At the heart of a widely publicized custody battle is a baby boy who is called one name by his mother and another by his father. The innocent child has been the subject of a brutally divisive child custody matter between the famous Olympic skier, Bode Miller, and his ex-girlfriend, Sara McKenna. According to recent news reports, a New York Family Court referee took custody away from Miller, who resides in San Diego, and placed the baby back with his mother, currently a resident of New York. This is a bicoastal dispute with wide ranging implications for parents arguing over custody rights. If you are confronting a child custody matter of any sort, it is critical that you contact a local family law attorney with extensive experience handling all aspects of family law disputes.
In a blogpost published this past spring, we covered the beginning phase of the Miller/McKenna custody dispute. The couple met in San Diego (where Miller resides), dated, and when McKenna got pregnant, she alleged that Miller wanted nothing to do with the baby. Despite the fact that Miller started custody proceedings in California, a pregnant McKenna (a former United States Marine) moved to New York to attend Columbia University with the help of the GI Bill. At that point, a New York judge ruled that the case belonged in the California courts. A California judge granted Miller custody of the baby. McKenna appealed.
But on November 14, a New York appeals court ruled that McKenna’s rights had been violated, noting that “Putative fathers have neither the right nor the ability to restrict a pregnant woman from her constitutionally protected liberty.” The court found that jurisdiction over the matter belonged in New York because the baby, born February 23, was a resident of the state. The matter was sent back to the family court judge, who ruled that the nine-month old baby would, at least for now, live with his mother. The next custody hearing is scheduled for December 9. According to reports, both Miller and McKenna say they are seeking a co-parenting agreement, but each side has claimed to be better equipped to provide full-time care for the baby.
Under California law, if both parties cannot agree to a parenting plan (or agreement), a court will impose one. A parenting plan, also known as a “custody and visitation agreement,” covers two fundamental issues: time share: which sets forth a schedule that identifies when the children will spend time with each parent; and decision-making capabilities: which spells out how the parents will make decisions concerning the education, health and general welfare of the children. The parenting plan will ultimately become a court order — a document that parents can rely on to enforce their custody rights.
Child custody battles are often hotly contested and elicit intense emotional reactions. In too many cases, parents may lose sight of the effects of a custody battle. When it comes to matters affecting children, both parents are encouraged to resolve their disputes as quickly and fairly as possible, with the best interests of the children at heart. To sort through the myriad issues and legal steps to resolving a custody case, it is important to consult with a family law attorney who has handled a great number of cases and has experience with the local courts.
If you are a parent with questions about child custody matters, contact Doppelt & Forney. Mr. Doppelt is an experienced family law attorney and has been representing parents involved in child custody disputes for more than 20 years. Doppelt & Forney serves clients throughout Southern California, including San Diego, Encinitas, La Jolla, and Chula Vista. For a free consultation, contact Doppelt & Forney through our website, or give us a call toll-free at (800) ROY IS IT (769-4748).
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