I came across this story the other day of a couple suing a mother for custody AFTER she and her child just lived with them for a year, probably renting a room from them or something. I'd like to say this was unusual but you know it really isn't anymore. As everybody and his grandmother today has pretty much been given standing to sue for custody of your kids.
This couple won visitation only SO FAR, let's remember that. As this might not be the END of this litigation by any means but only ROUND ONE. For it's not uncommon for the more-monied person(s) in these 'custody wars' to be given the okay to continue a fight like this for years on end, until either they win or the mother just runs out of money and is forced to give up her child.
The mother commented towards the end of the article that she wanted West Virginia to clarify their laws, as right now anybody could sue you for custody of your child. Well guess what, EVEN clarification doesn't work as Judges continue doing exactly what they feel like no matter how much clarification is given. So even so-called clarification of the laws is pretty much meaningless at this point.
I mean didn't we have the Supreme Court ruling on Troxel just a few years ago supposedly clarifying just these sorts of situations? The Troxel case was not just about grandparents (who btw, could make a hell of a better case then landlords or family friends for visitation) but it included a boyfriend as well trying to get visitation and/or custody of his girlfriends' kids...Yet since Troxel there have been any number of cases totally ignoring that supposed 'sea-change' in family law. Including one mind-blowing case of a man getting custody of someone else's child, while the child's own mother and father were forced into the position of being visitors in their own kid's life. Even being court-ordered to pay him child support.
What really needs to happen is a mechanism by which Judges who continue either not enforcing the laws or as Bush likes to say 'legislating from the bench' be adequately punished when they ignore the law and if that doesn't work then their employment terminated and their law licenses revoked permanently.
I suggest a three-strike law similar to what we now have in California wherein a Judge with a ruling overturned THREE OR MORE times at the appellete level is subject to review for employment termination. Of course there is such a thing as differences of opinion on what a law/rule could mean. But when it's pretty clear what the law means even to an ordinary citizen; then there should be no excuse for this sort of ignoring of it and substituting personal opinion/feelings, likes or dislikes for mothers, etc., for the law as currently goes on.
The way it should work is a panel is set up composed of lawyers and civilians that reviews every ruling that is overturned on appeal. If the panel decides the law was clear and a Judge just ignored it, he/she is fined $10,000 the first time, personally payable btw. The second time this happens: $20,000, again personally payable. The third time: $30,000 and he/she is out.
AND by permanently I don't mean to go to another state and start wrecking their judicial system with their own personal biases, I mean loss of law license as well. In other words that person is no longer licensed as an attorney.
This appears to be the ONLY way left open to the millions of mothers, who would like these endless custody wars being waged against us to be brought to a close...
April 13, 2006
Mother violates judge's order allowing visitation by non-relatives and lands in jail
A Christiansburg woman says she cannot understand why Virginia law would allow someone who's not even related to her to seek custody of her child. She thinks other parents should beware.
Every Friday, for the last two weekends, Jennifer Stamm has come to the Montgomery County jail to serve out a 30 day sentence. Stamm denied visitation to Elizabeth and Robert Cannon. She lived with them for a year and says they were her child's babysitters, but the relationship turned sour. One day in 2004, the Cannons filed court papers seeking legal custody of her child, something the lead attorney in the firm that represented Stamm had never dealt with before. "I thought it was very, very unusual for a person that wasn't even related to the child to bring a proceeding like this," attorney Max Jenkins told News Seven. "I've never heard of it before."
After two years of battling and 6 charges of violating a court order Stamm was officially given custody and a jail sentence. Now she sits behind bars on weekends believing the system failed her. Stamm is urging parents to contact their legislators and ask them to clarify Virginia's Custody law, so outsiders can not sue for custody. "I want people out there to realize that Virginia has a law that the way it is written is just so open," Stamm says, "that anyone can sue for your child."
The Cannon's have 30 days to appeal the decision and opted not to participate in our story until they made a final decision. Over the phone, Elizabeth Cannon said she was more than a baby-sitter. She says she raised the child.