1. Dallionz
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    Dallionz Member

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    Child Custody Case - The First Hearing

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Dallionz, Jul 26, 2014.

    Let me try to make a long story short. The main character is a woman who is taking care of her three-year-old niece after the girl's parents died in a car accident. She has been around the little girl since she was born. She wants to raise her niece but the girl's great aunt and uncle also want custody of her. Since both interested parties are a little removed, a custody battle ensues.

    For the initial hearing, I keep it very simple. It's pretty much just the involved parties there presenting why they feel like they should receive custody of the girl. The judge listens and then decides on a future date where all of the details will be presented and the case will go from there.

    The little girl remains in the custody of the main character of my book just because that's where she has been living and it's most familiar so soon after her parents had died.

    Does this even sound right for the initial hearing? I have ZERO experience in a courtroom and little knowledge about a case like this.

    Any thoughts or advice? Suggestions on where I should do other research?

    Thank you so much in advance!
     
  2. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    My initial question is why the great aunt would want custody at all. Was the MC/aunt named as a guardian by the parents? (Not that this is dispositive, but it goes a long way, given that it's the deceased parents' expressed wishes.) If not, how did she initially get custody?

    Basically, the Court wants what is best for the child. Ideally, the parties would agree, perhaps after mediation. An initial hearing would likely involve the court being informed of the status quo, whether visitation is appropriate by the other party or whether there should be some sort of shared agreement. Both would need attorneys. Both would be interviewed by a child psychologist or someone appointed by the court to determine their fitness. Either party or both might also hire their own psychologist to testify as to their fitness and what is best for the child.

    At a first hearing, not much would actually happen. They would set up another hearing, probably in about a month.
     
  3. Dallionz
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    Dallionz Member

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    The MC/aunt was named guardian because she lived with the family and helped in the care of her niece. No, she was not actually named guardian by the parents which is why there are issues. She has very limited income, does not have a stable place to live (the apartment they shared is something she can't afford on her own for example). The great aunt and uncle want to raise the girl because they were close to their nephew his daughter is all that is left of him and they don't want to lose that. They are much more financially stable.

    That's what I figured, not much would happen at the first hearing and another one would be set up for a month later.

    But you brought up some good points about the child psychologist and attorneys as well as the visitation rights that might be extended to the great aunt and uncle. I had that CPS was involved to look after the child's welfare as well though now I'm wondering if that would be the case at all.

    Thank you so much for your input! I don't want court proceedings to take over the book, it's one of the side stories. so I don't know how little or how much to get involved with it.
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    The court would likely award custody to the aunt who has already been in the child's life and is currently caring for the child. But the great aunt and uncle could claim she's not competent or they are better suited as a married couple.

    My brother was married 3 months when his wife died suddenly of a heart attack. Despite the fact they had lived together longer than 3 months and he'd essentially been father to her daughter for years as the birth father was out of the picture altogether, they had not taken care of the legal adoption papers.

    The grandmother sued for custody, sought to have the courts not count the marriage on a technicality (long story), portrayed my brother as a pervert (it was totally bogus) and in the end won custody of the girl. There was a point my brother gave up fighting for the girl's sake but it wasn't certain he would have prevailed even given he should have.

    Do look up state law where the story takes place and perhaps you can find similar case with a little searching.
     
  5. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    CPS wouldn't necessarily be involved, but there might be a guardian ad litum appointed to look out for/represent the child's best interests. If there were some question as to the ability of the MC to care for the child in the interim, it's possible the child would be placed in a temporary foster home. Otherwise, most places do have some kind of emergency allowance for people who the child already knows to continue caring for him/her if the parents have died or otherwise suddenly become incapable of caring for the child.

    I take it the parents had no life insurance or other assets? Usually, with an estate plan, insurance proceeds would go to a trust for the care of the child, often even enabling the guardian to live in the home (or purchase a larger dwelling). If they had no assets, or very little, then it's possible there would be no financial help from the estate. The financial situation of both parties would be a factor a judge would consider, but it would be only one of many.

    (I thought I posted this last night. I don't know why it didn't post)
     
  6. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh Girl #21 Contributor

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    Is the child old enough to express where they want to live?
     

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