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Friends of teenage parents want to know if the teenagers can give them custody of a baby


Your Question:
Hi there! Here goes my question! Is there anything that I can do to get the ball rolling?

Here's the story! In July of 2004 a close friend of the family and his girlfriend had a baby. The mother had just turned 17 and was residing with the father of the child at his home in Delaware. Approximately, 2 days after the baby was born the parents left the baby at the father's sister house for a few days. This arrangement continued to where the baby was at the father's sister's house for 4 out of 7 days a week. In October 2004, Delaware DSS got involved and removed the child from the parents house for a period of 2 weeks so that they could "Clean-Up" the house. After the 2 week period the baby was returned to the house after beening cleared by DSS. Because of my closeness to the family the parents had also asked me to take the baby for days at a time as well. In December, the parents had gotten into an argument and the mother had taken the baby and ran to Maryland. The mother, had contacted me and asked the I come and pick-up the baby and keep him for awhile. I did I had him through Christmas and New Year's. Then January 3rd she came and got him. Apparently DSS got reinvolved in the situation and instead of going through another investigation the parents took the baby to South Carolina. Once in South Carolina the parents decided to stay with the Mom's parents. A few weeks after being in South Carolina the parents split and the father is back in Delaware. The baby and mom stayed in South Carolina. During that time the father was told that he was not that father and that was apparent because the child is biracial and both of the parents are caucasin. After, the father left South Carolina the mother had asked her parents if the baby could stay there with them until she could find a place suitable for her to take her child to live. However, during that period she found out some information and has determined that the baby is not in the best place after all. The mother's parents have had another child removed from the home due to the conditions of the home. The mother has then phoned me and asked if my husband and I would come and pick up the child and she would sign her rights over to us so that we can raise him. We went to South Carolina so we could bring him home with us and the grandparents would not let the mother remove the baby from the home and involved the Sherrif's office. A deputy from the Sherrif's office came out and declared the mother "Unfit" on the scene and stated that if she tried to remove the baby from their care that the child would end up in foster care. However, the parents house is "Unfit" as well. The mother then contacted DSS in South Carolina to have them come out to her parents house to no avail. The mother and "father" have both agreed that the baby would be better in the care of my husband and myself however the grandparents wont let him go. What if anything can I do /do I need to do to get him back up to Delaware??? The grandparents have not been given any rights legally.. No custody suit against mom, Nothing...

Thank you so much for your time! Sorry This is so long just wanted to try and include all information.

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My Answer:
Hi,

Man, the real Jerry Springer situations of the world are even more convoluted and chaotic than the themes the shows themselves offer, no?

My biggest advice is that you need to talk to a lawyer, but I'll offer my perspective anyway.

First, I like to boil down to facts, and then we go from there:

  • There is a baby approximately 9 months old who has had no stability or security in his/her life. A tragedy during this important first year of developing bonds.
  • You have no blood or legal relationship to this baby.
  • The mother is currently a minor, turning 18 within a few months.
  • The father may or may not be a minor, and he may or may not be the father. However, both parents accepted him as the father for the first six months or so of the baby's life.
  • The mother and possible father both want to release custody to you.
  • The maternal grandparents allegedly have had a child removed from her home.
  • The maternal grandparents won't release custody of their daughter or grandchild.
  • You're willing to take custody of the baby, and I guess we can assume that you're fit to do so.
  • Repeated calls to DSS is a wildcard that can really screw things up for any opportunity you have to care for this child. If DSS takes the kid in SC, any chances you have may be squished.


You probably understand that you have as much legal right in this case as I do-- zippo. So, if you're concerned about this baby, you'll have to combine a strategic approach to get yourself in a position to come before a court.

Remember, I'm not a lawyer, so I can be wrong on any of this. That said, I believe that a minor child who bears a child is still under the control of his/her parents unless the minor child (who is a mother) has emancipated herself from her parents. So, it may be the case in SC that the grandparents don't need any court orders to instruct their minor daughter to stay in their home. And where daughter stays, obviously baby will stay.

Depending upon the age of the your family friend (i.e., the suspected father), if he's 18, he can file a paternity action at any time. But I don't know if that's your best first shot for the outcome you want.

The mother in this case may be under her parents' thumb until 18 or emancipated. At 18 or recognized emancipation by the court, she can do whatever she wants, including moving back near you, moving in with you to transition baby into your home, etc. It doesn't sound like she may be strong enough or savvy enough to ask the court to emancipate her.

If that's the case, then you have a few months to wait before the mother can leave her parent's rule.

During that time, I'd suggest that you and your husband look into getting registered as foster parents in your state. I have no idea what that process entails, but it sets you up for the next step.

If the mother can somehow bring the baby back to your area in a few months, and both she and the suspected father allow you to care for the baby, you want to stretch out that situation for several months where you're increasingly caring for the baby in your home and acting as his/her caretakers and guardians.

AFTER you have been doing that for several months, you and the baby's parents can all approach the court in your jurisdiction and have their parental rights terminated while you and hubby adopt the baby. Again, you'll need at least one lawyer, and perhaps more, to handle all of that paperwork and pleadings.

It may be a bit of a lengthy process. This is where everything comes together... at the first hearing, your attorney will inform the court that you are registered foster parents and that you have been caring for the infant for the past 4 to 6 months. No court will rip this baby away from you at that point, since it's very clear that it would be in this child's best interest to maintain that stability via temporary orders. That you're registered foster parents is the slam-dunk, because there won't be any question as to your ability to care for a child (i.e., as opposed to the teenage parents appointing some drunken child molester care for the baby for months on end).

The maternal grandparents may throw a monkey wrench into this, if they get wind of what you're doing and petition for custody themselves. So you also need to spend the next few months (of possible waiting time) gathering evidence on them. Find out if they REALLY had a child removed from them. Find out if either has a criminal background. With that evidence, you should be able to show a court that you are the more appropriate parents for this child.

The longer you can get this child in your care, before any court action is taken, the greater your advantage here. Keep communication lines open with the mother and try to figure out how to get the baby into your home ASAP.

And, once again, you should meet with a family law attorney (i.e., with adoption experience) ASAP to know the legal technicalities involved. Getting to the point of adoption will be one issue, and locking in a permanent adoption is another-- YOU want to be able to control this child's access to the biological mother/father over the next 18 years. If contact with them is a positive thing, great. But if not, you'll need the authority from the original adoption papers to be able to get them out of the kid's life at any time.

Eric





This website gives common sense advice that is not intended to act as legal guidance nor psychological guidance. The author is neither an attorney nor licensed psychologist. For specific legal guidance or specific psychological guidance, consult with a licensed professional.


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