandparents in California

Under California Law, grandparents can ask the courts for visitation rights. The court will need to:

  • Find that there was a pre-existing relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild that was positive and enabled the child to form a bond.
  • Balance the best interest of the child in having visitation with a grandparent with the rights of the parents to make decisions about their child

If you're thinking of filing for visitation rights while your daughter and son-in-law are still married, the following exceptions need to exist:

  • The parents are living separately.
  • A parent's whereabouts are unknown (and have been for at least a month).
  • One of the parents joins the grandparent's petition for visitation.
  • The child doesn't live with either of the parents, such as in foster care.
  • A stepparent has adopted the grandchild

If you have additional questions, contact a qualified family law attorney. 

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