Tuesday, November 16, 2004

BIC- So Lacking Occasionally Even Moms Get Screwed

This is an article about the Colorado Supreme Court SEVERELY overstepping their jurisdiction using BIC (best interests of the child) as their crutch. Just another reminder of how a "judgment call" cannot translate into a constitutionally correct and enforceable law.

BTW, this article still has faults. I love how no mention is made ANYWHERE about what happened to the father of this child. Also, how impossibly ridiculous it is that these people (completely unrelated to the child) are petitioning for custody and not adoption - thereby leaving the biological mom as mom. As if this is all she is after - the freaking title.

DenverPost.com

Court lets Arvadans keep baby, for now U.S. justices refuse adoption challenge
By Howard Pankratz Denver Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 16, 2004 -

An Arvada couple raising a baby they hope to keep were elated Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a Colorado court decision that allows the baby to stay in Colorado - for now.

"Our clients found out about it before we did," said Dan West, a lawyer representing the couple. "They were very happy and very relieved."

The child's birth mother, an unmarried woman who lives near St. Louis, gave birth to Alex on April 18, 2003, and had agreed to the adoption.

But a few weeks after Alex came to Colorado as part of a preliminary placement, the woman, now 28 years old, changed her mind. Six months after the Colorado couple started raising Alex as their own, a Missouri judge ordered the boy returned to his biological mother.

The case participants' last names have not been made public.

After the Colorado couple went to court seeking to keep Alex, Jefferson County District Judge Stephen Munsinger said he had no jurisdiction in the case and ordered the Arvada family to return the baby they had raised since he was 2 days old. However, the child remained with the couple while Munsinger's ruling was appealed.

In April, the Colorado Supreme Court overruled Munsinger. The justices said Colorado judges can hear custody disputes when judges in other states fail to take into consideration the "best interests" of the child when determining custody, as they said the Missouri judge failed to do.
The ruling meant that Alex could stay in Colorado until Munsinger holds a trial to determine who should receive custody based on the "best interest" rule.

Eric Samler, the birth mother's lawyer, filed voluminous briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court, claiming the Colorado justices ignored a federal law.

Samler said Monday the federal act requires that "one state has to give full faith and credit to the custody determination of another state."

Samler said the U.S. Supreme Court decision not to intervene was not a victory or loss for one side or the other.

"I just want to make it clear that the U.S. Supreme Court, by denying (to hear the case), did not make a decision on the merits of the case," Samler said. "All it means is that they are not going to get involved."

He said the U.S. Supreme Court usually doesn't get involved in family-court matters, but he thought they'd make an exception here because the federal law is so clear.

The birth mother visited 19- month-old Alex in August and September but not in October.
Munsinger will now decide where to place the child after a two-day hearing.

Tom Beltz, another lawyer for the Arvada couple, said his clients are not seeking legal adoption but are requesting permanent custody of Alex.

Under that arrangement, Beltz said, the Arvada couple would be Alex's "custodians" and the birth mother would remain the child's mother.

"We brought a custody action saying that Alex's best interests would be served by my clients being custodians," Beltz said. "And the birth mom can remain as his mother. So we are not asking for adoption at this point."

Staff writer Howard Pankratz can be reached at hpankratz@denverpost.com or 303-820-1939.

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