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Should Octomom, Nadya Suleman, Lose Custody of Her 14 Children?

Taken straight from today’s headlines:  “Could Conditions in Octomom’s  House Cause Her to Lose custody to her 14 kids?” Believe it or not, this article identifies issues taking place every day amongst private citizens throughout the U.S. The article identifies issues that are  common-place for single parents and  couple’s dealing with custody issues, vis-à-vis, at what point would a parent’s “parenting” terminate their custodial and/or visitation rights?

Unless you have lived under a rock the past 2 years, it’s impossible not to know about Nadya Suleman, also known as Octomom. About two years ago, Ms. Suleman, a single mother with six small children, with the assistance of a fertility  specialist, gave birth to eight children.  Ms. Suleman is now a single mother to a total of 14 children—eight of which are currently toddlers learning potty-training. No doubt, any  single parent reading this post can’t imagine what it’s like to care for 14 children.  To me, the thought is incomprehensible.

The reason I decided to blog about the article is because Ms. Suleman’s situation, while magnified before the entire world to see, is a perfect example of issues everyday folks deal with in custody matters—except for, of course, that she has 14 minor children instead of one or two.

At the Law Office of Linda C. Garrett, I have received numerous calls from callers asking that I assist them regarding their custody matter. A common situation resulting in the caller asking legal assistance to procure sole custody is where the parties never married and after the relationship was terminated.  This particular issue raises many issues; however, for this discussion, I’ll limit this discussion solely to custody issues.  To complicate matters, father is asking for (or defending his right) for joint legal and joint physical custody of the minor child.  More times than not, mother insists that father should not be in the child’s life and that the court should deny father any rights.  Common reasons given by mother include::  “he wanted to pay me to have an abortion, so he doesn’t deserve to be in our child’s life”’; or, “when he learned I was pregnant, he told me he didn’t want to have anything to do with me or our child;” and/or “he abandoned me when I told him I was pregnant, now that our kid is older, he is now insisting on asking for joint legal custody . . . the nerve of him!”

Invariably during the custody battle, one parent will inform the court that the parent is incapable of caring for the child and/or that the parent is engaging in behavior that is harmful to the child.  The million-dollar question is this; Is the behavior and/or the alleged conduct  that the parent is (or parents are) engaging in against the best interests of the child?  Take this quick test—answer Yes if you agree or No if you disagree to the following questions;

  1. If a parent is an alcoholic, that parent should have not have any visitation or custody rights: _____
  2. If parent A has restraining orders against Parent B (the restrained parent), then Parent B should not have custody or rights because Parent B poses a threat to the child: __________.
  3. If a parent is addicted to drugs, that addicted parent should not have any custody or visitation with the child: __________.
  4. If a parent has poor eating habits and fails to cook nourishing meals for the child, that parent should lose custody of their child: _____________.
  5. If a parent engages in corporal punishment, then that parent should lose custody of their child: _______.
  6. If there is undeniable proof that father molested his young daughter, then father should lose his custodial and visitation rights: ___________.
  7. If the custodial parent’s home is a “filthy”—with trash overflowing from the trashcans, toilets filthy, bed bugs in the children’s beds, and so on, rasheson baby’s bottom for parent’s failure to regularly change baby’s diapers, should the parent lose custody of their children.________.
  8. If  a parent verbally and/or emotionally abuses their child, that parent should lose custody of their child: _________

After reading the article, answer this poll that asks “Should Octomom, Nadya Suleman, Lose Custody of Her 14 Kids?”

It will surprise most readers to learn that in each case, the parent did NOT lose custody of their child.  Each of the questions above is from an actual case. Unlike the general public who almost immediately concludes the allegations about a parent are true, the court does not.. Also, unlike the general public who decides a case based on little to no facts and evidence, the court does not.  What people fail to understand is that there are three parties—not just two—father, mother and the child—yes the child.  Thankfully for the child, the courts look at the situation from the perspective of the child. The courts use a legal standard known as “best’s interests of the child.”  From this legal standard, the courts can consider any and all factors that affect custody and visitation.  For example, while it would be convenient for one parent to have the other parent totally out of the picture—forever—this goal may be against the child’s best interests.

In family law, custody is the most heart-wrenching and most expensive area in family law. And for many, it’s the longest issue to resolve—and most draining on the family courts. Why? Because, until the child turns 18, the court will always retain legal jurisdiction of the matter. This means (which happens all the time), a case that started when the children was 9 months old, will last until the child turns 18.

The moral of the story here: start with the presumption that the court will grant joint legal and joint physical custody of the child.  Should a party wish to seek and procure sole legal custody, it’s because their unique facts, circumstances and evidence reflect that it would be in the child’s best interests for one parent to be awarded sole custody.

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Legal Disclaimer: Everything on this blog pertains to California law only and is written by an attorney licensed to practice only in the State of California. Further, information provided on this blog post or this website is to be used for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice in any way shape or form. The underlying purpose of this blog post is to provide the reader with general information to use in talking with an attorney and/or as a general guide when conducting their own research on their particular legal matter.  Finally, keep in mind that if you are not a California resident and/or your matter is not based in California, the laws may differ in your state. In such cases, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance and/or review information that relates to the laws of your state.

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