Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Memphis Loves Moms

I found this on MemphisWeb. I don't know about you but it sure looks advice on how a mom could get the upper hand in a custody battle. While they never specify gender, leading with a story about a child who was "returned to her mother" seems a pretty clear indication of where their bias lies.

Anyway, I suppose it is also the number to Memphis legal aid...

A baby girl who went missing Sunday is home safe with her mother tonight. 9-month-old Branson Whitt was returned to her mother Sunday night.

Shelby County sheriff’s deputies say Branson’s father took her from her home near Raleigh early that morning. Brandon Whitt is charged with aggravated burglary for breaking into the home to get his daughter. However, deputies say he is not charged with kidnapping because he is still legally married to Branson’s mother.

This case brings up an issue many parents probably don’t think about. How do you make sure your child stays with you and how do keep parent, who may have been absent for years, from just showing up one day and taking your child away? To start the process, your first stop is the Shelby County courthouse. Tennessee law says both parents have the right to custody of their child. But there are ways you can get the upper hand while keeping your child safe. Attorney Stuart Breakstone says he sees parents playing tug of war with their children all the time. “It’s basically possession being nine-tenths of the law and you can refuse to give the child back.” It doesn’t matter of you legally separate from your spouse. Both parents have equal rights to that child.

To keep down confusion, start by filing for divorce. Once the divorce papers are filed, drop them off at the courthouse. If you are worried about what the other parent could do, you need to prove the child is at risk. Try to get a hearing; the process usually takes about a week. Then convince the judge to sign an injunction to keep the other parent away. If you can show imminent danger, that injunction can come almost immediately.

If you do not have the money to pay for legal services and advice, call Memphis Area Legal Services at (901) 523-8822. There is a sliding scale, depending on your ability to pay. If you cannot afford it, the services are free.

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