Nearly all parents want the best for their children. Mothers and fathers alike are often loathe to part with young children, and turning over child custody can be extremely trying—especially for new parents. Whether you’re taking a night off to catch the latest Bond flick, or stealing a week away to recoup from the rigors of child-rearing, your child’s safety is still priority. But even the best-intentioned parents aren’t perfect judges of character.
When Anahi Ferrando joined the Army in 2005(1), she decided to impart legal custody of her daughter, a 5 year-old quadriplegic, to her boyfriend Michael. But while Anahi served in Iraq, her child began to waste away, starved and neglected by the boyfriend assigned to be her legal provider. By the time the child’s grandfather obtained an ex parte protective order, she weighed only 13 pounds.
Child neglect, like that committed by Anahi’s boyfriend, is merely one of several forms of child abuse. And “neglect” can mean anything from inattention to a child’s emotional needs to depriving a child of food and shelter. As child abuse and neglect are both criminal offenses, they should be dealt with by a skilled criminal law and police lawyer.
What responsibilities go along with child custody?
Child custody brings many responsibilities to the table, but these obligations may vary depending on the type of child custody involved. In the case of Anahi Ferrando, Michael was given legal custody over daughter Jade Anzures. Legal custody is the most extensive custody that can be given over a child, giving an adult the right and obligation to make decisions about that child’s upbringing. This obligation extends to cover healthcare, religious, and educational decisions—but it also means that the custodian is entrusted with the safety and well-being of the child in question.
Michael violated his child custody obligations and crossed over into child abuse when he chose not to provide proper food or care for 5 year-old Jade. Grandparents custody and visitation rights were invoked only after it became clear that Anahi’s daughter lacked proper parental care.
If you would like to extend custody for your child to someone else, or would like to claim custody of a child that you feel is improperly cared for, it is in your best interest to consult with a family law lawyer. However, if you ever suspect that a child is in immediate danger (in an emergency situation), please call your local police station or State Child Protection Agency.
(1) The Salt Lake Tribune, "Man accused of starving G.I.’s quadriplegic child plans to fight charges." 27 July 2007.