Losing custody of a child is a tormenting experience for any parent. The same applies when the parent was not the biological father or mother but raised the child as a step-parent or foster parent. Recent news of one such child custody dispute between a foster family from Tennessee and the child’s biological father made headlines across the nation, with a final verdict yet to be given.
Another news report that appeared recently is that of a stepmother from Tennessee losing custody of a boy she raised for several years. The stepmother received an order from the court asking her to return the boy to his biological mother, or go to prison. The stepmother cared for the now 11-year-old boy for the past seven years.
The mother apparently said that she has no option but to return the child because, under Tennessee laws, a stepparent does not have legal rights in child custody hearings. Additionally, Tennessee courts only consider a child’s opinion in a child custody dispute if that child’s age is 12 years or more.
News reports also state that the boy’s biological mother faced charges for abusing one of her children in 2007. The charge was, however, later dropped. The biological mother pleaded guilty to an aggravated assault charge and was sentenced to six years in prison.
The judge in charge of the custody hearing said that he does not believe that the child would be in danger with his biological mother and that his best interests would not be hampered if he relocated with the biological mother. The stepmother, however, disagreed.
As seen in this case, child custody disputes are often complicated and complexities are compounded by the elaborate set of family laws in the state of Tennessee. Parents, as well as the courts, need to ensure that a child’s best interests are protected, irrespective of which parent that child lives with. Therefore, retaining an attorney may help parents to gain child custody or modify existing custody orders.
Source: WBBJTV.com, “Stepmother heartbroken after losing custody,” Heather Mathis, Aug. 26, 2014