CHANGING CUSTODY IS A “DRASTIC LEGAL ACTION.” IF SO, DO WE LOSE SIGHT OF THE BEST INTERESTS OF CHILDREN?

32 year old Kenneth Sullivan had custody of his young daughter through divorce proceedings.  In a later modification, it was proved that Kenneth was having a sexual affair with a 19 year old and had actually snuck into the 19 year old’s parent’s home at night to have sex with her.  Kenneth also admitted to drinking and driving, but denied doing it with his daughter in the car.  The daughter, however, told the Guardian Ad Litem that Kenneth did, in fact, drink while driving her in the car. It was also established that Kenneth had friends who used crystal meth.  The trial court was “troubled” by Kenneth’s drinking and driving and immoral behavior, but concluded that since there was no proof this behavior had an adverse impact on the daughter, no change in custody was warranted under our law.

This was a correct reasoning on the part of the trial judge according to the Court of Appeals.  Sullivan v. Sullivan, No. 2010-CA-01847-COA (Decided May 29, 2012.)  The Court concluded that no change was warranted because the four year old daughter had not exhibited any harm from this conduct.  The question is: Should our law require that a court wait for damage to a child before acting in its best interests? Should a court be required to wait for a child to be injured in a car wreck before it acts in its best interests on drinking and driving? Should the court wait until the child is 16 and pregnant before it acts to protect it from immoral upbringing?

4 comments

  1. Acting on speculation about what _might_ happen but never did is worse than waiting for actual harm. It is a slippery slope that courts properly choose to avoid.

    If hypothetical damage were enough, a parent might lose custody because they participate in extreme sports, get laid off, or are diagnosed with PTSD. Yet, parent-only considerations like these usually do not affect parenting ability.

  2. Al Miranda says:

    If a individual has a history of vehicular drunk driving, accidents, discharging weapons wrecklessly in a highly populated neighborhood, and has proven to be on unprescripted pain killers or non issued prescription drugs, I believe it is the obligation of the court and attorney at Lidem to bring forward a motion for 10 panel testing of said individual, it is no longer speculation of what may happen but what is happening, improper testing, the child bears the brunt of the courts findings, I believe it does speak volume of the parents , parenting abilities as well as his or her decision making process, There is no hypthetical damage, it is fact, there should be no slippery slope in the courts when it comes to a childs welfare,

  3. I can’t believe the court would believe that there is no proof that was harm done to the child. Witnessing her father engage in some of the activities described above I think would be enough to cause emotional harm to the child. Are they only looking at physical harm or are they waiting for a physical manifestation of the emotional damage done to the child?

  4. karen says:

    I WISH the courts didn’t take hypotheticals into consideration. My children were yanked from me because of the abuse I suffered as a child. the ruling was that because I was an abused child there MAY be abuse to my own children in the future. There was! By the ADOPTIVE PARENTS!!!!!!!!!!!

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